Why Change is Needed in Bellevue: Economic Decline by Danina DiBattista

"Going Out of Business" SignWhile many local towns around the Pittsburgh region are focusing on building their business districts, Bellevue leadership has failed to support the needs of local businesses, as well as failing to take the proper steps towards finding a way to bring in professionals to take over the task of revitalizing our business district on all fronts. Some Bellevue businesses have moved on to other areas of the city, most have simply closed for good. Businesses opening and closing, moving on, and moving up, is a normal part of local economies. However, what seems to be evident is that many Bellevue business owners have seen no reason to continue to invest in the borough. When a movie theater closes, one would think that a creative investor would see that as an opportunity to invest in revitalizing it, or finding a new way to take advantage of the space, maybe a performance center, comedy club, etc? When a cornerstone business like Nibbles & Licks is seeing a major decline in business, one would think that getting a new business plan together to keep the business afloat would be in the works, but instead they close. Business owners and entrepreneurs are looking elsewhere to invest. Long-time business owners are thinking that they’re better off cutting their losses and closing shop than investing any more time, money, stress, and ideas in our town.

While the council and leadership cannot be blamed 100% on this decline, they certainly have not put forth a commitment to turn things around. Look around at other flourishing communities, it’s plain to see that a plan has been put into place to ensure prosperity in the community & business district. Our council has been presented with ideas, offered an olive branch in the form of an invitation to tour some other areas of the city and talk with successful leaders about the steps that they’ve taken to see that their towns survive and grow.

So what is the next step? Are we supposed to settle on tobacco shops, dollar stores, used DVD stores, discount cell phone shops, and many other “nuisance commercial” storefronts? I think it’s time to take some steps to turn things around, it’s time to give our residents a reason to stay local for dinner, shopping, and entertainment, instead of driving across the city to get their fix. It’s time for a leadership team with some vision for the future of this town, its residents, its business district, and the community. Change is just around the corner.

The following list has been collectively put together by lifelong residents, new residents, people that have moved away, and many that have stayed. It has been several months in the making. I’m sure that we’ve missed a few good ones (especially businesses that were around before our time), but I still think that this list is evidence of entrepreneurs choosing to invest elsewhere, give up, close shop, or move to more accepting and accommodating areas.
The list has approximate dates for the closing of businesses in Bellevue, as well as some that we were not able to get dates for.

Nibbles & Licks – 2013
Affogato – 2012
Bite Bistro – 2012
Downtown Designs (screen printing & sportswear shop) – 2012
Shepherds Door (changed to non-profit) – 2012
Acoustic Moose Cafe – 2012
Michaels Arts – 2012
Vivo Restaurant – 2011
Phylis’ Fashions – 2010
Mojo Bistro – 2010
517-521 (a.k.a. Your Moms) – 2009
Regina Margherita – 2009
Best Haircut Co. – 2008
Laughing Lizard (artisan soup & smoothie shop) – 2008
Barkus Bakery – 2008
Kingpin Tattoo – 2008
Rainbow Art Supply & Hobby Shop – 2006
Murphy’s 5 &10 – 2005
The Looney Bin – 2003
The Plates – 2003
Bellevue Movie Theater – 2002
Koala Coffee – 2002
Noah’s Ark Pet Store & Supply
Art FX Tattoo Shop
Isaly’s
Dee Dee’s Diner
Franks Cards & Comics
Soapy Dog Grooming
Gary Sports
Sweet Williams
Pittsburgh Dance Explosion
Benquista Art Supply
Bellevue Lanes & Billiards
Cottage Casa
Enlow Shoes
Bellevue Tea Garden
Pet Habitat
Pals Place Candy Store
Chestnut Music

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17 Responses to “Why Change is Needed in Bellevue: Economic Decline by Danina DiBattista”

  1. Sadly, I believe, the liquor license issue cannot be brought to vote again for a few years.

  2. Add my family’s “Peek a Book” 2003,
    Video Flicks,
    Blockbuster,
    The “Dollar” store that was located where the GC Murphy’s was.

  3. Bill, the liquor law cannot be back on the ballot until 2015, unfortunately. In the meantime, all of the other areas in and around the city will continue to have restaurants and entrepreneurs basically FIGHTING over storefronts to open their businesses.

    Take a drive through these recently revitalized regions and you will see store fronts with the orange paper in the window stating they they’ve applied with the county for licensing. Its competitive out there, and Bellevue is not even in the game.

  4. Nina you are not kidding, I have clients right now looking for good commercial space to put a few restaurants, we are literally knocking on doors and sending out letters to people that own commercial space in parts of the East End, I just put a few in the mail today.

  5. I have been a resident of Avalon for over 20 years and I do not do anything in Bellevue besides banking. Unfortunately council has allowed a method clinic to set up shop there so you have all these undesirable people wandering around the town. I do not want my grandchildren anywhere near those people. God knows what their criminal records have on them. It makes the area look slummy and like the ghetto. We cannot wait to move away from this depressed area. Sorry. This used to be a nice clean place to live.

  6. While some of these closings are just a sign of the times (sports card shops for example), some because of decline of small mom and pop, and some related to economy, this is still a really sad/disappointing list. Especially when you see places like Lawrenceville that can’t revitalize storefronts fast enough for business, East Liberty BOOMING, Bloomfield, Squirrel Hill, and many other communities thriving with the same economic climate. It would be great to see Bellevue attract one of the small entrepreneur incubator spaces that have been springing up in Oakland and East Liberty or some small tech startups that would bring young energy to the town and support local restaurants and bakeries and live music venues. But especially these kind of “go getter” minded, forward thinking organizations and companies want to be in a community where they are welcomed, accepted, and fostered and not shunned and made to feel unwelcome or a nuisance for being creative and new and different. Such a great little town that could be a whole lot more! And I have lived here since graduating college in 1999 by the way.

  7. Curious…is there any sort of strategic plan or partnering with Avalon to create a business district or share resources for planning or anything with the two small neighboring towns? Wouldn’t it be nice to make it on a list like this one day? http://www.budgettravel.com/contest/americas-coolest-small-towns-2013,14/

  8. An example of a town that gets it and that could be a model for Bellevue as I was Googling trying to find an article about a local dry town that was seen a nice surge of entrepreneurial grown that I heard about in the news a few weeks back but couldn’t remember where it was and still can’t find it. http://triblive.com/news/1875800-74/revitalization-zelienople-project-borough-carter-downtown-main-plans-street-avenue#axzz2OkgsXunO

  9. The big stores have made a positive and negative impact through out the US. People are giving these stores a reason to open…they are shopping there. If we want small businesses in our town, we need to be willing to pay a little more and perhaps walk with our families to the store due to lack of parking for the masses.
    From the above list which I appreciate your time in compiling that data,it provides a view that Bellevue offered some cool places to eat, shop, and play. Why did these businesses decide to leave?
    According to the US Census for the area code of 15202, the average income is about $42,000 and the average age is 39. Male population is 47.5 while the female pop. is 52.5…could be a reason why we have a few salons. The ladies are looking good. So what is it that we the hip 40yrs want…myself included for our small town Bellevue.
    And to mention that I took the 15202 as a whole because it includes Avalon, Ben Avon, and Emsworth, which I believe we all need to work together, so that our business interest work in sync and complements each other. When we follow the roads of Lincoln, Cali, Church, and finally Center, we end up with a diverse path that can offer a positive and reassuring view that we do indeed have a great community and surrounding neighborhoods.
    Let’s begin our welcoming of new businesses by supporting them. Next Wednesday I will start my pledge of patronizing our local business by having dinner at one of the newest restaurants, The Azure Cafe. http://www.azurepgh.com/
    I will be there 4/3/2013 at 6:30 and invite everyone who would like to support local and entertain the ? what is it that we want.

    At best we can eat, meet and be merry!
    Thank you Danina for the energy that helped me with this.

    • Vencent,
      I really commend you on putting yourself out there in a public forum, in such a positive way. The only way to see changes and hear what the people want is to have a conversation about things. LiB is the only real outlet in Bellevue right now with an open forum for comments and conversation. The other “news” outlet hasn’t posted a letter to the editor on their website since August 2012, and even when they did post them weekly, there was no way to actually engage and have a conversation. Even the large newspapers allow commenting and conversation.

      I love the idea of gathering at a local establishment and having some food and talking openly about “what is it that we want?”. I think it’s a great way to get yourself out there and get some unedited, raw feedback from the community.
      I’m happy that my blog inspired you!

  10. There was also Pete’s Music that became a flower store, then a jeweler, then a tattoo shop and a phone store. Bellevue Motor, NAPA auto parts, Blockbusters, at least three other video stores, the Bridal Shop became Cost Cutters hair cuts then a restaurant then a book store (or the other way around), There used to be a real hospital, Arthur Treachers, Papa Johns, Young’s Pharmacy, Shop & Save, A beer distributor in the alley behind the Chevy Dealer, Ford Dealer, Gary Hardware (was also part of Gary Sports). There was a great butcher shop across from the Shop & Save (now CVS) and a cleaners in the same building. Robotics business in the gray & red building across from Kuhns. There was a pharmacy long before PJ’s Smoke shop. Barkus closed because of the owners death and I thought the same was true with the Tea Garden, Shepherds Door, and the shoe Store

    I wouldn’t mind seeing restaurants like Vivo or the Byte having a liquor license but wouldn’t want Bellevue to become a bar haven like Avalon. The borough already seems to be a transient area with little to entice home ownership where people have a stake in the community. Rather than council being concerned about real issues that would enhance the lives of the residents, they seemed to be resigned to tell you how close you have your grill to your house or want you to have a permit to light it in the first place.

    • Joe B,
      While i can understand you suggestion of only having restaurants with liquor licenses, i think it’s a little bit flawed. Unfortunately, with the way that the current liquor laws stand in the county, it’s not possible for this to happen. So i really think that the openness to having a bar or two has to come with the territory of Bellevue going “wet”. I would hope that the town will be on an upswing by 2015, and therefore no one would really consider investing in a “nuisance bar” in the first place. I don’t agree that Avalon is a bar haven, there are 4 bars total in Avalon (one on 65), none of which are considered nuisance bars by the Avalon police. They were questioned on their view of the bars during the 2011 Bellevue alcohol referendum and stated that they have minimal problems with the establishments. The implementation of fear among the Bellevue locals towards the idea of a bar opening up is the reason that the referendum failed on 2011. If we continue with this type of thinking, we will remain in the same place that we are today with out business district. Restaurants will not come if they cannot prosper and compete with the rest of the area.
      I think Bite and Vivo would have been able to prosper in Bellevue if they were able to compete in the marketplace. Unfortunately, the current council was not even open to the idea of having a 60 day TRIAL RUN of allowing my patrons to sit at the TWO outdoor tables that i have and enjoy their BYOB libations. So that’s the mindset of the current “old guard”, that mindset is what the town is up against. And that is only a tiny part of why i think the leadership needs to be replaced.

  11. Dumb question: is the bakery still there? Usually when I go through Bellevue I’m on a mission for something else there and forget to look.

  12. Just to clarify, The Shepherd’s Door has been a non-profit since 2007. The retail space was reduced to accommodate the new resource center at the end of 2012, I also don’t believe there is a methadone clinic in Bellevue so that is inaccurate, but please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Hi Matt,
      This list was a joint effort among lots of people, the Sheperds Door was a bit of a toss up as to it’s history and change over the last few years. Sorry for the mix up! I don’t think I mentioned anything about a methodone clinic, maybe another commenter did? As far as that is concerned, I think a lot of people think that the Lincoln Center is a methodone clinic. I inquired with the management there last summer, they confirmed that they do in fact treat some drug addiction as well as mental health (i did not ask about methodone, so i’m not sure if that drug is distributed there or not). I personally feel that a place like that should not be placed in the middle of a business district. I think that a section of the hospital would be a far better location for a drop in center such as that one. I hope this clears some things up, and I’m really excited to see so much involvement, concern, and vision for our boroughs future! Open forums and conversations are the basis to some positive changes!

  13. No worries on The Shepherd’s Door. I just wanted to clear things up so there was no misunderstanding. As for the methadone clinic comment, it was not made by you but by Rose above. I think there is a common misconception among people in Bellevue/Avalon based on lack of education. The place that I believe you and Rose are talking about is New Horizons which is a drop-in, peer-support center for Mental Health Consumers (http://www.peer-support.org/new_horizons.html). Though they may assist people to ensure they are staying properly medicated (which is a small part of what they do & essential to the recovery of these individuals) it is far from being a methadone clinic. In fact, people are more likely getting prescriptions for drug addictions from the doctors office across the street, yet nobody says anything about that. Additionally, many of the people who attend that clinic have legitimate biological medical disorders that are no different then physical illness such as cancer or heart disease. I don’t think people would be opposed to a cancer support group or any other type of center like that, but due to lack of understanding of Mental Health the individuals are often misunderstood and frankly discriminated against. For instance, Rose above says “God knows what their criminal records have on them.” I bet most people don’t know that statistically people with mental health disorders are much more likely to be a victim of violent crime then to commit it. I think encouraging education to break down stigma and misconceptions on Mental Health will be far more beneficial for society then isolating these individuals and trying to act like they don’t exist or deserve the same rights as everybody else. I have had the opportunity to tour New Horizons and meet many of the consumers who attend there this past year. Trust me they are not responsible at all for the decline in this community even though they are often unfairly blamed from a lot of people who live here.

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