Another Market Square Business Closing : LUSENET : Kentlands : One Thread

Within the next few weeks another of Market Street's small businesses will be shutting its doors. How many people are aware of what's going on there and does anyone have any ideas what can be done to keep more from following?

-- Rob Gordon (, April 28, 2000


Rob, what business is closing? And what do you mean when you ask if we are "aware of what's going on there"? It is difficult to respond, without knowing what's up.

That said, some time ago, Michael Birney posted the question of what measures might be implemented to help make Market Square a success for the businesses and for us, as residents. He also posted suggestions that Mike Watkins and his team had prepared for the Market Square Merchants' Association and asked people to expand on them. Would it help for people to take a look at those suggestions (on the caucus site, at now and use them as a starting point for a very focused exchange of ideas?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, April 28, 2000.

Annie's Rose has been having a 'clearance sale' for several weeks now and it just seems inevitable.

What's going on is that something like five businesses have already left (that's a LOT considering how few businesses are there). Two were chains, but the others were all locals. I understand that the stores have all been paying full rent since they opened even though the shopping center is barely up and running. When you look at the short hours some of them run, how little stuff others have... or the kind of movies they get you can tell that everyone's just scraping by. How are these places expected to survive? This is the Kentlands' backyard.

Thanks for the link. The ideas look good, but where does the money to get this stuff done come from? Who's gotten this list? Was there any active follow up (I see a posted date of Feb 19)?

Is the Market Square to be considered part of the community? Market Square is made up of businesses by self-starting PEOPLE, not corporations and they need time, patience and support. Just like people can't expect the most personal touch from Target, McDonald's or Best Buy, they can't expect perfection from these underdogs. Even if it means paying a bit more, or seeing a movie locally that we might otherwise not see. Who knows, maybe we'll like something unexpected. The same goes for wine, gifts, music, etc. How can shopkeepers improve to meet expectations if they aren't given a fair chance to incubate? They have to expect to struggle, but people should accept their shortcomings as part of a worthy struggle. Just like Kentlands/Lakelands residents, they seek to be part of something uncommon. Their success is our success.

My experience is we don't know what we've got till its gone. Each business that closes now robs the neighborhood of community-oriented small businesses and the potential of more.

-- Rob Gordon (, April 28, 2000.

Rob, I do not know the answers to the questions you raise regarding the list of suggestions prepared by Mike Watkins and his team for the Market Square Merchants' Association, i.e.: Where does the money come from to implement measures such as those suggested? Who has received a copy the list? Was there any active follow-up? These are all very pertinent questions, though, especially, for residents who may wish to advocate for improvements to the Market Square area. Perhaps, someone who does have the answers will join this discussion?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, May 03, 2000.

Has anyone invited any of the merchants to attend any Kentlands Community meetings to discuss Market Square and Kentlands' mutual interests? Maybe such a public dialogue could lead to greater relations and make it possible to co-ordinate events and increase awareness of what Market Square has to offer?

Annie's Rose took down their sign and have closed up shop.

-- Rob Gordon (, May 04, 2000.

As a consumer, one thing that would increase my awareness of what Market Square has to offer would be either an information kiosk with a lighted, vertical site plan of the Square, such as suggested by Mike Watkins, et al. (again, see the Caucus site), or some other type of signage showing what stores are there and in what general direction they're located. In Carmel, for instance, where the shops are here, there and everywhere, there are poles with directional signs that point you to the various stores. My husband and I were in Celebration before their Main Street was completed, and their directory included not only the stores that were already there, but ones that would be moving in within the foreseeable future. That helped detract from the vacant buildings. Perhaps, a similar approach would be helpful for Market Square.

I also like the idea of a Market Square Web site that would link into individual Market Square businesses. It would be useful to be able to access information on store hours, upcoming events (e.g., the recent Fat Tuesday celebration at the Wine Harvest), restaurant menus (with the day's specials), sales, and so forth. Supposedly, "" was reserved for the Market Square Merchants' Association. But when I accessed that site, the "Sioux Falls Business Directory" came up. Does anyone know if there is a Web site for the shops at Kentlands Market Square and, if so, what it is?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, May 09, 2000.

A whole lot of good questions and comments are embedded in the above dialog. Whether Market Square turns out to be, in general, a successful place for merchants to do business remains to be seen. But a few things seem clear to me.

1. The businesses that are making it are those that are filling a need. We can't expect businesses that are superfluous to succeed in the Kentlands or anywhere else for that matter. I do not mean to suggest that every struggling business is superfluous.

As residents of the surrounding areas, we should try our hardest to patronize the local businesses. But we can't be expected to spend our money there if the merchandise is second-rate, the prices are too high, or the business just doesn't provide a service to the buyer. It's pretty much what "free-market" is about.

2. The fates of many businesses will improve simply as a function of increased business traffic through the area. I can't see into Beatty's business plans from my viewing angle, but I would guess that promotional opportunities that arise to advance the names and fortunes of one or more businesses would benefit nearly every business in Market Square. Increased population of Lakelands will also help. But the poplulation that will most help the businesses in Market Square are in the surrounding Gaithersburg/ Germantown/ Rockville areas. I would be surprised if any business owner in Market Square would claim that the vast majority of his/her traffic or revenue came from the residential areas scribed by Great Seneca Highway, Quince Orchard Road, and Darnestown Road.

3. Some of the businesses struggling were no doubt opened prior to the existence of a critical volume of commercial traffic directed toward the "big box" stores. Perhaps some sage advice on the part of the developer might have delayed some of these businesses starting up until the area was a bit more thriving. Foregoing a dollar's revenue in deference to long-term fiscal health is probably too much to ask of this developer, though, and maybe of any developer.

4. The demise of MJDesigns hurt the commercial area more than we can know. A failure of that nature may not have been predictable from the developer's point of view, but the chain's commitment to that particular store would have to have been questionable, given the short time within which the chain folded after the local outlet opened. Someone knew, but no one told. Tsk tsk. And I don't know what's worse: an empty big box with no name on it (i.e., "watch this apace") or an empty big box with the name of a completely defunct chain on it.

5. I don't know anything about the answer to this question, but I'll ask it anyway: do the owners of the businesses talk, strategize, cooperate, and figure out ways to promote the area and attract other quality merchants? If not, ...

-- David Fetzer (, May 09, 2000.

The "MJ Building" (formerly MJDesigns) seems like a world away from Market Square, to me. It is both physically and visually disconnected. This was not quite so much the case in the original DPZ plan for Market Square that was presented at the conclusion of the March, 1996 charrette. In particular, in that plan, there were shops along the side of the box that is now Zany Brainy, FACING Kentlands Blvd. I have always felt that the deletion of those shops was one of the more unfortunate postcharrette revisions to the plan. It seems they would have provided some visual continuity and, even, a degree of physical connectedness, with the stores further down the Blvd.

Anyway, with Harris Teeter moving in, and the hope that it will be a big draw for consumers from surrounding areas, I was wondering if anything is being done to connect the MJ Building with Market Square. In other words, for people who drive here, what will entice them to move from point A (Harris Teeter)--especially, when they have already sacrificed five minutes waiting for that perfect spot--to point B (i.e., the shops in Market Square)?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, May 10, 2000.

Mary, my husband and I are in total agreement with your last posting. It's a shame that Kentlands Square (Giant) is also so disconnected. The commercial area should have been designed as one continuous shopping area where stores could benefit from other merchants' traffic.

-- Lauren Paiva (, May 13, 2000.

What bothers me about the whole Market Square problem is the following:

1. How many more hair salons/spas/barber shops do we need? Seems like every month another one is announced. Is anyone doing any real planning of the types/mixture of stores that move into Market Square, or does it just go to the highest bidder regardless of what the community really needs/wants? (Note: We now have Kentlands Barber Shop, Images, Lifestyles for Hair, Mind & Body Spa, Salon Red (planned), and I think I read about another one too but can't remember the name.)

2. Slow occupancy rate. Prime retail space remains vacant. Are the developers asking too much money for rent? Seems better for everyone (retailers and residents alike) to get those units filled even if it means loweing the rent at first. Once the spaces are rented, then maybe we will have a real shopping area instead of non-contiguous shops. And the increased customer traffic would benefit all the retailers and the developers. I noticed that the Kentlands Business Center is already closed. No wonder. Who would go to that location when there's nothing else around it that's open. Easier to use Parcel Plus.

Just something to think about...

-- Kim Skimmons (, May 15, 2000.

Re. Kim Skimmons's point #2 above, I've heard thru the grapevine that the REAL reason Trader Joe's chose not to locate in Market Square was the exhorbitant rent! I couldn't agree more that it would be psychologically optimal (for the customers as well as the retailers) if the vacant spaces were filled ASAP. And I continue to maintain that we would be an excellent location for restaurants of all sorts. We have a community filled with people who have limited time and a fair amount of discretionary income. Plus, there is a real lack of varied restaurants in the Gaithersburg area, particularly different ethnic restaurants. We could become the upcounty Bethesda! (Except those of us who live here could actually WALK to the restaurants and not have to worry about finding a parking space!) What does it take to get restaurants interested in locating here? I've asked a couple of times in this space about rumors I've heard that La Madeleine and the Hard Times Cafe were thinking of locating here, but I've yet to get a response from Beatty about this. [Note: I did hear, again through the grapevine, that the main reason for the demise of the Kentlands Business Center was a lack of realistic expectations on the part of the owner about how quickly he'd be operating in the black.]

-- Dee Aronson (, May 15, 2000.

About the seemingly unending influx of hair salons/spas/barber shops in Kentlands. I am so glad that someone brought that up. I thought that maybe I had entered the twilight zone, and Kentlands' claim to fame was to be, not as a prototypical neotraditional community, but as the hair-styling capital of Montgomery County.

I think that Joe Paiva (February 24, "Development of commercial areas of Kentlands" thread) and David Fetzer (May 9, this thread) have both quite lucidly explained some facts about consumers' buying patterns that we need to keep in mind when considering the businesses located in, or coming into, Market Square. In particular, while we might pay more for the "less than common," we are not, to any meaningful extent, going to be persuaded to pay more for the "superfluous" or the "commodity." It is one of the few generalizations about consumers' buying habits that I feel comfortable making. (And, yes, it is true. I was at one time a marketing research analyst for many years.)

I have no idea why Kentlands Business Center failed. But this is how it worked for me. I use Parcel Plus in Kentlands Square Shopping Center for xeroxing and sending parcels or Fed Ex mail. The proprietor and other people who work there have always been attentive and congenial, and I have developed a loyalty to that store. I purchase my office supplies either online (very convenient, because they deliver), or in person from one of the discount office-supply stores. In other words, for my particular needs, the Kentlands Business Center was superfluous.

Of course, Market Square is, as Rob Gordon says, in Kentlands' backyard. So, at least until more shops/restaurants move in, and there is more business traffic, maybe we could patronize the stores there that we like a little more than we otherwise might.

P.S. A little find, if you, or some child in your life, is a fan of Cicely Mary Barker's "Flower Fairies." "A to Z" is carrying replicas of the fairies that are surprisingly true to Barker's illustrations. These will be a regular item at the store, which will be getting more and different ones in. I have a niece that I know will love them.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, May 16, 2000.

For me a large part of the problem with the Market Street area is that I prefer shopping in a zone where I can hit at least two if not three different stores at one time. It saves time and gas. But I find it very rare that I need to go to any two stores over there at any given time. Also, the Kentlands shopping center with Crown and Lowes and the rest is too spread out and too far away from Market Street. Malls have taken over the world for a reason, not because they are beautiful examples of post-modern architecture, but because they save time.

The issue of the proper mix of stores in a walkable space is critical for a shopping area to survive. I'm certain that Market Street doesn't have the right mix for me at this point. The only time I find myself spending money down there is out of guilt and desire to see the place succeed. These are not good reasons to spend, and those feelings will not last forever. A very well thought-out mix of stores positioned with an eye for easy access is needed at this point, not just a trial and error approach. We need neighborhood engineering, not a "if we build it they will come" attitude.

If they had taken all of the stores in that whole area and connected them together in a beautiful way mindful of the Kentlands "style", and had the parking lot ring the whole structure instead of acting as a buffer zone to separate everything from everything else, I think this on-line chat would be moot. Those who say "well, that sounds like a mall, not like main street USA", well go take a look at most of the "Main Streets" in the USA, and you'll find they are dying or dead. There is a reason for that, and we seem to be ignoring it.

Just my 2cents. :-)

-- Richard Attix (, May 17, 2000.

Forgive me being a bit scattershot here (there are so many things that have been brought up here about which I could probably write ten pages).

From the point of view of a merchant I can say that I too have concerns along the lines of what people have posted above. Kim's 2 issues (mixture of shops and slow rate of occupancy) are two among my chief concerns. Regarding these Im as flummoxed as the next person. What I can appropriately say in this forum is that Market Square was pitched as an event place; somewhere families could spend the day  thered be food, shopping, skating/mini-golf, movies. This seemed to be an ideal place to set down a community-oriented music store where people could get all kinds of new and used music, popular and hard-to-find music and hear local musicians (even neighbors) perform, all with the convenience of proximity and personal service. Arcadia seemed a good fit, and with a Beatty-projected grand opening Spring/Summer 1999 (currently there is no talk of a grand opening). Spring 2000  eighteen months on  Market Square seems still a rough- draft of a superfluous shopping center, and much of the mix thats been leased does not fit the concept that was initially so attractive. Somewhere the ball has been dropped, and merchants and shoppers alike are having to scramble to keep it in play.

I firmly believe that increased open communication between Kentlands Market Square and Kentlands neighborhood would lead to a better Kentlands in general. Regarding David Fetzers question about businesses talking, strategizing, etc., yes we do. We have a nascent merchant association, but with so much needing to be done, with each of us tending shop most of the time and with managements general lack of support, such things as coordinating, marketing, and even planning a summer festival are very tough to get off the ground. Its also not really up to us to attract quality merchants since interested tenants will likely use foot traffic patterns and volume as their primary indicator of the areas health, and take with a grain of salt what we say (this is coming from experience).

On a different note, something that really strikes a chord in me and would like to address are Richard and Marys respective remarks about spending out of guilt and desire and competitive pricing of commodities. All I can do is thank all out there who have been and continue to support Market Square during its slow, arduous climb uphill. Customers patience does not go unnoticed, even if sometimes it goes under-acknowledged. Each of us can only do our best, and sometimes that might not seem enough. Arcadias success in surviving a pretty rocky first year is due very much to those in the area who see in this shop what I see  a place about people, the arts, and community; not just shopping carts and dollar signs. This store has become for many a place to meet their friends and new people, for folks to learn more about music, to listen to things theyve never heard before, to play some chess, or to just get a soda, kick back and hang out for an hour or two in a safe, laid back, public space. Joni Mitchell once sang (and Rob paraphrased above), dont it always seem to go that you dont know what you got till its gone. I put this store together because it seemed gone and I want to see it back, for myself and for others who have never experienced it. I think thats what many people here want, but all good things take time and commitment. I have a five year lease here and fully expect to be here at least that full term, even if I have to continue working for nothing every day. I can do no more and no less.

Apologies for going on so long or spoke inappropriately.

-- David Grossman, Arcadia New & Used CDs (, May 18, 2000.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to some of the issues we have been raising, David. I am still hoping for Market Square to evolve into a place that is about more than "just shopping carts and dollar signs"--perhaps, as a holdover from what we were promised in a "Midtown" when my husband and I moved to Kentlands 7 years ago. It is reassuring to know that there are merchants who are committed to trying to make this happen.

By the way, I do find your store "laid back" and relaxing. I was in not long ago with my 18-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece and found myself dancing to the music with my niece, before I even realized I was in a public space!

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, May 18, 2000.

I was driving around last nite searching for the lowest price on gasoline (that's a topic in itself) and saw a crew of workmen taking the signs down on the Boston Market store. I knew that company was in trouble and that it's stock was no longer one of the darlings of Wall Street, but I was not aware our local branch was in trouble.

Does anyone know anything about this latest closing?

Jim Hubbard

-- Jim Hubbard (, May 23, 2000.

PLANS UNCLEAR FOR KENTLANDS BOSTON CHICKEN Boston Chicken Inc. has reportedly closed its Kentlands restaurant and is removing its sign.

The restaurant is located on a service road at 819 Quince Orchard Road (Maryland State Route 124) at its intersection with Great Seneca Highway (Maryland State Route 119) next to Hunter's Restaurant and near the defunct Upton's Department Store.

Boston Chicken, Inc. owns and operates 751 Boston Market restaurants in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and franchises 108 additional stores. On October 5, 1998, the Company and its Boston Market related subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The Company attempted to work through its restructuring for nearly two years, but annouced on December 1, 1999, that it had sold substantially all its assets to McDonald's Corp. subsidiary Golden Restaurant Operations, Inc., for an estimated purchase price of $173.5 million, subject to Bankruptcy Court approval. On March 15, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona approved the sale of Boston Chicken to McDonald's and the corporation announced it expected to complete the transaction by April 1.

McDonald's reportedly plans to maintain some of the existing stores as Boston Markets and even open new Boston Market outlets, but will convert many Boston Market stores to McDonald's restaurants or to outlets for other McDonald's owned chains. According to McDonald's Chairman Jack Greenburg, "Selected sites, where appropriate, will help support domestic restaurant growth for McDonald's, and accelerate opportunities for Chipotle Mexican Grill and Donatos Pizza over the next few years."

According to a CNN report, one analyst has said the leading benefit for McDonalds is the hundreds of Boston Market locations that are already zoned for restaurant use, which the fast-food giant can use as it sees fit. "Its as close to a fire sale as possible, Paul Westra, an analyst at CS First Boston, told CNN, adding that McDonalds has little to lose. "At worst, these sites are going to be converted into McDonalds, Donatos Pizzas or Chipotle Grills.

According to third party reports, the Kentlands outlet, which competes with the higher quality Gaithersburg-based Chicken Out chain, has never performed well, so it is not surprising that it might be closed. As part of the bankruptcy process, McDonald's also has what corporate spokesmen have called a "unique opportunity to reject unfavorable leases on about 100 underperforming restaurants without incurring the usual termination costs."

McDonald's previously sought to locate in Kentlands, but despite significant opposition from within the community, has expressed continuing interest in having an outlet here. McDonald's currently operates more than 25,000 restaurants in 117 countries.

Under the Gaithersburg zoning ordinance, only an abbreviated review procedure would be necessary if McDonald's intends to keep the present location as a restaurant operation but change the restaurant name but keep the building and operational plan as is. A sign review would be required, however.

-- Dick Arkin (, May 23, 2000.

For a different slant on "why malls have taken over the world" (as stated above by Richard Attix), I recommend two terrific books, both by James Howard Kunstler (no relation to William)--"The Geography of Nowhere" and "Home From Nowhere." Kunstler knows Duany and Plater-Zyberk personally, and there is space in both books devoted to Kentlands (seven pages in the second book!) Kunstler has some very positive things to say about Kentlands. He thinks it's one of the many TNDs currently being developed that actually works. (According to him, there are many that do not.) But he does express concern in "Home From Nowhere" (written in about 1996) about the early stages of retail development. And isn't that what this topic on the bulletin board is about?! Kunstler's take on how the original plan for retail development here got skewed is very interesting.

Thanks to David Grossman for his posting and his efforts to create the kind of small and personal retail establishment we want to see in Market Square. Another similar business is Kentlands Flowers and Bows where Emily and Don go out of their way to create a warm and personal atmosphere. Emily knows what kind of flowers I like, and she has even called me on the phone to tell me when she's gotten something nice in. This is the kind of thing I could never expect from the Giant flower dept or from Johnson's, and it's worth so much to me! I fully support all the comments above about the importance of our supporting the retailers in Market Square.

We noticed in the paper, this morning, that "Mission Impossible 2," probably the summer's biggest blockbuster, has opened at Rio (yawn!) but it's also at our very own Kentlands Stadium 8! So hooray for the Kentlands theater and its hard-won battle to bring first-run films to our community.

-- Dee Aronson (, May 24, 2000.

I have been in the marketing business (for abour 35 years)with Coca Cola, Columbia Pictures, AT&T, Kentucky Fred Chicken, and a host of others. I have had companies of my own and now call myself a marketing and business development consultant. I have been shocked at how many businesses seem to have settled here based on the fact that (1) there are few of the same type here already or (2) It seems to be something I like to do and I perceive a need because several of my friends agreed with me that it might work or (3) there will soon be a community of tens of thousands within a 3 mile radius of market square and that certainly is an adequate population. How many have read the famous marketing 101 "dogfood story?" I wonder how many have really done the kind of in-depth analysis good site planners use? How many have considered the real probabilities of repetitive buying from the actual potential base and not some demographic assumption? How many have adequately figured competition and are prepared for the long haul and have the plans and alternatives to out last it? When MJD was building, I told my wife it would not last 2 years. I said the same about Uptons and there are some others that wil undoubtedly go soon.

It is not the community's responsibility to support stores that are poorly conceived or planned for; which is not always the reason for going out of business, but it is a contributor. One of my several responsibilities in one of my lives was to oversee the placement and construction of Post Offices throughout the United States. We built 2.5 post offices every working day or about 800 per year. You can bet your bippy that every bit of planning, demographic projection, commercial possibilities, aging patterns of the population, income variances, competition and probable competition over the length of the building's depreciation or lease term, etc. etc. were considered.

Then the realities of the political arena and financing began. The set of considerations for a start-up small, stand alone, retail outlet are different, but the process is the same. I get the feeling that many of the stores that are in Market Square have been less than totally assiduous in their marketing analysis and subsequent marketing planning. By the way, I like pizza as much as anyone, but how many pizza outlets will K-lands, L-lands and the offshoots sustain? How many times will the average home owner buy something from a fireplace store? What kinds of marketing outreach plans are necessary to sustain specialty stores like that (fireplace used only as an example)? The retail business is undergoing more change at this very moment in history than has ever faced any other form of product distribution. Really serious, objective market planning is necessary before entering the retail war and it IS a WAR!

Ron Lee

-- Ronald B. Lee (, May 25, 2000.

Ron Lee has just said what needed to be said about our local business failures. We've read in this forum about concerns that the physical configurations of the retail areas may be flawed, or that Mr. Beatty and son are not supportive enough, or that we Kentlanders must make a stronger effort to patronize the retailers. But what we don't know is how well capitalized these failed companies were. Aslo, did their business plan have a realistic assessment of the market and the competition?

In the case of Uptons and MJ Design, I think it was also a case of bad luck for Kentlands. We got Uptons, a multi-state company that was financially troubled, and Rio got Kohls, a company that is thriving and whose stock had done very well on Wall Street. MJ Design apparently was is trouble even as it expanded to Kentlands, while the Michaels chain probably has the financial strength to hang in there for the long haul.

We got Sunny's Surplus and RIO got Galyan's. One visit to Sunny's was enough to convince me that they didn't have a chance against a concept like Galyan's, a five minute drive from Kentlands. What was Sunny's management thinking when it decided to locate its boring, cut- rate version of outdoors items so close to its competitor?

Another observation: people may love to hate our K-Mart, (I would have liked a Target like the one at RIO), but I understand that it's one of the best revenue producing units in the entire company. Figure that one out!

-- Bob Mauri (, May 26, 2000.

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