Finkelstein's closing Owings Mills store High rent, low profit cited in the decision to close one of four stores.

October 31, 1991|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,Evening Sun Staff

Finkelstein's, a retail clothing store and Baltimore tradition since 1922, is closing its Owings Mills Mall store, citing high rents and low profits.

Arnold Finkelstein, general manager of the four-store local chain, said yesterday that the store in Owings Mills will close Jan. 1 when its five-year lease expires.

The chain's other stores, in Towson, Bel Air and White Marsh, will remain open. Finkelstein's has been a mainstay among Baltimore's specialty retailers since its first store opened on West Chesapeake Avenue in Towson in 1922.

Most of the company's growth occurred within the last 12 years when it opened its other suburban locations. The most recent was five years ago at Owings Mills.

"Owings Mills is the only store that's really not profitable," said Finkelstein. "We do business there, but the overhead is too high to come out profitably."

Finkelstein said his company attempted to negotiate with the mall's management, the Rouse Co., about lowering the rent on the 3,800-square-foot space the store currently occupies. The talks were unsuccessful, however.

"They [Rouse Co. officials] said they have another retailer waiting to go in there as soon as we leave," he said. "If they would reduce the rent like we asked them to, we would stay."

Finkelstein was particularly critical of the Rouse Co.'s marketing strategy for Owings Mills, saying too much emphasis has been placed on luring upscale shoppers.

"I've had customers say they don't like coming to Owings Mills because they don't think they can afford it," he added. "They listen or they see the ads and they think it's not for them."

Mall officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Owings Mills store is not the only Finkelstein's located in a mall.

The chain has for 10 years operated a store at White Marsh Mall, which is also a Rouse Co. property. But Finkelstein said business at the White Marsh location is much better than at Owings Mills. And the rent is cheaper.

A store at Bel Air Plaza, on U.S. 1 near the Harford Mall, is 12 years old and also doing well, said Finkelstein, who attributed the store's success to the lower overhead associated with a strip center.

In 1930, Finkelstein's moved its Towson store from West Chesapeake Avenue to the 400 block of York Road, where the store remains today.

Finkelstein described the Towson location as highly profitable, adding that it would continue to benefit from the "overflow" of customers from such projects as Towson Town Center and Towson Commons.

Finkelstein conceded that the recession and competition from other retailers has hurt business. The store's emphasis on a range of sportswear items positions it toe to toe against such retailers as L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, The Gap and County Seat.

"You don't have an operation today that has no competition," Finkelstein said. "Competition is everywhere."

Also, retailers are forced to accept lower markups today "because everybody wants sales," he said.

The consolidation sale at all of Finkelstein's stores has just concluded at three locations. The sale will continue at Owings Mills until that store closes.

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