Pam Corckran first started shopping at Eddie’s of Roland Park as a child, accompanying her mother on weekly visits to the gourmet grocery store.
“Mr. Victor knew my mother was from Bermuda and that we visited often,” recalls Corckran, now 71, referring to Victor Cohen, the market’s late founder. “He knew something about everyone who shopped there and called everyone by name.”
That tradition of offering personalized attention and quality customer service lives on at Eddie’s of Roland Park, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Located at 6213 N. Charles Street and 5113 Roland Avenue, Eddie’s remains an anomaly and a local touchstone in an era of corporate supermarket chains.
During the Great Depression, the Kiev-born Victor Cohen opened a pair of the original Victor’s grocery stores in Baltimore City, on Park Heights Avenue in Northwest Baltimore and in Windsor Hills. Selling both in 1944, he opened Victor’s Market in the historic Roland Park Shopping Center.
Nine years later, he purchased and operated a second location in the 5100 block of Roland Avenue and created Eddie’s. (The name stems from Cohen’s association with a buying and advertising cooperative started by Eddie Levy. The cooperative dissolved, but the name stuck. In the 1980s, they became Eddie’s of Roland Park, to differentiate themselves from the other Eddie’s stores in town.)
It wasn’t until 1976 that Cohen combined both stores into the Roland Park location at 5113 Roland Avenue.
Victor’s daughter, Nancy Cohen, joined the company in 1981 and opened the second Eddie’s of Roland Park location in 1992.
Nancy and her sons, Michael and Andrew Schaffer, continue the traditions at Eddie’s of Roland Park established by Victor, who died in 2000. The stores continue to sell premium meats, fresh produce and premier cheeses, as well as their popular crab cakes and shrimp salad.
But as customers’ needs have evolved over the years, the owners of Eddie’s of Roland Park have been attentive and responsive to requests and trends. That includes adding such healthier options as Date Lady Organic Pure Date Syrup, time savers like vegan, Tiberino Risotto meals and more locally manufactured products.
“It’s incredibly important to support other local companies,” says Michael Schaffer, who joined Eddie’s of Roland Park full-time in 2007. Eddie’s of Roland Park carries numerous Maryland products like Todd’s Dirt seasonings and Michele’s Granola.
Michele’s was only in business for two years when Eddie’s of Roland Park began carrying the brand in 2008.
“Eddie’s buyers are very in tune with what their customers want,” says Lauren Shafer, Michele’s business and marketing manager, “and we love baking for them.”
Pam Corckran is among the store’s legions of faithful customers. A Roland Park resident, Corckran says she enjoys knowing where everything is in the store and seeing familiar faces working there, some for generations, as well as talking to butchers for specialized help and running into old friends in every aisle.
“We offer an experience other stores don’t,” says Andrew Schaffer, who started in the business in 2018. “Our curated grocery selection, in-house kitchen and bakery, our front end that unloads your cart, bags your groceries and helps you to your car – we’re all about service, quality and selection.”
And through Eddie’s personal shopping program, even those who don’t shop in the store receive that same level of service. Customers call and talk to someone who is trained to understand what is important to them, he says, like “how you want your grapes to taste, what color you want your bananas, and exactly how you like your cut of meat. You develop a relationship with them, and they care for you.”
Regarding the future of Eddie’s of Roland Park, Nancy Cohen says, “We are continuously evolving our operations, with an eye toward environmental responsibility and customer conveniences. It’s really fantastic having Michael and Andrew here in positions of leadership to support these and other future goals.”
Cohen and her sons continue to make changes at the stores, including carrying more local products; upgrading their locations; extending the Roland Park store hours to match the Charles Street store; and becoming more environmentally conscious. They’ve already made several sustainability-related improvements, including offering a five-cent bag credit, a composting program and a food rescue partnership with the Maryland Food Bank.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of Eddie’s of Roland Park, the Jewish Museum of Maryland will have a special exhibit of the store’s memorabilia from Sept. 16 to Oct 20. The exhibit, which will be displayed in the museum’s lobby area, will feature store advertisements, awards, photos and uniforms. A reception for the exhibit will be held at the JMM on Sept. 19.
“The exhibit will celebrate both the family behind the success of Eddie’s — including founder and immigrant Victor Cohen — plus the way in which the store has led the gourmet grocery store industry,” says Trillion Attwood, the JMM’s programs manager and curatorial assistant. “We are also hoping to offer our visitors a chance to share their own memories of the store, so the exhibit will continue to evolve while it is on display.
“The story of a store that is so beloved within our community, started by a Jewish immigrant and handed down through generations, is exactly the type we like to celebrate.”
For information, visit eddiesofrolandpark.com.
Faye Rivkin is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.