Beaver County man plans mobile food trailer inspired by Hills stores – The Times

INDEPENDENCE TWP. – Hills discount department stores ceased in 1999, but western Pennsylvania residents still can kind of smell them.
If you’re of a certain age and grew up around here, just close your eyes and let your memory drift back to the appetizing aroma of the Hills snack shop. The pleasurable scent of fresh-popped popcorn, hot doughy pretzels and hot dogs warmed under a heat lamp brings back a flood of fun memories. Typically located at the entrance of each Hills, those snack shops were nirvana for children tagging along with parents on shopping trips.
Recognizing the vivid nostalgia for Hills, a Beaver County man plans to launch a mobile food trailer serving Hills-style foods.
“We’ll sell pretzels, nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, Icee drinks and maybe candied nuts, like peanuts and cashews,” the food trailer’s mastermind, Jason Powell, said.
Powell even purchased three of the last known Hills shopping carts, which the Independence Township resident intends to bring along with his trailer for added sensual appeal as he sets up in shopping plazas that formerly housed Hills stores.
If he’s cleared for any necessary permits, Powell hopes to hold the grand opening this upcoming spring in the Green Garden Plaza of Hopewell Township.
“That’s the place where my Hills was, growing up,” Powell said. “I was taken there as a child and have fond memories of that place.
“So, we might relive our memories there for a week or two, and then go to Northern Lights (Shopping Center) and try the same thing, and have the community come out and support.”
Northern Lights, in Economy, also once offered a Hills story.
As Facebook fan pages and testimonies from regional web comedian Pittsburgh Dad have proven, people love reminiscing about Hills.
“They really remember that snack bar so I’ve just thought, man, it would be nice if I could bring that back in some way, shape or form,” Powell said.
Interviewed already by two Pittsburgh TV stations, “my idea has kind of gone viral,” Powell said. “Former employees of those snack bars seem the most grateful.”
Researching the specific foods Hills snack shops provided, Powell learned some sold pizza, which he also plans to do.
“I guess that was a store-by-store decision,” he said.
He’s currently in the design phase for a custom-made trailer he wants to resemble as much as possible a Hills snack stand.
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“Those just bring back a lot of happy childhood memories for people,” Powell said. “Hills was where the toys were, and those snack bars still fill peoples’ hearts with joy.”
Founded in Youngstown in 1957, Hills operated stores throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Indiana and West Virginia, eventually expanding into Michigan and Tennessee. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1991 and in 1998-99 was taken over by Ames, becoming what was at that time the nation’s fourth-largest discount chain. Ames declared bankruptcy and closed all its stores in 2022.
Scott Tady is entertainment editor at The Times and easy to reach at


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