Edward Attman, founder of Acme Paper company, dies at 95

Mr. Attman recalled being smitten with a beautiful 16-year-old Mildred Cohen, and they married years later whe

Edward Attman, a founder of the Acme Paper & Supply Co., which began in a rented garage and grew to be one of the nation's largest suppliers of paper products, died Tuesday of natural causes at Sinai Hospital, family members said.

The longtime Pikesville resident was 95.

"Eddie was the kind of person who insisted that you didn't work for him, but you worked with him," said Ronald M. Sless, a senior salesman who has been with Acme Paper for 38 years.

"As a mentor and leader, he spoke to you one-on-one and listened to you. He always made you feel that you were an important part of his family business and family," said Mr. Sless. "His death is a tremendous loss to our business and our community."

Edward Attman was born in 1920 in Baltimore, the son of Harry Attman, who established a confectionery-grocery at Baltimore and Washington streets in the city in 1915, and Ida Attman. They lived upstairs above the family business.

In 1927, the family moved what became Attman's Delicatessen to its present location at 1019 E. Lombard St. while continuing to live at 2000 E. Baltimore St.

While working in the deli, Edward Attman was taken by a beautiful 16-year-old Kenwood High School student who was wearing a new dress and having lunch with her mother, he recalled in a 2012 article in The Baltimore Sun.

"Mrs. Cohen, your daughter is certainly growing up," said Mr. Attman.

After graduating from City College in 1938, Mr. Attman enrolled at the University of Baltimore and became reunited with the Kenwood High student, Mildred Cohen, who was also a student at the university.

Mr. Attman earned a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Baltimore in 1942, then was drafted into the Army and served with the Signal Corps in the European Theater with the 5th Army under the command of Gen. George S. Patton Jr..

During the war, he and Ms. Cohen maintained steady correspondence, and when he was discharged and returned to Baltimore, they married in 1946.

It was Mr. Attman's mother who influenced him not to work in retail and insisted he think about the paper business, family members said.

On April 1, 1946 — April Fool's Day — the couple launched Acme Paper & Supply Co. in a 1,500-square-foot Front Street garage near the Shot Tower. In addition to themselves, they had two other employees.

They named it Acme in order to be first in the telephone book.

The company's line was represented by a total of seven items, including paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, drinking cups and butchers' waxed wrapping paper.

"It never spoils, it doesn't get out of shape and it never goes out of style. People will always need paper products," Mr. Attman told the Baltimore Jewish Times in a 2014 interview.

"In the early, days my father didn't have a car, and walked the street taking orders," said a son, Steve W. Attman of Pikesville, a vice president for the company.

Mr. Attman eventually purchased a red two-door Ford.

As business began to boom, Acme moved to High and Low streets in 1951, and a decade later, to Regester Street near Johns Hopkins Hospital.

It relocated in 1969 to Sharpe and Barre streets, then in 1979 to a headquarters and warehouse complex at the Baltimore-Washington Industrial Park in Savage, where the business is still located.

In 1991, a regional distribution center opened in Richmond, Va. Today, the firm has 250 employees with 30 delivery trucks.

"Last year, the company sold 63 million coffee cups and enough toilet paper to circle the earth 70 times," reported The Washington Post in 2014.

The firm, which has furnished the Baltimore Orioles with paper products for decades, also counts among its clients M&T Bank Stadium, Maryland Live Casino, King's Dominion, restaurants, hospitals and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Colleagues say Mr. Attman was guided by a business philosophy that emphasized great products, innovation, sensitivity to new trends and care for employees, customers and clients.

"He had sharp business instincts and insights," said another son, Ronald M. Attman, a Pikesville resident who is also an Acme vice president.

"He had a 1,000-watt smile and he made it fun to come to work," said Mr. Sless. "Eddie was creative, caring and funny."

"He let people do their work. ... He would back you up and he'd let you make mistakes," he said. "When he took you under his wing, there was nothing that you couldn't accomplish. People wanted to follow his lead."

James P. Haire, Acme's director of sales, who has worked for the company 31 years, called Mr. Attman a "compassionate and an outstanding leader who gave unconditional support to everyone — clients and employees.

"Anyone who knew him respected him," said Mr. Haire.

Even into his 90s, Mr. Attman "came in every day and looked forward to being in the office and spending time there," said Steve Attman.

"He had a saying in his personal life that 'life is a plan,' and he was really organized. He was the steady, great father. He was the rock," said another son, Gary L. Attman of Pikesville, president of FutureCare Health and Management Corp.

"He lived a long life, embraced every moment every day," he said. "He had love for his family, work and community."

Family members said Mrs. Attman was her husband's "soul mate and adviser." Even while raising their four sons, she would occasionally come to the office to help out. She died in 2012.

Mr. Attman was a member of the Suburban Country Club, Center Club and the old Bonnie View Country Club. He was an avid golfer and bowler.

He was a longtime member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.

A funeral service for Mr. Attman will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

In addition to his sons, Mr. Attman is survived by another son, David T. Attman of Pikesville; a brother, Leonard J. Attman of Pikesville; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

An earlier version misstated Edward Attman's job at the deli when he met Mildred Cohen. The Sun regrets the error.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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