County shoppers have many options

Stores: From the small shops of Annapolis to the giant Arundel Mills mall, retailers aren't scarce.

May 16, 2004|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you can't find what you're shopping for in Anne Arundel County, chances are you aren't looking hard enough.

The county offers some of the most varied shopping experiences in the state, including the "shoppertainment" of Arundel Mills, historic Main Street shopping in Annapolis and everything in between.

And if it's not available yet, chances are it could be coming soon because much renovation and redevelopment is under way.

"Shopping is a big draw for the county and we have a great variety," said Mary Jo Robey, vice president of visitor services for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau. "We have very strong regional malls, tiny villages with independently owned stores and Arundel Mills - which is a very different experience."

The Village at Waugh Chapel in Gambrills, a 770,000-square-foot mixed-use project, features retail space set in an outdoor Main Street layout. Anchor stores include Safeway, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Eckerd Drug and Pier 1 Imports. Opened in 2000, the project combines commercial office space, residential units, business and consumer services, restaurants and a 14-screen movie theatre.

Developer and owner of the project, Greenberg Commercial, is hoping to carry on that mode in the redevelopment of Parole Plaza Shopping Center.

The 33-acre site is slated to include the creation of a town center with a mix of local, regional and national retailers, service and entertainment tenants, commercial office space, a full-service hotel and residential units.

"It's smack dab in the middle of one of the best retail areas in the state," said Mark Bomse, vice president of Greenberg Commercial. "There's a lot of potential there."

`Niche retail'

In downtown Annapolis, the shopping experience is concentrated along Main Street, Maryland Avenue and West Street.

The streets and storefronts often are decorated to reflect the season. Specialty shops mix with national retailers. And shopping complements a long list of other entertainment, such as boating, restaurants, art galleries and historic tours, all within walking distance.

"It seems each neighborhood has its own niche retail," said Mike Miron, director of economic development for the city of Annapolis.

One of the main attractions, the Market House by the City Dock, will close at the end of the year to undergo a complete overhaul. It has yet to be determined what food-related vendor or vendors will be there when the renovated market reopens next year.

"A place that could meet everyone's needs, if we could strike that balance, that would be the goal," Miron said.

The biggest thing to hit the Anne Arundel County retail market in recent years was Arundel Mills. With its combination of retail and entertainment, the center offers more than 200 shops and restaurants, including Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, Muvico Egyptian 24 Theaters, FYE Superstore and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.

The mall is designed in an oval layout - just more than one-mile in diameter - with five "neighborhoods" reflecting the history and character of Maryland. There is a closed-circuit television network to keep shoppers up-to-date on events and information.

Old staples, new facets

A staple for many years in northern Anne Arundel County is Marley Station, a regional shopping mall featuring Macy's, Hecht's, Sears and J.C. Penney, plus 120 specialty stores, restaurants and movie theaters.

Gold's Gym is building a two-story complex with an outside entrance. The facility will feature four exercise studios and a kid's club.

The former Glen Burnie Mall, now known as the Centre at Glen Burnie, is undergoing a transformation that will include a new Target and 35,000 square feet of additional retail space. The opening is scheduled for October. Already a Bennigan's Grill & Tavern and a Chick-fil-A have opened on pad sites outside the mall.

"We are giving the center a complete face-lift and trying to bring this around to compete in the 2000s," said Walt Petrie, chairman of Petrie Ventures. "We felt we had an opportunity to turn this into something."

At Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis - the former Annapolis Mall - it's not a structural renovation going on, but an internal one. Most recently, the emphasis has been on families, with two fully stocked family bathrooms, a play area and free kiddy-cruisers for easy mall navigation.

"We think of this as more than just retail; it's an entertainment venue for families to come and spend time," said Scott Degraffenreid, marketing director for Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis.

The mall draws about 18 million people each year with 180 specialty shops, an 11-screen movie theater, food court, several restaurants and five anchors: Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Sears, Hecht's and J.C. Penney.

This month, customers should notice a distinct difference in customer service at the mall with bottled water being handed out, uniformed mall concierges assisting shoppers to their cars and free gift-wrap on purchases of more than $50.

"We will offer customer service beyond what is expected," Degraffenreid said.

In March, Anne Arundel County government officials announced Annapolis-based Hunter Interests Inc. would begin drafting a business plan for the Odenton Town Center and the Route 175 commercial revitalization district. The study will become a blueprint for investment in the commercial district.

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