Merchants are also tired of watching stores and businesses close all around them in recent years, from The Tomlinson Craft Collection and The Bead, a women's clothing store, to Rotunda Liquors and Bank of America, which was one of three anchors of the mall, along with Giant and Rite-Aid.

Now, Giant is leaving.

"It will be bad for the whole building," Malik said.

"My gut feeling is there is no redevelopment (coming), even though they swear it is," said merchant Sheldon Pearlman, owner of Amazing Spiral (formerly Comics Kingdom).

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Pearlman would be happy just to see a bank in the mall.

"It would be really nice if they got a bank back," Pearlman said. "Losing Bank of America hurt."

Merchants are more encouraged about Johns Hopkins University buying the old Zurich office building next door than they are about redevelopment. Hopkins is moving in about 1,125 employees, who may bring much-needed foot traffic to the mall.

Hopkins bought the Zurich building with the convenience of the mall in mind, said Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea.

"We certainly would love for there to be amenities for our employees," he added. "By having a substantial employee base (nearby), we certainly add to the attractiveness of the space."

There was speculation last week that Hopkins might take over the Giant space, but Hopkins spokeswoman Tracey Reeves said that's untrue.

Several merchants, who requested anonymity, took issue with the mall's mix of retail and office space, including a Christian Science Reading Room with limited hours and a Social Security Administration office.

The mall needs diversification, not expansion of the movie theater into an existing retail space, to attract foot traffic, these merchants said.

But Pearlman said moviegoers stop in his store, and so do people going to doctor's appointments.

"It definitely attracts business," Pearlman said.

Rite-Aid's grand reopening

Despite uncertainty about its plans, the Rotunda carries on.

Red banners last week announced the "grand reopening" of the longtime Rite-Aid, which was recently remodeled.

Ira Miller, who took over the twin-screen Rotunda Cinemas in 2010, has since added a third screen, and said he will add a fourth in the old Tomlinson Craft Collection space.

City Bible Church meets Sunday mornings in the theater.

The Bead has been replaced by Bombay Cosmos, a boutique women's fashion store.

Casa Mia's is well-positioned opposite the theater, and draws a steady stream of customers.

Chatting behind the counter the day before Giant's announcement, Malik, a 64-year-old native of Pakistan, was thinking less about redevelopment or the mall's retail mix than he was about an increase in outside competition for Casa Mia's — a few feet outside, where a gourmet burger truck, Kooper's Chowhound, sits near the Rotunda's back entrance several days a week.

Malik, whose eatery has been in the mall for more than 11 years, is critical of mall management for allowing mobile food vendors to sell in the parking lot, where he says they take business from him.

"We hung out waiting for the good times," said Malik, "and then this happens."

Rotunda property manager David Bouchard could not be reached for comment.

But merchants worried about the Rotunda's health can take heart in longtime customers such as Rosetta Miller, of Hampden, who ate a late lunch Thursday at Casa Mia's after buying pants and hats in the mall.

The Hampden resident, 65, who doesn't drive, said the mall has been a one-stop center for all her shopping and medical needs.

"And this is the best place to eat," she said.