Helen Lauer, the matriarch of a family who founded two Anne Arundel County supermarkets and believed that traditionally made baked goods could win customers, died of lymphoma Wednesday at her Severna Park home. She was 80.
Born Helen Beaudette in Baltimore, she grew up on Mallow Hill Road. She attended St. Mark's Parochial School in Catonsville and was a 1946 graduate of Seton High School.
After marrying grocery store manager Edward Lauer 59 years ago, and raising five daughters, she and her husband moved to Anne Arundel County, where they fulfilled a dream of opening their own supermarket. They called their first business Lauer's Super Thrift on Mountain Road in Pasadena. The store opened in 1974, with their daughters working alongside them. Mrs. Lauer used the phrase, "fast, friendly and fresh, serving you is what we do best" in her advertising materials.
"She was the hardest worker I've ever known," said a daughter, Elizabeth Gilley of Herndon, Va. "She knew everybody in the community, too, and was the quality control manager. She was all about excellence in the product."
Her daughter said Mrs. Lauer realized that a way to win repeat business was through a good in-store bakery operation. She hired bakers and insisted that their cakes be frosted in a rich, butter-cream icing. She also created a bakery inventory of old-fashioned Baltimore items, including peach cakes in the summer, thin-cut sugar cookies for Christmas and breads and rolls made from scratch on the premises.
She also directed that her stores sell another Baltimore dessert, the schmierkase cake, made of a custard-like cottage cheese.
"She learned that the bakery business was a key to success," her daughter said. "She also made sure the store was known in the community and made numerous donations to local causes."
In 1982 she and her husband expanded the operation by opening a second supermarket in Riviera Beach. Mrs. Lauer remained a consultant to the business until her death. The stores are now run by her daughters.
"She believed that in the days of big-box stores, hers would be a refreshing change," her daughter said. "It worked."
In her free time, Mrs. Lauer enjoyed sewing and spending time with her 10 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today at Our Lady of the Chesapeake Roman Catholic Church, 8325 Ventnor Road in Pasadena, where she was an active member.
In addition to her husband, daughter and grandchildren, survivors include three other daughters, Babette Poyer and Bernadette Snoops, both of Millersville and Loretta Lauer of North Port, Fla.; and a sister, Marie Whipps of Grand Blanc, Mich. Another daughter, Margaret Millsap, died in 2007.