In this series, we revisit businesses that have served the local community for many years and have used the Baltimore Guide to successfully promote themselves.
Walk into Lakewood Re-Upholstering Co., a small storefront on Fait Ave., and you feel like you’re stepping into a business of the past—business cards, old photographs, and newspaper clippings cover the walls. An old Borkum Riff (loose tobacco) can holds a drill, even though proprietor Ron Markiewicz, 66, gave up smoking about a year ago.
In the back of the store, a doorway leads to stairs. A handwritten sign tacked above the doorway reads, “Come in! Call up stairs—this way.”
The shop feels old and looks old because it is old—75 years old, to be exact. After working in the shop his whole life, except for his three years in the Navy, Markiewicz is moving on.
“It’s a little hard on me,” he says. “I hate to give it up.”
Markiewicz is very tall and rangy, with long legs and arms. He stands up straight, and, despite breaking his hip not too long ago, moves with ease, stepping on and off a high stool to remove pictures and clippings from the wall. He displays a photo of his father in front of the store.
“The Shopper’s Guide did this in 1963 or 64,” he says.
He also shows a clipping from the June 2, 2004, Guide—a story about the business and his father.
“We had a hell of a business,” Markiewicz says. “We must’ve been doing something right in 75 years.”
The shop is at 2512 Fait Ave., two doors down from the house in which Markiewicz grew up. The name refers to the shop’s first location,
Markiewicz’s grandfather’s garage on Lakewood Ave. George Markiewicz moved the shop, but kept the name. The business passed from him to his son, Vincent, who died in 2004, and then to Ron Markiewicz, who is now giving it up due to some personal reasons.
Working with his grandfather and his father in the Fait Ave. shop, Markiewicz has seen a lot of change in his Canton neighborhood.
“All these were businesses around here,” he says, gesturing toward the now residential blocks around his shop. “There was a shoemaker, Brown’s chicken store, a drug store, Jack’s grocery store—there was a lot going on.”
Lakewood Re-Upholstering restored furniture—wooden parts, cushioning, and fabric. The focus was on antique pieces, and Markiewicz has saved Polaroid photographs of his favorite jobs.
“Talk about something beautiful, look at that, a three-piece sectional,” he says, displaying a photo of an antique sofa, re-upholstered in purple fabric. “Ravens colors!” he laughs.
Working Monday through Saturday, on the weekdays until 9 p.m. or so, Markiewicz grew very close with his grandfather, father, and uncle. His family instilled in him the value of work.
“It was always about taking pride in your work. It wasn’t about this,” he says, rubbing his thumb against his index and middle finger, the signal for money.
He learned other things from his family, too.
“My father and grandfather said, if you’ve got your health, you’ve got a million dollars,” Markiewicz says. “They were right.”
“Look out for people, and they’ll look out for you,” is another truism.
“If customer had a complaint, just a little complaint,” he adds, “I would just go out and fix it, no charge.”
With his retirement looming, Markiewicz has no specific plans, other than spending time with his wife, Mary.
“When you’re here working for two generations or three generations, you’re married to this business, and now it’s time for me to be married to my wife,” he said.
Ron and Mary Markiewicz have been married 13 years.
“I got married for the first time late in life,” says Markiewicz, explaining that he spent a lot of time caring for his ailing mother.
Mary’s niece, who had a lot of work for Lakewood Re-Upholstering, fixed the couple up.
Other than his wife, Markiewicz says he will focus on “just taking it easy and trying to enjoy life.”
by Erik Zygmont