One of Baltimore’s last great delicatessen men has passed away, and as a touching tribute, mourners in the funeral procession leaving Sol Levinson & Bros. honked their car horns when driving by his Owings Mills deli.

Leonard “Lenny” Smith, co-owner and namesake of Lenny’s Deli, died on Oct. 18 of sepsis. The Baltimore native and Pikesville resident was 88.

The son of Anna and Harry Smith, Lenny Smith was one of four children. He attended Louisa May Alcott School No. 59 and graduated from Baltimore City College.

Known as a hard worker with an unflagging entrepreneurial spirit, Smith ran a small store called Len’s Variety, selling penny candy, popcorn and snowballs. He also sold insurance on the side and became a full-time salesman with People’s Life Insurance.

In addition, Smith worked on Fridays and Saturdays at Frankford Grocery, and later served as finance and insurance manager at Gladding Chevrolet for 20 years.

In 1985, Smith co-founded Lenny’s Deli with his son, Alan, who continues to run the business at its Owings Mills location. (Lenny’s second location, at Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino, opened in 2014, while its Lombard Street site closed in 2017 after 26 years on “Corned Beef Row.”) While his son ran the business end of the operation, Smith was the face of the deli. His countenance adorns the restaurant’s drinking cups and appears on signage. On many mornings, Smith could often be spotted mingling with customers over a cup of coffee.

Alan Smith describes his father, Lenny, as “a wonderful father and grandfather, but most importantly, he was a wonderful man.” (Photo courtesy of the Smith family)
Alan Smith describes his father, Lenny, as “a wonderful father and grandfather, but most importantly, he was a wonderful man.” (Photo courtesy of the Smith family)

In 2001, Smith retired at the age of 70 and moved to Florida. Twelve years ago, he returned to the Baltimore area to be closer to his family and spent most of his days at Lenny’s, hanging out with the clientele.

Alan Smith said his father enjoyed sitting in the restaurant’s casual dining room with the regulars in Owings Mills, drinking coffee and “solving the world’s problems in 20 minutes. …

“He was a wonderful father and grandfather, but most importantly, he was a wonderful man,” Alan Smith said of his dad, who was also an avid fan of the Baltimore Colts, Ravens and Orioles, as well as Maryland men’s and women’s basketball.

Smith is survived by his wife of 31 years, Carolyn Smith (nee Moscoe); his children, Sharon (Stephen) Freiman, Harris (Jill) Smith and Alan (Amie) Smith; his step-children Jason (Debbie) Glasser and Michael (Jeanie) Glasser; his grandchildren Rachel (Steven) Fox, David (Anna) Freiman, Stephanie Smith, Jordan (Heather) Smith, Kara (Danny) Boyd, Jennifer (Tim) Hilton, Michelle Smith, PJ Glasser, Nathan Glasser, Bret Glasser and Blake Glasser; his great-grandchildren Brenna, Alyssa, and Adina.

Smith was predeceased by his first wife of 31 years, Ilene Smith (nee Cohen), who died in 1983.

Contributions in Smith’s memory may be sent to Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation, 40 Stirrup Ct, Baltimore, Md. 21208.

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