The South Salina Street corridor between E. Brighton and Castle Street had been identified as an area ripe for investment due to results of an exhaustive study that indicated millions of dollars routinely leave the area in search of goods and services.
The Southside, once the spine of a working class neighborhood had witnessed a steady decline in goods and services available to community residents. On Feb. 8 a new retail venture will open in the former Mario's Big M location, the Value General Merchandise Center appears to be an entrepreneur's response to the neighborhood's consumer needs.
Naresh Patel, who had already invested in the area with the purchase of the Deb's Store, wanted to create something "nice" for the community.
"I've invested here for the neighborhood," he said.
Value General Merchandise seems to be just that; It has a variety of things, such as Bunk Beds for kids, solid wood dining sets, paper products, brooms, small kitchen and household appliances.
Patel peers across the large parking lot it's a cold blustery day right before Christmas. "I hired neighborhood people to renovate this building, and I intend to hire neighborhood people to work here also."
As one follow his gaze you can't help noticing the changes that have occurred within eyesight of the old Mario's Big-M. Across the street from the busy E. Brighton and S. Salina Street corridor a continuously morphing Dunk 'N Bright Furniture complex, and the adjacent Southside Incubator teaming with business activity.
To the south, there are people shopping in the Salina Shoe Salon, at the Southside News Stand, owner Carol Perry's preparing for her annual school supply give-a-way.
As Patel was called away to the register, I wandered around the store looking for stuff as you would in a Dollar Store. Too my surprise, there were dozens of items at .99 cents, $2 and $3 items, such as combs, toothpaste, hair stuff and at bargain prices those little household appliances, a steam iron and a can opener.