Three prominent Bel Air retail locations have stood empty for the last several months, but the new year will bring new life to at least one of them.
A recent tip from Dagger reader “Vic” indicated that Mars Supermarkets would move into the former Super Fresh location in Bel Air Plaza, Midwest electronics retailer hhgregg would take over the one-time Circuit City building in Tollgate Marketplace, and a Whole Foods location would open in Giant’s former home in Tollgate Plaza. Don’t get excited yet—that’s not 100 percent true at the moment.
The tip was accurate on at least one count: an hhgregg representative confirmed that the company plans to open a new store at 680 Marketplace Drive, the former location of Circuit City, by early or mid-spring.
However, a Whole Foods spokeswoman flatly denied the rumor regarding the former Giant store, saying that “there are no current plans for a space in Bel Air, MD.”
That’s probably because a catering company is considering moving into the location using a long distance movers company. The idea is to turn it into a Richlin Ballroom-type event space, according to Bel Air Town Commissioner Terry Hanley. Hanley declined to name the interested company, but said the conversion from a grocery store—while somewhat extreme—could work.
Hanley said, “I think that kind of a place would do well.”
However, Hanley said there has been no movement or interest in the former Super Fresh location, which he said is still under lease to its former tenant. Mars Supermarkets CEO Christopher D’Anna did not return calls for comment.
The Indianapolis-based hhgregg sells electronics, appliances and mattresses (no, really), and has been aggressively moving into former Circuit City locations across the East Coast. Last July, the company said it would open between 20 and 22 new stores in fiscal year 2010, up from the 16 to 18 it originally planned, and 40 to 45 new stores in fiscal year 2011.
“During the past year, competitive dynamics within the consumer electronics industry and the real estate landscape have changed considerably, with a major competitor [Circuit City] exiting the market and substantial real estate availability in both new and existing markets,” the company said in a July release. “These changes have created significant opportunities for the company to expand at growth rates greater than previously projected.”
Though company representatives did not give specifics of the size of the Bel Air store or how many people it would employ, the company said a typical store is approximately 30,000 square feet and employs between 35 and 40 people. hhgregg operates 127 stores from Mississippi to Indiana and North Carolina.
Though the former Super Fresh, Circuit City, and Giant locations have stood empty for months, county officials have tried to entice new retailers to fill the void, said Harford County Director of Economic Development Jim Richardson.
“We have been reaching out to all these companies through this office and letting them know about Harford and why they need to be here, that we’re one of the few areas that’s growing economically,” Richardson said. “We’ve seeded and fertilized the ground, now we need to see what grows.”