I have done one blog on the decline of the village centers and have been reading some other blogs on this issue. Frank Hecker has written how village centers have changed, Columbia's Future wrote about the Owen Brown Village Center and the Wilde Lake Village Center. The factor that seems to be weakening the concept of the village center as a place for village residents to shop is the development of other shopping choices like BJ’s and Costco. The addition of Wegman’s will further weaken the retailers in village centers. If grocery stores no longer bring residents to the centers how will the smaller retailers in the centers survive? Will village centers have to develop a niche to survive against the big box retailers?
In earlier posts I have talked about how we are seeing diversity in restaurants of every ethnic type. In addition I have noticed the growth of the ethnic grocery stores. The HowChow blog has posted on the wide variety of ethnic grocery stores in our area. I have tried many of these small stores and have enjoyed trying items that looked interesting. Some items became favorites and others were “interesting” tried only once. Where once you had to travel to other countries to taste the items that you can now buy locally. Most of the owners of these markets are helpful in telling you how to use the unknown items. With the increasing ethnic diversity in Howard County I would expect this trend of ethnic merchants to increase.
The only problem with the ethnic grocery stores is that they are spread out across the county and usually in hidden locations that are not visible from the road. Wouldn’t it be interesting if one of the village centers became a hub for these grocery stores? You could go from the Mexican market to the Indian market to the Asian market. Combine this with some ethnic restaurants and an ethnic craft store and you have something that would draw people from all over the county to a village center. Add an ethnic festival and entertainment in the warm months and you have a village center as a cultural center. Maybe even a location for the Foreign Born Information and Referral Network office and the African Art Museum of Maryland.