One day after the city Health Department closed Pimlico's Super Pride market for unsanitary conditions, workers carted off meat and wiped down shelves yesterday, while customers debated whether they would continue to shop there.
Store officials plan to reopen the store in the 3700 block of W. Belvedere Ave. this morning, but area residents, who swapped stories yesterday of spoiled meat, withered vegetables and loaves of bread gnawed by mice, said they were not sure they would go back.
"It's about time. This place was a nightmare," said neighbor Lisa Freeman.
The store was closed after Health Department food inspectors conducted a surprise visit Wednesday afternoon and discovered plumbing problems, unsafe food temperatures, and an infestation of flies, ants and mice.
"The list of problems is of a significant magnitude. It is quite unusual for a large supermarket chain to have a store closed," city Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson said.
Oscar Smith, who owns seven Super Prides in the city and one in Baltimore County, said the store "dropped the ball in a number of places, but steps will be taken to rectify the problem." He also said it was the only store affected by the unsanitary conditions.
But a Super Pride employee who works at the Belvedere Avenue store and the Super Pride at Patterson Avenue and East Chase Street said both stores have similar problems.
"The mice eat the steak, hamburger, chicken you should see all the stuff we have to throw away," the employee said.
A Sun reporter yesterday saw dirty floors and a half-dozen mouse traps on the bread racks behind the loaves at the East Chase Street store.
Beilenson said the presence of mouse traps in the store indicates a problem, but it shows the chain is doing something about it.
The health commissioner said he is unsure when that store was last inspected, but said all stores are inspected twice a year. The Belvedere Avenue store has had a "spotty record" for several years, Beilenson said.
Smith acknowledged that the mouse, ant and fly problems will not have been eradicated by today's planning opening. "We have resolved all major issues, but there is more to be done and we are moving steadfastly to resolve those issues," he said.
The Health Department closes about 100 restaurants and cafes each year, Beilenson said. Santoni's Market in Highlandtown was the last grocery store to be closed. That happened in February 1997 after health inspectors found mice infestation. Smith said despite Wednesday's closing, he is confident his business will survive. "It is very embarrassing and discouraging," he said. "That is not the way we do business."