George Joseph Hummel, a cook and delicatessen owner who played guitar in the band Dick Tracy and the Criminals, died of a heart attack April 24 at his Cockeysville home. He was 60.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Cockeysville, he was the son of George H. Hummel Jr. and his wife, Margaret McCusker.
He attended St. Joseph School and Cockeysville Middle School and was a 1977 graduate of Dulaney High School.
He met his future wife, Roberta Crim, on a blind date.
While in high school he began working in delicatessens. He became the manager of Towson Deli North in the Cranbrook Shopping Center off Padonia Road, and was later recruited to manage the Celebrity Deli in Falls Church, Va.
He later returned to Baltimore and purchased, with partner Sam Sudano, Kirby's Restaurant and Deli in the 400 block of W. Redwood Street. The establishment was near the University of Maryland’s school of medicine and law and the Veterans Administration Hospital. Mr. Hummel was later Kirby’s sole owner.
“Kirby’s was insane it was so busy,” said Charles James “Chuck” McClernan III, a longtime friend who worked with Mr. Hummel. “We also did catering and made lunches that we delivered all over the campus. There was seating for about 150. It was a lot bigger than people thought it was.”
The breakfast and lunch restaurant operated on a version of the honor system. The wait staff issued tickets of what a patron ordered, then the patron told the cashier the lunch order. With a heavy volume during the busy lunch period, Mr. Hummel and his partner said the honor system saved time because the wait staff did not have to tabulate checks.
“The restaurant … thrives on good food, moderate prices and extra helpings of personality,” said a 1992 article in The Baltimore Sun. “This is the kind of house that caters to customers who want double dips of dressing on the chef's salad and extra bacon on their turkey club sandwiches.”
The article also stated: “The luncheon trade can be so brisk the place resembles the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Men and women dressed in operating room scrub outfits — in for a fast Philadelphia cheese steak sub. A physician with a stethoscope orders ‘my regular.’ Shrimp salad sandwiches, chili, cream of broccoli soup and hot dogs come out of the kitchen at the rate of one dish every 30 seconds.”
The article noted that Mr. Hummel believed in knowing his customers.
“Name recognition is as important here as the quality of the shrimp salad,” the article said. Even a carryout order, he said, was important.
"When you take a carryout order, be sure to get the customer's first name," Mr. Hummel said.
Mr. Hummel courted new business when Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992. On the weeknights the team was at home, he kept the place open until the first pitch. He said he wanted a family to be able to eat for $15. When they left, he threw in a bag of peanuts.
Mr. Hummel owned the restaurant for 17 years.
“The profit level in the food service business is minimal,” said Mr. McClernan. “The medical interns just wanted to eat, and eat fast, and when a McDonald’s opened around the corner, we lost business.”
Mr. Hummel later became cook at the Town Tavern in Cockeysville, where he made a specialty of his beef brisket, which was roasted outside. He was most recently a driver for Finch Services of Hunt Valley and picked and delivered lawn care equipment.
Mr. McClernan recalled that Mr. Hummel learned to play guitar while a Dulaney student.
“One of his friends, Gary Gilpin, taught him and he learned quickly,” said Mr. McClernan.
He played guitar, keyboard and harmonica in taverns for the bands Dick Tracy and the Criminals, and the Repeat Offenders. He was also a competitive pool player.
“George was the kind of person who stuck with whatever he got himself into,” said Mr. McClernan. “To me, his real claim to fame was his ability to help people; people who were down on their luck. He would help you and not make you feel small. The man lived a true Christian life.”
A memorial service was held Saturday in Cockeysville.
Survivors include his wife of 24 years, a technician and administrator at the Padonia Veterinary Hospital; a son, Michael Sciandra of San Diego, Calif.; two daughters, Melaney Hummel of Cockeysville and Kelly Sciandra of Dundalk; his mother, Margaret McCusker Hummel of Cockeysville; a sister, Laurel Hummel of Frederick; and a grandson.