Jul 29 Meeting with Giant Food MD Managers

Update Aug 10: (Click photos to enlarge)

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)
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")