Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giant Food store at Fox Chapel to close

Shopping center is key to affordable housing efforts, planners say

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Giant Food will close its supermarket in Germantown’s Fox Chapel Shopping Center in about two months, according to company officials.

All of the store’s 14 full-time and 48 part-time employees will have the chance to relocate to another store, said spokeswoman Jamie Miller. A written statement from company officials announcing the closing of the store, located at 19721 N. Frederick Road, gave few details on the reasons for their decision.

‘‘After a thorough review of the operating performance of our stores, we made a very difficult decision to close the Fox Chapel location,” said Jim Astuto, Giant’s executive vice president of operations.

He urged customers at the Fox Chapel Giant to shop at the Neelsville Village Center, 20944 Frederick Road, which is being renovated.

Other Giant stores in Germantown located less than five miles from the Fox Chapel store are the Kingsview Giant at 18331 Leaman Farm Road and the Germantown Commons Giant at 13060 Middlebrook Road. Safeway also operates stores at 20211 Goshen Road, Gaithersburg and 9639 Lost Knife Road, Gaithersburg.

Miller said the grocer is working to identify another retail tenant for the Fox Chapel space.

The 50,000 square-foot Giant forms a major part of the shopping center that county planners consider a key to their hopes for maintaining affordable housing as the neighboring Middlebrook Home Park is redeveloped over the next several years. Bozzuto Homes has announced plans to replace the trailer park with a mixed-use development that planners hope will include at least as many affordable housing units as the 185 or so currently at the site.

A steep grade and retaining wall make it difficult for trailer park residents to reach the center. County planners would like to see a provision for the redevelopment of the shopping center included in the master plan that is currently under revision.

Sue Edwards, the I-270 corridor team leader for the Montgomery County Planning Board, said the loss of the Giant will not necessarily hurt efforts to redevelop the shopping center.

‘‘It is an anchor and most shopping centers like to have a food store, but it doesn’t mean it won’t work without one,” she said.

Customers in the parking lot outside the Fox Chapel supermarket Thursday shrugged off news of the closing, although they said they were surprised.

‘‘This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Erica Jacobson of Germantown, who said she’s been shopping at the Fox Chapel Giant for decades. ‘‘It’s convenient; that’s the only reason I come.”

Ilya Beloozerov of Clarksburg said he was surprised to learn that the store he has shopped at once a week for a year was closing.

The store is near his workplace, but he said he foresaw no problem in taking his business to other supermarkets.

‘‘I don’t have any preference for anything,” he said.

Pharmacy customers were notified by mail about the closing and given details on transferring their records to another location, Miller said. Prescription records have been transferred to other Giants near the Fox Chapel location.

Landover-based Giant operates more than 180 stores in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington and employs about 21,000, according to the company Web site.