Caste Village Shoppes have local feel and family connections
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Changes at the Caste Village Shoppes have brought in new customers to old staples in the Whitehall center, business owners say.
Yet, it's the local feel and family connections that keep people coming back.
“Caste Village is one of the few and only shopping centers that when you walk in the owner is standing there to great you,” said Tony Bonacci, co-owner of Frank's Shoes, which opened its second store in the last three years in Robinson Town Centre.
It all starts from the top, business owners say. Caste Village Shoppes is a family owned and operated shopping center, where members of the Caste family are involved in the day-to-day operations.
That makes a difference, said Silk Road owner Thuy Lieu.
Many of the more than 50 businesses in the shopping center also are locally owned, with South Hills residents at the helm. Generations, too, work together inside the stores to ensure their businesses prosper.
“This is their career. This is their life,” Lieu said.
A third generation of family members now are working at Frank's Shoes and Clothing, which opened at Caste Village in the 1960s as a shoe repair store. The business has been in the family since the 1970s and expanded to sell clothing and footwear, mostly for men, Bonacci said.
“It's a good family oriented place,” said store manager Nick Costanzo. “That's what I think makes this shopping center unique.”
The store has moved five times inside the shopping center and increased from 600 square feet to a 6,300-square-foot space, Bonacci said. While the majority of the business now is in clothing and shoe sales, Frank's Shoes still does repairs.
Today's shoes are “junk, cheap and horribly made” from plastics and man-made materials — swear words to those in the shoe repair business, Bonacci said. Now, many people simply buy another pair of shoes instead of getting theirs repaired. So it was important for the business to change.
Changes at Caste Village only have improved business, owners said.
“It's the best it's ever been,” Bonacci said of the shopping center.
Julie Mancine opened “Julie's Treats” inside Caste Village three years ago.
Like the owners of Frank's Shoes, Mancine, too, has gotten to know her customers well.
The same people come into the shop on a daily basis for coffee, doughnuts and lottery tickets. It's those customers that make work enjoyable.
“We like coming to work every day,” Mancine said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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