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AUSTINTOWN Despite closings, retail market keeps growing



Published: Sun, January 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Township trustees are still optimistic about the economy and about continued commercial growth in the township.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN -- The retail economy in this township has gone through a series of ups and downs in recent months.

Among the downs are the closings of Country Kitchen, near state Route 46; and Austintown Muffler and Brake and Austintown Bakery, on Mahoning Avenue. In addition, Ames is planning to close its Mahoning Avenue store in the next few months, and both Kmart and Phar-Mor -- which have stores on Mahoning Avenue -- have filed for bankruptcy protection.

Neither Kmart nor Phar-Mor has plans to close its Austintown store.

The ups, meanwhile, include the openings of a new carwash, McDonald's restaurant and Dunkin' Donuts in the township. The McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts replace older buildings.

In the works: In addition, a new Eat'N Park restaurant is under construction, and township zoning officials are considering plans for a new Fairfield Inn and Wendy's restaurant.

Zoning officials also have issued permits for a Walgreen's pharmacy that will be part of retail development at Mahoning Avenue and Route 46. The development will include the pharmacy, another store and a 65,000-square-foot plaza.

Zoning Inspector Michael Kurilla Jr. said he thinks the number of new businesses show that the township's retail market is still healthy, despite the closings.

He added that he thinks the closings and the bankruptcies are part of a national trend that has nothing to do with the township's economy.

"It's more of a national and regional phenomenon," he said.

Country Kitchen closed all of its restaurants in Northeast Ohio, including the one in Austintown, because of a slowdown in the economy.

Kmart and Ames both faced dwindling profits because of increased competition throughout the country.

Trustee optimistic: Trustee Bo Pritchard added that he would be concerned if the Ames, Austintown Bakery and Austintown Brake and Muffler buildings were still empty in six months. He stressed that he doesn't think that will happen.

"Austintown is still a community that is expanding," he said.

Trustee Rich Edwards echoed Pritchard's statements. Edwards also is the vice president of B & amp;I Management, which owns the plaza that houses Ames.

"As soon as someplace like [Ames] goes out, it seems like someone else wants to come in," he said.

Trustee David Ditzler also stressed that good things are happening in the township. Ditzler noted that the trustees have continued to work with other area officials and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce to attract new businesses to the township.

"We're optimistic that Austintown is doing well," he said.

hill@vindy.com




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