North Huntingdon looks back on life of little 'e' with fondness, disinterest
By Amanda Dolasinski
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Little ‘e,' which spent years clinging to the end of ‘town' in old English spelling, died in November in North Huntingdon after being dropped from a sign for the revamped Norwin Town Square shopping plaza that faces Route 30.
Little ‘e' saw a lot in its years on the sign as stores moved out of the shopping center throughout the 1990s. Still, acquaintances said, it mustered the strength to survive the 2000s. Little ‘e' was present in police reports detailing robberies in 2001 and cropped up as a witness during a wedding ceremony at the plaza's McDonald's in 2005, according to newspaper archives.
The sudden disappearance of little ‘e' led to some confusion as lifelong residents speculated about its demise on social media.
Limited space and cost restrictions immediately were ruled out.
“We didn't think an ‘e' with that connotation fit that type of center,” Don Tarosky Jr., one of the developers, said. “You see that type of thing at Disney and Las Vegas, not North Huntingdon.”
Tarosky said he and his partner mulled over the name but ultimately decided to change it to signify a rebirth of the former shopping hub.
“We wanted to make it simpler and to note that there was a change in the center,” he said.
Little ‘e' should be remembered more for its commitment to embellishment, rather than purpose, said Scott Kiesling, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh.
“It has nothing to do with the function or the spelling; it just has to do with how it looks,” he said. “The silent ‘e' tends to indicate to people that this is an old spelling. This is where the towne ‘e' comes in; it gives you a picture of a quaint town in England.”
In the virtual world, township residents debated the significance of little ‘e.' Some residents said they wanted it to be part of the sign; others said it was outdated and largely ignored.
Little ‘e' emerged in the late 1980s during a renovation of the shopping center, township officials guess.
Commissioner Tony Martino notified township leaders last week of the death of little ‘e.' He said he hadn't noticed until a resident called questioning what happened.
“Sometimes, we get so serious in our meetings, so I thought, ‘I'm going to bring up about the missing ‘e,'” he said.
Some commissioners chuckled. Commissioner Richard Gray noted little ‘e' was not part of the plaza's original name anyway.
When the plaza opened in 1958, it was called Norwin Shopping Center.
Despite the death of little ‘e,' at least one business owner said life will move on, and business will continue to blossom at the shopping center.
“Who cares if there's an ‘e'? With the ‘e,' without the ‘e,' it's the same place,” said Sherry Payne DiCristofaro, owner of Norwin Barber Shop.
Her father purchased the shop in 1964 and remained at the plaza until the latest round of remodeling began.
“I've watched all the changes,” DiCristofaro said. “I've been working there since I was 12. I've seen all the different shops that came and went.”
When the plaza opened in 1958, it was the only shopping center in the township. Among its stores, residents remember an A&P grocery store, Cox's, Grant's, Action Hardware, a self-service laundry, a post office, a bakery and a butcher shop. “It was a one-stop shop,” said Nancy Boldin, a township administrative assistant. “It was nice and real pretty.”
She remembers summers at the center, which usually began with a complimentary hot dog from the butcher, and walking around the stores with her friend.
The center thrived for decades until two other shopping centers opened in the township.
Eventually, some conditions at the Norwin Towne Center began to deteriorate, said Andy Blenko, township planning director.
“In 2006, tenants started calling to complain,” Blenko said. “If it wasn't a building-code violation, there was nothing to enforce.”
Commissioners were upset with the condition of the plaza and were eager to see it redeveloped, he said.
In 2011, a sales agreement for $4.5 million was in the works. Tarosky and his partners at Colony Norwin announced the first tenants at the revamped center would include Bob Massie Toyota and a Shop 'n Save grocery store.
New tenants at Norwin Town Square include Clear Hearing Solutions, M&M Styles, Frogurt, Suntan Seekers, Joe's Tailor Shop and Route 30 Auto Insurance.
Little ‘e' is survived by its longtime companion, a space.
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.
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