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Harrison residents applaud plan for Natrona cafe, market

| Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, 10:36 p.m.
Chase Slepak bought the former Bacha Funeral Home, along River Avenue in the Natrona section of Harrison, with plans to transform it into a coffee shop and grocery store. He is shown on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Chase Slepak bought the former Bacha Funeral Home, along River Avenue in the Natrona section of Harrison, with plans to transform it into a coffee shop and grocery store. He is shown on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Harrison's Natrona neighborhood is getting a café and market, and the neighbors seem to be quite happy.

Township commissioners Monday approved a conditional use that will allow Slepak Enterprises to convert the former Bacha Funeral Home on River Avenue to that purpose.

Nobody objected to the plans Chase Slepak, CEO of Slepak Enterprises, outlined to the commissioners.

In fact, a crowd of about 40 residents applauded loudly when the development was approved unanimously.

Township zoning regulations called for conditional approval because the new establishment includes a retail store and an eatery not permitted under the property's “village” designation.

“My intent for the first floor is to create a café and a market,” said Slepak, a Winfield resident and Alle-Kiski native. “There is no tobacco, no lottery.

“The goal is to give a safe space to purchase basic (grocery) staples.”

He also said the establishment would sell no alcoholic beverages.

The upstairs space at 32-34 River Ave. is divided into two apartments. Slepak said the space will be renovated and used as rental dwellings.

Slepak said his development, Daddy Rabbit's Café and Market, will occupy one of the two large rooms on the first floor where funeral visitations used to be held.

As for the other one, he said it would be made available as a meeting space.

“Right now, it would be available for any nonprofit or community group to use at no charge,” Slepak said.

When asked if the market could expand into the other first-floor space, he said that may be a possibility.

The property was purchased in April by Slepak Enterprises, founded by Slepak and his father, for $50,000.

Bill Godfrey, head of the grass-roots community improvement group known as Natrona Comes Together, expressed excitement about Slepak's plans.

He said it will benefit Natrona residents who have few options in the community to buy grocery items.

“We're absolutely thrilled about that,” Godfrey said. “We hope that's going to generate even more economic development.”

Slepak previously told the Tribune-Review that his company intends to make more investments in real estate throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.

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