2 restaurants at Waterworks mall close

| Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006

After 23 years of business, Dingbats and Abate at The Waterworks mall closed in late August , more casualties in what the eateries' parent company calls "the branding of America."

"It was a decision revolving around the loss of business resulting from chain restaurants opting to move into the area and pulling the existing population base from local entrepreneurs like us," said Victor Son, chief financial officer of Food Service Management Associates in the RIDC Park in O'Hara. "In the state the city is in with people moving out, all they're doing is dividing up the pie among everyone that's left, so we get a smaller share by definition."

Son cited new competition from the restaurants that opened around the Pittsburgh Mills mall along Route 28 in Frazer Township . He said that business dropped 25 percent to 30 percent since the mall opened in 2005.

Dingbats and Abate closed suddenly on Sunday, Aug. 27. A sign on each door reads: "Guests, friends and neighbors, thank-you for 23 wonderful and interesting years."

A pair of out-of-town passersby were surprised to see their favorite rest stop Dingbats closed.

"We come in every month for an appointment at (nearby St. Margaret) hospital," said Phil Miller, of Fairmont City, Greene County. "We stop here on our way home every time."

The closings even came as a surprise to the wait staff, which showed up to work on Aug. 27 and expected business as usual.

"We had heard rumblings from some customers," said one waiter who worked at Abate nearly a year. "I asked my general manager three weeks ago and he said there was nothing to all the rumors."

Still, by the middle of their shift on Aug. 27, word started circulating through the seafood restaurant that it would close its doors for good that night. The same was true for Dingbats, which has anchored the shopping plaza along Freeport Road for more than two decades.

The Dingbats restaurant located in Greensburg also closed this summer. There is another Dingbats location open in Butler.

Christin More, public relations director for mall owners J.J. Gumberg, said she did not have many details on the closings.

"It was a business decision made by the owner of the restaurant," she said.

She declined to say whether other restaurants have expressed interest in the two sites.

The posters hanging on the entrances to both restaurants read, "Look for a replacement soon," but More' declined to name potential tenants.

"J.J. Gumberg Co. is seeking new opportunities to fill this location, however at this time there is no further information to report," she said.

"The term is the 'branding of America,'" Son said. "I think in five or 10 years, it will be hard to find a local entrepreneur who can compete. In every city you go to, it will be the same choices."

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