'Family' grocery bows to giants Harvest Fare store starts liquidation sale

April 01, 1997|By Jennifer Vick | Jennifer Vick,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Tired of battling larger grocery chains that have begun to dominate the South Carroll market, the owners of the Harvest Fare Supermarket in Eldersburg Plaza have decided to call it quits.

The store, a fixture at the strip center for 15 years, will begin a liquidation sale today.

Harvest Fare, whose customers continue to refer to it as "George's," has experienced a steady decline in business in recent years, even as the burgeoning Sykesville-Eldersburg area has lured Giant, Food Lion and Wal-Mart stores -- all at or near the busy intersection of Liberty Road and Route 32.

The Baltimore-based B. Green Co. purchased the supermarket, originally known as George's IGA, from owner George Mezardash in March 1994, changing the name to Harvest Fare.

"There was no advantage to keeping the store open, financially," said Russ Corner, general manager at B. Green. "The megastores have created an economic atmosphere that does not allow the small stores to survive."

Head cashier Eleanor Bruce, who lives in Eldersburg and has worked at the store since it opened, knows many customers who came to the store as children and now return with their own youngsters.

"We're not just another store. We're like a family," said Bruce, who recalls that 177 employees operated the store 10 years ago, compared with 44 today.

Store manager Brian Chelden, a Columbia resident, started working in the store 12 years ago as a grocery clerk and said it was always "a fun place to work."

The store's coffee shop, which separated the small grocery from its competition, closed Saturday. It was a popular spot for Harvest Fare's largely older clientele, Bruce said.

The store also operated a baby-sitting service for customers that was discontinued under the ownership of B. Green.

Harvest Fare's customers have remained as faithful as its longtime employees. Betty Addison started working for George's grocery stores in 1967 and has been a cashier ever since. She said senior citizens seem to like shopping at Harvest Fare because the store is easier to get around than larger stores.

"It's always been sort of a neighborly place. It took care of my needs," said Anne Haase, an Eldersburg resident who has shopped at Harvest Fare two or three times a week for years.

The B. Green Co. will continue operating stores in Baltimore and Baltimore County, Corner said. The Harvest Fare in Woodbine was sold recently, but is "still functioning and operating with business as usual," he said.

With three years to go until retirement, Bruce has only vague plans for what she'll do after leaving Harvest Fare. She said the customers will be the thing she misses the most.

"At one time, George's was the only store here. This was the place to come," Bruce said. "The faithful customers stayed with us, but it wasn't enough to keep us here."

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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