For 57 years, Baltimore-born-and-bred entrepreneur Eddie Dopkin has seen no need to stray far from his childhood home in the Ranchleigh section of Mt. Washington.
"I've never lived more than four miles from here in my entire life," says Dopkin, a partner and VP of finance for The Classic Catering People and owner of Crazy Man Restaurant Group (which includes S'ghetti Eddie's, Loco Hombre, Alonso's, Miss Shirley's, and Roland Park Bagel Company). "The house I grew up in is two-and-a-half miles from here. For 18 years, I lived in a Roland Park townhouse and then an apartment for a little while after I got divorced—I'm in all kinds of people's houses and all kinds of neighborhoods, but I don't think there's anywhere else I want to live but here."
"Here" is a five bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath colonial-style home perched on three-quarters of an acre of lush landscaping, making the outdoors as impressive as the indoors. Conceived by award-winning landscaper Carol Macht and carried out by Kirk Berry of Scapes General Contracting, the grounds abound with Japanese maples, towering white birch, flowering perennials, and annuals in nearly every conceivable color and variety. The backyard is a serene retreat with a koi pond, a graceful waterfall, a meticulously planned pool area, and verdant views for as far as the eye can see.
"People ask me, 'Why do you live here when you could be in the county two blocks away?'" says Dopkin. "No one can believe we are in Baltimore City. I have all the conveniences of being in the city, but there are plenty of deer and fox and raccoon tramping through this place. It's a paradise. I am outside six or seven months a year, and there are two lounge chairs that stay outside 365 days a year. If we get one of those warm days in winter, I'm outside."
Dopkin initially purchased a single lot before any of the homes in the neighborhood had been built. When a contract came up on an adjacent lot after he had moved into his home, Dopkin quickly realized that he did not want another home to destroy his expansive view. "I went to the builder and said, 'I need to buy that lot,'" says Dopkin. "Now nothing can be built here because it's a preservation area."
The interior spaces designed by the venerable Richard Taylor are equally impeccable, from a dramatic dining room with four signed Hiro Yamagata art pieces, a gold-leaf ceiling, and a show-stopping Biedermeir-inspired table and chairs, to a sophisticated crème-colored living room area, where a signed Peter Max print is prominently displayed.
"In my conversations with Richard, I told him I wanted a house for a single guy that he could feel very comfortable with and that was easy to maintain," says Dopkin, who shares his home with his Bernese mountain dog, Jaxson. "I wanted it to feel manly and fun and playful—you can put your feet on things here."
Above all, the overall design directive was to have a home geared toward effortlessly entertaining friends and family, including Baltimore heavyweights (both Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Ben Cardin have broken bread here). "An average party I throw might have between 65 to 75 people," explains Dopkin, "but I've put up a tent, and we've had more than 200. Classic Catering has catered every party, but if I have 20 people, I might do the grilling."
The open kitchen—with its professional four-burner Viking gas range, stunning black granite counters, ample island, and cozy conversation area—is the heart of the place, not surprising for a man whose business is all about good food. It sports plenty of cabinetry to hold Dopkin's profusion of kitchen gadgets, including no fewer than three blenders, three woks, and three waffle irons.
"While I love to cook, I eat out most of the time," Dopkin admits. "When I say I love to cook, my son, David, loves to joke with me, 'Come on, Dad, when's the last time you really cooked?' I'm so busy with work."
As a young boy, Dopkin learned the food business from his parents, who opened their first restaurant, The Beef Inn, in 1969 on Pimlico Road and Smith Avenue and then ran a small catering business. In 1976, Dopkin helped them merge their catering company with another catering firm to form The Catering People and spun that initial success into The Classic Catering People—now one of the largest private caterers on the East Coast.
"The year after I graduated from high school, my father got sick," says Dopkin, "so I went to George Washington University two days a week, from eight in the morning until 10 at night, and worked in the restaurant the other five days, where I did everything from waiting on customers to making burgers."
These days, rest and relaxation remain prized commodities: He's got his hands full at Classic Catering, which handles about 2,800 full-service events a year, and feeds an additional 27,000 with smaller functions (not to mention the 3,000 to 4,500 meals a week served in his five Cold Spring Lane restaurants), and he often doesn't get home until late at night. But his home allows him plenty of opportunity to unwind.
A dedicated second-floor massage room, a state-of-the-art steam shower in the master bath with an oversized whirpool tub, and a screened-in reading porch (soon to be converted into a hot-tub area) all promise rest and relaxation.
"After being on my feet for work, the biggest question when I get home is, 'Where do I sit?'" jokes Dopkin. "Do I want to sit on the screened porch? Do I want to sit on the deck off the kitchen? Do I want to sit on the deck by the pool, lay in the hammock, or go in the shade garden?' It's not such a bad problem to have."