Mars Supermarkets plans to open first Harford store

January 03, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Mars Supermarkets has set May 5 as a target date for opening its first store in Harford County, says the chain's president, Angelo D'Anna.

The grocery store -- to be Mars' largest, at 42,000 square feet -- will be the anchor store in Aberdeen Marketplace, a shopping center under construction on state Route 22 at Beard's Hill Road.

Mars, which bought the plaza last year after Bel Air developer Steven R. Hankins filed for bankruptcy, is altering the facade of the complex as well as completing the interior of the grocery store.

Mr. D'Anna said that while the supermarket's opening is expected to be May 5, he can't ensure that all the stores in the plaza will be ready for business by then. The remainder of the plaza, which will include space for as many as 29 businesses, is 55 percent to 60 percent leased, he said.

Mr. D'Anna said the grocery store will bring 90 to 100 jobs to Harford.

Mars has been planning a move to Harford County since 1988, when Mr. Hankins approached the Dundalk-based grocery chain about the Aberdeen location.

"We jumped at the chance," said Mr. D'Anna. "We had been trying to stretch into Harford."

The firm, whose owners also include Mr. D'Anna's brothers Carmen V. and Anthony S., initially planned to rent about 40,000 square feet of space from Aberdeen Market Place Inc., the partnership that developed the plaza.

But while the shopping center was under construction, Mr. Hankins, the controlling partner and a leading commercial developer in Harford County in the 1980s, ran into financial trouble and the partnership filed for bankruptcy in July 1991.

Mr. Hankins' biggest creditor, Signet Bank, bought the plaza at auction in November 1991, and began negotiating the sale of the entire 100,600-square-foot property to Mars, Mr. D'Anna said.

In March 1992, the grocers bought the complex for $3 million.

In addition to redesigning the shopping center's facade "to break up the long look," Mr. D'Anna said architects spent four months studying structural problems that had come to light before the sale of the property.

"But all those structural and steel defects have been corrected now to the satisfaction of the county and the town of Aberdeen," he said.

Mars Supermarkets, a private, family-run business, started in 1946 with a grocery store on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk. It has grown to include nine stores in Baltimore County and two in Anne Arundel County. The stores employ more than 1,000 people.

"We're always looking for growth," said Mr. D'Anna, noting that the chain's market penetration is weak only in the western end of Baltimore County.

"We'd like to put two more stores there," he said. "But if another opportunity came up in Harford, we'd go there first."

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