Remnants of Charleroi’s days as a bustling shopping destination still dot the arrondissement, and no store does it better than Emporium II.
This bright red awning with an illuminated sign and light bulb arrow pointing directly to the store entrance reminds customers of a time just beyond the present. Still, Emporium II’s offerings and merchandise are thoroughly modern.
It remained in the capable hands of Mon Valley native Bob Kosh for 50 years.
And just down the street, Kosh’s niece, Karen Kosh, owns her own company, Studio K. The studio just celebrated 20 years of continuous business. Both of Kosh’s stories are a gratitude to the supportive community that kept their two businesses going, even in the midst of a global pandemic that shut them down for a while.
“From the ashes comes the Emporium,” says Bob.
Bob tells me that his current space was divided into five different storefronts and shows me an early photo of his shop, at the time no larger than the door frame I just walked through. The store has grown over the years, but Bob says the current iteration is what it looked like for the past 25 years.
As the merchandise has changed over the years, Kosh has tried to stay on trend. When Bob started Emporium II, he sold waterbeds and frames. Eventually, the store transformed into offering more homewares, with giftware, candles, tapestries and more. Now clothes and jewelry make up the bulk of her stock. All of Pittsburgh’s professional sports team apparel is proudly on display, alongside items for kids, women, men, and piercings. The shop was even once a tattoo studio for a time.
He started the store almost on a whim, ran with the idea and here it is, a good 50 years later.
Monessen was born and raised, Kosh said he opened the business in Charleroi because, at the time, it was the largest commercial area in the valley.
“(The Valley) has been good to me. I was good at it,” he says.
Kosh says his success comes from being honest with customers, pricing items fairly, and customer satisfaction. His best marketing tactic is word of mouth from satisfied customers.
Business has still not returned to what it was before the pandemic, admitting the shutdown has been particularly difficult, forcing him to sell a car to keep bills paid. Still, Kosh remains hopeful.
He emphasizes finding joy every day, a feeling that keeps him optimistic and moving forward. Dedication is the key to a successful business.
These core values are what niece Karen gathered while working for her uncle. At one time or another, each of Bob’s family members took turns working in his shop. While Karen was building her clientele for her current position, a salon that does “everything but hair,” she worked at Emporium II. Bob’s success inspired Karen to open a storefront in Charleroi a few blocks away. And now Bob’s sister, Deb, is a beautician at Studio K.
A strong and solid support system, consisting not only of reliable employees and partners, but also of customers, has kept Studio K running.
“It takes a lot of time and patience. You have to stay focused,” Karen said, adding, “and we have fun.
It’s clear to see where she got that idea.
Emporium II is located at 709 Fallowfield Ave., Charleroi, and Studio K at 329 Fallowfield Ave.