Across the front of Mr. Goodbuys, the large, home-improvement store at Beltway Crossing shopping center, hangs a huge orange banner announcing the store is going out of business.
Down at the other end ofthe Glen Burnie center, two large stores sit vacant, their windows soaped except for some graffiti scratched in from the inside.
And closer to Ritchie Highway, Hardee's restaurant is closed up and dark. The only indication it was once a Hardee's franchise is the outline of letters that have been plucked off the wall.
Despite the dreary appearance, Richard B. Kabat, developer of the 3-year-old center, said last week he still believes Beltway Crossing is a good spot for a shopping center. The departure of Mr. Goodbuys, he said, is merely a temporary set-back.
"We're talking to several national retailers that would be good for the area and good for the center," Kabat said.
He also said he is close to a deal with a "unique specialty retailer" to fill the remaining empty space at the center, which has not been leased since it opened. Kabat said he is talking to restaurant chains to find a replacement for Hardee's.
He would not say which companies he is negotiating with to lease the space.
The departure of Mr. Goodbuys, the center's anchor and largest retailer, should be an opportunity to bring in a better mix of retailers to make the center more successful, he said.
But employees of the center's remaining three stores are not as optimistic.
"He better get somebody soon or this shopping center is going to go belly up," said one store manager who asked not to be identified.
Nelson Carter, managerof Mr. Mattress, said the company was concerned that the anchor store was pulling out. However, he said, owners of the mattress chain would "reserve judgment" on whether to stay or leave until after they see what impact Mr. Goodbuys' exit has on business.
Michael Picard, regional director of operations for Hardee's, said the loss of the center's anchor was one of the primary reasons the fast food chain did not renew its lease in late August.
After the Hardee's chain acquired five Roy Rogers Family Restaurants in the area, it planned to examine each site to determine which restaurants to keep open.
"When we learned Goodbuys was leaving, it was a pretty easy decision" to close that restaurant, he said.
The manager of Drug Emporium, a large, discount drug store chain, said the loss of the anchor store wouldimpact business but he felt confident his store would weather the storm.
"It's definitely going to hurt, them closing," said manager Willie Johnson. "But we're well-established enough . . . we're not going anywhere."
Kabat once had great plans for the center, located on 38 acres at the former farmers market, just south of the Baltimore Beltway. He believed its location would help make it a regional home-improvement shopping center, attracting customers from all over the Baltimore-Washington region.
"We want people to think of this center when they think about home improvement," Kabat said before the center opened.
But in the three years since the 180,000 square-foot center opened, it has had a hard time achieving that goal, attracting only two housewares retailers -- Mr. Mattress and Mr. Goodbuys. Mr. Goodbuys occupies more than 80,000 square feet of the center.
The only other retailer is Drug Emporium. The center currently has three other tenants: a small Allstate Insurance office; a branch office of Carefirst, a health maintenance organization; and a Value Village, a discount store selling donated used clothing, knickknacks and furniture. All proceeds from Value Village go to the National Children's Center in Washington, a non-profit organization providing services for mentally retarded children in Washington and Maryland.
According to Mr. Goodbuys' manager Richard Saul, the home repair store did well at the Glen Burnie site, bringing in customers from as far away as Bel Air and Alexandria, Va.
"We were in the top three stores in the chain," said Saul, a store manager with the chain for 12 years. The store first opened about a mile north on Ritchie Highway and moved to Beltway Crossing in the summer of 1988.
Netherlands-based Vendix International, owners of Mr. Goodbuys, has decided to get out of the homefix-up business by selling part of the chain and closing other stores, Saul said.
Regardless of its reason for leaving, Mr. Goodbuys' absence will leave a dark cloud over the shopping center until a replacement is found, store managers said.
"It plants a seed of doubt in people's minds," said Carter. "People are apprehensive . . . they wonder about the place" when they see so much empty space.