YOUNGSTOWN 2 insurance companies compete for downtown location

There also is available space near the former health food store location.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The irony of two companies' competing to occupy the same location in a downtown with several empty storefronts isn't lost on Reid Dulberger.
Two insurance companies want to open businesses at the former Health Food Center in the Semple Building on West Federal Street. Neither company is terribly interested in moving to other downtown properties.
So the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., the city's downtown redevelopment agency, has to decide which company will get the property.
"It proves God has a sense of humor," said Dulberger, a CIC staff member and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber's executive director.
The insurance companies wanting to occupy the site are Kohler and Associates Inc., which has operated an office in Austintown for 33 years, and the Insurance Center of Youngstown, a start-up business. Both are interested in eventually buying the location.
Advantages of site
Owners of the two businesses say the location is ideal -- near the downtown Bureau of Motor Vehicles office -- and the facility is in good condition with little need for renovations.
The CIC charged the Health Food Center $468 a month in rent. The Semple Building is 34,772 square feet with the former Health Food Center portion taking up close to 3,000 square feet.
Dulberger suggested Tuesday that one business move into the Health Food Center, and the other move two doors down in the same building. The business not in the Health Food Center location would probably have to spend more on renovations than the other company, but Dulberger said the CIC could offer a reduced rent to that business to help offset the expense.
"We looked at other storefronts six to seven months ago, but because we knew the health store was moving, we waited for that space," said Robert Smith, co-owner of the Insurance Center.
Lisa Kohler of Kohler and Associates agreed that the Health Food Center site is the ideal location for her business.
"Great minds think alike, apparently," she said. "We've been considering this for a year."
Smith and Kohler said they were surprised to find out that they were competing for the location.
CIC officials want to make a decision shortly on what will be done with the property.