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Valley stores, restaurants come to a standstill



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DON SHILLING and

MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

Mahoning Valley residents weren't much for shopping or dining out in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Several area stores and restaurants said they had substantially fewer customers.

Shoppers that did come out weren't doing much buying, said Aundria Iudiciani, cashier at Hallmark Showcase in Boardman.

"They are very mopey, sad and quiet," she said.

Tom Compton, co-owner of Sofas Plus in Boardman, said just a few customers had been at the furniture store.

"Everything is pretty much at a standstill. People are riveted to their TVs," he said.

Compton said a tragedy of this magnitude is more than people can comprehend so they aren't in the mood to shop.

A worker at the Jewelry Connection in Niles also said that few customers were in the store Tuesday.

Sylvia Lewis of Lewis Grill & amp; Fireplace Shop across from the Southern Park Mall in Boardman said traffic on U.S. Route 224 was much lighter than normal Tuesday.

"I really could've closed today, but I, like everyone else, am glued to the TV," she said.

Southern Park and the Eastwood Mall in Niles both closed Tuesday. Eastwood officials said that mall was to reopen today. Southern Park officials could not be reached.

At Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown, however, sales traffic was normal, said Denny Coleman, sales manager.

"Everybody is watching the TV and distracted somewhat, but we have the same number of cars in the parking lot," he said.

Mail: Left without access to air transportation, U.S. Postal Service employees were scrambling to find alternative delivery methods for mail outside northeastern Ohio, said Paul Harrington, a spokesman for the Akron district.

He said mail is generally trucked within a radius of a few hundred miles, so the air limitation won't affect local and regional delivery. The post office won't be able to guarantee quick delivery for its Express Mail service, however, and mail being sent across the country will definitely be delayed.

Harrington said the Akron district, which takes in most of northern Ohio except for Cleveland and its suburbs, has added two new temporary truck routes -- one to Pittsburgh and one to Columbus -- to facilitate delivery.

The postal service adopted tougher security practices for handling and accepting parcels several years ago, he said. Post office employees around the country were reminded of those policies in memos and at staff meetings Tuesday.

Restaurants: The impact of the terrorist attack on business at area restaurants is mixed.

Cafe Roma in the YMCA building in downtown Youngstown and Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & amp; Bar in the Great East Plaza, Niles, both sent workers home Tuesday afternoon.

Lunchtime sales are usually brisk at Cafe Roma, which specializes in pizza, sandwiches, soups and pasta, said owner Tony Ciminero. But sales were so sluggish he sent one employee home at 11:30 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m.

"As it turned out, we got busy after that," he said. "People seemed to go to lunch later." Even so, he said, business was down from what it normally is.

At Applebee's, manager Sandi Daytner sent "five or six workers home." She didn't need the usual daytime crew of 20 because there were fewer lunchtime customers. Those who did stop in were mostly regulars who gathered around televisions in the bar and dining room watching the drama unfold.

Daytner said Applebee's would remain open until midnight as usual. "We might be busier than usual if other places close," she said optimistically.

Just the opposite was true at Youngstown Crab Co., Liberty. "Our lunch business wasn't hurt but we're debating on whether to close this evening," said manager Sally Grabovac. During the lunch hour office workers were eager to get out and find out what was going on. They wanted to be in front of a television, she said, so Youngstown Crab Co.'s bar area, where the TVs are located, was packed.

BW-3 in the Southern Park Mall planned to remain open despite fewer customers and a mall full of closed stores, said Jennifer Ruffner, a cashier at the bar and restaurant. "The mall manager asked us if we were going to stay open. He said that he would prefer that we close like the rest of the mall but that it was up to us," she said. "We have fewer people coming in, but we have a steady flow of calls from people asking us if we're open."

Most customers in the establishment were regulars, not people who work in the mall sent home early, she added.

At Vernon's Cafe in Niles and Combine Brothers Bar & amp; Grill in West Middlesex, Pa., sales were unaffected.

"A lot of people like to sit in front of the TV right now," observed Vernon Cesta II, owner of Vernon's, which specializes in Italian cuisine. So, he said, many of his regular customers sat in the lounge.

The attack "hasn't had an impact on business yet," he said, but that could change later in the week if there are more acts of terrorism.

At Combine Brothers, sales were as strong as they normally are on Tuesdays, reported Donna Paulsen, a waitress. But, she said, "it seems like there's been more orders for takeout than people coming in."

Industrial employers: The area's major industrial employers continued normal operations.

Tom Mock, spokesman for the General Motors' Lordstown Assembly Plant, said the plant was placed on a security alert Tuesday. Trucks and packages coming into the plant were being examined, he said.

Ann Cornell, a spokeswoman for Delphi Packard Electric Systems, said security guards at area plants were to be on alert for anything suspicious.

"We are continuing to work as usual, as best we can," she said.

Packard officials were checking on traveling executives, and none seemed to be having problems, she said.

Operations were continuing as usual at RMI Titanium in Niles. Richard Leone, spokesman, said officials had been in contact with RMI employees who had been traveling around the country and abroad on business when the terrorism was reported.

Tim Roberts, a spokesman for WCI Steel, said operations also were continuing at the integrated steel mill in Warren. He said some of out-of-town business meetings were canceled because of the closure of airports across the country.

XContributor: Cynthia Vinarsky, Vindicator business writer.




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