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Businesses receive tourism grants from Laurel Highlands bureau

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Stacey Federoff | The Times-Sun
Greenhouse Winery owner Gregory Hazuza, who began the business in 2007, has three locations and 32 wines that he ferments in 31 tanks that can hold nearly 11,000 gallons of wine. The business was awarded $3,500 in marketing funds by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau during its annual distribution of money collected through a three percent tax on overnight accommodations in Westmoreland County.
Stacey Federoff | The Times-Sun
Linda and Norman Lachimia, owners of Crimson Creek Apiaries, received $500 in marketing funds to improve their business’s website, which features honey and beekeeping products as well as bee extraction services based outside Herminie. The money is awarded by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau during its annual distribution of money collected through a three percent tax on overnight accommodations in Westmoreland County.

Norman and Linda Lachimia can meticulously describe how the bees buzzing around their property can find their way back to the hive.

The owners of Crimson Creek Apiaries watched as the honeybees swooped down into small holes near the bottom of their handmade boxes and disappeared to produce honey to feed the hive.

The small business was one of seven in the area to receive some of the $413,624 in grants funded by a 3 percent tax on all overnight accommodations.

“We are very grateful that they even considered us,” said Linda Lachimia of the $500 in marketing funds that the apiary received.

Sixty-three grants were awarded by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at a ceremony April 3. Applications were made by 103 tourism-related businesses and organizations, including community organizations, historical sites, motels, restaurants, festival organizers, recreational organizations, chambers of commerce and museums.

The Lachimias plan to use the money to update Crimson Creek's website to reach more patrons that may be interested when they start to lead classes on bees and honeymaking.

“It's really very nostalgic,” Linda Lachimia said of the process. “People want to see it and (classes) would tie our business together.”

The apiary, started in January 2012, sells honey and other beekeeping supplies at places like the Palace Lunch and Sandy's Barbershop in Herminie, Gary's Chuck Wagon in West Newton, Country Custard Cottage outside Sutersville, Sweet Pickins in Somerset and Curious Café in Irwin.

The Lachimias have also given talks about bees to students and extracted unwanted honeybee swarms.

“If we stay on the same path, I believe we'd apply again,” she said.

Other businesses like Critter Country Animal Farm in South Huntingdon, which received $1,000 to market the farm for the third year in a row, houses traditional livestock in addition to lemurs, porcupines and monkeys.

First-time awardee Greenhouse Winery received $3,500 for marketing to use billboards and brochures to attract more customers to their Rillton-based business.

Owner Greg Hazuza, whose parents own Hazuza's Greenhouse, began the spin-off company in 2007 with a store on Route 30 in North Huntingdon that features 32 seasonal and fruit wines.

The funds will help boost interest in the winery's most recent expansion, a kiosk at Westmoreland Mall, said chief financial officer Cindy Owens.

“We're broadening our customer base,” she said, adding that the Greenhouse Winery is a member of the Southwest Passage Wine Trail, which helps alert customers of their locations. “We definitely see people coming in because of it.”

The winery made 14,000 gallons of wine in the last year — 70,000 bottles — that have won awards, like the chardonnay that took the silver at the Indianapolis Wine Competition and the traminette that earned gold at the Keystone Conference of the Pennsylvania Wineries Association.

The grapes come from a vineyard in Erie, produced to Hazuza's specifications, which he and other employees can detail during tasting and charity events.

Hazuza enjoys that personal touch.

“It's nice you can explain to the customer what you do and how you do it,” he said.

A five-member selection committee chose the grant recipients based on the impact of the proposed project on regional tourism.

Allegheny Trail Alliance, a seven-member coalition that make up the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, has brought many travelers to the region.

The organization received $4,000 in marketing funds to update the annual map brochure and market the 3,000 crushed limestone path.

Trail Towns program, which supports efforts in West Newton and eight other towns along the GAP, also received $2,300 in marketing funds for brochures for each and the annual Trailbook listing businesses, maps and helpful services.

Regional Trail Corporation, which maintains the trail from Connellsville to McKeesport, received $11,500 in order to support a staff member to run the West Newton Station customer service seven days a week.

“With the hundreds of thousands of trail visits every year, this is an important part of (riders') journeys, both for through-trekkers and locals,” said Leslie Pierce, office manager for RTC, which houses an office in the station.

Instead of five days per week, trail users will now be able to use the amenities offered at the station each day. Planned hours through November are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

“The more we talk to people here at the station, the more it's going to benefit the town,” Pierce said. “The Great Allegheny Passage is such a major tourist attraction that the trickle-down effect is beneficial to everybody.”

In the 16 years she's been working with the trail, Pierce said she has seen it make large strides, which are complemented by customer service and marketing that reaches out to more and more people.

“We've come a very long way and having visitors' centers at key locations along the trail are very important to users,” she said.

Other amenities and events in towns like West Newton, many of which are planned by Downtown West Newton Inc., also attract visitors.

DWNI received two separate grants: one for $4,500 to install a colonial-style kiosk at Simeral Square, the park under construction at the corner of Water and Main streets; and $424 in marketing funds to create copies of cemetery and downtown walking guides.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-836-6660.

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