For Giant store manager, it's all about the customers
Hyson gets a big thumbs up as former SuperFresh opens for business
Giant supermarket manager Nick Hyson connects with customers during the grand opening of the new Giant supermarket in the Green Spring Tower Shopping Center in Hampden on March 29. Hyson hasn't had a day off in two weeks, "by choice," he said. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / March 29, 2012)
He's been the man in the middle of recent upheaval in the local grocery industry, helping to close the 41-year-old store in the Rotunda and to open the new one, a converted SuperFresh and Fresh & Green's, in the Green Spring Tower Shopping Center, a quarter mile away.
He's the local face of Giant, recognizable to many customers who mourned the loss of the Rotunda store, and a sign of stability as the new store finds its legs.
As the dust settles and the hoopla dies down after last week's grand opening, Hyson, 42, who is married, is looking forward to a day off, although when, he's not certain.
He has not had a day off in at least two weeks, "by choice," he said March 31, and has been working from about 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
"I want to be here, just to make sure things are right," the Rosedale resident said .
A trim, energetic 42, wearing black slacks and a purple shirt (Giant's color), Hyson is very much a company man. In fact, Landover-based Giant Food is the only employer he's ever worked for, other than a few part-time jobs in high school. He came to Giant as a teenager, "pushing carts out front," he said.
His brother used to work for Giant Food; his sister still does, as a baker in the bakery division in Severna Park.
Hyson rose through ranks, becoming a seafood and meat specialist for the company and then manager of the Rotunda Giant in 2010.
He might never have left the Rotunda, if corporate had followed through on its original plans to close the undersized store there and build a state-of-the-art Giant in the south parking lot as part of the mall's anticipated redevelopment.
But the economy tanked and redevelopment fizzled until early 2012, when Giant Food purchased the former SuperFresh and Fresh & Green's stores in Hampden and Parkville.
In an agreement inked earlier this year, New Jersey-based Rotunda owner Hekemian & Co, which now plans to redevelop the mall on a smaller scale, agreed to let Giant out of its long-term lease in the Rotunda, so that Giant could relocate to the Green Spring Tower Shopping Center.
In exchange, Giant agreed to let Hekemian replace the Giant store with a smaller "boutique" grocer of no more than 20,000 square feet in the Rotunda, such as a Trader Joe's, so as not to compete with Giant in its new location, said Chris Bell, senior vice president for acquisitions and development at Hekemian.
That agreement paved the way for the relocation of the Rotunda Giant — and Hyson with it.
He has brought 121 employees from the Rotunda Giant with him and added about 100 more, some from the old Fresh & Green's and some newly hired — "from the neighborhood," he said.
And along with Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, he took an active role in resolving the issue of how to get area seniors to the new Giant. They could walk to the Rotunda Giant from surrounding apartments and retirement communities, but would have been hard-pressed to walk down the hill to the new Giant and then back up the hill with their groceries.
"That was one of my main concerns," Hyson said.
Last month, Giant Food agreed to give the Hampden-based nonprofit Action In Maturity a $5,000 grant, so that AIM could shuttle seniors to the Giant and back home. That service started with the grand opening, when the first minibus pulled into the Green Spring Tower parking lot.
Red carpet treatment