Seasons Next Season?

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Seasons plans a late-spring opening. (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

While contractors are working inside the future home of Seasons kosher market to install electrical and plumbing systems, officials remain tight-lipped on an opening date for the store, which has been in the works for about three years.

A series of delays combined with little public information from Seasons has left the community in the dark about a much-anticipated franchise that will provide the Reisterstown Road corridor’s many kosher residents with a second kosher market.

In a phone interview, general manager Zachary Richards said the store, at 1628 Reisterstown Road, most likely will open in late spring but declined to give a specific date.

“We are working on installing electrical systems and plumbing before we move to equipment installation,” he said.

When plans to open a Seasons in Baltimore were first made public, it was slated to be the first of the market’s stores outside New York. However, since the announcement of the Baltimore store, two Seasons markets have opened in New Jersey while progress in Maryland has been notoriously absent. There are four locations in New York.

Despite grumblings about parking, Richards, in a previous interview, said it “was a challenge but, thankfully, has been resolved.”

The Reisterstown Road location had been sitting empty for months before the recent restart of construction. The approximately 15,000-square-foot store will have produce, bakery, sushi, fish, meat, deli and grocery departments. There will also be shop-from-home and delivery options.

Baltimore County District 2 Councilwoman Vicki Almond and her office have been in contact with Seasons and issued the following statement: “One of the questions that I am frequently asked in the Pikesville community is the status of the Seasons market on Reisterstown Road. Work has resumed at the site. Seasons has not committed to a date for an opening. I will continue to monitor the progress on this project.”

The Fountain of Brew Is Union Craft's Henry Benesch the oldest brewery worker in the country?

From left: Jerry, Adam and Henry “Zadie” Benesch. (Mathew Klickstein)

From left: Jerry, Adam and Henry “Zadie” Benesch. (Mathew Klickstein)

Ninety-six-year-old Henry Benesch may very well be the oldest person in the country to be working at a brewery.

At least that’s what his son, Jerry Benesch, said he believes during a visit to Hampden/ Clipper Mill’s nearly 5-year-old Union Craft Brewery, co-founded by Henry’s grandson, Adam.

Benesch, whom everyone  at the brewery lovingly refers to as “Zadie,” will be 97 in  January but has the fortitude, clarity and rugged good looks of someone at least three decades younger.

A World War II veteran, retired Burroughs Corporation engineer and “regular Baltimoron,” as he put it, Benesch — as with his son and grandson — was born and bred in Baltimore. Today he resides in Pikesville.

Once a week, Benesch gets together with friends — all much younger than he, he was sure to point out, noting that everyone else “is gone” by now — to enjoy a few drinks, smoke some cigars and play cards (typically petty poker).

Three or four times a week, though, he’s at Union for three or four hours constructing from flat pieces of cardboard as many as 600 case trays a day for six-packs of beer.

“When I first started, if I made 250 a week, that was a lot,” Benesch said. “Now if I don’t make 600 a day, they’re not satisfied. Because they want more.”

As humble as he is sharp-witted, Benesch approximated that his nimble fingers touch “90 percent of all boxes” that go through the Union canning line, with Adam piping in (more than once during the triad interview) that it’s more like 99 percent.

“I’d say 90 percent,” Benesch reasserted more firmly.

Whatever the case might be, Adam confirmed “it’s a vast  majority of them. That’s for sure.”

“I started to help out when they first began about four-and-a-half years ago,” Benesch said (with Adam stating Union started brewing in June 2012).

“When we started, I was just messing around, making boxes,” Benesch said. “I ran into their tanks with my car and all that.”

Laughing at the recollection with his father Jerry, Adam  referred to the salad days of Benesch’s time at the brewery as “a fun project for him to come and visit.”

When Adam couldn’t figure out how much to pay his grandfather for the work in those earliest days of the brewery, Benesch retorted, “You don’t have enough money to pay me! So I volunteered. It helps him, and it gives me something to do. It’s a win-win situation.”

As long as it’s not a full-time job, Benesch said he’s happy.

Of course, now that the brewery actually relies on his work, as Adam noted, if Benesch doesn’t come in one day, he’s replaced by a few canning workers who “get upset because then they have to do it,” Adam said.

“Also, they can’t keep up with him,” added Jerry.

“We have a fancy canning line that can’t keep up with him,” said Adam, with Henry complaining, “And the big trouble is: I have to wait for them!”

It’s far too easy to make the connection here to tall-tale figure John Henry, but Benesch does indeed beat the machine, so to speak. Unlike his quasi-namesake, Benesch has not lost his life in the process.

“I don’t exercise,” Benesch proclaimed about that “secret to long living” everyone’s always bugging him about. “Exercise will kill you.”

When asked if he at least plays golf or bowls, he’s quick to respond, “No, that’s exercise.”

Is the secret to a long, healthy life a good diet?

“No,” Benesch answered. “I usually have dinner four or five times a week with Marie. I don’t have any arguments with her, and she’s nice.”

Benesch here is speaking  of Marie Callender’s, popular purveyors of what the company calls “Frozen Meals the Whole Family Will Love.”

“I don’t pay any attention to [what I eat],” Benesch said. “And finally the doctor says, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. What else can I say?’”

The secret, then, may very well be in Benesch’s volunteering at the brewery, which he refuses to refer to as “work,” qualifying it as “just passing my time and occupying myself.”

And if he can help out his son — who works as a de facto bookkeeper helping to run the financial end of the brewery — and grandson — who runs just about everything else with  co-owners Jon Zerivitz and Kevin Blodger — at Union, so much the better for everyone.

“Everybody says, ‘Why do you look so young?’” Benesch said. “Look around: ain’t nobody old working here. All my friends are younger than I am.”

“It’s cool to see your family be part of this business you set out to do,” Adam said. “But I certainly didn’t expect my  96-year-old grandfather to be working on a daily basis when we set out. It’s certainly a  welcome addition.”

As far as long-term goals, Benesch, the affable nonagenarian who shrugged off the compliment by his son and grandson of “wise old man,” had this to say: “They promised me my own room where I can sit down all day and make 1,000 cases a day.”

Smart Meter Debate Rages On


A BGE smart meter can read one’s electricity usage in real time. (Marc Shapiro)

As the Maryland Public Service Commission debates whether or not utility companies can charge customers to opt out of smart meters, Baltimore residents are working to spread awareness about a technology they feel isn’t so smart.

“While it is beneficial for BGE’s bottom line, it is not for us or our families,” said Pikesville-area resident Frank Storch via email. “We pay the price by exposing ourselves to a serious health risk and by compromising our safety and privacy.”

BGE started installing the new electric meters in spring 2012. The meters, which transmit information via a wireless network, send electric usage data to the company every hour without having to send a person monthly to read the meter. The company says this more complete picture of electricity usage, which is available to customers, can be tracked online and can help BGE recommend ways to reduce energy use.

While BGE, which has 1.2 million customers throughout Maryland, and Pepco, which has customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, maintain the technology is efficient and safe, some consumers are weary of the meters.

Those opposed to the smart meters say they emit dangerously high doses of radiation, the smart grid the data travels on is susceptible to hacking, the meters overheat and catch fire, the amount of data pouring in gives BGE that ability to track appliances and how many people are home in a house, and there are no substantial studies saying the devices are safe.

“My real concern is whether or not these things are safe in your house,” said area resident Allan Sherr.

A group called Maryland Smart Meter Awareness is working to spread awareness about issues with smart meters.

“The biggest challenge we have is educating the public,” said Jonathan Libber, the group’s president. “The utilities are counting on the fact that most people have no idea this is coming. This is a game changer.”

The Maryland Public Service Commission has not decided if it will permit BGE to charge customers to opt out of smart meter installation. Customers currently can defer smart meter installation for no charge. BGE and Pepco representatives say they support charging customers who opt out because of the extra costs involved in maintaining BGE’s old meter system.

Those opposed to the smart meters are not alone. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine recommends that people with neurodegenerative diseases, neurological conditions, fetal abnormalities and pregnancies, genetic defects, cancer, liver and genitourinary disease not have smart meters because of the radiation they emit. The organization also sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California opposing the installation in homes and schools.

“Chronic exposure to wireless radio frequency is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action,” the letter said.

The World Health Organization in May 2011 classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields associated with wireless communication devices as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

“There’s a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that there’s very good reason to be concerned,” said Pikesville resident Ruth Eisenberg, treasurer of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness.

Approximately 3 percent of BGE customers in the smart meter deployment area have deferred smart meter installation, according to spokeswoman Rhea Marshall. Approximately 600,000 smart meters have been installed in Anne Arundel County, southwest Baltimore County and Calvert, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. BGE is currently actively installing meters in Pikesville, Randallstown, Arbutus, Essex and Dundalk, she said.

BGE claims the smart meter radiation is weak. Standing 3.28 feet away from a microwave exposes a person to 100 times more the amount of radiation; using a wireless router, laptop or sitting in a cybercafé exposes a person to 150 times more radiation; and holding a cell phone exposes a person to 50,000 times more radiation, according to BGE figures.

“What we tried to explain to people is that these smart meters operate at lower radio frequency than many common household devices — garage door openers, baby monitors,” Marshall said.

The utility company has not experienced any fires from its devices, and Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal claims fires in other areas have been caused by faulty installations.

In response to claims about BGE knowing what appliances are being used and who is home in a house, Marshall says the smart meters are simply reporting the same data the company has now but with more frequency and in a more efficient way.

“No, we don’t know if someone is using their microwave or how many televisions people have or anything like that,” she said.

While there is no opt-out option in Washington, D.C., Beal said about 2,100 of 553,000 customers in Maryland opted out of smart meter installation.

“The vast majority of our customers were eager to have the meters installed,” he said.

He thinks many were excited about them because in restoration efforts the smart meters can report in real time where power outages are rather than have crews drive to places to find out. Pepco’s meters also have a temperature gauge and send a warning to Pepco if they are overheating. He thinks all the attention the meters have been getting is “odd.”

“There’s really no valid reason why you should not have the meter,” he said.

Del. Glen Glass, who represents parts of Harford and Cecil counties, plans to rally for a bill in the upcoming Maryland General Assembly that he pushed for last session that would allow customers to opt out of smart meter installation free of charge and require utility companies to remove smart meters and reinstall the old ones for customers who don’t want smart meters, also free of charge.

“You shouldn’t have to pay for something you don’t want, and there are a lot of reasons not to want one,” he said. “We want freedom, and this is not freedom to have this dangerous meter shoved down the throats of the citizens of Maryland.”

Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter

Pikesville Boys Take Aim At State Soccer Title

Pikesville varsity team (Provided)

Pikesville High School varsity team (Provided)

The Pikesville High School boys’ soccer team hopes to make history Thursday when it takes on North Carroll in the state Class 1A boys’ soccer championship.

“They’re ready to play,” said coach Mark Lavallee, who is in his 11th year of leading the Pikesville team.

Pikesville finished regular-season play with an 8-2-2 record, falling only to Catonsville and Hereford. The team’s Nov. 5 regional win over Central marked the first time the Panthers have advanced that far in the playoffs. On Nov. 9, they advanced even further by defeating Havre de Grace in the state’s semifinal round.

“I said if we ever won the region championship I would take them all for pancakes,” said Lavallee. “We won the region — this was a Tuesday night — and we went to IHOP on Thursday night.”

The team will have to settle for bragging rights if they win Thursday, because Lavallee said the IHOP offer doesn’t apply to the state championship.

Nonetheless, he said, the team’s excitement is sky-high as it prepares for its final game of the season. “It is incredible for these kids,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it — how up they are, how positive.”

Thursday’s game is set for UMBC Stadium at 5 p.m.

Dinner And A Movie

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie1“This is my Bible,” said a smiling Ira Miller, referring to a large book called “Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore” by Robert K. Headley.

“The Pikes opened in 1938 and closed in 1984. It was built by John Eyring and originally had 650 seats. It was art deco and located on the Eastern edge of Pikesville. It was owned by the Garmin and Beck Organization,” he read aloud.

“I booked the Pikes for 25 years,” he added.

Since 1967, Miller, who said his career in the film industry was a “sheer accident” has worked buying, booking and managing movie theaters across the Baltimore region and beyond. His career took him to Washington and New York, where he was vice president of marketing for MGM. In 2005, after a 20-year absence, he and his wife of 35 years, Karen, returned to Baltimore to open the Rotunda Cinemas and Beltway Movies.

“I’ve done this my whole [adult] life. I eat, drink and sleep movies,” said Miller.

And at a stage of life when many of his contemporaries are beginning to look toward retirement, Miller, 66, is gearing up for a brand new challenge.

110113_Dinner-And-A-Movie2“My belief is that neighborhood movie theaters are making a comeback,” he said. “Because of the cost of gas and for convenience sake, people want to stay in their neighborhoods. Also, they want a more intimate experience when they go to the movies.”

Today, Miller reopens The Pikes Theater.

The newly renovated Pikes, which includes two small theaters of approximately 80 seats each, is located right next to the Pikes Diner, which will continue to operate. Miller will run a mix of art, independent and commercial films and hopes to tap into local filmmaking talent. He stressed that while he will show some films of particular interest to the local Jewish community, he will not be competing against the JCC’s Jewish Film Festival. Rather, Miller said, he is highly motivated to collaborate with the JCC, as well as other Jewish organizations and synagogues.

“The feedback from Pikesville has been phenomenal, and [Baltimore County councilwoman] Vicki Almond [District 2] has been my ‘angel in the wings,’” he said.

For her part, Almond believes the movie theater project is great for Pikesville.

“Ira had such excitement and vision that I became a cheerleader,” she said. “He really wants this to be a boon for this part of town, and we’re trying to incorporate the whole community into it. We’re thinking of holding matinees for seniors and to do coupon deals with local restaurants. We want to make this part of Pikesville sustainable and a destination.”

Almond noted that, in addition to the new theater, there are also plans to rehabilitate the burned-out Suburban House building, as well as that entire corner at Reisterstown and Hawthorne roads.

Miller said he has arranged for abundant parking for film-goers to make the Pikes Theatre experience convenient.

“Hopefully, I’m in the right place at the right time,” said Miller

The Pikes’ first screenings are “Hava Nagila,” a documentary about the history and cultural significance of the iconic song, and the smash hit “Gravity.” On Nov. 8, “When Comedy Goes to School,” a documentary about Jewish comedians in the Catskills, will replace “Hava Nagila.”

The Pikes is located at 1001 Reisters-town Road in Pikesville. For more information, visit