Prosecutor-Turned-Culinary-Grocer

By Andrew Michaels Howard County Times, Columbia, Md.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While Donna Sanger's career path led her to an impressive career as a prosecuting U.S. Attorney, she is now enjoying a second, very different turn as a grocer. Yes, grocer! Her new endeavor, "Park Ridge Trading Company" offers a variety of speciality foods that you won't find in your regular grocery store aisles. Howard County Times, Columbia, Md.

Long before her days as a Maryland federal prosecutor, Donna Sanger dreamed of carrying on a family legacy in the wholesale grocery business to provide local shoppers with high quality, low cost foods. But as months turned into years, the violent crimes prosecutor knew she had to make a move for her dream to become reality.

Partnering with her sister, Diane Larrimore, her hopes finally gleamed, Sanger said outside their newly opened Park Ridge Trading Company culinary storefront July 13 as she joined Ellicott City's Main Street business community during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Passersby gazed into the clear windows where olive oils, salsa, sea salt nuts and soups teased the palate. Inside, customers browsed the shelves that held other goodies, like chips, pastas and desserts as well as glassware and jewelry.

Sponsored by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, the opening event also drew the attention of local and state officials, including County Executive Allan Kittleman, state Del. Robert Flanagan, District 1 Councilman Jon Weinstein and Columbia Association President Milton Matthews.

"I can't believe they all came," said Sanger, 62, a Marriottsville resident. "I found the other merchants to be very welcoming and the community to be very vibrant. It's an evolving community that continues to grow and become more diverse in the types of stores it has."

One popular dish during Wednesday's celebration was the cold shrimp salad, catching the attention of cousins Nora Sweeney, of Yorktown, Va., Ann Fetterman, of York, Pa., and Sue Fontz, of Severna Park.

Its combination of diced shrimp, apricot balsamic and sweet peppers were nothing but delicious, they said.

"I love the different offerings of oil and specialty spices that you don't find in the grocery stores," Fetterman said.

"These are things that are going to be special and that's why you come to a store like this."

"You come to a city like this because it is special," Sweeney replied. "That's the whole reason you would come in [this store]."

As customers dove into the spread of dips, olive oils and baked goods, Sanger said her store's high quality, healthy products were the focus behind her grandfather's success as a grocer in Park Ridge, Il., just outside Chicago.

Her grandfather, Julius Kelder, began the business in the early 1900s, alongside his father and brothers.

"I remember going into my grandparents' shop growing up [in the early 1960s]," Sanger said. "I grew up in the shop, recalling how they provided service to their customers and the environment there in -- what was then -- a historic district of that city. I always held onto that concept and wanted to do that some day."

While her career path led her to the federal government, Sanger said, one particular prosecution case marked the beginning of her transition into wholesale grocery. Known as the Hunters Brooke arson in Charles County, Sanger said the 2004 case involved a group of young men who burned down 36 houses in an under-construction development.

Sanger served as a U.S. Attorney during the trials.

"Since then, I stopped prosecuting and [started] doing trial work," she said, later retiring in 2014. "When I was a prosecutor, I saw a lot of things. You really see some of the problems in the communities and the difference some of the programs are making."

It was time to bring some good to the community, Sanger said. Under the motto, "Live Well, Give Back," Sanger wanted her company to adopt and donate 5 percent of its profits to a nonprofit organization each month. For July and August, Park Ridge Trading is co-sponsoring the 2 Miles for 2 Hearts Memorial Run on Aug. 27, in honor of the two Ellicott City women killed by a train derailment in 2012.

"I look for a local or personal connection," Sanger said.

After a year and a half of sampling foods and searching for locations following her retirement, Sanger landed in the historic district of Ellicott City.

Perusing the local honey, Flanagan said Sanger's variety was a refreshing take on a Main Street business.

"It's a leading edge idea, a new idea that Ellicott City needs," Flanagan said. "I think there's a creative tension brewing in Ellicott City. We love it now, but I think it can evolve into something even more exciting."

Following the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon, Sanger said she was happily surprised at the day's attendance and excited about her and her sister's new venture.

"It's something that's uniquely ours," Sanger said. "It's a creative project to create a store that reflects your personality and your interests. We've been very busy, so I think we've gotten a good reception."

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