Charming Shoppes to buy White Marsh warehouse

Distribution facility would employ up to 280

September 18, 2002|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Charming Shoppes Inc. a Bensalem, Pa.-based plus-size apparel chain, has agreed to purchase the White Marsh warehouse abandoned by Warner Bros. Studio Store in a deal expected to eventually create several hundred jobs.

The company, which plans to open the 392,500-square-foot operation in 2004, expects to hire 150 employees. The work force is expected to grow to 280 in the ensuing three years.

"We are pleased to have secured such a desirable, well-located site in Baltimore County for our new distribution facility," said Joseph M. Baron, Charming Shoppes' chief operating officer and executive vice president.

"The White Marsh area affords us a skilled labor force, and an ideal distribution network, including the port of Baltimore and access to the interstate highway system."

The $17.3 million deal to buy the building from Time Warner Entertainment Co. LP has not closed. Charming Shoppes expects the deal, brokered by William M. Pellington, a vice president at CB Richard Ellis, to be completed this year.

"Every new job is important," said Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "We are particularly pleased that Charming Shoppes chose White Marsh out of all their available options for a new distribution center. When a company brings new jobs and capital investment to Baltimore County, the entire state economy benefits."

State and Baltimore County officials have been courting the company and have offered incentives valued at $1.78 million.

Charming Shoppes would benefit from a $1.5 million state loan to Maryland Economic Development Corp. to purchase equipment that would be leased to the company.

Baltimore County also offered a $150,000 loan from its revolving loan fund.

The distribution center's employees would be trained on a racking system with help from $120,000 provided by the Maryland Industrial Training Partnership and $10,000 from Baltimore County's office of Employment and Training.

Time Warner, which opened the warehouse in 1995, did not receive incentives, but the warehouse, though not among the region's largest, was praised for bringing jobs to the region. It was expected to employ 400 but was phased out after the company closed its 150 retail stores.

Charming Shoppes operates 2,311 stores in 48 states under the names Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Fashion Bug Plus, Catherine's Plus Sizes, Monsoon and Accessorize.

The new center would supply apparel and accessories to the company's Lane Bryant chain, which operates 655 stores, including 21 in Maryland. Charming Shoppes acquired the chain last year. Merchandise is now distributed through a Columbus, Ohio, center operated by Limited Brands Inc. The contract for those distribution services expires in 2004.

"To have Charming Shoppes, the third-largest specialty retailer in the country, open a new distribution center in Maryland is a win for the residents of Baltimore County and the state of Maryland," said David S. Iannucci, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

"Our skilled work force, well-developed transportation infrastructure, progressive financing programs and excellent quality of life all helped to bring these new jobs to Maryland."

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