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Dormont business gaps traced

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Lora Simione hoses leaves and other debris from the sidewalk in front of a building her family owns on Potomac Avenue in Dormont on Sunday, October 7, 2012.

Dormont officials hope their town's business district can attract coffee shops, high-end spas and clothing stores, and not just the car dealerships and bars that a study found are “over-supplied” for the neighborhood.

A study of the borough's demographics and spending habits measured the “gap” between what residents typically spend money on in several categories, and how many stores provided those same goods and services within a five-minute drive of the business district's main intersection, Potomac and West Liberty avenues, borough Manager Jeff Naftal said.

For example, the study identified the gap for shoe stores at $4.3 million, meaning people within a five-minute drive radius spend $4.3 million more on shoes every year than they can buy within that same radius.

“If there's a $5 million gap and you're a smart business and think you can capitalize on that, even if you capture just 10 percent, that's $500,000 a year you'd be making,” Naftal said.

The largest gap was for grocery stores. The study showed people spent an estimated $80.36 million a year on groceries, with only $25.96 million of those sales occurring within the study radius. Residents spent $22.66 million on clothing but could only buy $2.67 million in or immediately around the borough.

The over-supply data included a negative $41.35 million gap — meaning there's more sales than what people inside the borough spend — for automobile dealers. That number was no surprise, given the concentration of car dealerships along West Liberty that attract customers from across the region, Naftal said.

The study is posted on the borough's website and will be promoted to property owners and commercial real estate agents at an event this month to try to persuade more retailers to move to Dormont, Naftal said. Beaver-based Town Center Associates conducted the study for Dormont for $8,800, half of which was covered by the Dormont Main Street organization.

“We're trying to get them on the same page, to start getting some of the targeted businesses and not just the tattoo parlors and pawn shops we've been getting,” he said.

Although the study identified strong needs for groceries, clothing stores, hardware stores and full-service restaurants within a five-minute drive of the borough's commercial center, Lori Raab, daughter of Dor-Stop Restaurant owners Bob and Vicki Lawhorne, said the borough's efforts should focus on attracting more businesses to serve older, less mobile residents.

“You almost need, in a sense, a Dollar General in this area or a dollar store, because we have so many older people in this area who can't get to the grocery store,” she said, noting the nearby Dormont Place apartments for residents 62 and older.

Hollywood Theater General Manager Chad Hunter agreed with the study that the business district could use another coffee shop — Sugar Cafe folded in January 2013.

“That left a bit of a hole,” he said, though he noted the nonprofit-run independent theater recently started offering coffee at its concession area. Sugar's former owner, pastry chef Kelly James, continues to work with the Hollywood on its occasional “Breakfast and a Movie” series. She couldn't be reached for comment.

The borough has invited property owners and real estate agents to a presentation of the study and “Happy Hour” on March 26 at the Hollywood Theater.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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