From left, owner Ashley Comer, general manager Matt Harkness and employee Amanda Dille wait on customer Marlayne Derenzo of Crafton at the newly opened Carnegie Coffee Co. in Carnegie. The new shop is inside a long-vacant former post office.
By Carole Gilbert Brown
The Carnegie Coffee Co. opened fewer than three weeks ago in the former Carnegie Post Office building at 132 E. Main St. and the town is talking about it.
"It has the best cappuccino," said Mayor Jack Kobistek.
"I go there every day now," said Councilwoman Carol Covi as she issued an invitation to join her.
Patrick Martin, 28, of Scott and his fiancee liked the products and the prices, noting that similar items typically cost twice as much elsewhere
"It's a nice change of pace for Carnegie," Mr. Martin said. "It's very upbeat and I like the combination of old and new," referring to the 1916 Beaux Arts-style building and the 2013 refurbishment and decor.
For example, the large arched windows were retained for light and interest and some of the old post office's 500 metal postal boxes decorate the sides of the service counter at the 2,500-square-foot shop.
Appreciative comments are music to the ears of Greg Romeo, 44, who owns the business with his wife, Ashley Comer, 29, and friend Matt Harkness, 40. Mr. Romeo, a pharmacist and owner of the Medicine Shoppe on the same street, said he has wanted to open a coffee shop for 15 to 20 years.
He also wanted it side-by-side with his pharmacy, which is scheduled to happen by the end of summer, when the Medicine Shoppe moves into space at the former post office. A small gift shop will be at the pharmacy's front.
Besides chairs and tables for eating and drinking, the coffeehouse contains a book nook with comfortable chairs and free Wi-Fi connections. It will soon have a large table for conference seating. Some small tables and chairs have been placed on the front porch, and an outdoor patio area is in the works for the easterly side of the building.
Mr. Romeo is hoping to add live music on Saturday nights, too.
In addition to the popular cappuccinos, espressos and fruit smoothies, the coffeehouse offers a rotating menu of pastries, soups and gourmet sandwiches that is helping to bring in the crowds.
"Our mornings are pretty busy during the week, and our lunches are getting increasingly busy," said Mr. Harkness, who is general manager.
Mr. Romeo was inspired to do a coffeehouse after several trips with his wife to Europe during which they were introduced to the Italian-grown Illy coffee bean. The Carnegie Coffee Co. is the first coffeehouse in Western Pennsylvania to serve Illy coffee.
The Carnegie Post Office closed at the site in spring 2008 and moved into smaller, leased quarters at 139 E. Main St. In September of that year, the original facility was purchased by Collier developer and entrepreneur Craig Cozza. The coffee company is leasing the building from him. Realtor Jeff Stephan is credited with putting the deal together.
Though the building needed electrical and plumbing upgrades before it could be used, Mr. Romeo was happy the floors could be saved. All of the building's marble was reclaimed and sent to Collier Stone Co. for repolishing. Mr. Harkness' carpentry talents were put to good use, too, he added.
"This was a team effort," Mr. Romeo said, adding he is gratified by the community's response to the new business.
"I knew we were filling a need here," he said.
The coffeehouse is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.