Louis Rankin, the retired manager of a well-known neighborhood supermarket, died of cancer Sunday at a nursing home near his St. Andrew's Estates home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 96.
For more than three decades, Mr. Rankin stood at the door of the Eddie's of Roland Park market and greeted his customers by name.
"He was a standard-bearer for our industry," said Jerry Gordon, owner of the Eddie's of Charles Village market. "He was impeccably dressed and was a refined man. When you thought of that store, you thought of him."
Born in Baltimore and raised on Baker Street, he attended City College but left high school to help support his family. He became a branch manager for what was then known as the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., later A&P. It was there that he met Victor Cohen, who went on to own and operate his own markets in West and North Baltimore. They became friends and lifelong business associates.
Mr. Rankin joined Mr. Cohen at the Eddie's Supermarket in the 5100 block of Roland Ave. in 1953 and remained at the store as its manager until retiring 21 years ago. Mr. Rankin became a well-known business figure within the neighborhood's shopping district.
"He was a meticulous person, and he ran the store the same way," said Nancy Cohen, the daughter of the store's owner who now owns two Eddie's markets in North Baltimore. "He was meticulous about customer service, the book work and record-keeping. He was meticulous about the numbers."
Francis "Bob" Ward, the Roland Park store's assistant grocery manager, recalled Mr. Rankin's presence at the front of the store and his ability to recall the names of his customers, their extended families and their buying preferences.
"He, with Victor Cohen, helped make the store what it is today," Mr. Ward said.
Co-workers said that Mr. Rankin dressed in a shirt, tie and a blue sports jacket to denote his role as store manager.
A longtime customer, Richard J. Roszel III, described Mr. Rankin as "the face of Eddie's."
"Mr. Rankin was always there," Roszel said. "He'd cash a check for you and help you find some bizarre grocery thing you might need. He was a market genius and was especially nice to my children."
First thing in the morning, he went over accounts in the store's office and worked the front door most of the day.
"He paid attention to all details, whether large or small," said his son, Alan Rankin, who worked alongside his father at the Roland Park store. "He did not believe in doing his book work while the store was open. He spent a lot of his day at the supermarket, and he was tired when he got home."
Mr. Rankin moved to Florida after retiring from the store when he turned 75.
His wife of more than 30 years, the former Baileh Marks, died in 1976.
In addition to his son, survivors include a daughter, Harriet Alterowitz of Mazola, Mont.; a sister, Thelma Walsky of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.
Services were held Tuesday.