Edward B. Lauer, co-founder with his wife of Lauer's Supermarket & Bakery in Anne Arundel County, whose motto was "Make the customer feel like a king and queen," died Monday of complications from Parkinson's disease at his Severna Park home.
He was 85.
"It was his passion and lifelong dream to own a supermarket," said a daughter, Bernadette L. Snoops of Millersville, who now operates the two supermarkets with her sister, Babette M. Poyer, who also lives in Millersville.
The son of a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. paymaster and a homemaker, Mr. Lauer was born in Baltimore and raised on Edmondson Avenue.
He was a 1944 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington, and earned a bachelor's degree four years later in business from the Johns Hopkins University.
"He was a self-made man and had worked since he was young. He put himself through Mount St. Joe and Hopkins," said another daughter, Elizabeth A. Gilley of Herndon, Va.
After briefly working for Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., Mr. Lauer went to work in the early 1950s for the old Food Fair grocery stores, where he rose to manage stores in Severna Park and Mondawmin.
In the late 1960s, he left Food Fair and took a job with P.A.S. Small, a Pennsylvania grocery purveyor and distributor.
When Mr. Lauer first broached with family members the notion of buying a grocery store in Pasadena, they were somewhat skeptical.
In order to raise money and to secure a Small Business Administration loan of $150,000, the bank placed a lien on the "inventory and equipment in the store, rental property owned by the Lauers, and the Lauers' residence," said a 1997 article in the Baltimore Business Journal.
"You name it, and they put a lien on it," Mr. Lauer said in the article. "We would have lost everything, including our home."
In 1974, he and his wife, the former Helen Beaudette, whom he married in 1950, were able to purchase their first store, which they called Lauer's Super Thrift, on Mountain Road in Pasadena.
During the first six months of operation, they generated a profit of $18,000, to the surprise of many.
Mrs. Lauer died in 2009. An obituary in The Baltimore Sun credited her with using the phrase "fast, friendly and fresh, serving you is what we do best" in advertising. While her husband oversaw operation of other areas of the store, Mrs. Lauer supervised the produce department and bakery.
The couple's five daughters shared their parents' work ethic and at one time or another worked in the store during their teenage years.
"He was not hard to work for but was demanding in a nice way, and was always right there working with us," said Mrs. Poyer, who began working in the market in 1974 and returned to the business after graduating from the University of Baltimore in 1982.
For years, Mr. Lauer opened up and closed the store, which was open seven days a week.
"He never gave up, and that's the way he lived his life," Mrs. Poyer said. "He was a very determined person who liked people and liked the challenge of making money in a business that has a tough bottom line."
"He lived the business 24/7 and was hands-on. He was an outgoing and happy man who happened to be a very solid person," said Mrs. Snoops, who returned to the store full time after graduating in 1980 from the University of Baltimore.
"We have employees who have been with us since 1974, and with many having worked more than 30 years," she said. "As a boss, he was easy to work for. He knew how to get things done and how to satisfy customers. He knew their needs."
In 1982, after Acme Markets Inc. closed their Baltimore-area stores, Mr. Lauer expanded his business when he purchased a former Acme store in Riviera Beach.
Jim Canupp got to know Mr. Lauer in 1960, when he was hired to work at the Glen Burnie Food Fair.
"I was 16 when he hired me. And then when Food Fair went out, I went to Pantry Pride, and when they closed in 1982, he hired me to work in his store. He had always kept in touch with me," said Mr. Canupp, who is manager of the Chesterfield Plaza store on Mountain Road.
"Ed was a good man and always treated everyone well. He had a heart and was always very fair and caring," he said. "If a person had a need, he'd do what he could to help. He was a very generous man."
Even though his two daughters have operated the business for the last decade, Mr. Lauer was always available for advice and to help solve problems.
"Up until about two years ago, he was still asking lots of questions," Mrs. Poyer said with a laugh.
Mr. Lauer was past chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Food Dealers Association and had been a longtime member of the board of Farmers National Bank.
Mr. Lauer, who had earlier lived in Pasadena and Arnold, had also been a founding member and served as first president of the Pasadena Business Association.
He was a longtime active communicant of Our Lady of the Chesapeake Roman Catholic Church, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Friday.
Also surviving are another daughter, Loretta Lauer of North Point, Fla.; a sister, Joan Peters of Perry Hall; and 10 grandchildren. Another daughter, Margaret Millsap, died in 2007.