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Jul 29 Meeting with Giant Food MD Managers

Update Aug 10: (Click photos to enlarge)







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Update Aug 1: Giant Food tells us that work on the Town Center Giant building will soon be completed in compliance with building code and permits (see below)
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On Tuesday night, July 29, 2008 about 25 community leaders and residents attended a meeting at Our Savior Lutheran Church (thanks) that I very hastily arranged at Giant's request so our community could meet with officials of Giant Food of Maryland before the closing of the Town Center Giant on Thursday, July 31. (See July 3, 2008 Press Release below). My apologies to those who saw the meeting announcement late or not at all.

Giant Customer Affairs had asked to meet with us to discuss the situation frankly, to learn what Giant was already doing to ease the impacts of the closing, and to learn from our community what more they could do – but they said the decision to close the store was not reversible.

Present from Giant Food of Maryland were:

  • Eileen Katz, Manager, Customer Affairs

  • Robin Michel, General Manager

  • Jim Meyd, Regional VP

  • Jamie Miller, Public Affairs

The first question asked was, how did we get to the point where Giant felt they had to close the Town Center Giant? The Giant managers were forthright and non-defensive, saying that there had been multiple problems with the building (broken bakery oven, etc. and that mistakes had been made (unspecified), and multiple attempts to recover customers with special prices, coupons, etc had all failed. The Giant managers had little more detail to offer and it was not clear how much they could really do - but they genuinely listened to our concerns and suggestions. Ms. Michel asserted that all Town Center Giant employees had been given reassignments – that no one had lost their job, which contrasts with, but is not necessarily contradicted by, word reportedly from Giant employees that some of them have had to quit because the reassignments they were offered to distant locations, like Gaithersburg, were not feasible for them.

Many of the residents present expressed in various ways how “mind-boggling” it was that Giant thought it could not make a profit with thousands of people living so close, many within walking distance. Why did Giant not make a long-term investment in the Town Center Giant after Giant was bought by the Ahold corporation of the Netherlands (such as completing the interrupted renovations) like it very visibly invested in other communities, like Bowie?

It was also not clear why the closing wasn't announced further in advance (not just 30-days) to give our community time to respond to mitigate the serious impacts of losing our neighborhood grocery store.

Many of those present recounted stories about how nice the old Giant used to be under the U.S.-owned Giant Corporation and its very personable past store managers, such as Norman Harris. And how the community had responded with sadness and sympathy when Town Center Giant employees, like Tom, died – because there was a very real and harmonious relationship with the community, that has been lost since the Ahold take-over.

The Giant managers described the six things they are currently doing to ease loss of the grocery store at Town Center – as listed in their July 24 email (below) – focused initially on those who walk to the Giant and will have difficulty getting groceries after the July 31 closure:

  • Starting a shuttle bus from the Park View Senior Apartments to the Route 1 Giant in Laurel

    • Multiple runs on Mondays & Fridays starting at Park View at 9 am through 11 am

  • Promoting Giant's web-based home delivery grocery service, PEAPOD.com

  • Transfering Town Center Giant customer prescriptions to Town Center CVS; Customers can transfer their prescriptions to any other pharmacy.
  • Actively looking for a new tenant to take over the lease of the empty building

  • Encouraging South Laurel residents to shop at the Route 1 Giant Food store

    • South Laurel residents were recently sent a flyer with coupons for discounts and free items

    • Call the Giant Customer Affairs number below if you did not get yours.

  • General Manager Robin Michel directed Giant Customer Affairs to give high priority to providing well-informed, timely responses to all inquiries from our community's residents regarding the Town Center Giant closing.

They asked what suggestions we had for what more they could do:

  • Most importantly we asked that they pro-actively and expeditiously seek a good grocery store tenant for that building, and to fully cooperate with nearby property managers who are also searching for a grocery store tenant for that location (as an anchor store for Town Center).

    • Ms. Michel said Giant would fully cooperate with community efforts to find a grocery store tenant.

    • That old building is sub-optimal for the newest style grocery stores – but it could still support a good neighborhood grocery store.

  • We asked that Giant immediately provide security for the empty building, so it would not become a hang-out ... suffer graffiti ... vandalism ... and fire – as has happened recently with other empty buildings nearby, such as at the old golf driving range at the west end of Muirkirk Rd.

    • The Giant store property is not part of the adjacent Town Center property, so it needs its own full security coverage

  • Participate with the Prince George's County in arranging transportation to other nearby grocery stores (including the Bottom Dollar, not just the Route 1 Giant) for people living in the surrounding apartments (not just Park View) who don't have cars -- who currently walk to the Town Center Giant.

  • Continue to send discount coupons to all South Laurel residents

  • Send bonus cash to South Laurel residents with registered Giant Bonus Cards

  • Continue to cooperate with residents' new suggestions to ease the impacts on our community

    • Contact Giant Customer Affairs (above) with your own suggestions and requests

Prince George's County Councilman for District 1, Tom Dernoga noted that the Town Center Giant building currently may not be not in compliance with several county permit conditions (unspecified) and may be at risk of being fined. Those conditions need to be corrected ASAP for compliance and so that the building is made more enticing to a prospective new grocery store tenant.

July 3, 2008 Press Release - Giant Town Center Closing

Giant Replies July 24, 2008

Giant Replies July 22, 2008

South Laurel Residents Petition to Keep Giant

South Laurel Giant Food Store to Close July 31

A Growing Town Center Giant News File
(Then click on "Town Center Giant Food Closing 7/31")


Giant Replies July 24, 2008

This is Giant's reply to my July 23 email (at bottom of this article)

From: ConsumerAffairs@giantofmaryland.com
Date: Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Ref # 499778 - Reply from Giant Consumer Affairs
To: Garold Stone

Thank you for sharing your concerns related to the pending closing of the Giant Food store in the Town Center shopping center. We do understand that many residents living in South Laurel will be affected by the closing of this store and we apologize to the community for any inconvenience. It was a very difficult business decision to close this store.

I am pleased to inform you that we are working with the management at Park View of Laurel Apartments to coordinate a shuttle service for their residents to the Giant store in the Laurel Center on Route 1. The details of the shuttle service still need to be finalized but we anticipate that the shuttle will run several days a week at various times that are convenient for the residents. The shuttle service should begin running in early August. We are also working with Peapod to proactively communicate their home delivery services as we understand that this is a convenient option for many residents who are unable to drive to a grocery store. Finally, our Real Estate department is actively seeking a replacement tenant to occupy the space where the Town Center Giant is currently located.

Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns. We look forward to continuing to serve the residents of Laurel for years to come.

Sincerely,


Deborah Riley
Supervisor, Consumer Affairs

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FROM: Garold Stone, July 23, 2008

TO: Jackie Pullman, Customer Care Representative, Giant Food of Maryland

cc: Prince George's County Council District 1, Tom Dernoga (nb: Judy Thacher)
MD District 21 Senator Jim Rosapepe
MD District 21 Delagate Barbara Frush
MD District 21 Delegate Ben Barnes
MD District 21 Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk
MD District 23 Senator Douglas Peters
MD District 23A Delegate Gerron.Levi
MD District 23A Delegate James Hubbard
Prince George's County Board of Education District 1 Member, Rosalind Johnson
Prince George's County Board of Education At-Large Member, Donna Hathaway-Beck
South Laurel Community Associations Leaders
Coalition for Laurel Area Safety and Prosperity

In your recent email reply to a South Laurel resident you said:

QUOTE:
We never like to affect our customers or associates by closing our stores. We hope that our customers will be able to shop at the following nearby Giant locations:

1009 Fairlawn Street in Laurel, MD
11701 Beltsville Drive in Beltsville, MD
END QUOTE:

Unfortunately, the closing of your store will have severe adverse consequences for many of your former customers who live in South Laurel, especially those who can't possibly shop at those other Giant locations, which are not at all "nearby", particularly for those without cars, such as but not limited to, residents of the Park View Senior Apartments across the street from the Town Center Giant and the immediate surrounding homes and apartments. And this does not tally the loss of future donations to local schools and other community service organizations via the now vanishing Town Center Giant.

I ask that you please tell me what all Giant is doing already and plans to do soon to mitigate the great suffering in our community caused by the abrupt closing of your Town Center store.

Ideally, Giant of Maryland would have worked beforehand with the local community and local county government officials to facilitate another (competitor) grocery store moving into your abandoned building as soon as possible after July 31, or otherwise soften the impacts.

That notwithstanding, please consider what other tangible ways you might mitigate our suffering. You could create, distribute and publicize (in local newspapers, on your web sites, etc.) information identifying public transportation services that would help car-less South Laurel residents actually get to your other "nearby" Giant locations. And since for some, especially the elderly, a grocery-laden bus ride even as far as to the Route 1 Giant is out of the question, that transportation list should include the closer (competitor) Bottom Dollar food store, which is still too far to walk to for many in South Laurel. While you are at it, you could also mention PeaPod.com for home food delivery. You get the idea -- be creative, be caring, leave no customer behind !

The compelling question now is what, if anything, will Giant actually be doing to ease the pain in our community being caused by your store's sudden departure. Just a few hours work by Giant, costing just a few hundred dollars, could mitigate a callous breach of the trust with our community that Giant has worked so hard for decades to earn, with positive consequences for your company's reputation as a good neighbor business, not just in the Laurel area but throughout the region. Some of us may be car-less but we are not clueless. Your actions here and now will resonate broadly into the future. Can we "Trust Giant" to do the right, humanely compassionate things for the people of South Laurel even as you leave our community ?

I hope your timely and well-considered answer will give real meaning to your words -
"We never like to affect our customers or associates by closing our stores."

Giant Replies July 22, 2008

Giant Food of Maryland sent the following reply to an email from a South Laurel resident:

Date: July 22, 2008 3:55:06 PM EDT

Subject: Reply from Giant Consumer Affairs

Thank you for contacting us to express your feelings about the Laurel Town Center Giant closing on July 31.

We understand your disappointment and want you to know that this was a very difficult decision. We never like to affect our customers or associates by closing our stores. We hope that our customers will be able to shop at the following nearby Giant locations:
1009 Fairlawn Street in Laurel, MD
11701 Beltsville Drive in Beltsville, MD
We will close the Pharmacy on July 31. Pharmacy customers will receive notification by mail in advance of the closing with details on pharmacy record transfers.

Currently, the Laurel Town Center store employs 69 associates, all of whom will be given opportunities to transfer to other area Giant stores.

It has been our pleasure serving your community and we look forward to continuing to serve you in our other stores.

Sincerely,

Jackie Pullman
Customer Care Representative

South Laurel Residents Petition to Keep Giant

Some residents of South Laurel have told me they are working up a grass-roots email petition campaign to save the Town Center Giant Food store that is scheduled to close next week, on July 31.

Residents are being encouraged to send emails to Customer Care Representative, Jackie Pullman at ConsumerAffairs@GiantOfMaryland.com

Young Police Explorers Need Donations for Trip

Young men and women members of Police Explorer Post 600 sponsored by our local Prince George's County Police District VI (Beltsville, Greenbelt, Laurel, Calverton, Adelphi, Monpelier and Knollwood) (MAP) are trying to go to Denver to represent Prince George's County in the annual police explorers national competition. Last year two District VI Police Explorers took top honors in those events testing their knowledge and fitness.

The original plan was to drive out to Denver -- and they raised enough money the usual ways for driving expenses. But just last week they suddenly learned that they won't be able to go by car.

Karen Coakley, the president of Beltsville Citizens Association, is trying to help the Explorer's raise enough money to fly to Denver. She says, "I realize this is short notice.... However I need to raise $6000 by Friday. If 60 people contribute $100 or 120 people contribute $50 we can do this. We are almost there". So any amount right now will really help get them there.

Please consider making a donation with your tax-deductible (*) donation check payable to: "Prince Georges County, Department of Police, Explorer Post 600, Inc."

Get your check to Police District VI, 4321 Sellman Road, Beltsville, MD 20704, (301) 937-0910 by Friday, July 18. OR email me (Garold Stone), garolds@yahoo.com, and i'll come pickup your check and take it to Police District VI for you.

(*) Police District VI Explorer Post 600 is part of Law Enforcement Exploring, which is a 501(c)3 tax-deductible program of the Boy Scouts of America.

Laurel Police Officer Struck by Hit & Run July 13


Kafe Kabab Opens in Crystal Plaza

The new Kafe Kabab restaurant began its Grand Opening today in Crystal Plaza. Download their extensive menu and free drink coupon

South Laurel Giant Food Store to Close

For weekly Super Grand Mart specials, see Local Bargains & Specials

Update:
July 10 Laurel Leader article and Laurel Connexions Blog comments

I was in the Giant Food store today on Laurel-Bowie Rd. One of the employees told me that Giant had notified workers that the store would be closed soon and they would be offered jobs at the other Giant Food stores in the area. He indicated there might be something about it in this week's local papers tomorrow. As of 10 pm tonight, the Laurel Gazette and Laurel Leader websites did not have articles about the closure.

Aug 5 National Night Out Party - FREE Fun & Food

25th Annual National Night Out Celebration
Tuesday August 5th
6 pm to 8 pm.

Prince George’s County Police District VI
4321 Sellman Road, Beltsville (not far from CostCo)
(MAP)

UPDATE: Free Parking & Free Shuttle Buses
To avoid congestion in the immediate vicinity of the event, Free shuttle buses will run to Police District VI Station from these nearby Free parking areas:

1) Beltsville Elementary School 4300 Wicomico Avenue (MAP)
2) St Joseph's Church & School 11007 Montgomery Road (MAP)
3) Beltsville Community Center 3900 Sellman Road (MAP)

In all cases, avoid travel on Sellman Rd between Route 1 and Montgomery Rd, where congestion is expected.

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There will be crime prevention tactics and many displays to include: K-9 demonstrations, police motorcycles, new police cruisers, police mountain bikes, horse mounted unit, Police Explorers, Junior Investigators, drug display, bomb robot, military Hum-Vees, a radar and laser station, fire trucks and tankers, a property ID station, a preventive auto theft station, and many others.




There are many free activities to include: moon bounce, baseball fast
pitch station, football throwing competition, basketball shoot out, child ID kit, arts and crafts station, and much more.






There will be plenty of free food and drinks. Just to name a few items on the menu: hotdogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, BBQ chicken, veggie burgers, fried rice, pizza, BBQ beans, many cold salads, cakes, cookies, pies, and much more.

There will also be a live DJ.

ALL ACTIVITIES, FOOD, DRINKS AND FUN ARE FREE




Thanks to Adirondack Tree Experts for being a major contributor and sponsor for the last 14 years!