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Can this deli be saved?; Displacement: An Epicurean food store stands no chance when matched against a Walgreens.


DEVOTED customers of the Old World Deli and Bakery are praying that the emporium of European delicacies finds another location in Randallstown.

Come the end of August, the nondescript building that houses this gem will become a Walgreens. The deli's landlord decided to sell the building to the national drugstore chain, which is looking for a foothold in the Baltimore-Washington market.

For 20 years, the Old World Deli has supplied gourmets and cooks with food and ingredients that can't be found any where else in the Middle Atlantic region. To match its selection of Russian caviar or fine German baking chocolate, a customer might have to travel to St. Petersburg or Berlin. Customers flock to Randallstown from Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina to load up on goodies from this store.

But Old World's great success in attracting thousands of customers a week to this section of Randallstown apparently didn't count for much -- at least not enough to save it at its current location.

Displacement of existing businesses has been the major criticism of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's renewal plans for the Liberty Road commercial corridor several blocks east of Old World's location. But it wasn't government that ousted Old World -- it was a deep-pocketed national corporation.

Considering Old World's ability to attract customers to its location, Baltimore County's Department of Economic Development should be working overtime to find the store another Randallstown location. Unfortunately, time is short. Annie and Gary Hein, Old World's owners, may be unable to locate, lease and renovate a space before their lease runs out.

Here's a tip for Walgreens: A good corporate citizens might want to make a real contribution to Randallstown's renewal by delaying the property takeover until Old World has relocated and is serving its devoted clientele in a new location.

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