A Giant letdown for Rotunda shoppers

"I think it's awful," declared retired Baltimore Sun reporter Eric Siegel, 62, coming out of the soon-to-close Giant Food store in Hampden's Rotunda mall, a half-block from his house. "I think it's going to be really hard for the neighborhood."

"I'm very glad the Giant is going to be moving to a new place," said Sylvia Dodd, 84, of Reservoir Hill. "They need more space."

"Trader Joe's I would use," said Joseph Anastacio, 61, of Lauraville, an administrator in the Baltimore City public school system. "I love Trader Joe's anywhere they are."

Reactions to Giant leaving and what might replace it are as varied as the food on the shelves. For all those who bemoan the imminent loss of the Giant after 41 years, there are others who welcome a bigger Giant store down the street — and are intrigued by the possibility that a boutique grocer such as Fresh Market or Trader Joe's might move into the Rotunda

"I'd probably prefer that," said Liz Durette, 25, of Hampden, an office worker at the University of Baltimore, as she walked into the Giant. "I just don't like the Giant."

"And Trader Joe's has very good prices," said Carol Chance, 74, of Wyman Park, a retired public defender.

Fashion designer Peter Fong, 32, of Hampden, wishes a Whole Foods would take the space.

"Better quality, better selection, more organic," he said.

But Giant's departure might be felt most by the elderly residents of two retirement communities across the street, Roland Park Place and Keswick Multi-Care Center.

"This is plenty convenient for us," said 97-year-old Dorsey Yearley, sitting on a bench with his cane in his lap outside the Giant store in the Rotunda in Hampden. "We can bring our wheelchairs here, but we can't bring them to the other place."

The other place is Greenspring Tower Shopping Center, where Giant will move into the Fresh & Green's space after six to eight weeks of renovation.

It's only a quarter-mile away, but Yearley said, "We'd prefer to stay here."

"That's a shame," said Roland Park Place resident Robert Trattner, 91. "It won't be as convenient."

But Rotunda Giant store manager Nick Hyson said people will be happier with the 47,000-square-foot Fresh & Green's space compared to the 33,000-square-foot Giant.

"It's not big enough," Hyson said. "We're excited about moving. I'm just waiting for the word to pack up."

There was surprise among mall customers, especially because Fresh & Green's had replaced a Superfresh at Greenspring Tower last July.

"Wow, that was fast," said web designer Scott Rothman, 24, of Hampden, browsing at Amazing Spiral, formerly Comics Kingdom.

"We're all frustrated," said a Fresh & Green's employee, who requested anonymity as he and other staffers started to pack up that store. "We just did this six months ago."

But Fresh & Green's customers were happy to hear that a Giant was coming.

"It's fine as long as they're (Giant) going to stay for awhile and the prices stay affordable," said Thomas Brown, 32, of Remington, a Johns Hopkins University researcher.

Dolores Hampshire, of West Virginia, who helped her aunt buy groceries at the Fresh & Green's about twice a month, said there's more parking at the Greenspring Tower center than at the Rotunda.

"It's too expensive here, compared to the old Superfresh," said Audrey Tesse, of the Keswick neighborhood, who went shopping at Fresh & Green's on Friday with her daughter, Capucine, a second-grader at Roland Park Country School.

Nurse Alyssa Dennis, of Hampden, said she's looking forward to using Giant's discount card.

Fresh & Green's store manager Terry Collins was relieved that he could finally tell customers what was going on after weeks of telling them he didn't know.

"I just want to put this issue to bed," he said. "At least when people ask me, I don't have to take the Fifth."

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