Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mom And Pops: Hope Or Hopeless?

The Examiner quoted the county's top economic development chief on the plight of mom and pop establishments:

Dick Story, head of the county’s Economic Development Authority, said he wasn’t sure what a program to support mom-and-pop stores would look like.

“The dynamics of competition have changed, [and] it’s incumbent upon local businesses to engage the rules of competition as they have changed,” Story said.

Del. Liz Bobo offered an idea:

To protect these stores, Bobo suggested, at least in Produce Galore’s case: What if nonprofits and area businesses were encouraged to have standing orders with the store to offer some stability?

She said state and local governments could be involved in finding ways to save the stores.

“I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say [Produce Galore] was part of the heart and soul of the community,” she said.

Management of the Wilde Lake shopping center, Kimco Realty, is scheduled to meet with the village board on Monday, according to the Sun.

"Increased competition from the new retailers, and now the big-box retailers, is drawing the lifeblood out of the village centers," said Bill Miller, owner of Today's Catch, the fish market in the center since 1977. "The village centers are the heart of the Columbia concept. So, if the village centers decline, then Columbia itself and Howard County are going to suffer the consequences. But, I don't think that's going to happen."

Miller said he considers his store, along with Produce Galore, David's and Feet First as independent anchors in their own right.

"The mixed-use residential with a heavy component of ownership-based residential, is something we should look at," he said. "What we need is a forward-looking solution to revitalizing the village centers in Columbia."

Jeff Cohen, owner of Feet First which has been in the center since 1985, said each retailer that leaves is a loss for the ones remaining.

"It does chip away," he said. "We've been lucky in the sense that for running customers, we're a destination. I can't complain. We are doing fairly well. We have a loyal customer base."

At David's Natural Market, General Manager Greg Resch said it was unclear what impact Produce Galore's closing would have.

"I get people asking us if we're closing, too," he said. "We don't have any issues here. Our only concern is the emptiness. But the niche that we built -- there's no reason for us to lose that."

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