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Closure of West Side News shocks previous owners

| Monday, April 21, 2014, 1:39 p.m.
Karl Polacek | Daily Courier
James Shubert, owner of West Side News since January, said he cannot sustain the losses he is experiencing and closed the business earlier this month.
Karl Polacek | Daily Courier
West Side News on Crawford Avenue in Connellsville is closed after more than 33 years. The new owner said he was unable to keep it open.

For Ed and Rita Bornstein, the closing earlier this month of West Side News at 314 W. Crawford Ave. was a shock.

The couple owned and operated the Connellsville business for 33 years before selling it to James Shubert in January. Shubert announced he was closing West Side News because he was losing money.

“I‘ve had it (the business) for 10 weeks and for most of that time, we've had bad weather,” said Shubert, 60, while standing behind the register to handle the occasional customer.

Shubert is the former owner of South Side Construction. He said he was going to have a grand opening on April 15, but was losing too much money to stay open that long.

“I've done all I can,” he said.

“It's a heartache,” said Ed Bornstein, 73. “They (people who came into the store) weren't customers, they were like family. If they didn't come in at a certain time, we worried.

“It survived floods and the depression,” he added.

Rita Bornstein, 63, said they did not get rich off the business. They worked from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. They started with 12 employees. Rita Bornstein said Ed wanted to open a business because his family had owned a shoe store in Connellsville.

“You have down times and really good times,” said Rita Bornstein, a retired nurse. “Ed and I always had outside jobs.”

Their daughter, Lisa Hampshire, now in her early 40s, worked in the business since she was 15. Now she is searching for a job. Their son, Ralph Monahan, worked at the store for several years when he was young. He now lives in Newport News, Va.

The Bornsteins said a number of people worked in the store — Emily Monahan, a cousin; the Rupp brothers; and Scott Grimm, for example.

The couple felt Shubert failed to understand the nature of the business, which was begun early in the 20th century by a man called Pop Irwin. The business was later sold to Olin “Babe” DePolo. DePolo reportedly made important additions. His was the first business in the Connellsville area to install a Pennsylvania Lottery machine.

The Bornsteins bought the business from DePolo.

Rita Bornstein said lottery sales were an important part of West Side News. Older customers who could not come into the store would call or mail their numbers in, then send a check. If they won, the Bornsteins would deliver the winnings.

Shubert said he did not make any money off the lottery sales, adding he was not willing to wait for years for the possibility of a winner from his sales. He said Pennsylvania only pays store owners $5,000 on a winner, not counting the Power Ball and Mega Millions games.

The building now has a “For Rent” sign in its window.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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