The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published July 1, 1997


Merchants eye `vision' with favor, skepticism

PHOTO Jean Angelo/Herald
These buildings between the Winner department store and the Shenango River were recently purchased by the city of Sharon and will be demolished next year. After buying the property, Winner plans to build a three-story building to complement The Winner building.

The vision of quaint streets, people window shopping and of Sharon again becoming the economic center for the Shenango Valley makes some Sharon business people smile _ and wonder if it can be done.

Many Sharon business owners support the plans of fellow businessman James E. Winner Jr., but they realize his dream is going to take a lot of work.

``It sounds good to me,'' said Ted Griffith, owner of Kirsch and Griffith Men's Shop in downtown Sharon. ``Anything new coming to town will be good for downtown and the more people you have downtown the better off you are.''

Griffith said bringing more businesses and life to downtown should boost economic growth.

``He's not hurting anyone by opening things up,'' Griffith said.

But he readily admits that he won't believe the plan until he sees it.

``I would love to see every building in downtown Sharon 100 percent full like it was at one time,'' he said.

Mark Multari, owner of the Gold Mind on Railroad Street, said maybe Winner's plan is exactly what the city needs.

``The city needs a new birth to it. It would be nice to get people living in downtown. No one else is taking any initiative.''

Sheida Amiralaie, owner of Nina Nela, said she isn't sure if some of Winner's downtown ventures will help her business but his vision won't hurt it.

``People have lots of things in their minds,'' she said. ``But can they do something to make it good for everyone? If I were he, I would take a better look at the business side and keep trying to open up facilities and provide jobs because that's really what we need.''

The fact that Winner is returning some prosperity to downtown was the reason Darlene Terchila moved her International Creations out of the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage and into the city.

``I wanted to come back downtown,'' she said. ``If he weren't doing this, there wouldn't be anything here,'' she said.

Frank Szabo, whose Szabo's Jewelry is closing because of the plan to demolish his location next to The Winner, said he is not happy about his ``forced retirement.''

``I can't disapprove of the plans (to improve),'' he said. ``But I do disapprove of the plan that is forcing us out.''

Tony Basile of World Specialty Gifts on Chestnut Avenue wonders if talk of tourists roaming around town will become a reality. If tour buses are letting people off and picking them up right at the front door of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, he said, he doesn't know if they will venture around the corner to his store.

``I think what they are doing is great,'' he said. ``But at the same time a small business on a side street may get overlooked.''

The business owners have also heard the murmurings of ``Winnerville'' as Winner continues to purchase properties, including one downtown building where several businesses are being forced to move out, including Szabo's.

``There's nothing wrong with that,'' Basile said. ``Look at all of the people he's employing and what he's putting into the city. Four businesses have had to leave, but at least four more have sprouted up here (on Chestnut Street).''

As long as Winner sticks to his plans, Multari, who may be moving his business to East State Street, thinks businesses will prosper.

``If he's going to put something into a building, that's great,'' Multari said. ``But if it's going to stand vacant _ that's not good.''

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Updated July 2, 1997
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