The telephone rang constantly yesterday at Attman's of Lombard Street as customers, suppliers and employees mourned the death of Stuart Alan Attman, a third generation member of one of Baltimore's famous Corned Beef Row families.
Mr. Attman, 34, who headed the deli's catering department, was swept to his death Monday in Negril, Jamaica, when a wave washed over a cliff where he was standing.
The Owings Mills resident, who had gone to Jamaica for a week's vacation, was carried into rough seas generated by Tropical Storm Gordon. Attempts to revive him on the beach were unsuccessful.
Mr. Attman worked for 20 years at the popular East Lombard Street deli owned by his father, Seymour Attman.
"The phone hasn't stopped ringing," said Earl G. Oppel, the Attman's manager. "I'm getting calls from purveyors, old school friends and from people all over the country who have just learned of Stuart's death, and they're in total shock."
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, an old friend of the Attman family, said, "Stuart helped us greatly when every two years we put on a Lombard Street fund-raiser in Washington. It was really a unique event and people were always calling me up wanting to know when the next one was scheduled, they loved the food so much.
"With all of those fancy caterers in Washington, they always remembered Attman's of Lombard Street. It was amazing."
Mr. Oppel, who has managed Attman's for 20 years, said, "I've known him since he was a child. He started here when he was 14 as a busboy and learned everything about the business from the bottom up. He was like a brother to everyone here and wasn't the typical boss' son."
James Holloway, cook at the deli, remembered the friendly, non-stop bantering that went on between him and Stuart Attman.
"Our personalities just clicked and we spent a lot of time together away from the store traveling and just talking," he said. "When I heard what happened, I thought Stuart was pulling a prank on me. I couldn't believe it and will probably be the last one to ever believe that he's really gone."
Born and reared in Pikesville, Stuart Attman attended the Talmudical Academy and, after graduating from Pikesville High School in 1978, went to work full time in the deli founded by his grandfather in the 1920s. The deli has been in its present location at 1019 E. Lombard St. since 1933.
Seymour Attman credited his son's success in the business to his deep appreciation and love of people who came into the store or called on the phone.
"He knew everybody. He wanted to know everybody. He had the gift of gab and people loved his personality. He loved what he did and lived life to the fullest."
He was known for his deep affection for the Grateful Dead rock band and enjoyed attending their concerts as well as skiing and sports. He was also a member of the Chizuk Amuno Congregation.
Plans for services in Baltimore were incomplete.
In addition to his father, survivors include his stepmother, Elinor Attman; a brother, Dr. Marc Attman of Pikesville; two sisters, Eileen Levine of Potomac and Deborah Dadey of Baltimore; two uncles, Edward Attman and Leonard Attman, both of Baltimore; his grandparents, Samuel and Tobey Vatapsky of Baltimore; and three nieces.