Ask a store owner if the Shenango Valley Mall in Hermitage has hit rock bottom and he’ll tell you “not yet. Rock bottom is if Penney’s closes.”
It’s still open.
But now it will be losing two more stores. Nadene’s Pittsburgh Sports announced it’s leaving and Payless ShoeSource will be going as well.
The mall’s new owners with deep Mercer County ties have taken it over and vowed to make it better.
The mall sits at Routes 18 and 62 in Hermitage. At one end is the remnants of what was Macy’s and at the other are the locked doors of the now-vacant Sears.
Inside, netting covers missing ceiling tiles, buckets catch water from a leaky roof, and along the main concourse are seven vacant storefronts in a row.
“It’s obviously a little bit depressing with a couple of the storefronts that are sitting there vacant,” said Mercer County Commissioner Matthew McConnell.
McConnell also heads a company of McConnell family members known as GFM 23, which three weeks ago won a court ruling giving it total operation of the mall.
His grandparents once lived on the corner, and he believes the mall was mismanaged in the past.
McConnell is still optimistic, however.
The Shenango Valley mall is small. It’s basically just one concourse.
“This is a very manageable size,” he said.
The lone remaining anchor store — JCPenney’s — is doing well.
“It’s in the top 10 percent of performing,” McConnell said.
He’s heard from national leasing agents that the Hermitage area is underserved for retail.
“There’s still an opportunity here to pull in some of what we hope to be national retailers,” he said.
Vince Hillard owns Leana’s Books and More. Carrie Necastro manages Kings Jewelry. Both stores are doing well — neither plan on leaving — but both have ideas on what needs to be done.
“I would say fix the parking lot. Definitely, the parking lot lights need to go on,” Hillard said.
He added that the mall needs new, well-lit signage.
“I can’t stand the fact that down by the entrance, by the old Sears like where they took the Macy’s sign down, that that’s never been painted,” Necastro said.
“We need to get a mix of new stores in to help attract business,” she added.
McConnell said it could be five to eight years before the Shenango Valley Mall is completely restored. He has told his family that they’re investing for the next generation.
“Because we care about this facility, we care about the Shenango Valley, and we’re going to do our best to make sure that it survives,” he said.