The newest discount bridal warehouse in a Florida-based chain is planning a grand opening today in Glen Burnie, signaling a turnaround for a Ritchie Highway shopping center.
Davids Bridal Wearhouse, which sells in-stock bridal attire at discounts of up to 60 percent, has moved into an 8,000-square-foot space in Beltway Crossing.
The strip shopping center, just south of the Baltimore Beltway atthe former Farmers' Market, has struggled with vacancies, the most serious being the loss of anchor store Mr. Goodbuys last fall.
The home-improvement store closed after its owners decided to get out of the home-repair business, sell part of the chain and close other stores. That decision prompted a Hardee's restaurant to shut down. Remaining retailers worried that the center might fail.
But developer Richard B. Kabat, who built Beltway Crossing more than three years ago,said yesterday that the center is nearly fully occupied again, with Davids opening and with the anticipated opening of a new anchor.
Kabat said he is negotiating a lease with a tenant he described as a "state-of-the-art trader mart," a form of flea market that also would include a farmers' market.
He expects to sign a lease for 75,000 square feet at the end of the center farthest from Ritchie Highway in time for the tenant to open by late spring, he said.
The newest tenants -- along with retailers Drug Emporium, Mr. Mattress and Value Village, a discount store selling donated used clothing, knickknacks and furniture -- would refocus the center as a mecca for bargain hunters, Kabat said. Besides those retailers, the center has an Allstate Insurance office and CareFirst branch office. The former Hardee's still stands vacant, though Kabat said he hopes to find a replacement.
"We have a solid, stable situation," Kabat said. "With the new leases, we'll have a good situation there. The shopping center will offer a broad range of goods at bargain prices."
Originally, Kabat had planned the 180,000-square-foot center as a regional home-improvement shopping center for customers from throughout the Baltimore-Washington region. But it attracted only two housewares retailers, Mr. Mattress and Mr. Goodbuys.
Davids' owners, planning expansions throughoutthe East, chose the Glen Burnie site because of the area's demographics and because of easy access to the beltway, said co-owner Steven Erlbaum.
The store is the sixth in the chain, which operates four others in Florida and one in Philadelphia.
Manager Annette Ingermansaid she expects a brisk business at the new discount store, which fills space that never had been leased, at one end of the shopping center.
"We're going to bring more business into the area," Ingerman said. "I'm sure of it because of the traffic we're getting. People are coming from all over."
The Glen Burnie warehouse carries a full line of formal and informal bridal gowns, as well as dresses for bridesmaids, flower girls, mothers of the bride and for proms in sizes 4 to 24, Ingerman said.
To offer discounts, the chain buys dresses in bulk from manufacturers and sells its stock -- some 4,000 to 5,000 dresses at the Glen Burnie site alone -- off the rack, rather than ordering individual dresses, Erlbaum said. Prices range from $98 to $800 for bridal gowns that regularly sell for $200 to $2,500, Ingerman said.
The chain's founder and owner, Philip Youtie, runs several traditional bridal salons in Florida. In 1990, he opened his first "wearhouse."
The concept caught on because of large selections and discount prices, Erlbaum said.
Youtie "felt this was the wave of the future," Ingerman said. "This is where the economy is going. This is what people wanted."