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Residents welcome grocery into area; Eastport neighbors see victory after losing markets to suburbs


After one year of mourning the neighborhood grocery store that went out of business and pestering city officials to help find a replacement, Eastport residents are finally getting a new food market in the community's shopping center.

The new store is a minor but symbolic victory for residents of a city that has gradually lost supermarkets and drugstores to the suburbs. Although the Eastport Shopping Center is in semi-suburbia, the store remained empty for a year after Thriftway closed in December 1997 because at 18,000 square feet it wasn't big enough for most grocery chains.

"Right down the road is a Giant that has about 60,000 square feet," said Susan K. Zellers, city economic development director. "The square footage was a big challenge."

The newcomer will be an independent store named Eastport Market. Owner Mark Cardwell, who operates grocery stores in Edgemere and Dundalk, said he hopes to open it May 1.

Cardwell said he plans to market the store to boaters in the maritime-rich area with a deli, bakery and large prepared-food section.

"We're anxious to do a lot of business with the mariners and boaters," Cardwell said. "We're going to tell them, 'When you go out [on boat trips], if you want to go someplace to go get food first, come to our store.' We'll have lots of sandwiches and things that people can come in and take home and throw in the microwave."

Eastport resident Susan Norfolk said the empty store had become a sore spot for residents who wanted the space filled so they wouldn't have to trek the extra distance to Giant.

She said the Thriftway store had been deteriorating before it closed.

"Toward the end, it was really going downhill and they weren't buying inventory so the shelves were really empty," Norfolk said. "You would go there and you wouldn't be able to find something that you needed so you stopped going there. It sort of exacerbated the problem."

Norfolk said residents were rejoicing as word spread.

"I know people who have repeatedly asked at Eastport Civic Association meetings, 'When are we going to get a new store at the old Thriftway?' " Norfolk said. "We've really been wanting one for some time now."

Pub Date: 1/18/99

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