I had one of those "think it and it happens" moments this winter. On a walk to the post office, I passed the Roland Park Shopping Center. I remembered the old Roland Park Bakery & Deli and the fabulous banana cream pie its owner, Anita Ward, once made there. She moved her deli to Hampden three years ago and closed it in November.
I wondered where she was and what she was doing. The day she closed in Hampden, she said she had some options, but that she was first going to California for Thanksgiving.
A few blocks later, when I walked into Tuxedo Pharmacy, there stood Anita Ward, not as a customer but as an employee, smiling behind the counter. Smiling is not the right word. Beaming is more like it. And beaming she has been every day I've seen her since.
Who can blame her? She is working for longtime former customers in a family-owned business back in the 'hood, where she, like Tuxedo's owners, the Davidovs, knows everyone. And everyone knows Anita. She reinforces the community bond the Davidovs, and all individually owned businesses in the area, have forged over generations.
Anita looks rested and relaxed and happy to be there, too. She is on her feet behind the counter four days a week and every other Saturday, but no longer does she have to wake up at 2:30 or 3 every morning to go to the deli to bake and prepare for the day. No longer does she have to stop at the grocery store or restaurant supply house almost every afternoon on her way home from work.
No longer does she have the responsibility of owning a small business, even one with longtime, loyal employees and scores of regulars who felt like family.
"When Arnold told me she was closing her business, I knew we had to call her," said Harold Davidov, who owns Tuxedo Pharmacy with his pharmacist brother, Arnold. "I like a certain type of person working in this store," he added, rattling off qualities like conscientious, proactive, customer-oriented.
When he called Ward, she came in, they talked, and he offered her a spot. She said she would have to think about it.
"When I thought about it," Ward said, "I knew I had to take it. What a great way to come back to Roland Park. There's no stress. I leave and go home."
Anita is at home in another way, too. Besides being back in Roland Park, she is back at a pharmacy. Her first job, at age 16, was working in a California pharmacy. Right before she opened the deli, she had worked at the University of Maryland pharmacy for 11 years.
"She's a quick study," said Harold. "Very conscientious."
When he was going on vacation, Anita offered to come to work on her day off
"She didn't want us shorthanded," Harold said.
Hopeful news to all who miss her macaroons, muffins and sugar cookies is that Anita has not given up baking. Unfortunately, she is not selling anything at the pharmacy. She just brings in baked goods for lucky Arnold and Harold and Tuxedo employees: muffins, Valentine's Day cookies and St. Patrick's Day cookies.
"They take forever at home," she said. "The big pans won't fit in my oven."
Customers still miss her deli food, too. Each day, people remind her of what it is they miss most.
"Italian cold cut," one woman said, pretending to order as she approached the pharmacy counter.
And every day, a different, former deli customer, who has not seen Anita back in Roland Park, comes in and is surprised to see her.
"Some I have not seen in three years," she said.
Welcome back, Anita. May your baked goods soon follow.