Members of the Severna Park Museum are sharing their memories of historical landmarks around Severna Park in a limited six-part series.
If asked to name the unofficial center of Severna Park, many people would name the intersection of Baltimore & Annapolis Boulevard and McKinsey Road. Many merchants have built businesses on that corner throughout the years, but none as long-lasting as Clif Dawson’s store.
The corner was first home to Haise’s Service Station in the 1940s and early 1950s. The little building had a small room on the right-hand side where a barber, fondly called Mr. Biz, had his shop. In 1948, after Mr. Biz retired, Bob Zang took over the barbershop. In the early 1950s, Zang moved across the street to the building that Accinelli Jewelers occupies now.
“Bob Zang was also an institution in Severna Park,” remembers life-long Severna Park resident Scott Jay. “He bought comic books for all the kids to read, even if you didn’t get your hair cut that day (haircuts were 75 cents then). On rainy days, you could find a bunch of kids reading comics in the barbershop.”
In the early 1950s, Clif Dawson bought the parcel of land on the corner where Dawson’s Liquors stands today. He built a more modern brick building, and at one end, he added a new Severna Park Post Office.
“You could get anything at Dawson’s Store,” Jay said. “It was the hub of Severna Park with an old-time soda fountain, where you could get a 15-cent sundae or a 5-cent Coke. He sold candy, liquor and medicine. You could cash checks or pay your utility bills and even get a dog license.”
In 1957, the five-year-old building caught on fire, resulting in more than $200,000 worth of damage. The next day, Dawson bought the Severna Park Hardware Store across the street. In a few days, he was back in business until his store was rebuilt. In a letter written to Severna Park neighbors, Dawson wrote, “The same gang will be there to greet you … and we’ll be smiling.”
After the new building was completed, Clif Dawson, his brother Tom, and longtime resident Skip Carr were behind the counter of the store. Everyone in town knew them. In 1960, Dawson expanded his business and added a country store where Adam’s Taphouse is now. Dawson had penny candy and everything carried by country stores during the old days. He even had carved wooden Indians and a horse and buggy adding to the atmosphere. The general store stayed in business until Dawson died in 1984. After his death, the main part of the store was converted to Dawson’s Liquors.
“I think his wisdom still holds up in business and life today,” Jay said. “Clif Dawson was a successful businessman and a genuinely good person. He would help anyone that needed it. We still talk about his work ethic and generosity.”
Severna Park Museum Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-stock corporation sponsored by the Winkelmeyer family. Monetary donations are welcome at 528 Melrose Lane, Severna Park, MD 21146.