Robert Thomas Bucher, the longtime co-owner of a Harborplace sporting goods store, died Thursday at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie of throat and stomach cancer. He had turned 53 the day before.
A Glen Burnie resident, Mr. Bucher was born and raised in East Islip, N.Y. As a child, he loved sports, particularly baseball and bowling, and was a lifelong New York Mets fan, family members said.
Initially aspiring to be a teacher, Mr. Bucher studied education at Suffolk County Community College in New York after graduating from high school in 1972. After a year, he got married and dropped out to work in electronics for a now-defunct company in Farmingdale, N.Y.
In the 1980s, he divorced his wife and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he opened a small business selling hair accessories at a flea market. He met his second wife, the former Jessie Soon Yoong, while she was vacationing there in 1994, she said.
The next year, the two married and moved to Glen Burnie. They started their store, originally called Shoelaces You Never Tie, in the Light Street Pavilion. The name was later changed to Ballmerang, then to Sports `N' Stuff a few years ago.
"Bob was like the grandfather of the Inner Harbor merchants, or the mayor," said Pete G. Smith, 48, of Columbia, who briefly owned a shoe store next door. "Everyone would ask him questions rather than call Harborplace management."
Working close to 80 hours a week, Mr. Bucher became popular as an Inner Harbor fixture, his wife and friends said.
"There was just a constant stream of people coming up to him and giving him hugs," Mr. Smith said. "If you could give him a day off, he'd rather be down there selling and talking to people."
Memorial services are being planned in New York.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bucher is survived by a son, Christopher Bucher of East Islip; his mother, Elizabeth Bucher, also of East Islip; three daughters; and two sisters, Donna Arthur of Astoria, N.Y., and Kathie Hicks of Central Islip, N.Y.