Anthony Thomas Jeppi, longtime proprietor of Baltimore's Jeppi Nut and Candy Co., died Monday from complications of diabetes at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson. He was 92.
Mr. Jeppi headed the family business founded by his father, John Jeppi, in 1884 as a fruit and vegetable stall at the old Hanover Market at Sharp and Camden streets. The elder Jeppi, who died in 1943, immigrated to America from Cefalu, Italy.
"Peanuts moved very well at that location, and soon my father began specializing in all kinds of nuts," Mr. Jeppi told The Sunday Sun Magazine in 1975. The business, which flourished in the 1930s despite the Great Depression, soon outgrew the Hanover Market stall and moved to 223 Sharp St.
It remained on Sharp Street until the 1970s, when the area was razed for the Baltimore Convention Center. The business, now known as Jeppi Nut Co., has been sold twice and is at 312 N. High St. in downtown Baltimore.
"Whenever anybody starts talking about the Depression, they mention men selling apples on street corners," Mr. Jeppi said in 1975. "I think the peanut is more a symbol of the Depression years street a-rabs [would come] to our store regularly to buy 100-pound bags of roasted-in-the-shell peanuts for $6. They would then move through downtown, selling quart measures for a nickel. A quart of peanuts and a glass of water makes a substantial lunch. I wonder if that's where we got the expression 'working for peanuts.' "
Born and raised in Baltimore, Mr. Jeppi was a 1925 graduate of City College and the Milton School of Pharmacy. For a brief time, he worked with his brother, Sam Jeppi, who owned the S. P. Jeppi Pharmacy in Walbrook.
Tiring of drugstore work, Mr. Jeppi returned to the family business, which he went on to own. In 1972, he sold the company and retired.
During World War II, he served as a pharmacist's mate at the Naval Academy and the Philadelphia Navy Yard before being discharged in 1945. He was married in 1933 to Rae Belsinger, and maintained a home in Ruxton for many years before moving to Pickersgill. He enjoyed gardening.
He was a communicant of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Jeppi is survived by many nieces and nephews.