Antique/specialty shops seek to sell their wares |

Antique/specialty shops seek to sell their wares

They are among the best kept secrets along the downtowns of various Mid-Mon Valley communities.

Often located in historic structures in most business communities locally, antique and specialty shops provide those unique and often hard-to-find items. Unfortunately, too many exist in relative obscurity.

That may be about to change.

About a dozen antique/ specialty shop business men and women met this week to discuss how to market themselves collectively throughout the Valley.

The Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the breakfast meeting.

Debbie Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the mission of the chamber is to make the public aware of “the tremendous strength of specialty shops and antique businesses in the Mon Valley.”

“The idea is to create an awareness that this is a place to come to spend the day or the weekend to look for antiques and specialty shops,” Keefer said.

“I can’t be the biggest retailer in the U.S., but I can be the biggest retailer in my area,” said Jerry Zahand. “You can’t be the biggest antique or specialty business in the U.S., but you can be the dominant area within 50 or 100 miles of the Mon Valley.”

Keefer said the chamber met with specialty and antique businesses in Monongahela recently and realized that these shops can’t survive in separate communities, but need to network. That session spawned the idea to form a valley wide organization of antique/specialty shops.

Denny Paluso, owner of Scalehouse Antiques in Charleroi, said he sees a lot of customers who exit Interstate 70 and refers them to Monongahela’s specialty/antique shops.

“I do a lot of referring,” said Debbie Kruell-Buck, owner of Audrey’s Draperies. “People ask me ‘do you know where to go’ and I try to keep it in the Valley.”

Paluso understands that businesses need to work together with his peers. Prior to the meeting this week, he spoke with Jim Fisher, of Fisher’s Antique Restoration in Finleyville. He agreed to place Fisher’s business cards in his Monongahela shop, referring people who buy antiques from him, but want them restored.

Juan Rodriquez, owner of Rodriquez Art Glass Studio in Monongahela, said a group representing antique/ specialty shops was previously formed in that city. The group did help create such activities as Dickens of a Christmas and Fleatique on the Mon.

“We sometimes in the Valley think that what’s good for Charleroi is not good for Monongahela or we try to compete for who can have the best event instead of working together for one larger event,” Rodriquez said.

Rodriquez said the Valley has a rich historic tradition that is not well known and on which these businesses could capitalize. His business is located in a building that was a part of the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, he said.

Zahand said 80 percent of his business comes from the Valley, and said similar antique/specialty shops receive the vast majority of their customers from the area. He said if these business owners advertise their wares in the Mid-Mon Valley, their customer base won’t leave the area to find similar products elsewhere.

The Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce could network with other chambers in the region, encouraging publicity of events held here for audiences outside the valley.

Sensing enthusiasm for the idea of forming an antiques/specialty business organization in the Valley, Zahand encouraged the business owners to take the next step.

A second meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 9 in the Mon Valley Care Center, located on the campus of the for-mer Mon Valley Catholic High School in Carroll Township.

At that session, the business owners are expected to consider electing an executive committee.

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