Shoppers say they will miss small grocery

Independent market to close before chain opens


April 21, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

As Lisbon Center in western Howard County makes room for a nearly 34,000-square-foot Food Lion, an independent grocery store known for its service and excellent fried chicken is preparing to close.

Harvest Fare will shut its doors before Food Lion opens next spring, said James W. Linton Jr., president of Groceteria Inc., which owns Harvest Fare.

Linton said MIE Properties Inc., which owns Lisbon Center and was in search of an anchor store, had given him and his two partners the option to expand. But he said that the partners chose not to commit to a 20-year lease and instead came to an agreement with MIE to close.

Residents and other business owners requested the larger supermarket, said Jerry Wit, vice president of marketing for MIE. "This is really in response to the market, to them," he said.

Although many of Harvest Fare's customers said yesterday that they drive five miles to Mount Airy for most of their shopping, most are disappointed to learn the store will be closing.

"We'll miss it," said George Warfield of Woodbine, who picks up 10 pounds of steamed shrimp at Harvest Fare on holidays.

Once Food Lion is open, however, "we may shop in there," he added.

Several customers said they believed that a chain store could not replicate what Harvest Fare offers.

"I do not want a larger store," said Lisbon resident Kris Currier, who shops at Harvest Fare almost exclusively. "If I ask for anything special, they order it.

"You can be in and out in five minutes," she added.

"The elderly do not have to walk so far inside the store to get what they need," said Linton, the store's owner.

Gail Steinmetz, who works in Lisbon and said she buys lunch at Harvest Fare nearly every day, described the store's chicken salad as "out of this world."

"I think everything is processed at those big chains," she said.

Harvest Fare's fried chicken is also a big draw. "That's the biggest gripe we hear: `Where are we going to get the fried chicken from?'" said store manager Lee Sirk.

Tom Goodman, who has lived off Old Frederick Road for about five years, worried that traffic will increase at the roundabout at Woodbine and Old Frederick roads when the new store opens.

"That circle, morning and afternoon, is already a lot of fun to get through," he said.

Wit said MIE began a search for an anchor grocery store in 2000, after a High's convenience store opened in the shopping center five years ago and competed with Harvest Fare.

"We had one convenience store and one very large convenience store," he said. MIE is looking for a drugstore or hardware store to move into Harvest Fare's space, he said.

A lot of the original tenants who moved in when the shopping center was built in 1989 are still there, he said. "Their business should improve now with the added draw that Food Lion will bring," Wit said.

Jeff Lowrance, a spokesman for Food Lion, said the supermarket chain looks at population, potential for growth, available land, access to transportation and grocery stores that already serve the area when choosing locations.

`Customer research'

"We'll be doing customer research to make sure we're offering those things our customers in western Howard County will want," he said. Food Lion operates markets in Elkridge and Scaggsville in Howard County.

Lowrance said the company expects to open a long-awaited store in Columbia's Oakland Mills Village Center by the end of this year or early next year in space that has been vacant since a Metro supermarket closed in April 2001. Food Lion is accepting bids from contractors to renovate that space.

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