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Mt. Pleasant native looks to give town’s closed resale shop new life as an auction house

A Mt. Pleasant native is investing in her hometown, with plans to repurpose a closed resale business.

Dee Ankney, who sells home improvement goods in Canonsburg, has purchased the former nonprofit American Architectural Salvage store along Mt. Pleasant’s Main Street. She intends to turn it into an auction house specializing in building materials.

“It’s been a dream of mine,” said Ankney, who expects her mother, Debbie, who lives nearby, will take a supporting role in the venture. “I hope to get it up and running by July,” she said.

A 2004 graduate of Mt. Pleasant Area School District, Ankney plans to commute to her new business from her home in Canonsburg. She said her partner will run the Canonsburg business, Renovation Nation.

Ankney expects to attract a range of customers in Mt. Pleasant, as she does in Canonsburg.

“I get contractors, I get DIY’ers, I get flippers, I get people who have a lot of rentals and people who have their own personal houses,” she said. “I work with pretty much anyone.

“Everybody needs to fix up their house. This is something that is so highly desirable that it can’t go out of style.”

The main portion of the multi-part Mt. Pleasant building that Ankney intends to use for her new business covers about 20,000 square feet.

Ye Olde Banana House included

One area enclosed in arched walls used to be occupied by Ye Olde Banana House, a local produce wholesaler and retailer, she said.

Since acquiring the large building and about 5 acres of land a few weeks ago, Ankney has been busy clearing out leftover store fixtures, reshaping interior walls and making plans to repair roof leaks and replace windows.

“I’m going to give this building a face-lift,” she said. “It’s a work in progress.”

There are also permitting procedures to work out with Mt. Pleasant Borough.

“I’m glad that somebody is going to step up to the plate and put it to use,” borough Mayor Diane Bailey said of the shuttered resale store.

Will offer new products

American Architectural Salvage focused on reselling used building and home improvement materials, but Ankney plans to offer new products. She said she will buy items in bulk and auction them online.

The Mt. Pleasant building — which she plans to rename Auction Pittsburgh — will provide space where potential purchasers can check out the goods in person.

It will be the latest chapter in the history of the site and in Ankney’s varied career track.

“This building has been a staple in town, and to think that I would own it one day,” said Ankney, who remembers shopping at the facility with her family as a child, when it housed Cook’s Lumber.

“It’s nice that I’m able to come back in a town that I grew up in, in a store that I used to shop in,” she said.

19th century roots

Previously Mt. Pleasant Lumber and Supply, the Cook family operated it as the Cook Lumber Co. from 1941 until 2010, attributing its demise to competition from big box home improvement chains.

In addition to selling lumber, the Cooks rented equipment and stocked toy trains and hardware.

“They had a hobby section in there with all kinds of model train products,” recalled Rick Meason, president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society. “I used to go down there as a teenager and buy plastic model cars. They always had a real nice selection.”

An earlier business on the property — dating from the 19th century — was Thomas Hosack’s Mt. Pleasant Planing Mill, according to Meason.

“In the late 1800s, they made wooden siding, shutters and door moldings,” he said.

The mill extended over a local stream, Shupe’s Run, and Ankney said she intends to keep intact the modern building’s similar layout.

Westmoreland Community Action couldn’t turn a profit

After the , the building reopened as Shop Demo Depot, followed by a name change to American Architectural Salvage.

Nonprofit human service agency Westmoreland Community Action operated the business for about 13 years, reselling a variety of items that were donated or salvaged from demolition projects. It also offered space for group meetings and art classes.

The venture never met expectations for generating revenue, and the in January 2023 and put the property on the market.

Initially listed for close to $1 million, it fit into Ankney’s plans when the price began to drop and she was able to negotiate the purchase for about $300,000.

“I thought, ‘This is my prime opportunity to jump in on something like this,’” Ankney said. “I’m really excited to take this next adventure.”

Ankney’s latest adventure

It’s the latest stop in a series of occupational moves that saw her working at the UPS center in New Stanton, on area security details, armed with a criminal justice associate degree from Westmoreland County Community College, and as a conductor on Norfolk Southern coal trains.

The latter role prompted Ankney’s move to Canonsburg. She helped run trains for six years, until she was furloughed in 2019. Renovation Nation grew from an initial side gig selling items from her garage.

Ankney expressed regret that it will be too costly for her to restore and maintain the Mt. Pleasant building’s iconic neon “build-it” sign that featured an animated hammer and letters.

Once she posted her intent to sell it online, it generated plenty of offers, she said.

“It’s too much money for me to run it,” she said of the sign. “It’s out of my league.”

Jeff Himler is a TribLive reporter covering Greater Latrobe, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant Area and Derry Area school districts and their communities. He also reports on transportation issues. A journalist for more than three decades, he enjoys delving into local history.