Former Mickey’s Army-Navy Gets Makeover

WARREN, Ohio – Just a few months after purchasing the former Mickey’s Army-Navy store building in downtown Warren from the Western Reserve Port Authority, the Downtown Development Group has leased 80% of its first-floor space.

Youngstown-based Flying High Inc. began June 1 to move into the 2,900-square-foot space it is leasing, says Jimmy DiCenso, vice president of sales/marketing. Another new tenant, Mariel Kim, a clothing retailer, is bringing in inventory ahead of a potential July 1 opening.

They will join existing tenants Subway and Dub City, a hair and beauty products retailer that has doubled its space in the two-level, 32,000-square-foot building, DiCenso says. He is in discussions with a tenant for the remaining ground-level space, which he expects to have completely leased by the end of summer.

“We are very pleased. We actually did not think we would move along at this pace for filling the area,” says Mark Marvin, president of Downtown Development Group.

The property at 231 Main Ave. SW was donated to WRPA in January. The port authority approved an agreement the following month to sell the building to Marvin’s Bull and Rhino Land Co.

“The people of Warren are going to be very happy with what [Marvin] is doing with that building. He takes a lot of pride in what he does,” says port authority CEO John Moliterno.

The Mickey’s property had been empty and falling into disrepair for several years. Bringing it back into productive use was important for the city and the community in general, Moliterno says.

It’s important to Marvin as well, given its proximity to the Mahoning Building, one of several buildings in Warren’s Courthouse Square area that he has purchased and redeveloped.

“It was a natural fit,” he says.

Marvin might have been surprised by the speed at which the project came together. Moliterno was not.

“That’s how Mark Marvin operates,” he says. “He’s a hard worker and he’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He’s done that before and he did it again with this property.”

Under terms of the agreement, Marvin made a $35,000 down payment on the building, with the port authority drafting a $315,000 note that would be forgiven if Marvin’s bricks-and-mortar investment in the building exceeded that figure.

Marvin says he satisfied that commitment and will provide the documentation to the port authority.

“We have spent nearly $350,000 fixing the plaza and will probably spend an additional $50,000 before full completion and occupancy,” he says.

Among the renovation expenses was replacing the building’s roof, which represented the renovation’s biggest challenge, DiCenso says.

“The roof was just in deplorable condition,” he says. “Luckily, most of the metal structure was in good shape. They had to replace maybe a few pieces of it. But overall the structure of it was OK.”

Flying High, which provides job training and placement services for individuals who face employment barriers, is opening a Trumbull County branch of its Professional Development Center, says Executive Director Jeff Magada.

“That will be used to help people become prepared and qualified for employment and move them into the hundreds of jobs that are now available,” Magada says.

Flying High was interested in having the Trumbull County center close to downtown Warren with access to available bus routes, he continues. He was connected to Marvin via the port authority while it was in the process of selling the building to the developer’s company.

As part of the renovation, the developer created an opening in the south wall of the space occupied by Dub City, allowing the retailer to expand to 3,450 square feet.

Arnold and Kim Hall opened Dub City in January, according to Arnold Hall.

Before the expansion, customers could hardly walk in the small space, he says. With the additional space, Dub City is seeking new vendors to provide products.

Other improvements made to the building include repainting the fascia, refurbishing several air handlers, installing new ceiling tiles throughout and replacing the lighting in the soffits.

As the ground level nears full occupancy, Downtown Development Group is continuing to work toward a longer-term goal for the basement level – a grocery store. It’s a quality-of-life amenity that Courthouse Square lacks. But there is a growing need with the emergence of a residential population downtown, Marvin says.

He envisions a hybrid between a traditional grocery store and a farmers market style space where local vendors could set up during harvest and sell their product, although that would be determined by whatever entity ends up occupying the space.

“We’ve had a few conversations with two different companies but no firm commitments as yet,” Marvin says. “We feel that will probably take 12 to 18 months at best.”

As DiCenso envisions, grocery

customers would come down the stairs or take a freight elevator into the basement level space, get their cart and do their shopping, he says. At checkout, their purchases would be placed in numbered bags matching a number on the receipt. After they check out, their shopping cart would be transported by conveyor to the backside of the building on the main level and customers would drive their vehicles around to have their purchases loaded.

“It would take a little bit to upgrade the electric and things like that. But I think we would be able to handle it,” he says.

DiCenso is confident that the store would draw not just from downtown residents but people who work downtown, as well as throughout and even beyond Trumbull County.

Pictured: Jimmy DiCenso stands in front of the newly renovated building that is the former Mickey’s Army-Navy store in Warren.