A new neighbor in Rhawnhurst

Ilona Keller’s Dugan’s, at Roosevelt Boulevard and Borbe­ck Av­en­ue, went out of busi­ness earli­er this year. The site will soon be­come the home of a Bot­tom Dol­lar su­per­mar­ket. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES PHOTO

Bet your Bot­tom Dol­lar that a su­per­mar­ket is tak­ing over the Dugan’s ca­ter­ing com­plex. For now, cor­por­ate of­fi­cials don’t have a lot to tell res­id­ents.

The North­east has lost an­oth­er of its land­mark, loc­ally owned busi­nesses and seems to be gain­ing yet an­oth­er dis­count big-box chain store that so far has kept neigh­bors in the dark about its spe­cif­ic plans.

Res­id­ents of Rhawn­hurst and the tens of thou­sands of mo­tor­ists who pass the in­ter­sec­tion of Roosevelt Boulevard and Borbe­ck Av­en­ue every day have known for weeks that the old Ilona Keller’s Dugan’s had dished out its last chick­en mars­ala and sliced its last wed­ding cake.

The ban­quet fa­cil­ity had been a pop­u­lar site for post-nup­tial re­cep­tions, birth­day parties and fu­ner­al lunch­eons for more than three dec­ades be­fore clos­ing its doors for good earli­er this year.

The North­east Times months ago at­temp­ted to con­tact the long­time own­er, Ilona Keller, but tele­phone calls to the busi­ness were not re­turned. Now, the busi­ness phone has been dis­con­nec­ted, and the Dugan’s Web site has been taken off­line.

The Times was un­able to get al­tern­ate con­tact in­form­a­tion for Keller.

Tem­por­ary signs that have been erec­ted along the Boulevard in front of the old free-stand­ing Dugan’s signs pro­claim the site as the fu­ture home of Bot­tom Dol­lar Food, a su­per­mar­ket-sized gro­cery store that boasts hav­ing “food prices that kick bot­tom.”

And des­pite claims by a cor­por­ate spokes­wo­man that “com­munity out­reach is very im­port­ant to our com­pany,” store of­fi­cials so far have done a lot more com­mu­nic­at­ing with folks in City Hall than with the people of Rhawn­hurst.

“Any­time you have a big busi­ness com­ing in­to the neigh­bor­hood that’s go­ing to drastic­ally af­fect traffic or bring in a cer­tain cli­en­tele, it’s al­ways good to spend a half-hour with the com­munity to let them know what’s go­ing on,” said Scott Mul­vey, vice pres­id­ent of the Rhawn­hurst Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Mul­vey, who works as an aide to City 

Coun­cil­man Bill Green (D-at large), is the son of RCA pres­id­ent Joe Mul­vey, who is re­cov­er­ing from a re­cent ill­ness.

Scott Mul­vey’s broth­er, Ry­an Mul­vey, also serves on the RCA board and is an aide to state Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr. (D-174th dist.), whose dis­trict in­cludes the former Dugan’s site.

Scott Mul­vey was un­aware of any con­tact made by Bot­tom Dol­lar with the civic as­so­ci­ation or either polit­ic­al of­fice.

However, city re­cords show that Bot­tom Dol­lar has been busy at the Li­censes and In­spec­tions per­mit win­dow.

In March, the busi­ness ap­plied for and re­ceived a use per­mit to op­er­ate a gro­cery store with 19,630 square feet of in­teri­or space, along with “ac­cess­ory park­ing and fa­cil­it­ies.” The per­mit al­lows for the con­struc­tion of a 660-square-foot load­ing dock and ramp, along with the re­con­fig­ur­a­tion of an ex­ist­ing park­ing lot to fit 258 spaces.

In May, a second per­mit al­lowed for the erec­tion of two new ex­ter­i­or signs and the re-fa­cing of two ex­ist­ing free-stand­ing signs.

A June per­mit al­lowed for the “par­tial de­moli­tion and renov­a­tion” of the ex­ist­ing ban­quet fa­cil­ity for con­ver­sion to a re­tail gro­cery store.

Also in March, city re­cords show, North Car­o­lina-based Bot­tom Dol­lar Food North­east LLC signed a 20-year lease for the site. Keller still owns the prop­erty, which she bought for $950,000 in 1980 and in­cludes two ad­join­ing com­mer­cial prop­er­ties. The Sak­ura Ja­pan­ese Steak House, which also ap­pears closed to busi­ness, oc­cu­pies one store, and Lu­cille Roberts Fit­ness for Wo­men oc­cu­pies an­oth­er.

A Lu­cille Roberts em­ploy­ee re­ferred a re­port­er’s in­quiry about the Dugan’s site to a cor­por­ate of­fice for the chain fit­ness cen­ter.

Scott Mul­vey has ques­tions about when and how Bot­tom Dol­lar will op­er­ate. Many res­id­ents do not con­sider dol­lar store-type busi­nesses de­sir­able, he said, but des­pite the name, Bot­tom Dol­lar doesn’t ap­pear to fit that mold.

“Dol­lar stores do raise a red flag,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously, something had to hap­pen with (the prop­erty). It’s been sit­ting there since, what, 2010? But I don’t know if a gro­cery store is a bad thing.”

Mean­while, is­sues like park­ing, traffic, trash and se­cur­ity should be dis­cussed be­fore it opens, Mul­vey con­tends. The front of the prop­erty runs along busy Roosevelt Boulevard, but the rear abuts a res­id­en­tial sec­tion.

“We’d like to see traffic, es­pe­cially de­liv­er­ies, come off of the Boulevard, not the smal­ler side streets,” he said. “And we look for­ward to someone tak­ing care of the prop­erty and main­tain­ing it.”

Many spe­cif­ic op­er­at­ing plans were not avail­able from a Bot­tom Dol­lar spokes­wo­man reached by the Times.

“We’re still sev­er­al months away from open­ing the store, and we’re still work­ing out op­er­at­ing de­tails,” said Ten­isha Waldo, who ad­ded that Bot­tom Dol­lar re­mains will­ing and eager about speak­ing with com­munity lead­ers about the site.

Two oth­er Bot­tom Dol­lar stores ex­ist in Phil­adelphia — at 9303 Krewstown Road in Bustleton and at Broad Street and God­frey Av­en­ue in East Oak Lane. Twenty oth­ers are scattered throughout the re­gion.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Waldo said, each store em­ploys 30 to 35 people.

Even dur­ing the Dugan’s hey­day, the civic as­so­ci­ation dealt with oc­ca­sion­al prob­lems there. Some­times, the ca­ter­ing hall ran out of park­ing spaces and the over­flow ended up on nearby res­id­en­tial streets, Mul­vey said. Also, the site peri­od­ic­ally be­came a gath­er­ing place for teen drink­ing and rev­elry, which be­came an­oth­er nuis­ance.

Later, Mul­vey said, the civic as­so­ci­ation com­plained to Keller when auto deal­er Gary Barbera began park­ing cars on the un­used Dugan’s lot. That prob­lem re­solved it­self without fur­ther ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to the com­munity lead­er.

As for the fu­ture, the civic as­so­ci­ation is tak­ing a wait-and-see ap­proach.

“Dugan’s has been a very im­port­ant part of the neigh­bor­hood for years and he hated to see the busi­ness go down,” Mul­vey said, echo­ing the sen­ti­ments of his fath­er. “As far as hav­ing an opin­ion of the new busi­ness com­ing in, we have to reach out to the mem­ber­ship to see.” ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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