Richard Blanchard, toy and variety store merchant, dies

Richard E. Blanchard, a wholesale toy business owner who later operated a trio of popular Rehoboth Beach, Del., variety shops, died of multiple organ failure Nov. 17 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

He was 92 and lived at the Masonic Home of Maryland in Cockeysville.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Samuel Blanchard and his wife, Alice Ellis. He lived on Kirk Avenue near Waverly.

He was one of 10 children and his mother felt he would benefit by singing in a church choir.

“She felt it would be a good discipline,” said his daughter, Jayne Blanchard of Baltimore. “He also had a beautiful voice and he loved to sing in church.”

Alongside his brother, Walter, he sang at Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on West Monument Street under the direction of John Eberson.

He was a 1943 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, where he played football and ran track. He served in the Navy during World War II and later worked at a Crown Cork and Seal plant.

As a young man, he became associated with a group of men and women who spent time at the old Hamilton Recreation Center and patronized local businesses such as the Temple and Arundel ice cream parlors and the Arcade movie theater. The group continued to meet throughout his life.

In 1948 he married Viola Villmar, whose father was an owner of the old wholesale toy and novelty company Harry P. Cann & Bros., which was located in the 300 block of W. Redwood St.

Mr. Blanchard worked for the company and was initially a salesman for the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. He worked his way up to vice president and then president of the company. He assisted in its move from downtown Baltimore to East 25th Street in northeast Baltimore.

“It was located next to the old Samuel Kirk silver factory,” said his daughter, Jayne Blanchard. "Dad and Gramps would sell toys at a discount to the Kirk's people, and the Kirks would give them a deal on silver.”

She said Harry P. Cann closed in the late 1970s due to a changing wholesale toy market.

In 1971 Mr. Blanchard purchased Boardwalk 5&10 stores in Rehoboth from one of his former customers, who was retiring. The main shop was on the boardwalk, and two others, the Beach Store and the Avenue Store, were on the resort’s main street, Rehoboth Avenue.

He worked alongside his business partner and brother-in-law, Phil Palmere, and with his wife, Viola, and sister-in-law, Ruth Palmere.

“They ran the stores for 38 years and hosted generations of shoppers looking for hermit crabs, light sticks, boogie boards and other beachside treasures,” said his daughter. “Dad's pleasure was seeing kids come into the Boardwalk 5&10 store to buy pinwheels or kites, and years later bring their children, and then their children's children.”

In 2008 Mr. Blanchard sold the Boardwalk 5&10.

"After retiring, dad missed seeing customers and thought about becoming a greeter at Walmart," his daughter said. "We joked that if he took the job, the line of customers would extend all the way across Route 1 in Rehoboth. Dad would have to talk to every person coming through the door."

Mr. Blanchard continued to foster friendships with his Hamilton Gang. The group met the first Thursday of the month at the Parkville American Legion Hall, and later at the Peppermill in Lutherville.

He had been a Baltimore Colts season ticket holder and also followed the Orioles. He enjoyed ballet, theater and jazz, and was a fan of performers Stan Kenton, Hank Levy and Woody Herman.

At his home on Mary Avenue in Northeast Baltimore he raised champion English bulldogs and showed them through the Capital Bulldog Club.

He also used restaurant-grade equipment to make lentil and minestrone soups from scratch-made broth.

A memorial service was held Nov. 29 at Sherwood Episcopal Church in Cockeysville.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include another daughter, Joyce A. Mann of Cockeysville; a sister, Alice Charnasky of Timonium; and a grandson. His wife of 46 years died in 1994.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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