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Best Buy, Staples set for Milestone

by Kristen Milton
Staff Writer

June 12, 2002

Dan Gross/The Gazette

The vacant Homeplace store in Germantown's Milestone Center will soon be replaced with a Best Buy, while the vacant Today's Man store in the same center will be replaced with a Staples.

Two more national chains will be taking up residence in Germantown this fall, filling gaps in the façade of the Milestone Center.

Minnesota-based Best Buy will move into the prominent space vacated a year ago by Homeplace, said Tom Maskey, senior vice president of retail for The Peterson Companies, Milestone's developer.

And Staples, already operating 11 stores throughout Montgomery County, will likely inaugurate its newest store around October in the former Today's Man store, said Staples spokeswoman Julie Mittelman.

Janis Yarde, executive director of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce and a Germantown resident, was almost speechless at the news. "Oh my gosh, isn't that a deal?" she said. "Doesn't that say someone is looking at our area and saying, 'Look at all this growth.' ... I'm thrilled to know we're getting those empty spaces filled because that's good for all of us."

A red and white Staples banner on Route 355 announces the future office supply store, which will offer office furniture, computers, business supplies and services like payroll processing, a copy center and business technology services such as software installations and computer upgrades.

The Best Buy move, while "guaranteed," has not been announced to the public, Maskey said. He declined to say more, other than that the lease was for "a number of years."

Representatives of Best Buy would not confirm whether they plan to open a store in Milestone. The store sells technology and entertainment products.

Jim Hyatt, the chamber's vice president for Germantown affairs, said both companies will be good fits for Germantown.

"If I would have stopped to think about it, what two retailers would be suitable for that, those would be the two that would come to mind," he said.

Hyatt said he often went to the closest Best Buy, located on Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg, looking for computer accessories for himself and CDs for his children. "It seems to be a store that's very much in demand," he said.

Staples has signed a 12-year lease for its site, which will employ 30 full- and part-time associates. Today's Man relocated to Lakeforest mall in Gaithersburg.

"Our major customer is small businesses," Mittelman said of Staples. "[When opening a new store] we like to find an area that has high traffic volume; someplace that's really growing that has a lot of small businesses in the community or the surrounding community."

If that is the case, the Massachusetts-based company has come to the right place, Yarde said.

"Small business is what we've got up here basically," she said. "I think that's going to be a great fit for the community. ... I think people are realizing Germantown is not just a bedroom community and we're starting to get facilities that reflect that."

Yarde said right now Kinko's is the only place in Germantown where local businesses can buy supplies. She would have preferred to see something "kind of different" in one of the locations "rather than the competition across the parking lot," but thought both would be well used.

Preparations for both stores are already under way. As large neon letters were removed from the side of the future Staples last week, a small yellow bulldozer pushed debris inside the 60,000-square-foot future Best Buy. Homeplace closed there last summer as part of a mass closing of all of the chain's 84 stores after the retailer failed to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"That surprised me -- it was just all of a sudden closing -- because that side of Milestone, with Kmart and Kohl's, is always so busy. And to have it stay empty for more than a year surprised me," Yarde said. "That's the key, we've got to keep these shopping centers filled with people -- it really helps the economic climate."


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