About a dozen would-be patrons of Jim Parker's Pub stopped by the NorthwestBaltimore liquor store yesterday to buy their favorite beverage. What they gotinstead was news that it had closed.
The store, at the corner of Liberty Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevardfor 35 years, shut its doors Sunday night. Owner Jim Parker, who played forthe former Baltimore Colts and is in the NFL Hall of Fame, said healthconcerns led to the decision to close the business that had become aninstitution.
"I'm just tired," Parker, 65, said yesterday afternoon as employeesremoved bottles of rum, gin and other spirits from the shelves.
Last year, Parker ignored signs of trouble such as falling asleep whilewaiting on customers. When he ran off the road while driving down Interstate70 toward Frederick, two men recognized him and offered to take him to ahospital. Parker told them he'd follow in his car.
"But when we got to the hospital and they drove off, I drove off, too,"Parker said. He went home and kept quiet about the incident.
"The next day, one of my kids got wind of it, and when I got off at 5 p.m.,all 12 of them came here and took me to the hospital," he said. Doctors toldParker he was lucky. Another day and he might have died.
Their diagnosis? A stroke.
Since then, Parker worked one shift a day, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., insteadof leaving after midnight. But family and friends were still on him to quit.
"Lenny felt like this business was too much stress on me," Parker said offormer teammate and Hall of Famer Lenny Moore. "My kids are glad that I'mdoing this. They're calling saying they'll take care of me now."
But Parker's children will have to travel to get to their dad. He plans tomove back to his birthplace, Macon, Ga., in early 2000.
Parker would have turned the business over to one of his children, but theyall have their careers.
Jimi Parker, 40, the eldest son, managed the store after he graduated fromhigh school. He's now a car salesman for Nationwide dealership.
"He's just been there on a daily basis maintaining the business, and hewouldn't leave on his own," Jimi Parker said of his dad. "Once he gets intosomething, he puts his all into it. But I think it's just time. He's lookingforward to his retirement. He said he'll do some traveling and spend time withhis family."
A Walgreens is planned to occupy the spot where Parker's liquor store andbar sit. His kids are glad he sold the business, but some patrons are not.
Patrons tugged on the door handle yesterday afternoon only to learn it waslocked. They grumbled about how they'd have to walk eight blocks to findanother liquor store.
Shayhana Franklin, 19, of Catonsville said she has been coming to Parker'sfor about five years to buy snacks and in later years for cigars.
"Everybody loved Jim Parker's," she said. "I'm just sad he's retired. Iwanna know why. He was doing good business."
Business was brisk for Parker, a standout guard for the Colts from 1957 to1968. But he said it was time to put his health first.
Still, he knows he'll miss the liquor business.
"I'll probably be sitting out here in my car for the next two weeks or sotill I get it out of my system."