Answering the calls of Joppa residents who have been without a local grocery store, a Baltimore-based developer announced it will build a full-service supermarket in Joppatowne Plaza where a Super Fresh closed five years ago.
But please excuse some residents' tepid response.
After all, since the Super Fresh shut down in February of 2000, Carolyn Hicks says she has been told by elected officials and business folks that a Klein's was on the way. Then a Weis Food Market. Then a Food Lion. All the while, an empty building has sat at the gateway to her community, the only movement coming from the birds who made it their home.
"I'll believe it when I see the building constructed and the grand opening sale," said Hicks, who does her shopping at the Mars in Woodbridge Center.
But the developer, Cordish Co., said the opening next year of a Redner's Warehouse Market is no bluff. The Reading, Pa.-based chain operates 40 stores in eastern Pennsylvania and is making a move into Maryland with an Elkton location scheduled to open this month.
Talks began over the summer, and a lease was signed just before Thanksgiving, said Glenn Weinberg, a development director for Cordish.
"Since the [Super Fresh] closing, we've been looking for a first-quality, full-line grocery store and that's what they are," Weinberg said.
County officials hope the supermarket's debut can continue a rebirth for the shopping center on U.S. 40 and Joppa Farm Road, which sat virtually empty for a time after its anchors, Super Fresh and KMart, closed.
C-Mart, a 70,000-square-foot discount clothing store, opened in October 2003. Last month, one of its sales generated so much of a frenzy that sheriff's officers were called to calm the crowd. The county granted C-Mart a tax credit in October for expansion.
"We've worked very closely with Cordish over the last couple of years to try to capture the right use for that shopping center," said J. Thomas Sadowski, the county's economic director. "We're very pleased with the addition of Redner's."
The employee-owned chain started in 1970 when Earl and Mary Redner combined her savings account and his stock and pension money to buy two small supermarkets near Reading. Since then, the company has added several stores in eastern Pennsylvania and New York.
Redner's was one of the first to develop the "warehouse" grocery store format, which caught on in the 1980s amid a "no-frills, good pricing" movement that died out in the late 1990s, said Meg Major, a senior editor of Progressive Grocer, a trade publication. But Redner's has stuck with the format and perfected it, Major said.
"They're a relatively quiet company that stuck with a pretty compelling format and has perfected it," she said.
The Joppatowne location, which will be double the size of the Super Fresh, will employ 120 full- and part-time employees.
According to a news release, the store will include a bakery, full-service deli, fresh produce, meat and seafood departments and self-checkout terminals.
To accommodate the larger store, Cordish wants to tear down the existing structure. The surrounding stores would remain open. A site plan will be presented to the Harford County Development Advisory Committee on Dec. 21.