WESTMINSTER — Supermarket sleuths have been on the prowl.
They've strolled by the string beans, eyeballed the eggs, monitored the meat and sniffed the seafood.
They don't buy; good spies just look. They scope out prices, displays and special offers.
Today, some of these sleuths will be stalking the aisles of the new Giant Food store opening in Cranberry Square at Route 140 and Center Street.
"We all have our intelligence practices," said Richard A. Pasewark Sr., advertising director for thePennsylvania company operating Martin's Food Market in 140 Village Shopping Center.
"They (Giant representatives) visit our stores allthe time. We visit theirs," he said.
Terry M. Collins, store director at SuperFresh on Englar Road, said he has been peering through the windows at Giant since it's been under construction.
"It's a beautiful store," he said.
Giant is 56,139 square feet of neatly stacked and shelved food, household items and personal-care products. Ithas a deli case, gourmet meat department, Fannie Mae candy counter, flower shop, bakery, pharmacy and salad bar.
The sign in front proclaims it a "Super Giant."
Employees have been stocking the store for the last 3 1/2 weeks, general manager Thomas G. Barron said. Lastnight, they celebrated at an open house for themselves and their families.
Almost all 225 employees are county residents, said Barron,a Westminster resident.
Barron has worked for Giant since 1967. This is the fourth store where he's worked as general manager. He lastworked at the Chatham Mall Giant in Ellicott City, Howard County.
Collins said he expects his customers will venture down Route 140 from SuperFresh to Giant because it's "human nature" to explore. But he's confident they'll return, even though Giant is the 13th-largest supermarket chain in the country.
"They're going to do some business, but I think we'll do fine. We've treated our customers right," Collins said.
William A. Ferencz, store manager at the Westminster Co-op Supermarket in the Westminster Shopping Center, said people shop at his store because they know where everything is and they know the employees.
"They feel comfortable. When they have a problem, they come straight to me. I've worked here 20 years," he said.
Ferencz said he's concerned about new competition but isn't running any special sales this week.
"It's a waiting game for everybody. We don't know how much impact Giant will have. It's a big name. We'll just have to wait and see," he said.
Carol Ernst, director of consumer services for Weis Markets, based in Sunbury, Pa., said, "We welcome competition. We compete with Giant all over the state, so it's nothing new."
Giant, based in Landover, Prince George's County, has 153 storesin Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Sales last year were $3.35 billion, the company said.
Barron said prices at the new store will be competitive with other grocery stores in Westminster.
The new Giant has a bulk-food section where customers can buy dog bones, spices, pasta, fresh popped corn and other items in the quantity they want.
It also has a "Superdeal" aisle where larger-than-normal packagesof food, soda, disposable diapers and other items are offered at a discount of 20 percent or more, he said.
Construction on another supermarket here, Food Lion Inc., is scheduled to begin this fall at the Englar Business Center, said Nelson S. Zahler, president of Maerk Ltd., a Westminster development company.
Other shops at Cranberry Square will be open by June 8, the scheduled grand opening date, said Larry Lichtenauer of KMS Group Inc. of Columbia, Howard County, the center's developer.
A Wendy's restaurant is the only other businessopen now, although Race Pace, a bicycle shop is set to open this week, he said.