New businesses breathing life back into community center

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 5:06 p.m.

Connellsville officials and members of the Connellsville Community Center Advisory Board are excited at the rate with which businesses are moving into the community center.

For this year, Connellsville City Councilman Gregory Ritch said a goal was set to bring one new business each month into the community center as a way to make the center viable and self-sustaining again.

In January, the center picked up two businesses — Babies and More, which is a gently used clothing outlet; and Mark Down Market, which sells groceries and toiletries at marked-down prices.

Babies and More is up and running in Room 204. The Mark Down Market has taken up residence in the basement of the community center, where the Salvation Army operated its Connellsville Service Unit. It vacated the premises late in 2012.

Tina Show, owner of the Mark Down Market, said she has enjoyed working with the city and community center officials.

“They really worked with us,” she said. “I'd tell anyone to move into this building. They're offering a bunch of different things here and I think people need to bring their new businesses to Connellsville.”

She said her business has seen a lot of foot traffic in its new location. Business has been good, she said.

Show said the business has opened a deli, which has started to gain in popularity.

There are other changes coming to the center.

The HoBo railroad display will move from the third floor to the first floor. A thrift store, operated by the community center through volunteers, will also soon be operational.

This endeavor is under the direction of Dolly Tissue, who sits on the advisory board.

“Along with that, there are two other businesses looking to come in, and we're negotiating with them right now,” said Ritch.

While still in the discussion stages, an Avon business and possibly a hair salon or a candy venture may be moving into the center.

Ritch said center officials are planning many different activities.

Ritch said things are happening at the center.

He said the gymnasium alone is bringing in about $500 a week — up from $150 a week.

“That $2,000 a month really helps to pay the bills and is helping us to keep our heads above water,” he said. “Our December was good, our January was better, and we're hoping February will be even better yet.”

Gary Colatch, acting chairman of the community center's advisory board, said any new tenants that come in is a good thing.

“It's another step forward toward making sure the center stays a viable part of the community,” he said. “I think we should be able to reach one business a month. I'm happy to see that not only are we getting new tenants, but we're getting tenants who are community-oriented.”

In addition to the usage of the gymnasium, Colatch said several events are already scheduled for the Porter Theater this year.

And Ritch is hoping the pool will be operational by the summer.

“Across the board, there is a lot of effort being put forth by a lot of people, including the volunteers and those individuals who are working here on a daily basis,” Ritch said.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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