Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Businesses struggle with loss of anchor stores

Two shopping centers lose tenants after Giant consolidates operations in Bowie area

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Raphael Talisman⁄The Star
Sprint Nextel storeowner Paul Zahler (right) of Bowie and friend Ted Orr of Columbia roll out merchandise Jan. 31 in preparation for the store’s closing. Zahler’s business at the Pointer Ridge Plaza Shopping Center lost clients after the Giant store closed in October.
Two Bowie shopping centers have lost at least five tenants since the closures of their Giant anchor stores, and several remaining businesses say the fall-off in customer traffic continues to negatively impact sales.

Pointer Ridge Plaza Shopping Center on Route 301 currently has three vacancies, at least one of which occurred soon after the grocery store anchor left in October. Bowie Plaza, on Laurel-Bowie Road, has four vacancies. Giant closed their Bowie Plaza location last September.

‘‘It’s ruined everybody,” said Frank D’Ignati, who has operated Fresh Pizza at Pointer Ridge for the past eight years. On a recent afternoon just before midday, only one customer sat in D’Ignati’s restaurant.

‘‘For lunch right now we would usually be packed until 2 p.m.,” he said.

Rocky Patel, owner of Bowie Liquor in Bowie Plaza, said the store’s business has dropped 15 to 20 percent since the Giant closed.

‘‘The rent keeps going up every year and for business to go down it is hard,” Patel said.

He said the ice cream and photography stores in the plaza closed soon after Giant left.

To consolidate operations in the Bowie area, Giant shut down the two smaller stores and opened a mega-store at Bowie’s Free State Mall.

The Landover-based company has continued to lease the space in Bowie Plaza, which has prevented competing grocery stores from moving in. Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant, declined to discuss what would become of the empty space, citing company policy.

Giant, however, is no longer leasing the space at Pointer Ridge, disclosed Gary Rappaport, the president of Rappaport Companies that owns the shopping center.

The Pointer Ridge owners plan to convert the space into two or three smaller stores, Rappaport said. The mall owner also plans to build the Amber Ridge shopping center on 20 acres of land on the northwest quadrant of Route 301 and Mitchellville Road, adjacent to the Pointer Ridge shopping center.

‘‘By March we will have renovation drawings of what [Pointer Ridge] will look like,” Rappaport said.

After Amber Ridge is constructed, Pointer Ridge will undergo a redesign, he said. There will be room for a major anchor store as well as an additional 30 tenants. According to city documents from March 2007, Pointer Ridge had 19 tenants and no vacancies and Bowie Plaza had 27 tenants and 27 percent vacant space, including the empty Giant.

John Henry King, Bowie’s economic development director, said some stores in the shopping centers have been able to weather the storm.

‘‘We have some well-established businesses that have not felt the impact,” he said.

Wendell Logan, manager of Duron Paints and Wallcoverings in Bowie Plaza, said Giant’s closing has had no impact on his business, the majority of which is contract work.

Many in the city, like Bowie Chamber of Commerce executive director Kelly Pierce, would prefer to see the vacancies filled.

‘‘We have suggested that Magruder’s would like to come back into the community at some location and, gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have a Trader Joe’s in the community,” Pierce said. ‘‘Unfortunately it’s more complicated than that.”

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