Starting a new business in downtown Annapolis is nearly impossible these days unless it's a relatively small retailer moving into an existing building.
But, for new businesses looking for the Annapolis connection, the area surrounding the Annapolis Mall is providing both the name and the space.
The area surrounding the intersection of Generals and Defense highways in Annapolis is experiencing a mini-boom in new business. A new movie theater recently opened on nearby Forest Drive. And a new Toys-R-Us is being built along Generals Highway, across from Annapolis Mall, which itself has plans to expand.
"Yes, it is a very busy area but it's an indication to us that it's a real growing area," said John Suozzo, general manager of the toy chain's regional headquarters in Lanham. "We believe there's a market there that will prove very beneficial to us."
Jeannette Wessel, executive vice president of the Anne Arundel Trade Council, said the new Toys-R-Us will be moving into a "very vibrant commercial area" of the county.
"I think this says something for the economy of the county," Wessel said. "There has been quite a bit of growth in that area."
An international toy retailer based in Paramus, N.J., Toys-R-Us is planning to build a one-story, 45,000-square-foot store. Demolition of the Baldwin Service Center, which was on the site, has begun and construction is to begin shortly, Suozzo said.
The store, which is expected to be completed in three to four months, will be very similar to existing Toys-R-Us outlets, Suozzo said. However, the planned store is based on a new prototype and will include some minor changes, he said.
For example, entrances and exits to the building will be positioned differently than in existing stores. And, the outside of the building will be gray instead of the usual brown, Suozzo said. The company also plans to build a parking lot for up to 300 vehicles, he said.
The chain's merchandise and selection will remain the same, Suozzo added.
"Each year the new season brings new products," Suozzo said. "Kids are interested in anything new and innovative. But we still have our old standbys. Barbie is still around."
Suozzo said he did not have an estimate on construction costs for the new building.
Wessel said the opening of the new Jennifer Road interchange onto U.S. 50 and the existing Patuxent Boulevard will help to alleviate the local traffic which often jams around Defense and General highways.
Toys-R-Us expects to employ between 50 and 130 people at the store, depending on the season, Suozzo said.
The Annapolis area store will be the sixth Toys-R-Us store in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The chain's other stores are in Towson, Glen Burnie, Rosedale, Catonsville and Owings Mills -- site of its newest area store.
Toys-R-Us has 451 stores in the United States, and 98 additional stores abroad. The company also operates 164 Kids-R-Us clothing stores worldwide.