MOUNT CARMEL - Folks traveling Oak Street this Christmas season will have something nicer to look at than a dilapidated building and an empty lot thanks to local businessowners Art and Maria Catino.

Earlier this year, they purchased 17-19 and 21-23 S. Oak St. The former Dondero building at 17-19 S. Oak St. was beyond repair and had to be torn down, itself an improvement. The Catinos renovated the property at 21-23 S. Oak St. to use as headquarters for Catino Vino, which supplies wine- and beer-making kits.

The building was painted beige and green to match the building at 9-11 S. Oak St., which houses Catino's Candy and Gift Shop and Catino's Italian Specialties.

"As far as what people see when they walk down Oak Street, it is finished," Art Catino said Monday.

There is new siding on 21-23 S. Oak St. and a new fence with brick pillars borders the sidewalk between the candy shop and wine store.

Art Catino said he employed eight local contractors for the job.

"One way or another, these people are customers, too," he noted.

What isn't finished is what travelers on Oak Street can't see, including a new refrigeration building for Catino Vino that will be located behind the fence. It will be housed in a small addition already built onto 21-23 S. Oak St.

Also on hold until the spring is finishing work, including landscaping and paving in between the two businesses.

Catino believes this may be the biggest improvement to downtown Mount Carmel in the nearly 20 years since the UNB Bank burned down and was rebuilt in the 1990s.

The blight remediation was done without any cost to the borough, Catino noted.