When Levin Furniture closes its doors on this final business day at the Ohio Valley Mall, it will mark the first move in the most extensive business relocation project undertaken at the huge retail center to establish a spot for a big, new anchor department store since more than a decade ago when Stone & Thomas relinquished its anchor spot and moved into a corridor location where a number of smaller stores had to be moved to create its new venue - now occupied by Elder Beerman.
Clearing the space for the expected move of Boscov department store will affect at least a half dozen smaller stores and possibly even more which will have to be relocated to other vacant stores in the retail center. Managers of those affected stores have told me they "have been told but not officially" that they may be relocated to other spots in the mall.
Although no official announcement has been made of the Boscov move or the anticipated relocation of some stores to provide an expanded area for the new store, Anthony Cafaro, co-president of the Cafaro Co., owner of the retail center, was at the mall 10 days ago looking over the area where some of the business relocations are to take place.
Among the stores reportedly to be moved to make way for the new department store are Victoria's Secret, Books-A-Million, Raven Rocks Workwear, and Kitchen Collection. At least one of those stores has been informed of the new location for its store. Some of those affected by the moves may be occupying one of several vacant spots in the Sears corridor. The Shoe Department store is considering moving to a new location but it is not linked to the Boscov moves.
Although the Levin store is closing today, there are unconfirmed reports that the moves involving the other stores may not be made for a month or more.
Casey McCreary, Levin store manager, said there were no developments regarding keeping the store at the mall. But he indicated there is "hope" that Levin's will find a place to establish a store "somewhere in this area" in the future.
It is likely Levin's scored a record with the sale it has staged during the past month. On several occasions cars and pickup trucks were lined up from the store's loading dock half way around the mall. On one occasion I counted 53 cars lined up waiting to reach to dock to pick up the items purchased earlier.
There are 10 trailers parked in the open area where the Rax Restaurant had been located and McCreary said they are there to carry away what is left when the store closes. He also admitted the trailers came down filled with furniture to offer at the gigantic sale that ends today.
Two major projects have been keeping officials of the St. Clairsville Area of Chamber of Commerce a bit busier than usual as they plunge into finalizing some of their activities for the new year.
While preparing plans for one of their biggest events - the 22nd annual Home & Business Expo - they are also finalizing plans for relocating their office from the western end of the St. Clairsville business district to 133 E. Main St., about a block east of the Belmont County courthouse.
Although the new location is only slightly larger than the present office, Chamber President Jennifer Woollard explained the new office offers a different arrangement that better fits their needs. "There is a smaller reception area which contrasts to the larger one in the present offices." That larger outer office in the present location is used for storage of much office equipment and materials which are visible as soon as an individual enters the office.
At the new location, Woollard explained, "there is a large space in back which we can use for storage rather than having it out in the front office as it is now." She added there is also space there that can be used as a small meeting room if necessary.
"It is just a totally different set-up than what we have now and it better serves our needs," Woollard exclaimed. She said the move to the new office should take place prior to Feb. 15.
As the plans are being finalized for the move, progress is being made daily on getting details ironed out for the Home & Business Expo. "We have a steady stream of applications coming in for booth space for the Expo," Woollard noted. The Expo will be held on March 1-2 at the Carnes Center at the Belmont County Fairgrounds on Roscoe Road, east of St. Clairsville.
Woollard described the Expo as "a fantastic opportunity for chamber members to showcase their businesses to thousands of potential customers." She anticipates applications for booth space to equal or better last year when 60 businesses occupied 70 booths in the center.
She said applications for booth space will be taken until the day prior to the Expo "if there is room"
A new event this year will be a Business After Hours program at the center on the day preceding the start of the Expo. "The Business After Hours is a new addition to our Expo and will take place on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m." She added the BAH should "bring additional exposure to the products and services the businesses provide in a unique and social setting."
A grand opening was held Saturday at the Ohio Valley Plaza for a new business - Anytime Fitness - that will provide 24-hours service, seven days a week to fitness and health enthusiasts who seek quick and effective exercises.
Brandon and Sharon Pastor, who reside near Morristown, opened business approximately a month ago and it already has attracted more than 250 members who have unlimited access to state-of-the-art strength training and cardiovascular equipment in the 5,200 square foot facility located in the plaza area anchored by the Kroger store.
Brandon Pastor, an Ohio highway patrolman who has been stationed at the St. Clairsville post for the past six years, noted the big advantage of his business is that "members can work out any time of the day or night, every day of the year." He said it is not surprising to see a half dozen or so members in the club between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Members use a security-access key to enter the club when it is not staffed.
Kyle Wojtasek of St. Clairsville is manager of the club. Like Brandon, he is a graduate of Ohio State University and has a degree in exercise physiology.
Membership in the local club allows members to use any of the more than 2,000 clubs that are open in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce conducted the ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday to welcome the new business.
So far in January this area has endured weather cold enough to attract polar bears instead of deer and at least three big snowfalls that required the use of snow shovels. On Saturday we'll find out what the groundhog has to say about the weather. If the furry creature is brave enough to crawl out of his hole in the ground and sees his shadow, folklore has it there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is around the corner. That would be nice but don't expect it. Representing all of the lowly marmots in this respect will be Pennsylvania's famous Punxsutawney Phil.
Although there have been signs of an improving economy in Belmont County and surrounding areas, there are still many unemployed individuals looking for jobs and likewise many businesses that are seeking the right person to fill a job opening.
With that in mind, Belmont County Connections director Michael Schlanz has begun working on the Ohio Valley Job Fair, which had a very successful showing in 2012 when for the first time it was held in the Ohio Valley Mall.
The venue will be the same for this year's fair, which has been set for April 3. There were more than 80 vendors who signed up for the 2012 fair which attracted hundreds of job seekers.
"Last year's job fair operated from noon to 4 p.m. In order to accommodate job seekers who are employed," Schlanz notes in a questionnaire sent out to prospective participating businesses, "we are thinking about changing the hours."
Companies are urged to select from three time period suggestions for the fair and also provide him with general comments and suggestions. "I am looking forward to working with you in making the seventh annual Ohio Valley Job Fair another great event," Schlanz states.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at email@example.com and by telephone at 740-695-5233.