25 to lose jobs in Bel Air when Kiddie City closes

June 06, 1993|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Twenty-five employees will lose their jobs when Lionel's Kiddie City closes its Bel Air store, store manager Tim Gnap said Thursday.

"Something like this is always difficult to deal with," said Mr. Gnap, who has worked for Lionel Leisure for 15 years. "We were notified [of the decision] by electronic mail about two hours before it was released to the media.

"As one might expect, the mood around here has been somber since the announcement was made. Everyone was hoping we would weather the storm," he said.

Lionel Corp. plans to liquidate Lionel Leisure, a subsidiary that runs the 28-store chain and includes eight stores in Maryland.

Lionel Corp. had filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 1982. It shut dozens of stores, but expanded again after emerging from bankruptcy in 1985.

Mr. Gnap said that there is no official closing date but speculated that it could be anywhere from six to 12 weeks. That decision will be made by the creditors, he said.

Talking only on terms of anonymity as they left the store after their work shift, several employees were concerned about their future.

"I haven't had time to think about my next job," said one women who has worked at the store for several years. "I really need to work, what with bills and all."

Another women said, "I hear that Toys 'R' Us is looking for a place in the Bel Air area. Maybe they will look at this building."

A third Kiddie City employee said she would seek employment with one of the restaurants in the area, adding, "I've had it with the retail business. I don't see restaurants closing up, and the restaurants always seem crowded."

Vincent Polimeni, owner of Tollgate Mall, acknowledged in April that he has been negotiating with the Toys 'R' Us and T. J. Maxx to move to his center at Tollgate Road and Route 1 (Baltimore Pike).

Mr. Polimeni's company, Bel Air Square, came out of Chapter 11 on April 7. He plans to convert the enclosed mall into a strip shopping center.

Although Mr. Polimeni has not filed permit applications with Bel Air, he awarded a contract to Getz Taylor Architect of Havre de Grace to design the center.

Lionel Leisure had been trying to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code since June 1991. On May 25, the creditors' committee voted to liquidate Lionel Leisure.

The company, which has lost money steadily in recent years, reported losses of $100.3 million on revenue of $291.5 million for its fiscal year that ended Jan. 30.

Since Christmas, Kiddie City had closed about 40 stores in an effort to survive as a scaled-down company.

Lionel was once the nation's leading maker of model trains, but the company left the train business in 1969. Kiddie City, which was founded in 1957, rose to become the nation's second-largest toy superstore, trailing only Toys 'R' Us.

Other Maryland stores closing are in Catonsville, Jumpers Hole, Perring Plaza, Liberty Road, Laurel, Forestville and Frederick; stores in Hanover, Pa., and Fairfax, Va., will also be shut down.

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