Speakout!

March 12, 2006

THE ISSUE: -- Wegmans Food Markets Inc. reportedly is looking for a location in Howard County that is properly zoned and large enough to satisfy a typical store of its size -- which is more than twice the size of the largest supermarkets in the area. Where do you think Wegmans should locate? Are you concerned that a store like this would hurt grocery stores in Columbia's village centers?

Wegmans' arrival would be devastating

As a partner in a family-owned business in Columbia, it would seem obvious that I would oppose Wegmans coming to Howard County. Columbia was founded on the neighborhood concept -- people shopping at their village centers in stores that were as much a gathering place as a location for goods or services.

Produce Galore -- over the last 30 years -- has embodied this concept. We have been part of the community and have evolved to stay relevant in the lives of our customers and their families. Businesses such as Produce Galore, David's Natural Market and Today's Catch are the roots of the Columbia community. The impact on small businesses such as ours would be disastrous. However, the food chains that anchor our village centers and create the biggest draw of customers for the centers would be equally devastated. We will go from "a planned community" to a community sacrificed for one or two stores.

Margaret Pendleton

Columbia

The writer and her husband, Kent, own Produce Galore.

Let market forces prevail in county

Wegmans would be a great addition to Howard County, bringing new, sustainable jobs and greatly improving the selection, cost and quality of groceries. It is time to stop protecting the Columbia village center stores and start competing -- let market forces prevail.

Sophie Gorski-Cullen

Columbia

The store would be supplementary

Having shopped at the Wegmans in Hunt Valley, I would welcome a branch here in Howard County. However, I don't feel that it would compete with the village center grocery stores. It would be fine as a resource to supplement my regular shopping needs, which are well met by the existing village center stores. The much larger size of Wegmans would not be an incentive for me to shop there for routine shopping items.

Annette McDaniels

Ellicott City

We deserve a store like Wegmans

I think it is about time we got the type of grocery stores in Columbia that our demographics here warrant and would support -- not just Wegmans, for which Columbia is a perfect market, but also Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter (which we are apparently getting one of in Kings Contrivance).

These stores all focus on customer service, excellent goods and a variety of choices and other services, as well as a pleasant environment in which to shop -- all things Giant, in particular, and Safeway have long ceased to offer.

This country operates on a free market system, and if Giant kept up its stores and offerings etc. (like they used to but have not for years, especially since Royal Ahold bought them), they could compete with Wegmans or anyone else.

Instead, we have allowed them, through their stranglehold on the market here in Columbia -- and Safeway as well -- to offer us dirty stores, unstocked shelves, diminished choices, long checkout lines and a scarcity of customer service.

It is not our problem to worry about protecting the existing stores -- Giant and Safeway. They have held a monopoly here for too long, and we have all suspected that Giant, in particular, was being protected by the Rouse Co., i.e. they made it difficult or unappealing for other chains, like the ones mentioned above, to locate here.

Enough! We deserve a store like Wegmans and I certainly hope we will get one. I am tired of traveling to Baltimore or Montgomery County to shop in these stores.

Jan Oliver

Columbia

Shoppers, support locally owned stores

Although I have heard great things about Wegmans, I am concerned about the possibility of a Wegmans store opening in Howard County.

First of all, I have serious doubts as to whether or not they will find a site that is large enough to accommodate not only the store itself but also the parking lot required, without destroying more of the open space that we value.

Secondly, traffic in Howard County is becoming worse each day, and the ingress/egress from many of the shopping centers we already have is a nightmare.

Finally, Howard County is lucky enough to have several locally owned specialty food stores, such as Roots, David's Natural Foods and Produce Galore. Perhaps we should try to find a way to encourage these stores to expand to other areas of the county. I would much rather frequent businesses owned by members of the community than a chain store.

Lauri Lee

Ellicott City

More business for everyone

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