The grand opening of Christopher’s Fine Foods in Churchton on Wednesday morning ended a 10-year journey to bring a perfectly-sized grocery store to south county.
Up until December, local shoppers only had small grocers to choose from like Renno’s Market and the Deale FoodRite. Former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens tried to add a large Safeway 10 years ago, but her effort was fought strongly by locals demanding “appropriate development.”
But those desperately seeking a grocery store with a local feel finally got their wish Wednesday as Christopher’s announced its presence to the community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Owner Dean Monkelien gave Patch a quick tour before the ceremony, highlighting some of his favorite parts of his new, 15,000-square-foot establishment.
“[Christopher’s] is fantastic,” Monkelien said while pointing around the market. “People really love the bakery and our chicken tastes better than Kentucky-fried.”
Despite his pride in the quality of food, an emphasis on “local” saturated his speech when it came to his new store.
Monkelien said while owning and running Deale FoodRite, now closed, he employed about 60 people. But since the unofficial opening of Christopher’s Dec. 14, he’s hired 50 more local employees.
The happy owner said Christopher’s offers the perfect amount of service while still maintaining a hometown feel.
Pam Scarbro, a representative for District 7 Councilman Jerry Walker, agreed.
“Deale FoodRite was too small. Safeway was not right. But now, we have Christopher’s, which is just right,” Scarbro said to a crowd outside the store.
The store is named after Dick Christopher, its general manager. Christopher also helped design the interior of the building.
“We wanted to give a community touch,” Christopher said.
Shoppers are immediately greeted by familiar images when they walk into the store. Large pictures of boats, piers and wildlife line the walls above locally-grown produce. Even the aisles are local. Each one is named after a nearby street in south county.
Mohan Grover, owner of Renno’s Market just two miles away, attended the grand opening and said he welcomed the addition to the community.
“[Christopher’s] is bigger and better than [Renno’s Market] and it will fill a need we may not have been able to fill,” Grover said. “We must complement each other.”
For some residents, Christopher’s is more than just another place to buy groceries—it’s a sign that the community still has a voice.
“Ten years ago, south county was targeted by the big boys that wanted to build a Safeway,” said Mike Shay, founding member of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACReD). “The community now knows we are empowered and we can win [against government or big business]. … Victories are empowering.”
Now that Christopher’s Fine Foods officially opened, do you plan to shop there?