Song Kim, owner of Buddy's Pizza, said he didn't know the sign along Camp Meade Road or the banner on his van or another sign above his store weren't allowed by the county.
Kim said business has been slow at the fast-food shop in the Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center since he took over in April, too slow for a man with a family to support.
Now the county has told him the signs and banners must be gone by Aug. 16. Other merchants along Camp Meade Road are waiting to see if they, too, get a visit from the county.
Since April, a neighborhood association has filed at least a half-dozen complaints, including one against the pizza shop. The county is at odds with the shopping center, Stavlas Center, and a professional office building because the merchants keep putting signs out in the 500 block of Camp Meade Road.
"When you get rid of one sign, another one pops up," said Gerald Starr, vice president and planning and zoning committee chairman of Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association.
The strip of similar businesses -- fast-food restaurants, bakeries, card shops -- creates stiff competition, said merchants. And that's why they put the signs out: They need to compete.
Merchants said not enough passers-by notice their businesses because they sit off the road. But the signs, most knee- or waist-high, catch people's eyes, they said. They complain that some of the buildings are so full of tenants that the roadside marquees put up by management don't have room for the names of every merchant's business.
That's the situation in which Edith Robertson finds herself. The owner of the Postal Stop Shop in the shopping center bought a $165 sign and put it in the grass along Camp Meade Road. It did the trick.
"You'd have to be on a tricycle not to be able to see our little sign," said Robertson. "It comes up to my knees, and it was nicely done."
She removed the sign about a week ago after a county land-use officer told her to. Now the sign sits in a corner of her shop, gathering dust.
What bothers her, Robertson said, is that other merchants haven't removed their signs.
Richard Gauch, zoning enforcement supervisor, said the land-use enforcement officer who usually handles the area is ill. Gauch said each problem will be addressed as quickly as possible.
Walt Blahut, owner of Sport- arama, the only retail business at the professional building at 518 Camp Meade Road, said: "I think it's ridiculous, really, that somebody would complain about a little sign on the road. Maybe some of the banners out here, but a permanent sign? We're just trying to make a living."