Niche stores enhance Monongahela
By Chris Buckley
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 8:08 p.m.
Susan Bowers loves history and has a true appreciation of the rich historic heritage of her hometown of Monongahela.
The longtime president of the Monongahela Area Historical Society likes to compare Monongahela to a Norman Rockwell painting of Americana.
“We all want to work together to make Monongahela a better place,” Bowers said. “Little towns have to work together.”
The now-retired Monongahela Elementary Center fifth-grade teacher has joined five other friends to open a village of stores under one roof in downtown Monongahela.
The Vintage Village, located at 168 West Main St., is a throwback to the city's earlier days. Each of the four businesses within the Village offer antiques and collectibles along with its own niche gift items. It is a part of a growing business niche around which the downtown business community is being built.
And serving their community is as much a motivation as operating their own businesses. That will be evident later this month when they will be hold an event that will benefit one of the charitable organizations they support in their community.
All of the shops feature antiques and collectibles.
Martha Muniz and Bowers operate Crescent Moon, which offers handmade greeting cards.
Marsha Barna and Judy McCurry operate The Featured Nest.
Tammy Sprinkle is owner of Reclaimed Décor, selling accent pieces and furniture made from vintage doors and shutters and windows.
Inside The Vintage Village is a shop named The Vintage Valley. Owned by Jennifer Kisiday, it offers all natural products like hand and bath soaps, insect repellants and hand lotions. Bowers said Claudia Williams, who owns C.J.'s Furniture nearby, helped them find the location. All Monongahela residents, the women wanted to open their businesses in their hometown.
“We all came together looking for a place together,” said Kisiday.
“We were surprised by the number of people who come in from out of town,” said McCurry.
On May 19, The Vintage Village will hold an event from noon to 6 p.m. It will include a wine tasting from Plum Run Winery of Scenery Hill and free food samples from Seasoned by Grace.
Barna is manager of Seasoned by Grace, along with chef Christine Somales. Seasoned by Grace is attached to Judy Rose Ice Cream, which is owned by Juan Rodriguez and Judy Soccio. Seasoned by Grace plans events ranging from baby showers to business meetings. Starting next month, they will offer dinners by reservation from Thursdays to Saturdays, featuring “elegant dining.”
The event will also serve as an open house for the shops located in The Vintage Village.
Part of the proceeds of the event will benefit the Monongahela Area Historical Society.
Bowers said the business owners are also dedicated to helping their community. That sense of community service is what brings the people of the city together.
For example, Barna is president of the Monongahela Women's Club. Recently, the Women's Club made a $5,000 donation to the Aquatorium renovation project.
The women's club also reupholsters the stools in the coffee shop at Monongahela Valley Hospital. The work is done by Jackson Upholstery, which is located next to The Vintage Village.
Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Bottino said specialty shops such as The Vintage Village are becoming a building block for growth in the downtown business community.
“Anytime a store opens, especially one that brings a unique flavor to the community, it creates a ripple effect,” Bottino said. “First, it has a positive effect on the curb appeal of the town. Second it helps increase foot traffic.
“Additionally it helps the marketability of the community.” Bottino said. “Because some of our newer stores in Monongahela are specialty type shops, they generate an additional reason to stop in our town.
“This, in fact, benefits everyone,” Bottino said. “The impact or significance of a new store cannot be underestimated. The real trick is changing the thought process of the community and people outside of our community that they will support these stores not because it is their duty but because they are really great stores.
“Our town harbors a great deal of potential that is gradually revealing itself with every new shop and every time somebody supports them.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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