Say Cheesecake

The Cheesecake Factory's decision to open its doors at the Mall in Columbia should bring a smile to faces all over Howard County. So say county officials, who often hear constituents grumble about the dearth of big-name retailers in the area.

No Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. No Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel.

"For whatever reason, some retailers are passing over Columbia," said County Council member Ken Ulman (D-West Columbia), who heads the county's Zoning Board. The Cheesecake Factory's arrival, possibly late this year or early next year, "sends a message to the retail community that Columbia is ready for them," Ulman said.

The 10,500-square-foot restaurant will be built on the surface parking lot across from the 14-screen AMC movie theater. Like the chain's other 92 locations, it will offer a mix of American fare and about 40 varieties of cheesecake.

Dennis W. Miller, vice president and general manager of Columbia for General Growth Properties, said that adding the Cheesecake Factory to that end of the mall should create an entertainment plaza of sorts. There is a cluster of other restaurants there, including P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Champ's Restaurant and Uno Chicago Grill.

If all goes as planned, the road in front of the theater would be shut, and 130 parking spaces would disappear once the restaurant is up and running. The mall will offer temporary parking in the meantime and provide "opportunities for additional lots," Miller said.

Ulman said he hopes other restaurants and shops will cluster around the Cheesecake Factory. "Let's make sure it's done in a way that allows people to walk around and park as easily as they can," he said.

Hungry for Growth

Saval Foodservice, which distributes food primarily to restaurants, purchased some assets of Landover-based Auth Sausage Co. this month for an undisclosed sum.

Under the deal, Saval gets Auth's meat-cutting operation along with its inventory, equipment and brand name. This weekend, Saval moved items such as french fries and cheese from Auth's warehouses into its facilities in Elkridge. The meat-cutting operation moved to Deli Brands of America, Saval's processing subsidiary in Baltimore.

Paul Saval, the company's president, said the deal helps extend his company's customer base beyond family and carryout restaurants, delicatessens and pizza parlors. Auth works mainly with white-tablecloth restaurants.

"We want to sell everything to every type of restaurant," Saval said. "The main area of growth for us is higher-end dining. This acquisition gets us right into that immediately."

Saval Foodservice recently broke ground on a $5 million expansion at its Elkridge headquarters. By adding storage space, Saval hopes to accommodate more customers and hire more people to serve them.

And More Growth

Essex Corp. has consolidated several offices in the Columbia area into one 39,000-square-foot building in Columbia.

The new headquarters, at 6708 Alexander Bell Dr., "offers us an excellent base from which to continue growing and keeps us close to many of our customers," Leonard Moodispaw, the company's chief executive and president, said in a statement.

Essex's old headquarters was a 17,600-square-foot building at 9150 Guilford Rd.

Essex is an intelligence technology company that provides devices and services that process and analyze signals, images and information. Its main customers are U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. It specializes in telecommunications, radar analysis and three-dimensional imaging.

-- DINA ELBOGHDADY

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