Business week ends on high note in North Versailles Township
The business week in North Versailles started on a sour note on Monday with Express Scripts' announcement that it was moving from the township into neighboring North Huntingdon.
Things were a bit more in tune by Friday, however, when a new self-storage business celebrated its grand opening near the site of the old Eastland Mall.
Eastland Storage is in the building that once housed the educational book distribution company Michaels Associates.
Greg Michaels, owner of both companies, said he downsized the book business several years ago because of market changes and consolidated that company to one location in Monroeville. He said he decided to open the self-storage facility in the North Versailles building, which he's owned since 2002, after doing much research on the topic.
The project began about a year ago, Michaels said. He joined the Self Storage Association, attended trade shows and met with vendors. He also worked with township officials to study the demographics of the area and came to the conclusion that the site would be a good location.
“It's a landmark,” Michaels said, referring to the location across the East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard from the site of the old mall. Even though the mall is gone, Michaels said it is still a memory for many people so directing folks to the business is not a problem.
Michaels said the property, which once housed a furniture business, was not really suited for retail because it didn't have enough parking. He said the lot will be adequate for the new facility.
The business has 99 storage units ranging in size from 25 to 150 square feet. The steel storage bays were manufactured by North Carolina-based Betco Inc.
“They're U.S. made,” Michaels said. “That was important to me.”
Michaels said he hopes to offer attractive terms and services, such as month-to-month leasing, self-registration at a kiosk in the entryway to the building and free local use of a moving van to new customers. The facility has an enclosed loading dock and is well-illuminated with bright LED lighting. Michaels noted the building is climate controlled.
The new venture was financed through Clearview Federal Credit Union of Moon.
Clearview's Marcy Santel said of Michael's business plan, “It was well thought out. He's had the business experience.”
North Versailles code enforcement officer Allen Wagner agreed, saying, “I think he's got it down to a science.”
Wagner assisted Michaels in his research by providing demographic information about the potential client base. Wagner said the township has a sizable elderly population and concentration of apartment housing in the immediate vicinity of the storage center.
Wagner and other township officials were peeved earlier this week when the news broke that Express Scripts planned to move from its current center near the intersection of Routes 30 and 48 to a yet-to-be-built facility in North Huntingdon.
North Huntingdon recently granted a five-year tax break to Lincoln Hills Commercial for construction of the new facility on a parcel of land just west of the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange.
North Versailles officials said they had reached out numerous times to Express Scripts with competitive offers designed to beat any of the deals North Huntingdon was offering but never got the chance to present them.
At a North Versailles commissioners meeting on Thursday, board president George Thompson said the loss of the 700 employees who work at the pharmaceutical management company would “no doubt” hurt surrounding businesses. But, he added, the township would take proactive steps to keep and attract new businesses.
“We're going to move on,” Thompson said. He said the township plans to meet with Allegheny County leaders to discuss business strategies for the township and is looking to meet with the owner of the property that houses Express Scripts about finding a new tenant for the building.
“We are putting something together,” he said.
Wagner said on Friday that the township is holding its ground, despite the loss of Express Scripts, noting Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits has just opened an outlet at the intersection of Routes 48 and 30.
He noted the forthcoming construction of the new 40-unit Primrose Apartments near Giant Eagle on Route 30. He said plans for a Speedway gas station, also to be built near the Giant Eagle, are moving forward, citing the township's approval this week of a stormwater maintenance agreement for the project.
Jan Michaels, Greg Michaels' wife, said a few renters already have signed up to use the storage facility. She hopes more will come as the weather breaks and people begin spring cleaning projects.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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