Dozens of shoppers at the Giant Food store in the Rotunda shopping center filled their baskets with groceries Wednesday morning, checked out and then bid farewell to the supermarket that had been a mainstay in the North Baltimore community for 41 years.
“I’m going to say boo-hoo and I’ll see you down the road,” said Ann Roszel, 92, who said she was a regular shopper at the Rotunda market. “This is my home away from home.”
Roszel won’t have to drive far once the doors close for good Thursday afternoon.
Giant officials and community leaders will cut the ribbon on a new 48,500-square-foot store about a mile away in the Green Spring Tower Square Thursday evening.
The store will formally open Friday at 6 a.m. with a full-service deli, bakery, seafood and floral department among its offerings and 17 check-out lanes. New organic and gluten-free products will also debut, said Jamie Miller, a Giant spokesman.
Located in a former Super Fresh and Fresh & Greens site, the space has been totally renovated, Miller said, but he declined to say how much the corporation had spent on the project.
About 100 new jobs have been created at the site. A shuttle service run by the nonprofit Action in Maturity will take senior citizens who live in Roland Park Place, adjacent to the Rotunda, to the new grocery, Miller said.
“The closing of the Rotunda Giant is the end of an era, and the opening of a new Giant is the beginning of a new era,” Miller said, adding that a plan to expand the Rotunda store from its 33,000-square-foot size was rejected in favor of the new location earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the Rotunda development is losing its retail anchor.
Plans for a $100 million redevelopment of the site that will include apartments and a parking garage are in the works, said Chris Bell, a senior vice president for owner Hekemian & Co., based in New Jersey.
“We’re getting our ducks in a row with architects and engineers,” Bell said this week. “We’re working through a redevelopment program.”
Bell said he is uncertain how the loss of the Giant at the Rotunda will affect the overall sales for the remaining retailers, which include a dry cleaner, a dress shop, a movie theater, an optician, a Radio Shack and a Hair Cuttery.
“I hope that it will have minimal effect on our current tenants in the short run,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to minimize any negative impact to our current tenants. We will support them in every way we can.”
Bell said the decision by Giant Food to leave the Rotunda was “a good thing” because it allows the developers to move full speed ahead in the redevelopment and redesign. He met with members of the community in the Rotunda in late February to outline the plans for the redevelopment.
But some customers of the grocery store aren’t so certain about that.
“I’m very upset they are moving,” said Susan Marbury as she carried two bags of groceries out of the store Wednesday. “I wish they would have stayed and put money into the Rotunda. I know it’s a business decision, but this distresses me. I’m really concerned for the Rotunda — it’s steadily going downhill.”