When the Roland Park Library needed a new roof in 2005, restaurateur Eddie Dopkin was quick to step in.
"He said, 'We'll have a fundraiser and call it Raise the Roof,'" recalls Susan Newhouse, who at the time was raising money to renovate and expand the branch. "He came up with the name and did the event for us at Miss Shirley's."
To the public, Dopkin, who died Oct. 19 of leukemia at age 61, was best known as owner of Miss Shirley's, S'ghetti Eddie's and Roland Park Bagel Co., former owner of Alonso's and Loco Hombre, and co-owner of Classic Catering People, in Owings Mills, one of the largest catering companies in Maryland. But to community leaders in the Roland Park area, he was equally respected for his altruism, commitment to the community, and ability to raise money and bring people together for various projects.
"Great man," e-mailed Roland Park resident Mary Page Michel, who worked with Dopkin on initiatives, including preserving open space and making facade improvements to businesses on West Cold Spring Lane. "Eddie was a pillar in the business community in Roland Park. He was the go-to guy for decades, from cookies and coffee for meetings (to) advice on all kinds of matters. He was aware that his business success impacted the neighborhood and he worked hard to respond to residents. He opened his restaurants for meetings or fundraisers. I can't remember him saying no."
Chris McSherry, president of the Roland Park Civic League, called Dopkin a wonderful neighbor," who "always did his part as a business owner to improve and strengthen all of the surrounding neighbors."
McSherry said Dopkin helped with the library initiative, neighborhood cleanups and parking problems on Cold Spring.
"He will be sorely missed throughout Roland Park and the city," she sad.
McSherry was among several community leaders who attended Dopkin’s full-house funeral at Sol Levinson Funeral Home in Pikesville on Monday, Oct. 21. Also spotted there were former civic league president Michael DiPietro, league member Al Copp and Joel Fidler, of Evergreen, who brainstormed with Dopkin on development ideas for West Cold Spring Lane.
The funeral home, which seats 500 in its main chapel, was so crowded that people watched on TV screens in the side chapel and in the lobby, where photos of Dopkin were displayed, along with bobbleheads of him from his 60th birthday celebration.
DiPietro recalled Dopkin picking up “a speck of trash” on the sidewalk outside the bagel shop. He also remembered Dopkin working hard to convince a skepical community that a liquor license for Miss Shirley’s would not lead to traffic and other problems.
“His word was his bond,” DiPietro said.
Rabbi Steven Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom eulogized Dopkin “one of the most charming people in Charm City,” who packed a lifetime of good deeds into 30 years since learning he had a rare form of leukemia.
“Eddie was a Baltimore icon and an example to us all,” Fink said.
Never said no
Former league presidents David Blumberg and Phil Spevak also had praise for Dopkin. Blumberg said Dopkin raised more than $100,000 for the library initiative.
"I don't think he ever said no to any charity or good cause," Blumberg said. "He never talked about it, never used it as a wedge or a bragging point."
One time after an event at Miss Shirley's, Blumberg saw Dopkin counting silverware.
"He (didn't) forget where he came from," Blumberg said.
Spevak said Dopkin planted trees and paid for snow removal on Cold Spring, and was instrumental in helping to bring merchants to the table with community leaders to discuss projects.
"Eddie was a good adviser to me," Spevak said. "He was a master of bringing people together."
Dopkin last year also took an interest in Spevak's son, James, then 17, who worked for Classic Catering People at special events, Spevak said. He said his son received a $100 gift certificate from Dopkins, who liked his work and help in recruiting other young people to work at catered events.
"It made an impact" on (James)," his father said.
Fidler remembers Dopkin as being "amazingly receptive to all our thoughts and ideas. He was out first contact whenever we had an idea we wanted to share."
For much of the 2000s, Dopkin virtually had the market cornered in the 400-600 blocks of West Cold Spring, after moving Miss Shirley's from its original location in a former Hair Cuttery building to the old Big Sky Bread Company across the street. Then he opened S'ghetti Eddie's where Miss Shirley's was. In 2008, his restaurants and the catering business collectively employed about 500 people.
Community leaders praised Dopkin for almost single-handedly reinvigorating a commercial strip that was plagued by vacancies. He made a big splash in August 2006, when he announced he would spend as much as $500,000 to move Miss Shirley's and to open S'ghetti Eddie's.
He since closed S'ghetti Eddie's, although he had plans to open a new eatery there. He also sold Alonso's, locally famed for its burgers. However, Miss Shirley's has since expanded, with locations in Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Annapolis, as well as a food truck.
But in his dealings with Roland Park, Dopkin was modest and always willing to help. Many people did not know he was sick and he did not talk about it.
"He died how he lived, without much fanfare," Michel said.
It is Dopkin's good deeds that Roland Park remembers.
"He was a good guy for the city and contributed a lot to the Roland Park area — and made it better," Spevak said.
Richard Gorelick and Joe Burris of The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.