Sheldon I. Wollman, who sold cars for five decades, mostly at a single dealership, died of lung cancer Feb. 15 at his Pikesville home. He was 76.
Born in Baltimore and raised in the Hilltop section of Northwest Baltimore, he was the son of Milton “Babe” Wollman, who owned a South Broadway record shop, and his wife, Helen, who worked alongside him. He attended Arlington Elementary School and was a 1961 graduate of Baltimore City College, where he played tennis. He started working out of high school and earned a degree in business administration at the University of Maryland, College Park’s night school. He planned to attend law school, but stayed in sales.
He met his future wife, Ellen Engel, at a family gathering outside Washington, D.C. Their first date was at the old Price’s Dairy store, a Liberty Road ice cream bar.
As a young man he worked at his parents’ music shop. He also filled candy vending machines and sold beauty supplies. He was a partner with custom tailor Carl Shapiro, who made outfits for sports and entertainment figures. His clients included the Four Seasons, Stevie Wonder and members of the old Baltimore Bullets basketball team. Friends said he remained a formal dresser — he wore suits — and he was rarely seen without a necktie, often a designer tie.
“Sheldon and I were neighbors and friends. We met when we were 9 years old. My father, who founded R&H, recognized the sales ability of Sheldon. He had one of his managers solicit Sheldon for his first job selling cars,” said Robert Russel, the former president of R & H Motors, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. “He worked for us, for me and my family, for 46 years. He was honest, friendly and tried to please everybody. Once he sold a person a car, they came back for their next one.”
He remained with the firm, which later became known as Mercedes-Benz of Owings Mills. He sold Mercedes-Benz and Toyota vehicles at a dealership now operated by the Mile One organization. He was a salesman, general manager, sales manager, used car manager and once ran its wholesale operation.
“He did it all,” said Robb Banks, a sales manager at Mercedes-Benz of Owings Mills. “His work ethic was unparalleled. He loved the car business and loved the people he met in the car business. He could turn an ordinary customer into a close personal friend. He sold one man a succession of 21 cars.”
“He almost made house calls,” said Mr. Banks. “He’d drop his own car as a loaner at a customer’s home. He was very accommodating and never got frustrated. He was a true testament to what it means to be a salesman. He worked from a business once out of a shoebox, to the first computers to the dominance of the internet’s influence on the buying process.
“He knew what a car was worth, and he knew what questions to ask,” said Mr. Banks.
His son-in-law, Michael Rosenwald, said, “There was nothing about him that was aggressive. He was always a gentleman.”
A memorial plaque is to be installed at Mercedes-Benz of Owings Mills in his memory. On the day of his funeral, his dealership colleagues placed a Mercedes-Benz emblem at the foot of his casket. Following the funeral, the procession slowed down as it passed the dealership on the route to his burial.
Family members said he was a daily newspaper reader and clipped the Sudoku puzzles, which he kept in an envelope until he was ready to solve them. He enjoyed making omelettes, which he served with bagels for breakfasts on Sunday, the one day a week he did not work. He also attended the theater. He had been an avid tennis player and enjoyed a monthly game of cards with old friends. They made an annual trip to Las Vegas.
He was a Baltimore Hebrew Congregation member.
Survivors include his wife of nearly 53 years, a model who owned a modeling agency; two daughters, Shannon Wollman of Ellicott City and Dr. Megan Wollman-Rosenwald of Olney; a brother, Arnold Wollman of Baltimore; a sister, Sharon Botkin of Frederick; and three grandchildren.