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Harford grocery stores prepare for Wegmans

With the opening of Wegmans in Abingdon just days away, representatives of many of the grocery stores already in Harford County don't seem worried about its impact.

Klein's ShopRite Spokesman Mike Blum even welcomed the incoming chain.

"We wish them all the success in the world," he said. "We're going to continue to be here as Harford County's only locally owned grocery. We're not going anywhere, we're just going to get better."

Planned for two and a half years, the new Wegmans will open Sunday, Sept. 18, at 7 a.m. in the Boulevard at Box Hill shopping center. This will be Wegmans' 78th store and only the fourth in Maryland, including Hunt Valley, Frederick and Lanham.

This Wegmans store will be like no other, Director of Media Relations Jo Natale said recently, as each store is designed differently. It will feature freshly baked goods and a food bar at the market café, which will allow customers to watch chefs make their food fresh.

That doesn't mean some of the local stores aren't making changes.

Blum said the Kleins and ShopRite are making improvements on their own, rather than focusing on the incoming competition.

The Klein family recently unveiled renovations to the ShopRite in the Festival at Bel Air, which included a 10,000-square-foot expansion, bakery, deli and produce section upgrades and plans for ShopRite from Home, a drive-through grocery service.

The family is also opening two new stores in the coming months, Blum said, starting with one on Perring Parkway in Baltimore County and another in Liberty Heights.

They are "constantly" looking at ways to expand and provide better service as well, he added, including energy saving measures and improved lighting among other renovations.

"We didn't do any of that because Wegmans was opening," he said. "We did that because we had to, it's what we do."

As for Wegmans potential effect on ShopRite, Blum said there will always be competitors and they do not look over their shoulder, instead devoting their efforts to doing the best they can.

When Klein's ShopRite has sales or weekly specials, he added, it's not because the Wegmans is coming, it's because they want to offer great prices to the community.

"We have very attractive special offers coming out this week and next week and every week," Blum said. "It's not anything different. We just always do."

At a recent grand reopening ceremony, the Giant Food Store in Abingdon Station celebrated renovations and additions. These improvements include a larger selection of natural and organic food, as well as gluten-free products and a wider variety of international food.

This renovation is part of many that are happening in Giant stores throughout the region, Public and Community Relations Manager Jamie Miller said Wednesday.

"We've renovated more than 100 stores," he said. "These are plans that we have in place previously."

Miller did add later, however, that Giant had been making "significant improvements in anticipation of competition" in their stores and would continue to do so.

As for the threat of Wegmans in particular, Miller pointed out that Giant Food is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and will be here for another 75 years, at least. The area, and Giant Food, has seen competition in the market for years, he said, but Giant continues to focus on its business model.

"With Giant celebrating our 75th anniversary this year we remained committed to the same values we started the company with 75 years ago," Miller added, citing quality, value and service.

Giant will be there for the "long haul," he said and will continue to get better.

Unlike Klein's ShopRite and Giant Food, there are no immediate plans to renovate the local Food Lion in Bel Air, according to External Communications Specialist Tenisha Waldo.

They still plan on being competitive, however, by "continuing to offer our customers low prices every day," she wrote in an e-mail, and featuring "fresh produce, quality meats, an assortment of deli options and much more."

In addition, Food Lion also offers text message coupons, online newsletters and "Click to Card" coupons that can be loaded onto customers' MVP cards, Waldo added.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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