It appears that once again the blame for the demise of yet another local retailer is being laid at the doorstep of “the developers.” Delegate Liz Bobo has even gone so far as to suggest that “with the support from the local government, we could prevent something like this.”
What kind of support does Liz envision that to be?
I remember when Produce Galore first opened in Wilde Lake Village Green. At the time I was working for The Rouse Company and my boss, Kemper Sullivan was approached by Kent Pendleton who at that time wanted to set up a roadside fruit and vegetable stand in Columbia. Of course there was no room in the Columbia “plan” for a roadside stand so Kemper convinced Kent that a better alternative would be to open a simple fruit and vegetable stand in the Lynx Lane annex of the Wilde Lake shopping center. Kent soon opened a bare bones operation in approximately 1,500 square feet in a space that is now part of David’s Natural Market. It was the smallest retail space available in the center at that time.
It wasn’t long before Columbians discovered how much fresher his produce was than the produce found in the Giant grocery store across the parking lot. Produce Galore soon expanded when the adjacent retail space became available. The business continued to grow and prosper. Before long, Kent made the big jump and took over the space that was originally occupied by Columbia Hardware which went under soon after Hechinger’s opened in Dobbin Center (in a building now occupied by a Havertys furniture store). Columbia Hardware was a local retailer.
About ten years ago, Kent decided he’d like to get out of the business. He enlisted Darrell Nevin, a local commercial real estate agent, to help him find a buyer. The word on the street was that the stores labor costs were too high to justify the price he was seeking. Though Darrell was unsuccessful in finding a buyer, it was widely understood that Kent remained interested in selling.
So now the end game is here. Unable to find a buyer he has opted instead to throw in the towel. I don’t blame him but he should not be blaming the loss of Giant and the arrival of other new retailers as the reasons for his stores declining sales. Much like Bun Penny, Produce Galore did not adjust well to the demographic changes in Columbia. New competition will either make a store better or it cause its demise.
The people in Columbia and Howard County have many choices as to where they spend their money. Every day shoppers make decisions as to where they will shop. Mama Wordbones and I discussed this last night. I had stopped by the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few items including fresh fruit. The most convenient grocery store to my office on Dobbin Road was the Safeway in the Long Reach Village Center. I drove right past it on my way to the Giant on Centre Park Drive.