Some mall tenants may stay awhile

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Some tenants at Washington Mall who expected to leave the property in December or January because of a planned reconstruction said they'd been invited to stay longer because of an unspecified delay in the project.

Shorty's Lunch, Dezines by Ryan and Audiologics said they were offered additional time at the mall. Other businesses said they hadn't been given an invitation to stay.

Last fall, the mall's marketing agent, JJ Gumberg Co., sought South Strabane's approval to convert the 36-year-old mall into a strip shopping center. The project received preliminary approval, but no one's returned for the final OK, township Manager John Stickle said.

One of the mall's owners, Washington lawyer Stephen Richman, said last week that he wasn't able to discuss the project. Another owner, businessman Phillip Falconi, didn't return phone calls.

Tilda Comstock, spokeswoman for Gumberg, said the project had not been delayed and predicted that a construction timetable would be announced early next year. "As far as we're concerned," she said, "we're right on schedule."

But Steve Alexas, an owner of Shorty's, said mall owners he didn't identify offered him six more months there because of a project delay. He said he was told the owners' plans "are on hold or they've changed."

Alexas, whose family had planned to relocate the mall store to Canton, said he would stay at the mall and open the new location, too.

April Ryan, owner of Dezines by Ryan, said a representative of Gumberg contacted her to offer her additional time at the mall.

But because he wouldn't tell her how much longer she could stay, she said, she's keeping plans to leave the mall after the holiday season. A mall tenant for 13 years, she said she was unsure what she'll do after that.

Bernie Russell and Ron Fecek, owners of Audiologics, are moving their hearing aid store to a professional building by Cameron Wellness Center in South Strabane.

Russell said the mall, a home to Audiologics for 35 years, gave the business a February departure date, then changed it to January. Recently, Russell said, a mall representative told him the January departure was "not as urgent."

"Now, it's whenever," Russell said.

Richard White, president and chief executive officer of Washington Federal, said he was waiting to see what happens at the mall.

"As we understand it, nothing's final," White said.

He said the bank hadn't received notice to leave the mall. If the time comes, he said, the bank would merge that branch with one near Home Depot nearby.

Dollar General, Just Dogs and LA Nails likewise said they hadn't received notice to leave the mall.

The plan submitted to South Strabane officials called for demolition of the mall's interior space. The strip mall was to have space for some current tenants -- including J.C. Penney, Staples and Toys R Us -- and 88,000 square feet for a new major tenant which wasn't named.

Officials of Radio Shack, Treasure Stop and Special Occasion said their plans remained up in the air. Scott Aber, whose family owns Barbara's Hallmark, would say only that they intended to keep a Washington location.

Tom Dwyer, senior real estate director for Eckerd Drug, said the company's mall store would remain open during the reconstruction. He said the company planned to have a location at the strip mall, perhaps a freestanding building with a drive-up window.

Like Dezines by Ryan and Audiologics, some businesses said they were preparing to leave.

The Washington Artists' Co-op was looking for a new location, Vice President Jim Winegar said.

KC Uniforms still has a location in Green Tree, Allegheny County, and may open a new store next year, General Manager Fred Rellason said.

Pastries by John was planning to leave by the end of the year. Owner Chris Bazzoli said he hadn't been able to find affordable space elsewhere and had no immediate plans to reopen.

Steel City Hobbies was planning to move to Great Southern Shopping Center in Collier, owner Mike Rooney said.

The Silver Mine is moving to the former Progressive Mobility site at Route 19 and Cameron Road in South Strabane, Manager Dennis Lesko said.

Men's clothing store Haynes Triangle will not reopen, employee Kenny Duckworth said.


Joe Smydo can be reached at jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 724-746-8812.


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