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In this case, the highway is the Route 13 bypass, a four lane divided highway used by an average of 18,000 cars a day that pass the usual array of fast-food restaurants, car dealerships, gas stations, motels and strip shopping centers.
Business leaders say the downtown district pretty much held its own through rapid development along the highway in the 1980's, but the opening three years ago of a 147,000-square-foot Wal-Mart accelerated the closing of shops downtown.
"Free enterprise is free enterprise, and what it tells us is that we have to adapt if we're going to be successful," says Marc Scher, a third generation merchant whose family opened a downtown clothing store in 1933. In recent years, Scher has switched focus, concentrating on a bridal business that attracts clients from as far as Baltimore.
"I don't think we'll ever see the era when downtown was a big retail center," Scher says. You have to specialize if you are going to get people to come to you. I just hate to see an empty store, whether its an office, retail or whatever. You just want to see the lights on."
The Baltimore Sun
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