New flip-flops - even in a whimsical shade of purple - weren't going to make Julie Dobbs feel better.
With the news that Greetings & Readings, one of Maryland's largest independent bookstores and gift shops, plans to close its store in the Loch Raven area of Towson, Dobbs said, "I'm grieving - heavily."
The store, featuring merchandise ranging from ballpoint pens to bird feeders, was a reason that Dobbs, a nurse, moved nearby. She counted on finding what she was looking for, even when she wasn't looking.
"Who knew, for example, that I needed these purple flip-flops?" Dobbs said.
The owners of Greetings & Readings had announced plans for a second store in Hunt Valley's new town center. But after a dispute with the landlord in Towson, company officials say they will make an official announcement next week that they will be closing the Taylor Avenue store.
"We obviously had every intention of staying," said Steven S. Baum, president of the business. "We've been there 35 years, and we enjoyed being there. ... We did everything we could, including remodeling."
But, Baum said, the store has been unable to resolve a dispute with DLC Management Corp., owner of Loch Raven Plaza.
Adam Ifshin, president of the New York-based company, said that he intends to enforce the terms of Greetings & Readings' lease, which he says expires in 2009. A condition of the lease is that the owners operate the store, said Ifshin, adding that subleasing rights are limited.
"One of the primary reasons we bought the shopping center was because of a series of conversations we had with Mr. Baum - how this was a family business, how they'd never move, and that business was great," Ifshin said.
Ifshin and Baum declined to elaborate.
Greetings & Readings staffers have begun to break the news to customers.
Joseph Jablonski of Perry Hall said he is in the store at least once a week. "I find things I don't find anywhere else," he said.
The news has also hit community leaders hard. "Anytime you lose a well-established, well-supported business, it hurts," said Donna Spicer, executive director of the Loch Raven Business Association and the Loch Raven Community Council.
Wayne M. Skinner, a former county councilman active in the community, described the news of the planned closing as "one of those things that makes your heart sink."
"There a lot of people really attached to it - kids who work there after school, ... people who have moved away but come back to shop there," he said.
Fronda J. Cohen of the county Department of Economic Development said Loch Raven will remain a vibrant retail area.
Most of the store's 120 employees have accepted jobs at the 30,000-square-foot store set to open in July in Hunt Valley, Baum said. "It's a lovely atmosphere," he said. "It's how people shop now."