In a world full of uncertainties and unknowns, some things are reassuringly consistent. Like a visit to the Edmart Delicatessen, at 1427 Reisterstown Road in “downtown” Pikesville.

Walk through the front door of the 900-square-foot deli and gourmet and specialty foods store, and you can count on the enticing aroma of corned beef and pastrami, and just as reliably, the warm greetings and infectious smile of owner Shelley Kelly.

A Beth El congregant who lives in Pikesville, Kelly is the third generation of her family to be involved in the food business. Her grandfather, Carl Lev, owned a deli in the Bronx. When relocating to Baltimore in 1926, he co-founded the popular and well-remembered Sussman and Lev’s deli, at 923 East Baltimore St.

In 1956 the family closed that deli, and Martin Lev — Carl’s son and Kelly’s father — partnered with Eddie Stern to open up a new store. Lev and Stern relocated their business in 1958 to Pikesville and renamed it Edmart (a portmanteau of Eddie and Martin). Eventually, Stern sold his share to Lev, and Edmart has been in the family ever since.

Shelley Kelly, owner of Edmart Deli in Pikesville, holds a photograph of her father, Martin Lev. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

Kelly, 65, grew up working alongside her parents in the store. She remembers the way that her late mother, Ruth Lev, made sandwiches and welcomed customers in a gracious manner. Kelly left home to attend the University of Maryland, College Park, and after graduation she married Michael Wiseman, a veterinarian. The Wisemans had two children, Rachael and Charlie.

After raising her children, Kelly worked as a field coordinator for Na’amat USA, an organization that provides educational and social services for women, children and families in Israel. When her father was short-staffed in 2000, Kelly filled in. Though the job was supposed to be only temporary, Kelly enjoyed it so much that she never left the business.

In 2004, tragedy struck when Michael Wiseman died of a heart attack. A year-and-a-half later, Kelly met her second husband, David Kelly, at a health club. After marrying him, she says, “I became ‘Shelley Kelly of the Deli!’”

Kelly remains passionate about the deli business. She enjoys talking about the different kinds of traditional Jewish delicacies sold and served by Edmart. Popular items include salami, brisket, halvah, lox, chopped liver, chopped herring and different varieties of cream cheese. Edmart is a “kosher-style” establishment; the store sells kosher meats, bagels from Goldberg’s New York Bagels and challah from Rosendorff’s Bakery.

Kelly frequently attends food shows and brings back samples of new products to share with staff and customers.

“Days go by quickly, the work is exciting, and I never know who will be coming into the store,” she says. Family is a priority for Kelly, who says she enjoys every moment she can spend with her husband, children and three grandchildren. But she says she has another family that’s near and dear to her heart — Edmart’s employees and customers.

Sheldon Gimbel has worked at Edmart since 1996 and says he thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie and atmosphere. “Edmart is the ‘Cheers’ of Pikesville, where everyone knows your name,” he says.

Shelley Kelly, left, serves sandwiches to Rona and Larry Katz, of Pikesville. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

While Edmart is primarily a takeout deli, there are two tables nestled in the back of the store for customers who want to eat on the premises. One of Kelly’s future goals is to reconfigure the store’s layout to make room for additional tables.

With Edmart celebrating its 60th anniversary next year, Kelly says she hopes the store will stay in business for at least another six decades and remain a Pikesville staple.

Christina Barbour hopes so, too. The site supervisor for the St. Clement’s Island Museum in Coltons Point, Md., Barbour was one of 10 St. Mary’s County Museum Division employees who dropped by Edmart to grab a bite recently while visiting the Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville.

“Our director happened to find the Edmart Deli, and it was great and the proprietor couldn’t have been friendlier,” she said. “It was nice to go to a local business instead of a big chain. It’s a nicer experience. I had a corned beef sandwich and it was absolutely delicious. I’d love to come back sometime.”

For information, visit edmartdeli.com or call 410-486-5558.

Top photo: Edmart Deli staff, from left, Beverly Potts, Devon Hamilton, owner Shelley Kelly and Marcelo Altman, stand in the Pikesville shop. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

Hannah M. Heller is a Baltimore-based freelance writer. Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler contributed to this article.

 

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