John Anthony Zadroga, 75, owner of city produce and seafood market

November 30, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

John Anthony Zadroga, who ran a colorful Fells Point market for four decades, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at his Southeast Baltimore home. He was 75 and lived above his business at Eastern Avenue and Washington Street.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Zadroga quit school after completing the eighth grade. He started out working as an a-rab, a helper who walked alongside a horse-drawn produce wagon in Southeast Baltimore neighborhoods. He later set up a sales route and bought a truck to sell produce.

"All he wanted to do was work. When he'd hook school, he'd be out working," said his daughter, Eileen Sisk of Pasadena.

Mr. Zadroga married Mary A. Grynkiewicz in 1948 at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church. Their reception was photographed and written about in a Sun Magazine article, "Polish Wedding: Something Old, Something New."

About 200 guests attended the postnuptial gathering at Russian Hall at Lombard and Chester streets. "There was enough food to sate every guest there three or four times. The banquet tables were covered with platters of roasted chickens, dishes of sauerkraut cooked with Polish sausages, plates of meat balls, side dishes of vegetables and relishes," the article said.

The Zadrogas broke pieces of bread, dipped them in salt, ate them, and then drank wine, the article said.

After the wedding, he and his wife took over Anthony's Market, a business purchased by his family in 1946. They ran the produce and seafood business until they retired in 1991. Their children often worked long hours beside their parents.

"It was a sidewalk bazaar of baskets piled high with flowers and apples and oranges," said his granddaughter, Amy Strzegowski of Edgemere. "He sold oysters by the peck, clams, pickled herring and coils of Polish sausage. He purposely placed much of his stuff on the sidewalk to paint an inviting picture that would entice people out of their cars while passing on Eastern Avenue."

About 40 years ago, Mr. Zadrogas began selling Polish sausage made by a member of his wife's family. A local restaurateur asked if Mr. Zadroga could supply him with larger quantities of the sausage. He did and branched out with others meats and seafood until he was delivering to a number of Southeast Baltimore restaurants, including the old Brentwood Inn, Middleborough Inn and the Waterfront Hotel.

"My father went to the produce and seafood market every night," said his daughter. "He had his own refrigerated warehouse."

Family members said Mr. Zadroga supplied strawberries to two nearby businesses -- Haussner's Restaurant, whose bakers used them in their signature dessert, a strawberry pie, and to Herman's Bakery for strawberry shortcake.

"We probably bought strawberries from him for 20 years," said Harry J. Herman. Jr., son of the baker's owner. "He was someone who delivered the berries by himself from the truck and we were going through a lot of strawberries back then. Sometimes on the weekend we'd get 30 flats or more."

A Mass was offered yesterday at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church, where he was a member.

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include a son, David Zadroga of Pasadena; another daughter, Nancy Olischuk of Dundalk; a brother, Anthony Zadroga of Bel Air; a sister, Ann Sydlick of Bel Air; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A son, John Zadroga Jr., died in 1963.

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