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Shoprite is no more, but the plaza is not entirely vacant. The gas station and car wash are still operating and Lago Pizza is still open The pizza place and Italian restaurant is operated by Júlio Ortiz and Esperanza Forero.
“We started just with a take-out,” said Forero.
They later added dine-in that included pasta dishes and burgers. Pizza styles include Chicago style pizza, a deep-dish type of pizza in which the cheese and items that normally go on top of the sauce are under it instead.
Ortiz and Forero have lived in the area since 1989. They previously operated New York Pizza on the Franklin County side of the Lake, but sold it and opened Lago when the space in the Shoprite plaza became available.
“We live close by,” Forero commented, explaining the move.
Shoprite’s closure has had an impact.
“The traffic is not the same,” Forero said. “Thank God they left the gas station and the car wash open.”
According to Forero, Lago and Shoprite helped each other, each bringing business to the other. She also felt they were getting a good deal from Lewis Creasey, the previous owner.
“He was a very fair person,” she said.
They still have their existing traffic but Forero said that it’s hard to draw new patrons because the plaza appears deserted. Customers ask them what’s going to happen.
When Shoprite closed, Forero said that they had to quell rumors that the entire plaza had closed.
“Everybody in the whole town said, ‘Oh, the whole shopping center is closed,” she said. Forero said that that’s why they put up a sign that’s visible from the highway in order to show people that they are still there.
“I was planning to expand,” Forero said.
That planned expansion is now on hold.
“I’m going to have to wait and see what happens,” she said.
Forero said that it all depends on what new businesses come into the plaza and how soon that happens.
Meanwhile, Forero said that the Food Lion plaza has been asking them to move over to it. This plaza is located a short distance away on the opposite side of Va. 122. However, Forero said that they are reluctant to do that because they have a lot of money invested in their current location. They also have a current lease which they hope won’t increase.
At present, Ortiz and Forero plan to stay put and see what the new owners do.
Creasey sold the entire plaza to a partnership called BDL LLC in Blacksburg last summer and Forero said that they have met one of the three partners, Bruce Moses.
“He only came once,” she said.
“The landlord is doing his best to fill up the spaces, as far as we know,” said Ortiz. “We just want to let everybody know we are still here.”
So what is going to be done with the plaza? That remains a mystery. Three phone calls, seeking comment to a Christiansburg property manager handling the plaza for BDL were not returned.