Santoni’s Super Market, which has operated in the Highlandtown section of Baltimore since 1930, has closed its doors, effective October 23.
According to Rob Santoni Jr. who was the CFO and general manager of the 28,000 square foot unit (the store was owned by his father Bob Santoni and his uncle Paul Santoni), the City of Baltimore’s beverage tax was the sole reason the business failed.
The younger Santoni noted that since the beverage tax levy went into effect in July 2010, his store has realized a total sales loss in excess of $4 million (18 percent of total revenue) and that sales in the store’s beverage category declined 28 percent. Santoni also stated that customer traffic count decreased 20 percent. Additionally, Santoni’s will lay off more than 80 employees.
“The damage done by the beverage tax is irreversible and proves that Baltimore retailers were right all along (in aggressively opposing the bill’s passage),” Santoni declared.
The original 2-cents-a bottle tax was implemented in July 2010. Last year the city council, with the strong support of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, voted to increase the tax to 5-cents-a bottle and make it permanent.
The Highlandtown store on Eastern Avenue was close to the original Santoni’s Market, opened by Rob Santoni’s grandfather, Savino, in 1930. It has served thousands of families in the tight-knit but evolving section of East Baltimore for the past 83 years. The supermarket’s closing also means that the independent retailer will end its “Virtual Supermarket” program which provided fresh food to underserved “food desert” communities via Santoni’s on-line shopping service. Santoni’s will also cease operations of Baltimore’s only free supermarket shuttle service which transported individuals living in food deserts to and from their store.
“The mayor has refused to listen to small business leaders. She is stubborn and will not admit that the beverage tax was a wrong decision on her part. Her insistence that Baltimore retailers carry this burden has not only cost my family our business, but the jobs of my employees. What has taken 83 years to build has been torn down by one person and one bad law. The mayor’s political arrogance is appalling. She obviously does not possess certain skills needed to run this City. The city has lost a great retailer and the Highlandtown community is losing a passionate and charitable partner.”