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LA Mart plans to open grocery store at Oakland Mills Village Center in Columbia

A Maryland-based grocer plans to open its fourth store in a 39,279-square-foot space in Oakland Mills Village Center in Columbia.

LA Mart, serving the Washington area, specializes in internationally focused foods.

The Oakland Mills building had been leased by Food Lion and later Weis Markets, which left in June, two years after its grand opening following Weis’s acquisition of several Food Lion store.

“We felt that with the other traditional grocery stores...we needed to do something a little different,” said Principal Broker Lawrence Hoffman of H&R Retail, a real estate brokerage. “It's tougher for a traditional grocery store [to survive] in a predefined market like this.”

The Baltimore Business Journal first reported the firm wanted a store that can serve a more diverse population.

Oakland Mills has had trouble keeping a grocery store during its 50-year existence and has seen five grocery stores come and go. And although Howard County is one of the wealthiest counties in America — with a median household income is $113,800— Oakland Mills is different. The average annual income in a one-mile radius of the shopping center is $99,004— $13,204 more than what is dubbed a “survival budget” in a United Way report that examined the household income needed in Howard County.

It is in this context that Hoffman hopes to attract shoppers from nearby neighborhoods and those far away who are looking for specialty items. The nearest international market is less than one miles away.

LA Mart opened its first store in 2004 in Silver Spring and has expanded to Baltimore and Springfield, Va.

Councilman Calvin Ball, a Democrat who represents the district, said in an interview the area needs “a more complete revitalization plan.”

“Having a store there is better than not having something. However, I would like to see a more complete revitalization of Oakland Mill,” Ball said. The plan would be based off community input, he said.

Little Caesars Pizza, a sports bar and a liquor store occupy space at the shopping center designed to be anchored by a grocery.

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