For Jeffrey Grabelle, coming to Eddie’s of Mount Vernon has been a near-daily habit for more than two decades. He shops there five or six times a week, but that will come to an end June 30 when the small, family-owned grocery store is set to close.
“I don’t have a car. I could get a ride to Safeway and Costco, but it’s the people that have kept me coming back over the years,” said Grabelle, who’s lived in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood since 1978. “It’s place where people recognize you, and I like that.”
The departure of Eddie’s will be the latest “loss of places where neighbors go and see each other,” he said. In the past three years, other local establishments — such as the Mount Vernon Stable & Saloon and City Cafe — have also closed.
Eddie’s owner Dennis Zorn previously told The Banner that the COVID-19 pandemic caused the business to slowly deteriorate as expenses have gone up. Other issues such as staffing, chronic shoplifting and violence including “knives pulled on them [employees]” also contributed to the store’s economic decline. He didn’t want to expose families and employees to that anymore, he said.
A notice on the store’s front entrance says that it reserves the right to check all reusable bags due to an increase in theft. Since the start of 2020, Baltimore Police received 24 calls related to theft or violence at Eddie’s, records show.
“I wish it could be better. My wife and I have been supplementing payroll for the last few months. We don’t have anymore money, simple as that,” Zorn said.
There’s a running joke about police presence near Eddie’s and the CVS next to it, Grabelle said.
“Where are the police? ‘Oh, they’re Never On Sunday,’” Grabelle said, referring to the takeout spot on North Charles Street a few blocks from Eddie’s. “That’s where they are. You’ll find them getting food and all their cars parked there.”
Grabelle described Mount Vernon as what “used to be a renter’s paradise for cheap apartments,” but that has changed, he said. The owners of Eddie’s, in particular, always kept the grocery store up to what they thought the community wanted needed despite the neighborhood evolving in the past decade.
Hector Manzano, who has lived on Eager Street for the past 20 years, said he would mainly go to Eddie’s “not for the groceries but everything else,” such as buying lottery tickets and getting to know people in his neighborhood.
“Eddie’s has always had the best fresh produce. But if they didn’t have a brand you wanted, you could go to the owners and they would get it for you. I would mainly go to run into people and catch up. ... It’s sad to see them go,” Manzano said.
Lori Fagan, the director of the Waxter Center, a senior recreational facility a block from Eddie’s, said she preferred shopping there over big retail chain grocery stores.
“I’m one of those who people go up and down every aisle. I get sidetracked in the big stores and end bringing home things that I don’t need. So Eddie’s has been where I go to my shopping done. Quick and easy,” Fagan said, adding that, many of the seniors who visit the center often went to Eddie’s deli for lunch.
“Some of them live in this neighborhood and some of them don’t, but I know this will be such a loss for this community,” Fagan said.
Kaitlin Newman contributed reporting.