Giant opening

Store manager Nick Hyson stands at the podium surrounded by his department managers as he greets those in attendance for the grand opening of the new Giant supermarket in the Greenspring Tower Shopping Center Thursday. (Staff photo by Brian Krista, Patuxent Publishing / March 29, 2012)

Edith Bershadsky, of Tuscany-Canterbury, came to the Rotunda Giant shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday to buy a ticket for the record-breaking, $540 million Mega-Millions jackpot.

But by the time she got there, Giant Food officials had already removed the lottery machine in anticipation of the closing of the 41-year-old store.

Bershadsky, 57, left with only a loaf of cheese bread. But she also left with a locally historic distinction. She was the last shopper ever to check out of the store when its doors were shut shortly after 6 p.m.

"I've been coming here on and off since I came to (Johns Hopkins University) as a grad student in 1984," said Bershadsky, who now works at the Baltimore Museum of Industry downtown.

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As she left the supermarket for the last time and headed out of the Rotunda, she stopped and looked through the window.

But a few minutes later, Bershadsky was back at the Giant — the new Giant, a former SuperFresh and Fresh & Green's store that opened the same day a quarter mile away in the Green Spring Tower Shopping Center in Hampden.

"I had been to the SuperFresh," she said, strolling the store with a shopping cart. "So far, it's pretty similar."

As the Giant in the Rotunda closed unceremoniously, corporate officials and Baltimore City leaders cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the converted Giant store at 1030 W. 41st St.

The 47,000-square-foot space was most recently a short-lived Fresh & Green's store.

City officials on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony included City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Youngand 14th District City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke. MayorStephanie Rawlings-Blake was not scheduled to attend, her scheduling office said. Rawlings-Blake had a prior engagement, said Jamie Miller, spokesman for Landover-based Giant Food.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful store," Young said. "And they added 100-plus jobs," because the new Giant is larger than the undersized, 33,000-square foot Rotunda Giant.

The Hampden store was one of two new Giant stores that opened Thursday. The other, also a former Fresh & Green's and SuperFresh, is a 42,000-square-foot supermarket in Parkville, at 7709 Harford Road.

Both stores had "soft" openings with open houses and cashiers. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins were scheduled to attend the Parkville store's soft opening, Miller said.

However, there was nothing soft about the opening in Hampden. So many people were waiting at the store earlier in the day that officials opened at 12:45 p.m, instead of 5 p.m, as originally planned.

Customers literally got the red carpet treatment as they entered the store. Some employees wore red jackets, red hats and white gloves as if serving as ushers at a movie premiere. A red carpet was laid down inside the entrance. There was even popcorn served at the entrance. And shoppers got gold stars that entitled them to a free bag of groceries as they left.

And like a movie premiere, there were reviews for the new store, most of them rave reviews.

"So far, so good. I think I'm going to like this," said Magnolia Morris, 49, of Randallstown, as she shopped at the new Giant location.

Morris, who works at the People's Community Health Center in Charles Village, said the parking at the new location was better than the limited parking at the Rotunda store.

"I love it," said Stephanie Stockton, 34, of Medfield, a meeting planner, as she shopped with her 1-year-old daughter, Charlotte. "It's clean. It's fresh. I wanted a good store in the neighborhood."

Stephen Nichols, 75, of Guilford, had no complaints, even when told that the store's ATM bank machine wasn't up and running yet. He said he won't miss the Rotund Giant — "not at all."