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Leroy M. Merritt, Founder, 1930-2010
Leroy M. Merritt, Founder, 1930-2010

Leroy M. Merritt was born in 1930 in Dundalk, a blue-collar neighborhood once dominated by the steel mill and shipyard at Sparrows Point. His parents, Roy and Ruth Merritt, managed a restaurant, Thompson’s Sea Girt House, where Leroy first learned about the importance of working hard and taking care of customers.

After graduating from Dundalk High School, Leroy was awarded a Senatorial Scholarship to Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College). To help make ends meet, he ran a catering business at night and during the summer, worked for his uncles who owned a masonry contracting business.

By the mid-1960s, Leroy had gone into the construction business and had built more than 60 houses, many with his own hands and most on spec. Ed St. John was also involved in residential real estate at the time, but both men recognized the opportunities offered by the commercial market. When Ed asked a business associate if he could recommend an honest builder, he pointed Ed to Leroy and they soon became business partners. Their first building was a 16,000-square-foot warehouse on Stafford Street in southwest Baltimore.

In 1971, after partnering on numerous real estate projects, Leroy and Ed recognized that they each had their own unique way of doing business and agreed to split the company. Instead of engaging appraisers, accountants and attorneys, Ed divided their properties into two packages and Leroy chose one. They remained friendly competitors.

For the next 20 years, Merritt Properties continued to build warehouse projects, while diversifying into flex, office, retail and design-build projects.

Leroy Merritt NAIOP Lifetime Achievement Award
Leroy Merritt with his son, Robb Merritt, after accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award from NAIOP Maryland.

Leroy guided the company through the recession of the early 1990s, which was especially devastating for the commercial real estate industry. Merritt Properties remained stable, emerging into a period of tremendous growth and change. Today, the company owns and manages the largest privately held commercial real estate portfolio in the Baltimore/Washington region, with 16 million square feet in more than 70 locations.

In 2000, Leroy stepped away from day-to-day management of Merritt Properties but maintained an office at the company, dubbing himself the CFO, “Chief Fun Officer”. Today, the company, led by Chairman and CEO Scott Dorsey and President Robb Merritt, continues to adhere to Leroy’s guiding principles of trust, integrity and respect in all of our business dealings.