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Parkway Center Mall nears end

Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item - Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item</em></div>Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item - Ron Russitano, owner of Phantom of the Attic comic book store, rings out customer Justin Fanzo of Carnegie at his new location on Noblestown Road.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item</em></div>Ron Russitano, owner of  Phantom of the Attic comic book store, rings out customer Justin Fanzo of Carnegie at his new location on Noblestown Road.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item - Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item</em></div>Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item - Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item</em></div>Kmart signs are plastered around the area, advertising reduced prices as the venerable store prepares to close for good at the Parkway Center Mall on Jan. 6.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item - Parkway Center Mall near Green Tree is practically desolate now after thriving during its early days in the 1980s. Several stores remain open in the mall but soon will close and either relocate or go out of business.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item</em></div>Parkway Center Mall near Green Tree is practically desolate now after thriving during its early days in the 1980s. Several stores remain open in the mall but soon will close and either relocate or go out of business.

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By Jeff Widmer
Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
 

Parkway Center Mall near Green Tree is practically desolate now. Only the second of three floors remains open.

It was there last week that Anita Okraszewski of Elliott was walking briskly through the dark hallway that is now only spotted with customers. On cold, windy days, Okraszewski uses the mall's second floor as a walking track.

“It's amazing,” said Okraszewski, who walks several miles a week, “I come here to walk on cold days because I know no one will be here. And it's warm. I can get a good workout. I can walk on the second floor because there is no one here to bug me.

“The next step is a gym membership and I am not doing that,” she said.

The 442,742-square-foot shopping center, visible from Interstate 376 and once favored by residents of Green Tree and surrounding communities, is scheduled to close shortly after the Kmart shuts down on Jan. 6. The few small businesses that do remain there, including Dalmo Optical and The Sports Deli, plan on moving out and relocating by Jan. 13.

The mall opened in the early 1980s and once was a safe haven for so many businesses; however, it began to decline in the late 1990s. Businesses such as Jo Ann Fabrics, PharMor, National Record Mart, Chi Chi's Restaurant, KayBee Toys, Radio Shack and Payless Shoe Source all are gone now.

Sophia Zhang has owned Dalmo Optical at Parkway Center for 12 years. The closing of the mall is disappointing more than anything else, she said.

“It is, because I worked hard and tried to bring people into the mall. Now, look where we are. I will relocate, but I have a long list of patients that want me to stay and want me to stay close,” Zhang said.

Zhang and her two-employee business will relocate to Greentree Road in Green Tree.

The Sports Deli has been at the mall since 2000. The store sells a variety of sports memorabilia and clothing.

Owner Michael Autieri said he will relocate, but is unsure where.

Autieri believes his core customers will follow him wherever he goes.

“Over the years, most of my customers (come into the store) with their girlfriends. Then they get married and they have kids. And their kids come here to shop when they grow up,” Autieri said.

Most people – and businesses owners – agree that the opening of other, more centralized shopping areas such as Robinson Town Center and The Pointe at Robinson triggered the downfall of Parkway Center.

Ron Russitano has owned “Phantom of the Attic” comic book store for 21 years. A native of Scott, he graduated from Chartiers Valley High School in 1983.

Russitano operated his business out of the mall for more than two decades. But rather than wait until mid-January, he decided to move to Noblestown Road across from Noble Manor Shopping Center last month.

Now, he has more than three times the space he had at Parkway Center, and is trying to figure out what to do with it all.

“It is pretty big. I have no idea how big. But I'm happy with it,” Russitano said. He does believe the sour economy led to Parkway Center's demise, as well as the expansion of Robinson Township shopping.

“The thing is, all of my core customers know I am here. I called them, emailed them. I made them aware I was leaving (the mall) months ago.”

Green Tree Manager Dave Montz does not believe the mall's closing with have a sour effect on the borough's economy. In fact, all residents seem to be concerned about, Montz said, is whether or not the adjoining Giant Eagle will stay open.

As things stand now, the Giant Eagle will not close. What will happen to the mall building once it closes is not yet known, Montz said.

“Even I am concerned about the Giant Eagle. I will admit that. I go there a couple of times a week. You can't beat the convenience of the Giant Eagle,” Montz said.

For now, Parkway Center Mall remains open. But come January, changes will have to be made, Okraszewski said.

“I know I will have to figure something out. It will be cold outside, very cold to walk outside. I will figure something out.”

Jeff Widmer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or jwidmer@tribweb.com.

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