Seymour Attman, 76, owner of Attman's Deli on city's Corned Beef Row

July 01, 2002|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Seymour Attman, owner of Attman's Deli on Baltimore's famous Corned Beef Row, died yesterday morning at Mercy Medical Center of complications from a heart attack he suffered three weeks ago. He was 76.

Working in the 87-year-old deli founded by his father, Mr. Attman helped make the name Attman synonymous with Baltimore corned beef.

"All over the world, whenever I mentioned my last name, people would ask me if I was related to the deli in Baltimore," said Mr. Attman's son, Marc Attman. "I would say, `That's my dad.' He's a world-famous guy."

Born and raised near Butchers Hill, Mr. Attman began working in the deli at age 16 and never stopped. Friends and family members said he had no hobbies other than working in the deli, which has been at its 1019 E. Lombard St. location since 1933.

On the street, Mr. Attman was known to everyone as "Seymour." In the deli, his employees called him "Mr. Attman" or "Pop."

"For everyone in the store, it's like family," said Earl Oppel, Attman's manager. "People have worked here 25 years, 18 years, 15 years. Everyone was close, and Seymour Attman was like a father to everybody. He was so generous to everyone."

Through his decades of serving sandwiches, Mr. Attman met a variety of city, state and national politicians who visited the deli. President Jimmy Carter brought his national campaign through Mr. Attman's corner of Corned Beef Row, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is known to have enjoyed the Attman's sandwiches.

"He got to know a lot of famous people, but he treated everyone the same, whether you spent $1 here or $1,000," said Mr. Oppel, who has known Mr. Attman for 38 years and worked in the store for almost three decades.

The deli is still buzzing over last month's first visit from Cal Ripken Jr. to pick up an order. Though the retired Orioles star had eaten Attman's catered food at many events, including several post-game meals in the team clubhouse, he had never been inside.

Attman's regularly appears on lists of the top places to eat and visit in Baltimore, representing one of the three surviving eateries on the city's famous Corned Beef Row.

After the Baltimore riots in 1968, Mr. Attman expanded the deli, purchasing an adjacent building to create Attman's Kibitz Room. Mr. Attman dedicated the room to his son, Stuart A. Attman, who died in 1994. Stuart Attman had overseen the deli's successful catering department.

Mr. Attman was married to the former Ruth Vatapsky for 27 years. Their marriage ended in divorce. He was married for almost 20 years to the former Elinor Dopkin, who died about 1 1/2 years ago.

The deli will be closed today and is set to reopen tomorrow.

The traditions of Attman's are expected to continue. "I've been working with my father for the last year and a half, learning everything about the store," Marc Attman said. "Nothing's going to change. I know all the secrets.

"There's a legacy there. It's part of Baltimore," he said.

Services are set for 1 p.m. today at Sol Levinson and Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his son, survivors include two daughters, Eileen Levine and Deborah Snyder; two brothers, Edward Attman and Leonard Attman; three grandchildren; and one great-grandson. All live in Pikesville.

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