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Chain's demise disappoints many in Mahoning Valley



Published: Fri, July 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Low prices and convenience draw customers to Phar-Mor.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Customers and employees of Phar-Mor in Youngstown and Austintown expressed disappointment in the drug chain's demise after hearing that all its stores are scheduled to close in the next six to 10 weeks.

"I feel very bad about it because this is just a neighborhood store. It's close to home," said Jenny Pawlyshn of Youngstown, who shops twice a week at the store at Market Street and Midlothian Boulevard in Youngstown. She added that all similar stores are much farther from neighborhood residents.

"You're looking for stability in a neighborhood. And when Phar-Mor came, we thought, 'They're going to be here for a long time,' but it didn't turn out that way," she said, lamenting potential job losses for Phar-Mor employees. Giant Eagle, one of the acquirers of Phar-Mor's assets, has said it wants to offer jobs to as many Phar-Mor employees as possible.

Opened in 2000

The Market and Midlothian store opened in June 2000 in a vacant former Giant Eagle store after ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods) -- the church-based advocacy group -- campaigned for its establishment.

Rick Thomas of Youngstown, a diabetic, said the closing is disappointing because he buys his insulin and testing supplies at Phar-Mor, which he said features the lowest prices for those items.

George Scott, 22, a 1998 Woodrow Wilson High School graduate and South Side resident, who has been a stock clerk at the Youngstown store for the past four weeks, walks to and from work daily. With his car in need of major repairs, he said getting to a similar job in Boardman will be more difficult for him.

"I just started here. This is not what I wanted to hear," he said. Scott said he thinks Giant Eagle will favor more experienced employees. As for his future, "I'm going to just go day-by-day and pray. I need a job," he added.

"I shop at Phar-Mor almost every other day. There's a lot to pick from, and I usually find what I want," said Joy Calai of Austintown, adding that she was disappointed by the closing announcement. "It's open all night. I like that," Calai said of the Austintown store.

"A lot of people like shopping here at the discount prices. I think it'll be missed in this community," said Rodney Cavaliere of Austintown.

"Sometimes, they have a lot of good sales. If you need something in the middle of the night, it's available," said Rose Fragoso of Youngstown's West Side.

'A disgrace'

"I think it's a disgrace," Bill Cupp of Youngstown, a frequent Phar-Mor shopper, said of the closings. "I often wonder where the Sherman anti-trust laws went," he said, adding that he thinks Giant Eagle is becoming a near monopoly in the local grocery and pharmacy business.

"It started out so great, and then [Mickey] Monus started it downhill on a jet sled. They've hurt a lot of people. They just ran it into the ground," Cupp said of Phar-Mor management.

"I just think it's terrible because it's such a convenient place. There are so many of them around," his wife, Martha, said of Phar-Mor stores. Phar-Mor is convenient because it carries a wide assortment of merchandise under one roof, she added. "It's like a big family. You know all the cashiers," she observed.

Working as a stock clerk at the Austintown Phar-Mor is Denver Goodman's first job. Goodman, 16, of Mineral Ridge, a student at Mineral Ridge High School, began working at the Austintown store two months ago and said he had hoped to continue there through next school year. "I'm just putting in [job] applications and trying to find something," he said. "It's a shame what's happening," he concluded.




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