New retail center a dream come true for local family

DOWNEY - Construction of the Myrtle Plaza shopping center is nearing completion and is expected to be open for business Feb. 1.Located on the corner of Myrtle and Second streets in downtown Downey, the plaza has already rented five of its 15 retail spaces that range in size from 665 feet to 1,950 square feet. The new shopping center occupants that have already signed leases include an internet coffee and yogurt shop, a women's clothing boutique, a shrimp specialty restaurant, a beauty supply store, and an escrow office. Designed by Robert Stewart Architects of Long Beach, the shopping center is being constructed by E-Tech from Los Angeles. Building a shopping center in Downey is a dream Myrtle Plaza owner Giovanni Persico, 81, shared with his wife Jiuseppina, who died in 2007 at the age of 75. The couple acquired the property in 2002 and the shopping center construction began in February 2008. "This has been a large project that has come to pass," said son Johnny Persico, 51. "We should have done this two years ago because it is tough building these days. You really have to have perseverance because the banks are holding back on everything." "But my parents wanted to do this just for us kids - everything they did was for our future and the future of their grandchildren." With no more than fourth and fifth grade educations, Giovanni and his wife emigrated from Italy to Ohio during the 1950's. Working as a floor sweeper in an Italian deli and in a steel mill, Giovanni saved enough money to buy his first pizzeria in Cleveland which he named Pina Pizza after his wife. In 1959, the Persico's moved to Downey and opened Pina's Pizza House on the corner of Firestone Boulevard and Second Street, and eventually Papa John's Car Wash. Now suffering from failing health, Giovanni sold the car wash two years ago and his children run Pina Pizza House. "We have always done business as a family. My mother was still in here working when she was in her 70's," Johnny said. On April 15, the Persico siblings - Johnny, brother Caro, and sister Amerlia Alberico - will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of their parents first opening Pina's Pizza House in Downey. "My parents instilled in us to save money and to work hard," Johnny said. "That's why they had what they had. Building the shopping center won't make us millionaires, but hopefully it will continue to generate income for our future family generations." Giovanni's dream for his children and grandchildren - the Myrtle Plaza - is conveniently located behind the Persico family's Pina Pizza House restaurant. "This is very upscale and has so much class," said BRC Advisors Managing Partner Tom Papoulias. "They spared no cost and used the finest materials constructing the shopping center. Even the brick parking lot is beautiful and looks so much better than just blacktop." Johnny hopes to have a grand opening ceremony, but a date has not yet been set. "We are just waiting for the certificate of occupancy from the city and the tenants can start moving into the shopping center," Johnny said. Businesses interested in renting retail space in Myrtle Plaza can call Tom Papoulias at (562) 304-7616. ********** Published: January 16, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 39