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Bolivar cafe celebrates first year

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 9:58 p.m.

Bolivar resident Sue Bartow remembers when a quarter could get you an ice cream sundae and a cherry Coke at the local drugstore.

Last week she stopped in the same drugstore — now serving as part restaurant, part general store and part ice cream parlor. Bartow came in to leave a quarter for a newspaper she picked up the previous weekend.

“Things have changed over the years. It's no longer a pharmacy,” Bartow said. “But it's still a place where people gather.”

The Brickyard Cafe at 632 Washington St. will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Sunday. Owners Mellissa and Jeff Miller will offer specials all day, as well as special drawings, Melissa Miller said.

The Millers decided to buy the building after there were threats that it, too, would be shuttering its doors.

“My husband and I just didn't want to see it close for good,” Miller said.

Since the Pittsburgh natives moved to Bolivar in 1993, Miller said, many stores have closed in the small, mountain community.

Bartow, a councilwoman and a frequent cafe customer, said the drugstore means a lot to the little community.

It has “kept the community intact,” she said. “It's a landmark that helps keep the identity of Bolivar. I've been coming here for 45 years.”

Miller greets each customer by name. She knows who wants their meals to go and who plans to stay awhile.

The former teacher for the Head Start pre-school in Derry said she never dreamed of opening a restaurant while she and her husband were raising their five children.

But then the shop came up for sale, three of their children left for college and her hours were reduced at work.

The family needed another source of income, and cooking for a crowd was something Miller knew how to do.

“When you have a family of seven you get used to cooking for a bunch of people,” Miller said. “It wasn't something I was scared of.”Miller said she's been astonished by the number of people who have supported the business.

“For a lot of people, this is where they get the news, they see their friends, this is their place to socialize,” Miller said.

The front windows and the counter are decorated with notices of upcoming events, fundraisers and news from the borough.

Miller offers an extensive menu of breakfasts, sandwiches, pizza and sides, ranging from 75-cent toast to a 15-inch pizza with “the works” for $13. She also provides daily specials.

Residents can pay on-time water bills at the counter and drop off library books. Miller takes orders for pies that are delivered from the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown.

She has held two block parties outside her business and she is planning a holiday party for next month.

“I was so shocked at the number of people who came to these events. We had a singer, we served food. It was so well-received and people were very kind and generous. Someone told me that Bolivar hasn't seen this much fun in a long time,” Miller said.

Although the business has largely been a success, Miller said, she worries about Bolivar's dwindling population and increasing prices.

“We just hope that we can continue to make it work,” Miller said. “Because we're doing a good thing here. I never mind coming to work.”

The Brickyard Cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

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