The Klein Family recently finished putting $9.5 million into refurbishing its ShopRite store in Forest Hill.
Some refer to it as the flagship location, as much for its history as the home community of Klein's, as for anything else. Maurice and Sarah Klein, who started Klein's that is also now known as ShopRite, opened a general store in Fallston in 1927. That's where they stayed until after World War II when they relocated to the southeast corner of the Jarrettsville and Rocks roads intersection in the village center of Forest Hill.
Since then, Klein's has been in Forest Hill, either in the village, or after they moved again, about a mile away in the southeast corner of the intersection of Routes 23 and 24. The latter is where $9.5 million was spent to modernize the store.
We're not offering this information as an advertisement, but rather as an acknowledgment that Klein's is as Harford County as it gets. The county has, obviously, been good to the Kleins, whose supermarkets have 21 percent of the grocery market in the county, according to Food World, an industry trade publication based in Columbia.
Klein's ShopRites, according to Food World, have more than double the market share of its closest competition: Wegman's with 9.4 percent, Walmart with 9.1 percent, Giant with 8 percent and Wawa with 6.2 percent.
That's pretty phenomenal and speaks volumes not only to the Kleins' roots in the county, but also the quality their stores offer.
"Klein's has been a leader for a long time," Food World's Jeff Metzger said. "Even prior to ShopRite, they are a well-known, family-connected name in the area. They have excellent locations, more locations than any other supermarket operator. So they have some fundamental strengths going for them."
Klein's are not only in the community, they are in the community.
As one of the biggest businesses and largest employers, they are an easy mark for every cause and nonprofit in need of financial help. And which charity under those two umbrellas doesn't need more money? Exactly.
And while they can't help everyone and, undoubtedly, probably missed someone along the way, the Klein's grocery chain has been a model corporate citizen. It has supported many worthy causes and has never shirked its civic responsibilities, frequently blending the corporate with the personal.
One of the most notable and obvious is the millions Ralph and Shirley Klein, the late patriarch and matriarch of the grocery chain, generously donated during the construction of the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.
Getting what was then a new hospital built, that would modernize health care in Harford County, was important to the Kleins.
Their grandchildren, most now in their 30s, are doing the heavy lifting keeping the Klein's ShopRite chain growing and prospering.
"We grew up a mile down the street. We saw what the business has done for our family, the impact on the community," Marshall Klein, 36, said on a recent tour of the renovated Forest Hill store. "I look at what my grandpa and grandma started. This is who we are. It's rare to find a profession that defines you."
It's also hard to find a family operation whose business is synonymous with the community where it operates. It's as hard to picture Klein's without Harford County as it's to picture Harford County living without Klein's.