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Waynesboro working to save downtown

April 21, 2001

Waynesboro working to save downtown



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The pending departure of two Waynesboro businesses will leave more gaps in the bracelet of storefronts along the borough's nine-block business district.

"There are more vacant stores than there should be," said Carol Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce and newly elected secretary of Main Street Waynesboro, Inc.

Main Street Waynesboro is one of two local groups that promote growth and business downtown. The other is the Waynesboro Retail Bureau.

Savage Minnich's Pharmacy at 52 W. Main St. and Office Essentials at 6 W. Main St. are leaving downtown.

Savage Minnich, which has been at its location since 1922, is moving to much-needed larger quarters in the Waynesboro Mall, said owner Roger Savage.

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Office Essentials manager Darlene Stouffer said that store, which has been in the same spot since 1958, will be consolidated with a company store in Hagerstown.

"The walk-in traffic has slowed considerably," Stouffer said. "It's sad. There are no businesses downtown anymore to draw people in."

Doug Hartzok owns James Shoe at 76 W. Main, which opened in 1940, and the 10-year-old Olympian Athletics, a sporting goods, clothing and trophy shop next door at 78 W. Main. He said revitalizing downtown Waynesboro depends on recruiting new businesses.

"It's a Catch-22," Hartzok said. "You can't have stores without customers or customers without stores. If there are no stores, no one will come downtown."

Henicle was one of four new officers elected last week to the Main Street group. Also elected were Ken Koll, president; John Honodel, vice president and Allie Kohler, treasurer. Honodel is the only one of the four who owns a downtown business.

"It's the same old adage. It's hard for small town businesses to compete against the malls," Henicle said. "Unless they can find a niche that people want, it's hard to survive in a downtown market."

Koll said Main Street Inc. planted trees and lobbied for the new Victorian street lights that line the borough's main street. The next priority will be encouraging owners to fix up their storefronts in an effort to lure tenants.

Waynesboro had a thriving business community through the 1970s, Hartzok said. Major stores such as McCrory's, J.J. Newberry, JCPenney and Routzhans, plus hardware, jewelry and appliance stores thrived in the mid-20th century.

"We had it all. You could park and buy what you wanted," he said. "I'm 41 and I remember how it was."

Hartzok said improving aesthetics with trees and street lamps and cleaning up the buildings won't make much difference without more stores where people can buy what they need.

Henicle and Koll believe things are turning around in larger cities like Hagerstown and Chambersburg, Pa.

"It takes longer for towns the size of Waynesboro," Henicle said.

"Waynesboro will come back. It has a big retail district so it will take more time. The financial institutions and professional offices do well downtown," she said.

Waynesboro Market Place, a new strip mall, opens in July across from Midvale Road in Washington Township. It will be anchored by a Food Lion grocery store. There will also be a Dollar General, a Goodwill store, a pizza restaurant, nail and hair salons, a Chinese restaurant and four smaller shops.

A developers' group has an option on the 120-acre Dillow Farm on North Welty Road in Washington Township for a large mall called Silo Ridge, said Jerry Zeigler, township zoning enforcement officer.

Zeigler believes shopping malls have little effect on vibrant downtown business areas filled with specialty and destination stores.

"My wife shops in the small downtown stores. She finds if very convenient," he said. "Their stores are staffed by local owners and employees who offer friendly service. They remember your name."

He thinks Waynesboro needs to improve the flow of traffic through the borough.

Improving the appearance of the buildings along Main Street would also help, he said.

"They spent money in Hagerstown to fix up their buildings and that helped to fill them up," he said

Koll said Waynesboro is blessed with great architecture.

"It's beautiful," Koll said. "We want to work with the historical society to motivate and help owners to renovate their buildings. Some haven't been painted in years."

Sam Long moved his vacuum cleaner sales and repair shop to 38 W. Main last August to take advantage of the downtown traffic.

"It's been really good so far," he said. "The exposure here is much better here than when I was on Ninth Street."

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