Cherry Tree merchants complain business is slow Shop owners say center needs big anchor to thrive


More people are moving into North Laurel, but merchants at Cherry Tree Center say that isn't helping their business.

Shop owners at the Scaggsville shopping center have characterized business as disappointing -- despite the recent openings of new communities nearby -- and claim the center needs a major anchor store to thrive.

"I would say that it's been pretty slow," said Donna Carr, manager of the Cherry Tree Cards and Gifts shop, which has been operating at the center for six years. She plans to move to the Savage Mill Shopping Center by the end of next month.

"We had a lot of business at first, but since then, not much," Carr said.

That move will give Cherry Tree Center five vacant stores -- including a separate building that housed First American Bank before it closed about four years ago. Still, the center's manager claimed that the center is healthy.

"I believe that it's an excellent center, it's in an excellent location and it has excellent visibility," said David James of Greenleaf Accounting and Management Co. of Silver Spring. "I expect the center to do well over the next couple of years."

James noted that he is having "serious" discussions with several businesses to fill the vacancies.

The center has been at the northwest corner of U.S. 29 and Route 216 since 1988. Originally touted as a promising attraction, the center has disappointed merchants.

Most point to the absence of an anchor -- a big-name retail store, grocery or fast-food restaurant -- that might lure customers.

Dr. Louis M. Wiest Jr., a veterinarian with Patuxent Valley Animal Hospital, recalls rumors of a major supermarket chain setting up shop when the center opened. "There are no big draws here," he said.

Tenants also blamed an absentee landlord and high rents.

"I'm still supplementing funds to keep this store open," said a merchant, who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation. "I shouldn't have to do this, especially after 10 years here. It's frustrating."

James countered that rent is competitive with other centers. He added that he is considering erecting a large sign in front of the center, which is partially blocked from the view of traffic by a ridge.

"There are times when the center is very busy," James said. "Different tenants see things differently. I think the future bodes well for the center."

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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