While Sharon residents may be concerned over the recent loss of businesses in the city, Mayor Bob Lucas said he hopes to have two new places of employment open by September.

“Businesses move in and out,” Lucas said of the situation. “It’s part of doing business, especially small business.”

Two of the latest victims in business loss in the city are Payless Shoe Source, on East State Street across from the high school, and Donna’s Diner along the Shenango River downtown. Payless is moving into the Hermitage Crossings plaza next to the new Wal-Mart Supercenter on North Hermitage Road. The diner had only recently reopened.

Those two businesses join four others that left town since Lucas’ tenure began in January, though some were set to move before he took over:

• Pat Catan’s Craft Center left the Sharon City Centre plaza in January to move to Hermitage Square Plaza for better foot traffic.

• The Sheetz gas and convenience store closed its doors at East State and Oakland Avenue in early May because it lacked room to expand.

• Farone Brothers Pizza left for the Quality Inn in Hermitage.

• Flamingo Rose at 452 E. State, which housed Hair Apparent Inc., burned in late March. One of the co-owners of the business recently bought a salon in Hermitage.

New businesses have come into town, and Lucas said some others have a strong possibility of moving to the city.

C’est Si Bon opened in April with a little help from Lucas. He gave the French cafe the go-ahead to open its doors to the public even though the owner was running into some red tape fulfilling building occupancy-permit requirements. The state Department of Labor and Industry warned the mayor at the time not to overstep his authority.

While it seems a lot of businesses are leaving Sharon for Hermitage, Sharon pried one from its neighbor.

The Disc Junkie CD store held a grand opening Wednesday at its downtown shop in the Boyle Building on East State. It previously was in a small plaza next to Taco Bell in Hermitage.

Joining the Disc Junkie in the same block are Amelia’s Psychic Readings and Living Canvas tattoo shop.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame hopes to reopen its doors and the doors of the Columbia Theatre. Sharon native Tony Butala, the founding father of The Lettermen, announced in March the purchase and his plans to reopen the former Phoenix Restaurant at 100 W. State as a museum and piano bar.

Lucas said the city hopes to have two new businesses in Sharon City Centre by September. He described one as a retail business and the other as an employment provider. He declined to give their names because the deals are not yet complete.

The city has also seen recent financial commitments from two of its largest businesses in the form of renovations and expansions.

Reyers Shoe Store in Sharon City Centre finished its first major renovation since 1986, worth nearly a quarter-million dollars.

Eastern Software, also in Sharon City Centre, expanded last summer, adding 60 jobs with salaries ranging from $35,000 to $80,000.

Lucas said the power he has in bringing businesses into the city is talking to developers on the phone and showing them around, promoting the positives that the downtown has to offer.

“We’re looking to expand on the overall plan of the city,” Lucas said. “We want to target the downtown for total redevelopment.”

Two redevelopment projects that residents could see soon are the Home Town Streets project and the Shenango Street project. Both would provide areas of the city with new streets, sidewalks, curbs, intersections and period lighting. Lucas said the projects are holdovers from former Mayor David Ryan’s tenure. State grants are paying for the work.

Lucas said the city is still considering a riverwalk, which would include a foot bridge, to highlight the Shenango River.

“We need to take care of the small things first and enable the town to look as good as possible,” Lucas said.

When asked what hurts Sharon from getting new business, Lucas said: “If anything, there’s a lack of a concentrated effort or true focus on where we want to go.”

Lucas said the city needs to team with its downtown partners like the Greater Sharon Associates and the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce and make a focused plan for where the city needs to be.

And as nice as the state-funded projects are, Lucas said real growth comes from new, private developments.

“We know we’ve turned the corner once we get private investment,” he said.s