Derrick Plummer, Gregory Holmes and Eugene A. Marrott Jr. like to dress well. They like to eat well too.
But to buy a nice sportcoat, they say, they have to travel to Georgetown, Annapolis or Columbia. To eat a nice meal, they say, they often have to venture into the District. The three Prince George's residents, who are frustrated by the lack of shopping and dining options in the county, have launched a campaign to put pressure on developers and elected officials to give Prince George's the upscale stores and quality restaurants found in other parts of the region.
Plummer said the county, a mecca for well-to-do African Americans, deserves better.
"If you want to go out for a nice dinner, you have to go to a place that asks 'Do you want fries with that?' " said Plummer, 24, who works for a mortgage company. "I shouldn't have to go out of the county to buy a suit."
Upscale Prince George's, the nonprofit citizens group the trio has formed, will lobby for higher-end retail in a county with more higher-income residents, but fewer major department stores and restaurants, than some of its counterparts. A group of civic leaders began a "shop where you live" campaign in 1997, encouraging residents to boycott stores in neighboring counties and keep all the retail dollars in the county.
Arthur Turner, a civic leader, organized a letter-writing campaign to chief executive officers of stores such as Nordstrom and Cheesecake Factory.
Looking back, Turner said this week that he believes they had a "measure of success. It brought the issue to the forefront, it mobilized people and it let developers know that we knew we were being redlined," he said.
Upscale Prince George's will hold meetings with citizens and developers to discuss the county's retail market, attend county hearings, organize "town hall meetings" and launch a Web site.
"The time is now," said Holmes, 35, a project manager. He said the group's founding members decided to formalize their effort after realizing that their neighbors and friends were as frustrated as they were about how underserved the county is.
The group acknowledges that Prince George's has made some strides in the past several years with the opening of such places as the Stonefish Grill at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre and Hecht's at Bowie Town Center.
"It's trickling in," Holmes said. "Everywhere else, it's a full flow . . . We're just not seeing the same boom other areas are experiencing."
Kwasi Holman, chief executive of the county's Economic Development Corp., said that it is not from a lack of trying. The county has been aggressively working with developers, he said.
"They won't have much longer to wait," said Holman, who said the county is involved in negotiations with companies that have "the characteristics this group is looking for."
The county hired a firm last year to conduct a demographics study to provide developers with evidence that Prince George's can support high-end retail. The study also compared the income levels in Prince George's with Howard County and neighboring Anne Arundel.
Prince George's had an estimated 115,044 households with incomes above $75,000 last year. According to the study, Howard and Anne Arundel counties' numbers were lower.
Yet Prince George's has managed to attract only one major clothing department store, Hecht's, while Howard and Anne Arundel counties each have a Hecht's, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom. Turner said he hopes Upscale Prince George's will help lure high-end development to the county.
"To the extent they are successful, we are all successful," Turner said.