Wilde Lake High's store closes after 20 years, inconveniencing residents


Just two months after Columbia's first Wawa Food Market officially closed, another dependable convenience store in the town, a High's dairy store, has shut its doors in Wilde Lake village.

The High's closed Tuesday, even though it had not completed its lease.

"They chose not to exercise a renewal of their lease, which is up in a few weeks," said Cathy Lickteig, a spokeswoman for the Rouse Co., managers of the leased property. "We did not know. They just decided to close."

Citing a policy of confidentiality, Ms. Lickteig said she could not disclose exactly when the store's lease at 5430 Lynx Lane ran out. The store had been part of the Wilde Lake community for about 20 years, said Norma Rose, the Columbia Council representative for Wilde Lake village.

"It's a big surprise," Ms. Rose said, adding that in recent years she had gone there to buy milk and newspapers.

No one at High's Baltimore-area headquarters in Hanover would comment on the Wilde Lake closing or on the status of the half dozen other High's stores in the Columbia area. Two of those stores, in King's Contrivance and Harper's Choice, are in properties managed by the Rouse Co.

A note on the front door of the former Wilde Lake store last week referred customers to two other High's stores, in Harper's Choice and Hickory Ridge.

In the wake of the High's closing, Columbia Management Inc., the arm of the Rouse Co. that manages Columbia's village

centers, is searching for a new tenant for the Lynx Lane building.

"Whether we'll be looking for another convenience store or something . . . different I'm not sure," Ms. Lickteig said. "We will certainly be out there looking."

At 7:30 p.m. Aug 1, Wawa representatives will come to the Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center for a community meeting to discuss why the company closed its outlet at Log Cabin and Thunder Hill Roads in the Thunder Hill neighborhood. They will "explain the reasons behind their decision," said Erin Peacock, the village manager.

On May 18, the Wawa, Pa.-based company announced that it would not reopen the 25-year-old store in the Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center. That Wawa was the first to open in the new town, fulfilling Rouse's neighborhood center concept.

On April 2, the bond was broken when a single-alarm fire ripped through the Wawa building, causing $400,000 in damage. The owner decided the damages were too extensive to reopen at that location. A month later, two juveniles were arrested and charged with arson in connection with the fire.

Neighbors, who relied on the store for milk, ice cream and snacks, have tried to save their neighborhood store. They called and wrote the company and collected at least 700 signatures in an effort to persuade the owner to reopen or sell to another merchant.

In response to the residents' concerns, company officials said they would try to find another location in the Thunder Hill area. But that search failed and the company now plans to sell the property, Ms. Peacock said.

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