January 5, 2015, 10:50 am
Sonia Diamond, matriarch of the family that operated Baltimore's Food-A-Rama grocery chain for many years, died on Jan. 2 at the age of 92. Arriving with her husband, Paul, in the United States in 1947 as Holocaust survivors with $10 in their pockets, Diamond helped build a single corner grocery store into a 48-unit Mid-Atlantic regional chain.
"In 1978, Food-A-Rama opened Baltimore's first warehouse-type supermarket in Eastpoint, Md., impacting the way other chains and independent supermarkets conduct their business," noted grocery industry observer Jeremy Diamond, Sonia Diamond's grandson. "By responding rapidly to changing demographics, Food-A-Rama showed that local chains and independent supermarkets could compete with regional and national chains. Store banners consisted of Food-A-Rama, Super Super Food, Cost-Saver Food Warehouse and Basics Food Warehouse stores."
Sonia, along with Paul; Paul's brother, Dave, and his wife, Ruth; and in-laws Ben and Deborah Schuster, saw success by merchandising stores according to neighborhood market demand and providing superior customer service.
Upon the acquisition of 14 Pantry Pride stores in 1981, Food-A-Rama became the No. 2 operator in the Maryland region, with 16 percent market share. In 1984, the company entered the Washington, D.C., area with the acquisition of 12 Basics and Grand Union stores. One year later, Food-A-Rama sold all 48 of its stores to Pennsylvania-based wholesaler Super Rite Foods, retaining the sites' underlying real estate as its new base of activity.
As well as their industry achievements, the Diamonds became known for their philanthropic endeavors, giving their time and money to various charitable organizations. They also, according to Jeremy Diamond, quietly helped new immigrants start profitable businesses of their own, loaned money without expectation of repayment and provided jobs for thousands of area residents.
Services took place Jan. 4 in Pikesville, Md., with interment in Gwynn Oak, Md. Survivors include three children, Jeremy and 14 other grandchildren, their spouses, and many great-grandchildren.