Business is Booming in Wilkinsburg

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It may not appear to be so, but Wilkinsburg businesses are booming. In just one this past year, Wilkinsburg has at least 11 new businesses and two others moving locations.

Last summer Jean’s Soul Food Restaurant relocated from her Wood Street location to the former Standard Bank building at 730 Penn Avenue. Jean Gould’s business was growing and needed more space. The new location fit the bill for more space and a better location. Being located on the busy Penn Avenue business corridor, she has seen a number of new customers who became aware of her restaurant as they drove through Wilkinsburg.

Another eatery opened about the same time as Jean’s move. Al’s Fish N’ Chicken is located at 1000 Penn Avenue. Alaa “Al” Agra is a Biddle Avenue resident who, after working for a number of years in the food business, set out on his own after doing a major renovation of the property at the corner of Penn Avenue and Coal Street and opened his take-out restaurant. Al’s big sellers are jumbo shrimp, catfish and wings. He says his business is better every day. Al delivers throughout the immediate Wilkinsburg area.

Besides Al’s Fish N’ Chicken the 1000 block of Penn Avenue has three other new businesses. The largest and most noticeable of these is the Right Market at 1030 Penn Avenue. The owner, Sami Abdullah, also did a considerable amount of renovation to his property. Sami’s cousin, Fehmi Abdullah, is the store’s manager and calls the Right Market a mini-Wal-Mart. Not only do they carry all the regular convenience store products, but also things that would not normally be found at most convenience stores such as greeting cards and some clothing items. On either side of Right Market are new businesses, Imma’s African Braids at 1022 Penn Avenue and It’s About Time barber shop at 1034 Penn.

David Moore manages the Progressive Insurance concierge claims center at the corner of Ardmore Boulevard and Briton Road. Opening last summer, Progressive by far made the largest investment in the borough by acquiring a large piece of property and building its one-stop, state-of-the-art claims center.

Down at the other end of Wilkinsburg, Ron Buchanan has added onto his Wilkinsburg Car Wash at 921 Pennwood Avenue (behind McDonalds) with two automatic, touch-free car washes. In about five minutes your car can be washed, waxed and dried and never have a brush touch it. However, the more interesting part of Ron’s addition is the “doggie wash” where one can walk in and wash their mutt without creating the dog wash mess at home.

Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy opened in the PennWest Building in 2003. Allegheny Chesapeake offers a full line of physical therapy services to include pre- and post-operative therapy, injury therapy and preventative work. Having outgrown their facility, manager Scott Rosen started seeking larger space. Not finding any satisfactory space in the borough, but dedicated to the Wilkinsburg area, Allegheny Chesapeake found space just over the Pittsburgh line at The Factory at 7501 Penn Avenue and will be reopening there in June.

Although not in Wilkinsburg, but “just over the line” as Allegheny Chesapeake’s new location, there have been two other new openings. Walgreen’s Drug Store at the corner of Penn and Braddock Avenues has created an anchor at the entrance to the Wilkinsburg area business district. In just the next block from Walgreen’s in the Park Place Center at 7714 Penn Avenue is DaVita Dialysis Center.

Probably known as much for its attractive façade as it is for its merchandise is The Athletes Foot at 713 Penn Avenue. Ramzi Mustafa and his cousin, Sid Mustafa, opened the Wilkinsburg TAF franchise in November, one month after opening another TAF in McKees Rocks. TAF carries all the latest styles and colors of premium urban footwear, as well as brand name T-shirts. Both Ramzi and Sid have been pleased with the business results they have had at the Wilkinsburg location.

Across from the Penn Lincoln Hotel and next to the used car lot is Mama’s Candy. Located in the little building with the candy stripes on top, Miss Chris Younger carries candy, of course, but also pop, snacks, convenience items and tobacco products. Miss Chris will soon be adding deli items to the selection.

Pennwood Paint has been at its current location on Wood Street for more than 50 years. After decades of being at the same location, owner, Paul Gruver is moving, but not too far. In June Pennwood, which is a Benjamin Moore paints dealer, will relocate across the street and down the block to the corner of Wood Street and South Avenue. Paul expects this new, more visible location to be beneficial to Pennwood Paint.

Last November, Kab, Inc. moved from Forest Hills into the old Tile City Building at 716 Rebecca Avenue across from St. James School. Kab is a second-generation family business headed by Ken Brown, Jr. Kab is a full-service distributor and merchandiser of all those “As Seen on TV” products in the supermarkets. If you are in the Giant Eagle or Shop ‘n Save and you see a “Shamwow” or “Snuggli” on the shelves, that’s Kab. Ken Brown’s sister, Katie Ratesic, is also involved with the business. She says that just about everyone in her family lived in Wilkinsburg at one time or another and they are happy to be located in Wilkinsburg, now.

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