I. Gerald Sidle surveys the empty space at Marley Station, envisioning his new store -- junior apparel over here, skateboards and roller blades back there, swimsuits in just this spot.
Sidle is the last family member in a line of retailers that's been around since the dawn of the automobile. He knows about changing with the times.
He has renamed the store he's moving from Harundale Mall Pacific Edge, calling to mind the California lifestyle that inspires clothinghe knows kids go for.
The active wear for teen-agers and 20-something customers bears no resemblance to the merchandise his father andgrandfather sold when they opened Sidle's, North County's first department store, nearly 70 years ago.
The old Sidle's, at Crain Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, started as a soda fountain and expanded. It carried a full clothing line for the entire family, frominfants to ladies, sizes 3 to 50, plus shoes, school supplies and, for a while, even appliances.
Styles may have changed, but Sidle still maintains the family's original business philosophy.
"My dad and my grandfather always had the feeling that if you treat the customer right, give good service, they'll come back," says Sidle, 56. "They were always price-conscious and very much into making sure the customer gets the best value. That's the way we are today."
That kind of good business sense has allowed three generations of his family toweather shifts in shoppers' tastes and habits, Sidle believes. It has allowed a family owned business to survive the shopping mall's takeover of downtown shopping and even the razing of the block with the original store for urban renewal.
Sidle's has willingly changed with the times, from the downtown department store -- the first and, fordecades, the only of its kind in North County -- to Sidle's Jean Scene, a Harundale Mall store that sold blue jeans and attracted youngercustomers. The latest incarnation, Pacific Edge, is set to open by Nov. 1.
"Either we grow and change our situation or we wouldn't last," says Sidle. "We've got to bring our store along. To compete with stores today, you've got to have a good-looking store, help that knows what they're doing, realistic prices and things the kids want. For today's shopper, you have to be specific in your approach."
In theearly days of the business, which Jacob Sidle and his son Herman started in 1922, the department store was the only game in town -- unless a shopper took the long trip to downtown Baltimore.
Sidle helpedout in the store as a young boy, when his family lived in an apartment upstairs.
"We've never gotten too fancy, with merchandising managers or executives," he says. "The whole family was on the sales floor selling." At various times, an uncle, a cousin and a brother-in-law have helped run the business, too.
His uncle, Dr. A. Frank Sidle, ran a dental practice in an office above the store. Glen Burnie native Muriel Carter remembers going to the dentist there as a child in the 1930s.
"The treat was after the dentist to go to Sidle's soda fountain," she recalls.
She remembers shopping for school clothes and, as a high school student, school supplies .
"Sidle was a definite landmark for all those years," said former state Sen. Alfred J. Lipin, a native of Lipin's Corner. "It was the cornerstone in the center of town, the only department store. When I needed tennis shoes, my mother would always bring me to Sidle's."
Competition came in the form of Robinson's department store, which opened a few blocks awayfrom Sidle's in the late 1940s. Major competition followed with the advent of the shopping mall. Harundale Mall opened in 1958.
About 12 years ago, the county bought out businesses on the Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard block where Sidle's once sat alongside the Town Grill Delicatessen, a photographers studio, a barber shop, a beauty salon and Little Tavern Hamburgers. A few years earlier, the Sidle family had opened Sidle's Jean Scene in Severna Park Mall. That store closed about 1 1/2 years ago.
When the county bought the old department store, Sidle considered rebuilding nearby. He rejected that idea when offered a chance to move into Harundale Mall. There, he opened anotherSidle's Jean Scene, assumed full control of the business and his father retired.
The Jean Scene will close by the end of the year, andSidle will concentrate on Pacific Edge. The new store will carry thesame selection of Levi's jeans as Jean Scene, junior, young men's and boys' sizes, accessories and shoes.
"This is where the future is," says Sidle of Marley Station. "It's very strong with young people.This is where they like to shop."
But that doesn't mean longtime customers won't like it, too.
In Harundale, "a lot of customers would come in with their grandchildren and say, 'I bought all your parents' clothes and my clothes at Sidle's for years, and now I'm bringing my grandchildren to shop."