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End of an era as Roland Park Bakery and Deli closes its doors (Hudson's Corner Column)

November brings frost, lingering tree color and falling leaves. This year it brings other changes to the neighborhood landscape.

On Nov. 8, Anita Ward, 30-year owner of the Roland Park Bakery and Deli, closed her business. After a long run at the Roland Park Shopping Center, she moved to Hampden in 2011, but continued her homey breakfasts, lunches and quality baked goods. Her new location was never as convenient for regulars, but many followed her.

On Nov. 7, I saw her number on my phone. I thought she had ESP, because I had just written down my order for Thanksgiving pies. When I returned her call and spouted off my list, she said wouldn't be baking this year. She was closing the next day and would spend Thanksgiving with her family in San Francisco for the first time in three decades.

I am glad for her, but my family and others will miss her. We started ordering pies and rolls for holidays and special occasions the first year she offered them. A better banana cream pie I have never tasted.

Ward's closing marks the end of an era. Hers was the last of the old-fashioned, inexpensive neighborhood coffee and sandwich shops in the tradition of Morgan & Millard and Delvale's in the Roland Park Shopping Center and the Wagner & Wagner pharmacy on Cold Spring Lane. Eateries like that are rare today.

On a brighter note, Ridgewood Road has been repaved and recurbed. It took more than a month, but Ridgewood now looks better than it has in my lifetime. Our family moved there in 1959, when the winding, narrow street was two-way, with a stop light at Roland Avenue and a treadle drivers activated near that light. In the 1960s, it became one-way.

Although easier to navigate, the one-way street soon became a Monte Carlo raceway. In the early 1970's a child was hit as a car rounded the bend.

In recent years, speeding continues, particularly on weekday mornings, when motorists head west from Cold Spring Lane to Falls Road. They shoot across the busy intersection and fly up Ridgewood, tires squealing at the first curve and joggers jumping out of the way. The new, glass-slick surface may exacerbate this problem. If so, residents will request help from the Northern District police.

Other recent nearby changes in the community include a property on Ridgewood that changed ownership this spring for the first time in 80 years. Most noticeable of the renovations is its outdoor landscaping. Ailanthus, black walnut and other volunteer trees have been removed, along with mature yews and vine-entangled shrubbery. A tall holly has been sculpted out front, a Japanese maple planted off a side porch, and a new privet hedge installed. In the backyard, dozens of leather leaf viburnum bushes, spruce and holly trees have been planted. This infusion of quality trees and shrubs is healthy for a property and for the neighborhood.

A new family with three small children moved in several doors away late this summer. Their festive Halloween decorations carry on the spirit of the previous owners, a key family on Ridgewood for 50 years. The previous family started the community's first Fourth of July parade. It began on Ridgewood in the 1960s and continued into the 1980s.

That family, along with other families of the same age, also transformed the street from one where neighbors did not interact much to the sociable, responsive two-blocks street it is today.

One change I am hoping for next year is the reinstatement of the annual community Thanksgiving Day celebration. What used to rotate among four Roland Avenue churches could now include the Bolton Street Synagogue. It might also take an outdoor form: a Greater Roland Park celebration at Centennial Park or the Roland Water Tower.

We have much for which to give thanks.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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