Seven Ranges and the Pothole Predicament

Seven Ranges and the Pothole Predicament February 27, 2024

The potholes were worse than they’d ever been.

Steubenville has plenty of terrible potholes. We’re a small town in the hills of Northern Appalachia where the ground is always either muddy or frozen, and nobody ever has any money. You get used to it. But the potholes up near the mall were turning into a serious safety hazard.

In Steubenville, we have an awful mall. I’m told it used to be good, back before they put in the Walmart, but ever since I came here in 2006 the mall has been half empty and in terrible architectural shape, and it’s getting worse all the time.  I’ve never heard of a mall getting its chairs and tables stolen and having to ask for people to donate a couch, for example. I’m still trying to figure out how you shoplift a chair. And every time you mention the atrocious state of the mall, at least on social media, somebody comments with some version of  “Why are you being so negative? Be the change! Let’s work together to make the mall a better place!” which is funny to me. This is Northern Appalachia. We are negative about everything. Grousing is how we make small talk, and I like it. But when we mention the mall, somebody always chides that we should turn into Pollyanna. In fact, the mall went so far as to announce that they would be deleting negative comments on their social media, and then in the beginning of 2023 they just stopped posting entirely.

I’m sorry for anyone whose livelihood depends on the mall. I’m a little sad to think about taking Adrienne there when she was a baby, to see Santa and look at the toys back when there was anything to look at. But other than that, I wouldn’t think about the mall at all in a given week– except for the potholes.

It seems that the mall property includes most of the parking lots near the mall , as well as the entrances and exits of those parking lots.

And they were in horrendous shape. The potholes were eating up entire lanes. Cars were darting onto the berm or into oncoming traffic to avoid damaging their vehicles. When my car had that loose wire, I drove into a pothole the size of a wading pool which put my car into limp mode, and I had a terrible time getting home. I heard from people who popped tires and scraped their bumpers. Traversing the mall parking lot is the only way to get to Walmart to buy groceries and to the pet store to get treats for Lady McFluff, so I couldn’t just avoid the lot and shop elsewhere. In small towns, you get what you get. Some people drove all the way across the river to Weirton to do their shopping and some people braved the parking lot. Nobody liked it.

The potholes became locally famous. They were all over the local news. Everyone was frustrated about them, but nobody knew exactly what to do about it. The City claimed they couldn’t just come onto somebody’s private property and fix their potholes for them because it wasn’t a municipal street. There was a petition drive to the city council, which was a nice thought, but city council didn’t own the mall either. The cops seemed determined to give a big fat citation to the owners of the mall, but they acted as if they didn’t know who to cite. It’s not as though the mall’s owners live at the mall, after all. The mall is passed from developer to developer at a startling rate.

The potholes got so severe that the City came and put a bright orange traffic barrel in one of them, but that’s all they did. This did not improve things; now people were swerving to avoid the barrel.

In early February, a local crank tied a Mylar Valentine’s Day balloon to the barrel and decorated the borders of the pothole with bright pink spray-painted phalluses, which didn’t exactly help.

By the end of the month, however, we were rescued by an arcade.

Seven Ranges Entertainment is some kind of combination of a video game arcade and a sports bar. They recently bought and remodeled the old Sears building that’s physically attached to, but not owned by, the mall. Again, I didn’t pay much attention to this because I am autistic and I have a severe gluten sensitivity as well as PCOS. I can’t eat sports bar food without getting sick and I would rather eat glass than go through the sensory nightmare of being in an arcade anyway. The lights and noises drive me crazy. But I was glad to see a new business in town. I hoped other people liked it. Steubenville has had a distinct lack of fun things to do, and this went a way towards fixing that.

Seven Ranges Entertainment posted an interesting stunt to Facebook: they promised that, if they got enough follows on social media, they would fill the potholes.

Word of their promise got around, and we all liked and followed them.

And they made good on their word.

They made a deal with a local contractor, and they got to work.

The parking lot around the mall and Walmart is now smooth, for the first time since I can remember. I drove over it just for fun the other day. Instead of feeling like I was on the surface of the moon, I felt like I was ice skating.

I want everybody local who doesn’t have food sensitivities or sensory issues to go and patronize Seven Ranges. They have mini golf, bowling, ax throwing, all kinds of noisy video games, and there’s apparently some kind of fried fish special on Friday. If they ever get keto and celiac-friendly food I can buy to go eat in my car while listening to my stimming music, I’ll buy it. Don’t let them go out of business.

I don’t exactly approve of the road-repair-by-publicity-stunt model of city management, but at this point all take it.

Sometimes I love this town.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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