The Belvedere Market is about to loose its fourth major establishment soon, when Flowers at Belvedere leaves to join two former market tenants who have opened new stores nearby on York Road.
All four stores -- the others are Faidley's Seafood, Wernig Country Meats and Debbie's Produce -- had been at the market since it opened five years ago. Their departure is being blamed on high rents at Belvedere.
But Wernig, Debbie's and Flowers will be neighbors again at Drumcastle Center, where plans are under way to create an Old World-style market using two adjacent stores.
And Faidley's Seafood has an arrangement with Wernig whereby customers can order seafood by phone and pick it up the same day at Wernig.
Drumcastle Center is a small, '50s-style strip center in the 6300 block of York Road, near the city-county line, a half-mile north of Belvedere Market.
Belvedere Market, which looks like a miniature version of Lexington Market, is part of the Belvedere Square shopping center that opened in the summer of 1986 at the corner of Northern Parkway and York Road.
Faidley's left Belvedere Market last fall. David Devine, the owner of Faidley's, said he closed the Belvedere business because of rent increases and to give his daughters, who helped run it, more time with their families.
"Rents were getting too high to make it feasible for us to stay," Mr. Devine said.
Faidley's still operates a stand at Lexington Market, where various family members have conducted business for 105 years.
Wernig Country Meats, a gourmet butcher shop and delicatessen, moved to Drumcastle in May after a dispute with Belvedere management over rents.
"The rents were always high," said Pat Wernig, who owns Wernig along with her husband, Bill. "But the increases were such that we just couldn't handle it. Not in our type of business."
Most of the establishments leaving the market sell merchandise traditionally found in grocery stores, where profit margins are generally small.
Debbie Snyder, the owner of Debbie's Produce, said she was forced to leave Belvedere after refusing to sign a new lease just over two weeks ago.
Ms. Snyder already had planned to move next door to Wernig at Drumcastle Center, but she had hoped to stay at Belvedere until renovations of the new shop are completed next month. However, Thornhill Properties Inc., which manages Belvedere Square, gave her until Dec. 31 to clear out.
Ms. Snyder's new operation -- which has been renamed Debbie's Inside to distinguish it from an outside vegetable stand she has operated for 18 years -- currently occupies 100 square feet of space inside Wernig.
When Debbie's moves next door sometime next month, it will be joined by Flowers at Belvedere, which is owned by Kathleen McGuire and Karen Lock.
Another Belvedere Market merchant, Joanne Blanchard, plans to open a gourmet cheese, coffee and bakery goods store at the Drumcastle location. But she said she will keep her operations at Belvedere, which include a bakery, candy shop and snack-food operation.
Ms. Blanchard declined to discuss the management or rents at Belvedere Square.
Ms. Snyder, however, said the rent at Drumcastle is two-thirds less than at Belvedere Square.
"I can sleep at night now," she said. "The amount of money they wanted just wasn't in the figures. I could have doubled or tripled my prices, but then the customers wouldn't come in."
George Panos, president of Thornhill Properties, declined to discuss the company's rental charges.
He said, however, that his company has a waiting list of merchants who want to move into the market.
Faidley's was replaced by David Wehrs Seafood, a Chestertown-based restaurant and wholesale packing business, while Parker's Meats, a long-time Towson establishment, has moved into Wernig's space. And negotiations are under way to fill the space vacated by Debbie's, Mr. Panos said.
Merchants at Belvedere have reported "extremely good" sales for the final quarter of 1991, and the center is close to 100 percent occupied, Mr. Panos added.
Asked whether he is concerned that his former tenants will be competing with Belvedere Market, he said only that "change concerns anybody."