Highland Mall still open for business

| Sunday, Sept. 18, 2005

Drew Jonczak once again will have to reinvent his business.

Jonczak, who started Superior Sports Cards 18 years ago in the Highlands Mall, saw the popularity of comic books die and the rise and fall of the sports-card industry, will move his store to Tarentum.

You still will be able to purchase a Sydney Crosby rookie card and an issue of Batman at the store's new location, but he's also expanding to sell coins and wedding candles. The new store will be in the former C&C Antique building at Fifth Avenue and Lock Street.

Superior Sports Cards is one of a handful of businesses left in Highlands Mall. The mall is scheduled to be razed early next year to make way for a shopping center that will include a Wal-Mart Super Center.

The mall, which once bustled with shoppers, began to decline when the Value City department store left in 2001. Without a true anchor, one business after another began to leave. But there are at least seven that remain.

And they want people know their businesses are open. They said some people think the mall already has closed.

"We're still open at least a couple more months," Jonczak said while sitting on a bench outside his store.

Guy DiRienzo, a partner with Michael Joseph Development, said the company received final site-plan approval for the shopping center, and the mall will close Jan. 31.

"We hope they stay there until then," DiRienzo said of the existing businesses.

Plans for the new shopping center call for the Wal-Mart Super Center, current mall resident Roomful Express, two other larger retail stores, two sit-down restaurants, two fast food restaurants, a bank, an ice-cream stand and a gas station. It's scheduled to open in spring 2007.

Custom Picture Transfers moved into the mall in November. The store is owned by husband and wife, Ron and Carol Brozenick. Ron Brozenick said he hopes to stay in the mall through Christmas, then move to a Freeport Road building next to Del's Frozen Custard that houses Island Heat -- not far from the mall.

"I'm going to stick it out as long as I can," Ron Brozenick said.

But he said the walk-in traffic at the mall drastically decreased in the past year as businesses moved out. He, too, said many people don't know the mall is open.

"That's our biggest fight," he said.

Kate Panizzi, owner of Hair Together, also said she's seen a sharp dropoff in walk-in business.

She said she's moving the business at the end of the year to Freeport Road next to L. Arnold and Son's Hardware. Panizzi said she will miss the people in the mall and the fact that it's in a secure place, but she also is looking forward to the move.

'We're anxious to leave and get a new start," she said.

Highland Nail soon will relocate next to Bianco's Family Hair Care along Dallas Avenue in Harrison.

J&S Pizza is planning a move to the Heights Plaza between Bath & Body Works and Sterling Optical.

Christ Community Church also is preparing for a move. Pastor Jeff Youell said the church wants to build on property it owns in Buffalo Township, but is looking for an interim site.

Nobody from Jampole Communications, which handles public relations for Bilo, or Dollar General returned phone calls seeking comment. Bilo and Dollar General stores are in the mall.

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