Howard History

Village center reels from store closures

January 13, 2008

As reported Jan. 14, 1982, in The Howard Sun:

Oakland Mills village center merchants, accustomed to ringing in the new year with the merry jingle of cash registers, have been witnessing a disconcerting new variety of seasons greetings in their shop windows this year.

"The Bakers Peel regretfully announces its cessation of operation. May success be just ahead of you in 1982," reads the poster taped to Columbia's bake shop, an Oakland Mills tenant since 1970.

Just next door, the Paper Carousel, usually crammed with Christmas and New Year's cards, lies vacant after its shutdown last July. But the village center's former anchor store, the Pantry Pride outlet which closed in August, managed to brighten its own darkened premises with an unexpected new year's announcement: A Save Right supermarket will hold its grand opening February 17, two weeks ahead of its previous March 3 deadline.

"A lot of shops have been suffering from the lack of an anchor, there's been a noticeable drop in business," said Wendall Thomas, owner of the erstwhile Bakers Peel and a teacher at Atholton Senior High. "But we had no intention of going out of business when we were told in late October that our lease would not be renewed. They told me they didn't think I was devoting enough time to the bake shop [owing to his teaching schedule], when in fact I had five full-time and 10 part-time helpers."

James Ferry, owner of the Ferry Photography Studio, estimated last month that his walk-by trade was off by 20 percent as a result of the Pantry Pride closure.

Columbia Management, the village center's operator, readily acknowledged that the recession and Pantry Pride vacancy had exercised a temporary dampening effect on shop sales. But according to its retail property manager, Melissa McMullin, all the vacant stores will reopen shortly under new owners.

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