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Cranberry Mall celebrates its fifth anniversary this month with 94 percent of its space leased and retail sales on the rise.

Sales at the shopping mall increased 3 percent from 1990 to 1991, a year when other Baltimore-area centers saw a decline, an industry spokesman said.

The opening of Montgomery Ward & Co. -- the mall's fourth anchor store -- in November 1990 was a boost for the center at Route 140 andCenter Street.

Sales for malls in the Baltimore region were down 2.1 percent from 1990 to 1991, said Keith Foxe, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York City.

"It hasa dominant position in the market," he said of Cranberry Mall.

Itis Carroll's largest shopping center and was its first fully enclosed mall. Cranberry Mall still is considered new and is convenient for much of the county's population, Foxe added.

"Westminster is starting to be established as a retail market unto itself," said David A. Cianelli, the mall's general manager.

The mall is successful because it aims to be a "community" gathering place, he said.

"It's a place to meet friends, make acquaintances," Cianelli added.

Yesterday, for example, its corridors were filled with 32 county

Girl Scout troops celebrating the organization's 80th anniversary. Last weekend, county businesses set up booths to meet the public.

About 2,500 people visit Cranberry Mall on a typical day, Cianelli said. The 525,000-square-foot center employs 500 to 600 people, he said.

Cranberry Mall is owned by Shearson Shopco Malls Limited Partnership, based in New York. The owners paid $444,759 in property taxes for 1991-1992, county records show.

Mall receipts -- excluding sales at the anchors -- were about $30 million last year, said Cianelli, 30, who managed Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg for nine months before moving to Cranberry Mall a year ago.

The anchor stores are "sensitive" about releasing sales numbers, he said. All four are "successful," he added.

Ken Simms, manager at Sears Roebuck and Co., said the store here fared better last year than other Sears stores in Maryland. Salesin Westminster remained even from 1990 to 1991, while they were downat many other stores, he said.

Simms would not release specific sales numbers.

Sears opened in a space that had been leased by Hutzler's department store, which went bankrupt before the mall opened. Sears' decision to locate here was a good one, Simms said.

"We havea good following in this area," he said. "We're happy to be here."

The other two anchor stores are Leggett and Caldor.

Joan Covert,60, of Westminster -- on her way into Sears one afternoon last week -- said she visits the mall two or three times a week.

"I like theconvenience of it," she said. "It's roomy, so you're not cramped, and the people are pleasant."

Denise Trail, 38, of Finksburg, said she usually comes to the mall twice a week with her 2-year-old daughter, Lauren. The trips are out of necessity -- to buy shoes and clothes-- and for entertainment -- to look at the animals in the pet store and throw pennies in the fountain, she said.

"I can pretty much find everything I need here," Trail said.

Shane White, president of the Westminster Business Association, said downtown stores have suffered because of the mall, but they're still thriving.

When one store closes, someone else will get the "entrepreneurial spirit" and openanother one, she said.

"We're changing the complexion of downtown," with more offices and specialty stores, said White, owner of White's Bicycles on Main Street.

"I don't feel too intimidated," she said. "There's a place for everybody."

To mark the anniversary, mallmerchants will be having sales and special incentives March 22-28, said Marketing Manager Kathi McAvoy.

A daylong celebration is planned March 28, with aerobics demonstrations, clowns, balloons, live radio broadcasts, a fashion show and enough cake for 300 people, she said.

Shoppers will be able to sign up for drawings for cash prizes, a three-night cruise to the Bahamas and a weekend stay in Hershey, Pa., McAvoy said.

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