Starbucks in Bel Air's Tollgate Marketplace to close Feb. 18

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“Holy moly!” Bel Air resident Lettie LeBron said Wednesday, when told that the Starbucks store she frequents in the Tollgate Marketplace shopping center will close next month.

LeBron did not initially see the sign posted at the front entrance of the store, which is adjacent to the Barnes & Noble bookstore and has a shared internal side entrance. The coffee shop is one of multiple retail businesses and restaurants in Tollgate Marketplace, which is at Route 24 and Marketplace Drive in Bel Air.

The Starbucks is scheduled to close permanently Feb. 18, according to the sign.

The sign included a message thanking customers “for being part of our store community.”

“You are the heart of who we are at Starbucks,” the message continued. “It has been a great pleasure to connect with you every day. We are very thankful to have played a role in your daily routine and that you have shared these moments of your life with us.”

LeBron expressed shock about the closing as she exited carrying a bag with reading materials from the Barnes & Noble and food and drink purchased at the Starbucks..

“The girls there, they are like my daughters,” she said of the employees. “I mean, they are incredible.”

The store was open and active Wednesday afternoon. Several Starbucks employees, wearing the Seattle-based company’s signature green apron, served and chatted with customers, including some who asked about the closing. The employees also discussed, among themselves, potentially hosting a celebration on the store’s final day.

The store manager referred questions to Starbucks media representatives. A company spokesperson had not returned a voice mail and email seeking comment as of press time Thursday, though.

The Tollgate Marketplace store is far from the only Starbucks store in Harford County, though, and the sign directed customers to four other stores in the area.

Starbucks stores are in the Bel Air Plaza shopping center off of Baltimore Pike, the Amyclae Business Center at Route 22 and Route 543 in Bel Air, Rock Spring Commons in Forest Hill, and on Constant Friendship Boulevard in Abingdon, according to the sign.

The coffee shops can also be found in the Target stores in Abingdon and Bel Air, and another coffee shop is slated to be built in Aberdeen, according to city officials, at Route 22 and Middleton Road.

Starbucks has more than 22,500 stores worldwide, as of 2015, according to the company website.

Bel Air resident Taylor James, 22, said she patronizes the Tollgate Marketplace Starbucks “every once in a while.”

“I like this place, it’s convenient,” she said after exiting the store Wednesday.

The Harford Community College student said she visits that Starbucks if shopping at other businesses in Tollgate Marketplace, such as the Barnes & Noble or the Einstein Bros. Bagels, or the Target, which is across Route 24 from the shopping center.

“If I’m shopping for books, I usually get coffee right afterward,” James said.

She said it is a shame the coffee shop is closing, “but I get it because there is already a Starbucks in the Target across the street, which is weird.”

Several other businesses in Tollgate Marketplace, including major national retailers, have closed in recent years. The hhgregg appliance and electronics store closed in early 2017 as the company filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its stores. The Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us next door closed in 2018 as the toy company went through bankruptcy last summer.

That left a combined 63,000 square feet of space open.

The Party City near the Michaels arts and crafts store has moved to a corner section of the shopping center, closer to the Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, according to Tim O’Connell, vice president of corporate communications for Retail Properties of America Inc., or RPAI, the Oak Brook, Illinois, firm that owns Tollgate Marketplace.

O’Connell said Wednesday that two “national retailers” have been secured as tenants for the former hhgregg and Toys ‘R’ Us spaces, although the retailers’ names cannot be announced yet.

“It’s always our goal to attract as many desirable retailers just to better serve the Bel Air region, so it’s always at the forefront for us when it comes to re-leasing this property,” he said.

He said Thursday, in a follow-up interview, that RPAI is “actively leasing” the former Party City space. The company does not currently have a lessee to announce but hopes to make an announcement later in the first quarter of this year, O’Connell said.

Facade improvements in other sections of the shopping center, which has frontage along Route 1 and Route 24, were completed last year.

O’Connell described Tollgate Marketplace as “a busy power center that’s supported by a great neighborhood.”

“It’s an asset that we’re definitely investing in,” he said.

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