Three years ago, the grocery store chain Lidl tore down a beloved neighborhood market on Belair Road in Hamilton to open one of its locations, promising to serve surrounding communities with “high quality groceries and low prices.

It has been sitting empty for well over a year.

The closing has upset residents who have many questions about what’s going on.

It turns out a supply chain issue with the refrigeration system caused the delays to the opening Lidl’s 5950 Belair Road location, according to an email from Councilwoman Danielle McCray provided to The Banner by a resident. McCray’s office has been meeting with Lidl monthly for the last two years, the email said.

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In the meantime, community members say the lot has become a dumping ground, earning a citation from the city in February for accumulation of trash and unsanitary conditions. Rumors also started to spread that the company was bankrupt, that there were issues with electrification, and that Lidl was no longer planning to open the store.

It doesn’t help that the grocer entered the U.S. market in 2017, promising to open 600 locations nationwide, but only had 170 stores in the U.S. last year compared to 12,000 worldwide, according to Business Insider. It closed 11 branches last year, including two in Maryland.

Aimee Campbell, Lidl’s director of corporate affairs, said the company is still planning to open on Belair Road, but does not have a date to share yet.

As the newly built store sat empty, the German company, with its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia opened its first store in the city at Northwood Commons in 2022. It has also grown rapidly in Maryland, with a regional distribution center in Cecil County and 20 store locations, even after the 11 closings. The newest store opened on Valentine’s Day in Hyattsville.

The Hamilton store was set to replace neighborhood staple Bel-Garden Bi-Rite Supermarket, which had aisles devoted to Otterbein and Berger cookies and shelves with pickled onions and pickled eggs, according to The Baltimore Sun. The family who owned the business for almost 60 years sold the property to Lidl for $4.2 million, according to land records. Lidl hired a South Baltimore company and a Virginia-based firm as architects on the project, planning a 25,400-square-foot grocery store with 102 parking spaces.

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Construction began in the summer of 2021. Their last construction permit expired earlier this year in January, and the last permit issued was to use the building for a “retail food market” in January of 2023, according to the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Health.

“I can’t believe that they put all this money in this store,” said Linda Gruzs, president of Cedmont Community Improvement Association. “I mean, the parking lot’s beautiful and landscaping beautiful.”

Gruzs has lived in the neighborhood all 71 years of her life. She grew up going to the Bel-Garden Bi-Rite Supermarket. Its closing created a void that Lidl still has not filled, she said.

A lot of elderly people walked to the store, Gruzs said. There’s a senior housing community not too far, and the market was convenient for them. Lidl would be, too.

Another resident, Patricia Long, now goes to a few stores for groceries. She tries to catch the sales at Giant, then goes to Safeway, then a convenience store. Others go to Aldi, she said. But many of those grocers are pricier, she said.

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When Bel-Garden Bi-Rite Supermarket announced it would be closing and the neighborhood found that Lidl had bought their property, people weren’t overly upset at the company.

“I don’t think we know enough about them to have an opinion,” Long said.