NEW CASTLE —
They came at various times but for the same reason.
They wanted to be a part of the Towne Mall.
When Sears became the first mall store to open in 1969, others quickly followed. All but one of those original mall merchants — Madeline Rice of the Towne Mall Beauty Salon — are long gone from the facility now called Cascade Galleria. But they all remember how they got there.
Here are some of their stories.
Guadagno had come to the area from Brooklyn around 1972, looking for malls in which to establish a pizza restaurant. A potential deal with Boardman’s Southern Park Mall fell through, and Guadagno and his partner returned to New Castle’s Holiday Inn to regroup.
While having a drink at the bar, Guadagno shared his story with a stranger who turned out to be John Blackson, whose Arcon Development Corp. owned the Towne Mall.
“He says, ‘I got a mall,’ ” Guadagno recalled. “And I says, ‘I know. And I fell off a turnip truck.’ I thought he was putting me on. What do I know? As it turned out, he did have a mall, and a store that was available.”
That store was an Orange Julius shop that Blackson also owned. Business, though, was poor, and he was looking to get rid of it. Guadagno eventually agreed to take the space, making few changes. Today, although it’s been sold twice and Guadagno has operated his restaurant on East Washington Street since 1988, his original location — now Town Mall Pizza — still bears the classic look of Orange Julius.
“If you look at the chairs, they still got pitchforks on them,” Guadagno said. “That’s the trademark of Orange Julius.”
Caggiano, who now owns Main Street Clothiers, retired as manager of the Richman Brothers Towne Mall store. Both he and the business, though, were downtown before the first spade of dirt was ever turned in the Lower Neshannock Creek urban renewal project.
“The store opened in 1953, and I started there in ’65, up on the corner that used to be the old city building,” he said. “A couple of years later, we moved down next to Isaly’s in the old Woods Building.
“We were there a couple of years when they first proposed the Towne Mall. By that time, I had eight years in with the company, then I spent 20 at the mall.”
The Richman Brothers chain went out of business around the same time that the mall began to empty out, Caggiano recalled, “but it was no fault of the mall, and no fault of the New Castle store because it was always one of the best stores in the chain.”
“We weren’t there at the start, we were there a couple of years after it opened,” Weingartner said. “There was a ladies apparel store in there, and I think the whole chain went bankrupt, so we moved into their spot, which was right on the corner.
“We bought the fixtures and whatever was there, and we were there until the mid- to late 1990s.”
Weingartner noted that his father had started the business around 1931 with a flower shop in downtown New Castle.
“Around 1954 or ’55, he built the Garden Corner, which was strictly a garden center, at this location on Wilmington Road (at the intersection of Maitland Lane) before anything was out here.
“He still had his store at 22 N. Mill St., but in the early 1970s, when they started tearing down buildings to build Washington Centre — which is about the time my brother and I came into the business — he moved the flower shop up here into the garden center and expanded into giftware and so on.”
But after four decades of being downtown, Weingartner’s yearned to return. “So when the mall opened, we went in because we really wanted to have a downtown presence. And we felt we had one of the best locations in the mall, right on the corner, next to the fountain.”
New Castle Hobby Center
Having forged a career in the retail business, Yergan was looking to Fisher’s Big Wheel for employment. Following an interview at the now-defunct retailer’s Neshannock Township offices, he was driving through New Castle and stopped for lunch.
At that same time, he decided to look around the mall and spied an empty unit. He asked to speak to someone in charge of the facility, and met with owner John Blackson.
“I talked with him, and he gave me a deal on the place I couldn’t refuse,” Yergan said. “I thought, I worked all these years for somebody else, why not do something for myself?”
Thus began the New Castle Hobby Center, which opened in a kiosk in 1980 and ended up in two different storefronts before closing in 1997.
Yergan is now on the pastoral staff of First Baptist Church.
Richard and Irene Downing,
The Sweet Shoppe
At the time the Towne Mall opened, the Downings already operated The Sweet Shoppe on North Mill Street. That didn’t stop them from opening a second location in the mall.
“We had two stores so close together, but they were two different things,” Irene Downing said. “When they came in the Mill Street store, they came in for a reason. When they came in that store, they bought something.
“At the mall, that was a browsing place, so we had to have more interesting things at the mall so as they walked along, they would want to stop and come in and browse. We had more stuffed animals, we had ceramics.
“Every once in a while we had talking baby dolls and things like that, something that would draw people. Other than that, we had the same chocolates and everything.”
Tom and Vivian Sansone,
The Gift Gallery
The Sansones’ shop was a sequel of sorts to one that had been run by Mary Bigley on North Street. When Bigley closed her business, she suggested the Sansones start their own gift shop, which they did.
Vivian Sansone kept her day job at the local telephone company, but would join her husband at the mall store during the evenings and on Saturdays.
Towne Mall Beauty Salon
Rice worked at the salon in Strouss, located at North and North Mill streets, before deciding to open a shop of her own in the mall.
The business remains open in its original location, a long, narrow room not much wider than a walk-in closet.
“I signed up with the manager, then I went on vacation,” Rice recalled. “And while we were gone, next door, there was Investors Security, and they needed two more feet than what they had designed for the room. And the manager decided since I met the state requirements of the width, I probably wouldn’t mind if he gave them two more feet.
“That’s how I ended up with two feet less width than I was supposed to have. It made a difference, but we’ve managed.”
The Clothes Post/Ladies Store
The Ladies Store, Haims said, opened downtown in 1928. He launched a second store under a different name, The Clothes Post, in August 1972 in the Towne Mall.
“It just seemed advantageous to be there,” Haims said. "I would walk back and forth between my two stores. Sometimes I’d eat at the Hudson (Lunch), and sometimes at the pizza place in the mall.
“When things got a little rocky downtown, I closed the downtown store and changed the name of The Clothes Post in the mall to The Ladies Store.”
Haims recalled walking into his mall store one winter morning and noticing that sunlight was pouring through the roof.
“Someone had cut a hole in my roof,” he said, “and came down and stolen all my fur coats.”
Still, Haims enjoyed his time in the mall, signing four, five-year leases. After 20 years, he moved back downtown, even though his former location had been destroyed by fire in the interim.
“I just really liked the downtown,” he said. “I always think of the downtown as the heart of a city.”
NEW CASTLE —
They came at various times but for the same reason.
- TOP STORIES
City’s kindergarten students ready for move
Boxes are being packed and moved out of St. Joseph’s school. The last day of school there will be Dec. 20. When New Castle kindergarten students return from Christmas break, they will attend the new Lockley Early Learning Center for the second half of their school year.
Photos, Video, Story: Pittsburgh Pirates visit local students
The Pittsburgh Pirates adopted the entire fourth-grade class at George Washington Intermediate Elementary School yesterday. It was a perfect match because it was obvious that the 220 students in the auditorium had clearly embraced the black and gold as their baseball team long ago.
Photos, Video, Story: Shenango homecoming queen Brittany Chieze considers herself ‘a pretty lucky girl’
Rochelle Chieze admits she panicked at first when she learned her daughter had been placed on Shenango High’s Homecoming ballot. “I started thinking about the germs from being around so many people and how tired this would make her,” Rochelle said. “Even though she was thrilled — we all were — I went back and forth. I thought maybe we should say no.”
No decision yet on 2014 county tax rate
The Lawrence County commissioners are undecided about raising property taxes next year. At their meeting Tuesday, they introduced a preliminary, unbalanced version of the 2013 budget that virtually depends on the outcome of contract negotiations with six bargaining units belonging to two labor unions and representing a majority of the county employees.
Suspect’s death from ‘natural causes’
The suspect who died one year to the day after running over two boys — killing one — died of natural causes. A toxicology report on Virgil E. Coonfare, 67, of Lawrence Manor, was ordered by the coroner. It revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
Test-driven: Changes in GED exam take effect Jan. 2
For some people, a GED is one of the most important pieces of paper they may possess. And achieving that accomplishment could be a resolution for the new year. Ashley Leonard had a goal to pass her GED and once she did, new doors opened up almost immediately.
Neshannock school board told to follow the rules
In her first meeting as president, Karen Houk established procedures for the Neshannock Township School Board. This chain of command, Houk said, will ensure that everyone in the district is treated equally.
Neshannock proposes budget with no tax hike
The Neshannock Township supervisors introduced a budget with no tax increase or sewer rate hike. The document, introduced Friday, will be on display at the municipal building for 20 days. The supervisors plan to vote on the spending plan at a special meeting set for 9 a.m. Dec. 30.
Neshannock superintendent Dr. Mary Todora to retire
Dr. Mary Todora, Neshannock’s superintendent, will retire at the end of this school year. The board voted 6-3 Thursday night to accept Todora’s resignation, effective June 30.
Shop with a Cop makes 116 children happy
All Mason Work wanted for Christmas was a basketball. But when the 8-year-old New Castle boy left Walmart Thursday, he was the excited owner of a new scooter, a toy equalizer gun and a pair of Spiderman boots, in addition to a blue and white Wilson basketball.
- More TOP STORIES Headlines
- City’s kindergarten students ready for move