Boys & Girls Club Opens 'The Zone' Mini-Mall
Lawrenceville is quickly becoming a chic stop for shopping or dining and Butler Street is a cool corridor of creativity and a real destination.
The latest entry is the eco-friendly "Youth Enterprise Zone Mini-Mall," or "The Zone" for short.
All 13,500 square feet of it is owned and operated by the Boys and Girls Club.
"And we're the only Boys & Girls Club in the country that's doing this," Club President and CEO Mike Hepler said.
On "The Zone's" vibrant first floor is a cafe, an ice cream parlor, a variety of gifts and fantastic customized baskets.
The mezzanine floor offers high-tech career training to develop the workforce and the kids feel empowered.
What's most amazing is that everything from design, to stock selection to sales and business plans are driven by the kids whose ages range from 15 to18.
"Our young people will tell you, the philosophy is: minimal risk, minimal inventory, maximum profit," Hepler said.
The inner city teenagers are gaining a wealth of entrepreneurial, business and people skills from some of the best and the brightest including experts from Carnegie Mellon University and the R.K. Mellon Foundation.
Joe Kelly, whose furniture shop is just down the block and is with the Lawrenceville Corporation, loves the new addition.
"Very interesting gifts, that I think are very affordable. I don't think there's anything there over $20. I think it's a wonderful store and I think it's a wonderful purpose," Kelly said.
The business plan for the first year is calling for a profit of $100,000 and the proceeds are going to benefit the 12 Boys and Girls Clubs in Allegheny and Indiana counties.