Woman denied former market in repository sale, will keep fighting

Wasileski’s Market has stood vacant on South Jefferson Street for 13 years, but Sheep Hill resident Brittany Ellison is determined to buy the property and have it serve the community.

A New Castle woman’s bid to purchase the former Wasilewski’s Market was denied late last month, but still hopes to acquire the building.

“I’m going to bid on it again,” said Brittany Ellison, a Sheep Hill resident. “I mean, they (city council) told me no, but no is just a word to me.”

Ellison put in a $700 bid for the former South Jefferson Street market when her mother mentioned the potential she saw in restoring it.

“She’s been wanting it since day one, so when we found out that we could do the repository sales, we said, ‘Let’s bid on it,’” said Ellison.

Ellison and her mom talked about potentially putting in a coffee shop or lounge on the first floor and apartment on the second if the building is structurally sound.

“Just something to the community. Even if it has to be torn down, imagine nothing but flowers out here,” said Ellison.

Ellison said after she made her bid at the courthouse, she was sent a letter that said she had to fill out paperwork at town hall.

“(After filling out the paperwork), That’s when they said, ‘You go to this meeting and they just ask you any additional questions,’” said Ellison.

After bidders fill out the “property intent application,” it’s customary for a code enforcement officer to be dispatched to take photos of the property and attach them to the bid from the county along with the application before presenting it to the city council.

Ellison appeared for a public hearing on Sept. 24 to answer questions before the council. 

“So what do you plan on doing with this building, young lady?” asked Councilman Tim Fulkerson, who also asked about her finances.

Ellison told the council her plans for a business and an apartment, and told them she won’t know how much the repairs would cost because she has not been allowed to enter the building legally.

“Kick the door in,” said Councilman Richard Beshero.

Fulkerson told Ellison if he was voted a county commissioner, of which he’s currently running, her and other bidders would be able to enter buildings on properties in the repository list in order for bidders to make an “intelligent decision.” 

“Brittany, I’m pretty consistent. I vote no on these things,” said Councilman Tom Smith. “There’s other opportunities out there for you.”

“You haven’t been in the building. You haven’t had no professional inspection. Nothing like that,” said Smith. “This can be one hell of a money pit.”

Smith added he appreciated her enthusiasm to the community, he couldn’t “in good conscious” vote to approve the bid.

Council Paul Stefano added he would vote no when the bid went to a vote because he said the building is dilapidated and needs to be demolished.

“I just feel, honey, this is the wrong investment for you,” said Fulkerson. “We’re just trying to protect you.”

Ellison said she was embarrassed by the experience.

“I told them what I envisioned for this place, and then they shot it down,” said Ellison. “My whole thing is, how do I let somebody know that I’m not just some girl with a dream in over my head? I can tell them until I’m blue in the face that I want to bring something to the community, but at the end of the day, no matter what I say, no matter how many times I bid, they’re still going to tell me yes or no. They’re still the ones that say, ‘OK, we’ll take a chance on you,’ being the one person that does something with this property or you just keep letting it sit here.”

The bid was denied by the council by a 2 to 2 vote at their regular meeting two days later. Paul Stefano and Tim Fulkerson voted to deny the bid on grounds the building was dilapidated. William Panella and Richard Beshero voted yes, and Tom Smith was absent.

John Wasilewski moved to New Castle in 1906 when he was 16-years-old from present-day Belarus.

Wasilewski opened markets in numerous locations throughout the city including on the first floor of a 3,200 square-foot building on Hamilton Street he built in 1922.

The market operated on Hamilton Street for 27 years until an unexpected incident occurred. 

On July 25, 1956, 20 minutes after the market had closed, an unmanned U.S. Air Force T-33 Shooting Star training jet en route to Texas crashed into the market destroying everything except for two walls.

The family never rebuilt the building, and instead moved their business to South Jefferson Street a year later where the former market Grzybowski Grocery stood. The family also moved into the second-floor apartment.

After 43 years at that location, the market was sold to Sherri and Rodney Firmi in December 2000, but it ultimately closed six years later.

Ellison said she bought a house last year from her god-brother who bought it from an upset sale for around $3,000.

“I actually bought this house because I had the intentions of making it like a halfway house or some sort of transition housing,” said Ellison. “When I was making all the phone calls to get that going, I find out it’s not zoned for that.”

Ellison instead began remolding the home for residential rental housing, and has finished three rooms in the four-bedroom-one-bathroom house with her own money.

Despite the denial, Ellison said she will continue to attempt to purchase the property.

“If they demolish this bad boy, and it’s nothing but grass, I will bid on it until somebody tells me yes,” said Ellison.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

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