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Developer: Neighboring building which once housed Canopy also coming down
Demolition of the former Jaison’s Department Store on Fifth Avenue, Downtown, began Friday. (Tube City Almanac photo)
For Jaison’s Department Store in McKeesport, the doorbuster sale to end all doorbuster sales began on Friday.
Crews from Unis Demolition of Aliquippa, Beaver County, are demolishing the building at 215 Fifth Ave., Downtown.
Jaison’s was most recently used for bingo games by a charitable organization, but had sat vacant for at least a decade.
Pittsburgh real-estate developer Barry L. Stein, whose company purchased the building in 2014, said he had hoped to find a tenant, but the structure proved impossible to rent.
“The roof was no good when I bought it,” he said Friday. “Second and third floors have little value without an elevator, and in that building, the elevator is in the middle of the building. That means you couldn’t have a lobby.”
Stein also owns the former Thee Record Warehouse, located on the opposite side of Blackberry Alley. That building, which also previously housed The Canopy Restaurant and Bender’s Billiards, is slated for demolition next week, he said.
In recent years, city officials and Stein had been tangled in court over alleged building code violations.
A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director, said Friday city officials have been negotiating with Stein since last summer, urging him to demolish both structures.
“He agreed last year to do this, and we’ve glad he’s adhering to what he promised to do,” Tedesco said. “This has been years in the making with him. I’m glad to see it come to an end. This means two fewer eyesores in our Downtown.”
Founded in 1926 by the Balter family, Jaison’s was a high-end clothing store that eventually grew to include locations in Braddock, Greengate Mall, Monroeville Mall, South Hills Village Mall and Southland Shopping Center, and for a time at Century III Mall.
Along with Cox’s, David Israel, Henry B. Klein and other fashionable clothing stores, Jaison’s was one of the anchors of the Downtown business district, but it went into decline following layoffs at U.S. Steel’s National Works, and the plant’s eventual closure. Jaison’s was taken over by the Fashion Bug chain in 1983.
Jaison’s once included three floors of clothing for men, women and children, but after the takeover by Fashion Bug, it specialized only in women’s clothes, mostly in larger sizes, according to newspaper stories from the time.
The McKeesport store closed in 1985. It became a bingo hall in 1991.
Stein, whose company also owns the Midtown Plaza Shops on Lysle Boulevard, said he would like to find a buyer for the Jaison’s and Record Warehouse properties. The lots have Lysle Boulevard frontage and would be suitable for retail, a bank or fast-food operator, he said.
“I think it’s an exciting opportunity,” Stein said. “You’ve got Lysle Boulevard on one side and Fifth Avenue on the other side.” Stein said he can be reached at (412) 281-2700.
Combined with other ongoing demolition work in the Downtown area, including the planned removal of blighted structures between Sinclair Street and Sheridan Way, Tedesco said, “I think it’s good news for the city.”
(Above and below: Tube City Almanac photos)
Below, two images: A Post-Gazette photo from 1983 shows the inside of Jaison’s following the Fashion Bug takeover. The store began advertising its “going out of business” sale in early 1985. (Both: Tube City Online files)
Jason Togyer is volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. and editor of Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published January 14, 2022.