Giant to close Rotunda store, relocate to Fresh & Green's
Fate of mall redevelopment unclear as anchor announces departure
Shoppers visit the Giant supermarket in the Rotunda in Baltimore in this photo from 2008. Giant announced Friday it would close this location and move the grocery story down the street to the current location of Fresh & Green. (Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby / March 29, 2004)
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711 W 40th St, The Rotunda Shopping Center, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
"This is plenty convenient for us," said Yearley, who lives at Roland Park Place, one of two retirement communities across the street.
But his cheerful tone turned mournful when told that one of his most reliable and essential destinations in the mall, the Giant Food store, is departing after 41 years and is relocating down the street to the Fresh & Green's store, formerly a Superfresh, in the Greenspring Tower Shopping Center.
It's only a quarter-mile away, but Yearley said, "We'd prefer to stay here."
The Rotunda, with its iconic bell tower, is a local landmark, and Giant has been one of its mainstays. Tucked inside the main entrance, it is about half the size of a state-of-the-art Giant.
Area residents and merchants have become increasingly concerned in recent years that a planned redevelopment of the mall has not come to fruition and that it appears half-empty. No tenants have replaced longtime businesses such as Bank of America, Tomlinson Craft Collection and Rotunda Liquors.
"When someone leaves, no one comes," said Shabir Malik, owner of Casa Mia, a popular lunch spot for the past 11 years.
Shoppers and merchants at the bustling Giant were buzzing Friday as they heard that the store is moving — and leaving the future of the small mall in doubt.
"So it's true?" neighborhood resident Carol Bishop asked Giant store manager Nick Hyson, who nodded.
"That's a shame," said Roland Park Place resident Robert Trattner, 91. "It won't be as convenient."
Giant will buy the Fresh & Green's at 1020 W. 41st St., as well as a Fresh & Green's in Parkville at 7709 Harford Road, Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Landover-based Giant, said Friday.
Giant's real estate division expects the sale to be completed by Tuesday, Miller said, and the company plans to renovate and open the relocated store in six to eight weeks.
The grocer had previously bid on the two stores when Superfresh's parent company sold them seven months ago during bankruptcy proceedings, Miller said. He declined to release the purchase price for the stores.
Employees and vendors at the Fresh & Green's in Hampden said they were told at an employees meeting Friday to pack up the store and move out by Monday night because Giant would be taking ownership by Tuesday.
Fresh & Green's employees said they were told they will still have jobs when Giant takes over, but what their jobs will be and how much they will be paid are to be determined.
Hyson, the Rotunda Giant's manager, said he would be the manager of the new store.
George Murphy, president of Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents employees at the two closing Fresh & Green's locations, did not return phone calls Friday afternoon. Tom McNutt, president of a local that represents supermarket employees in five Maryland counties and has worked with both supermarket chains, said it is normal for unionized workers to be transferred when ownership of a store changes.
Speculation has been widespread in recent weeks that the Fresh & Green's on 41st Street was closing. The Hampden store stopped getting produce about two weeks ago, said store manager Terry Collins, and many shelves were bare, including the meat cases.
Collins said Fresh & Green's Toronto-based management placed a hold last month on warehouse orders for the Hampden store but didn't tell him why. Orders to the Parkville store were also placed on hold, he said.