Anita Ward gave her loyal customers big hugs as she served them lunch Friday, Nov. 8.
Ward closed her longtime eatery, Roland Park Bakery and Deli, at the end of Friday, after 30 years.
"It's just time," she said. "I'm tired of getting up at 3 in the morning. I'm ready for a change."
Ward said she is selling the business to longtime customer Dave Sherman of Roland Park, who plans to turn it into Cafe-Cito. Sherman said he hopes to open in January 2014, starting with lunch and perhaps dinner in the future.
For most of its existence, Roland Park Bakery and Deli was located in the historic Roland Park Shopping Center on Roland Avenue, where it was well known for an informal breakfast club of regulars. Ward moved in April of 2011 to 3500 Chestnut Ave., because the Roland Park Shopping Center, owned by the family of her niece, Trish Ward, was turning the space into Johnny's restaurant.
Mark Fetting's late father, Jack, was a breakfast regular there, and so was Mark, of Roland Park, former chief executive officer of Legg Mason. The elder Fetting is in one of the snapshots that fills a poster board in the eatery, showing customers through the years.
"There will be nothing as good and special as this," Mark Fetting, 58, said as he ate a tuna sandwich with Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread Friday.
"What can you say?" said Joe Farrell, who used to walk from his old violin shop to the eatery. Now living in Timonium, he didn't get to Roland Park Bakery and Deli very often anymore, he said.
As Farrell ordered food Friday, Ward walked from behind the counter and threw her arms around him.
For many customers, it was the end of good breakfasts and lunches, and the end of home baked pumpkin and mincemeat pies that Ward baked. Her closing came at an inopportune time for many people who were trying to order pies for Thanksgiving Day.
"No pies?" asked Donna Shearer, incoming director of training for the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. "I'm so sad."
Shearer also credited the eatery with making "incredible rice pudding" and "the best turkey club in town."
"It was sad to see her leave Roland Park and it's sad to see her leave here," said Martha Marani, of Roland Park, who came at least once every two months.
For Ward, 63, it's a time of deciding what to do with the rest of her life.
"I don't know yet," said Ward, who was a pharmacy technician at the University of Maryland campus in downtown Baltimore for 12 years before opening her restaurant on Jan. 5, 1984.
"I've only had two jobs in my life," she said.