Patrons welcomed as market opens

'MR. MARS' GREETS ABERDEEN

June 20, 1993|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

It was billed as a grand opening of a Mars Super Market, but it was more like a family reunion.

It was apparent to all present Wednesday morning that they were inside a supermarket at Aberdeen Marketplace, but the atmosphere was a festive and friendly departure from the ceremonies that usually mark such events.

The host, Angelo N. D'Anna, president of the supermarket chain, was working the room, greeting guests with a handshake and flashing smile.

When it was time for the ribbon cutting, Mr. D'Anna handed a pair of scissors to Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. Much as a father trying to assemble his family, he began calling out the first names of those he wanted included in the official photograph.

Once the first Mars Super Market in Harford County opened, Mr. D'Anna raised his arms and said, "Open the doors and let the customers in. They've been waiting long enough."

As Corrine Earls pushed a cart through the door, Mr. D'Anna handed her a bouquet of roses.

"I never expected this type of reception," said Mrs. Earls, wiping away tears. "I've never been first in anything and certainly didn't expect to be greeted with flowers."

She had taken her place at the head of the line two hours before the store opened. "I've been shopping at Mars longer than I care to remember, mostly in Rosedale," she said. "I came here to see the new store."

She wasn't alone. An hour after its 9 a.m. opening, people were still lined up outside the store. "We have 300 shopping carts here that are all being used," said store Manager Howard Sisler. He estimated that there were at least 400 people inside the 42,000-square-foot facility and another 200 waiting to get in.

Adelaide DeGele couldn't resist greeting Mr. D'Anna.

"Mr. Mars, I just want you to know that I've been shopping at your store for nearly 50 years. I was a customer at your first store on Holabird Avenue" in Baltimore County, she said.

"I've been called Mr. Mars so many times," Mr. D'Anna said, "it seems natural just to respond without correcting anyone." He explained that the store was named for a sea plane -- the Mars Flying Boat -- manufactured at the Glenn L. Martin plant in Middle River during World War II. The company is now Martin Marietta Corp.

From its beginnings in Dundalk, the private, family-run business has grown to a 12-store chain employing over 1,100 people.

The interior of the new store, largest in the chain, is different from the others. Instead of murals adorning the walls, bright neon lights in shades of blue, red, yellow and green identify various departments.

Nine of the supermarkets are in Baltimore County, and two are in Anne Arundel County.

Mars had initially hoped to open a store here in 1988 after agreeing to lease space in the Aberdeen Market Place from Bel Air developer Steven R. Hankins. But while the shopping center was under construction, Mr. Hankins filed for bankruptcy in July 1991.

Mr. Hankins' largest creditor, Signet Bank, bought the center at auction in November 1991 and began negotiating the sale of the entire 100,600-square-foot property to Mars. In March 1992, the grocery chain bought the center for $3 million.

According to Mr. D'Anna, the center has leased about 60 percent of its space.

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