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Magruder's Co-Owner Louis Fanaroff

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2005; Page B08

Louis H. Fanaroff, 84, a native Washingtonian who co-owned the Magruder's grocery store chain, died of respiratory disease Feb. 4 at Casey House in Rockville.

Mr. Fanaroff, who was born and raised above the family's grocery store in Anacostia, bought two Magruder's stores in 1967 with his brother-in-law Stanford Steppa. The stores, in Georgetown and near Chevy Chase Circle, had operated since 1875. Mr. Fanaroff was the businessman in the partnership, Steppa said, writing checks and keeping the books, and "I handled the green beans."

Louis H. Fanaroff and brother-in law Stanford Steppa bought two Magruder's grocery stores in 1967.

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His business acumen kept the small chain afloat as giant national supermarket chains crushed local groceries across the nation. Magruder's expanded, too, becoming the 10-store chain it is today. Mr. Fanaroff never seemed to lose a sense of obligation to the community, his colleagues said, and enjoyed talking to customers and suppliers who found their way to his office.

"He would fight you for a dime on a box of strawberries, but he'd turn around and give you a $20,000 check," Steppa said. "Our controller tells a story: He came to town, didn't have a penny to his name. [Mr. Fanaroff] made the down payment on his house and gave him money to get started. He's working for us today."

Mr. Fanaroff graduated from Anacostia High School and enlisted in the Army during World War II, serving in the European theater. Upon his return, he married and bought the grocery store in the Wardman Park Hotel, operating it for several years. He then bought Spund's grocery in the 3400 block of Connecticut Avenue NW and ran that until going into business with his brother-in-law.

He supported a large number of local and national organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Hillel of Greater Washington, the University of Maryland and Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, as well as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was a member of the Samuel Gompers Lodge of Almas Temple and was on the board of Central National Bank.

In recent years, he turned over his part in the business to his son and son-in-law, Steppa said, but remained in touch with it. When he visited the hospital recently, a doctor asked him what day it was, and, according to Steppa, Mr. Fanaroff paused and answered, "Today must be the second, because my son told me the checks came in yesterday."

His wife, Helyn Fanaroff, died in 1991.

Survivors include four children, Sunny Polsky, Wendy Fanaroff, Debby Bortnick and Steven Fanaroff, all of Potomac; a sister, Thelma Kinland of Bethesda; 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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