Harmony to welcome back one of its historic eateries

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 4:56 p.m.

Cardboard, along with a thick coating of dust, covers some of the refurbished floors at the Harmony Inn as construction crews work steadily on revamping the historic inn so it can open in a few weeks.

“It's gonna be pretty great. I'm very excited,” said Scott Calvert, 33, of Harmony, who will be the bartender at the inn, as he put new tiles on the ceiling of a second-floor room last week.

Government officials said the loss of the Harmony Inn, which closed several months ago when the owners sold it, and the Kaufman House in Zelienople, which closed after an October 2011 fire, has hurt their towns.

“During the Christmas season, (people) were still shopping here, and still going to the museum for tours, and they'd ask, ‘Is there a place where we can have lunch?' and the answer would be, ‘Uh, no, you have to go to Zelienople,'” Harmony Mayor Cathy Rape said.

Zelienople has places to eat — ShuBrew Handcrafted Ales & Food opened four months ago on South Main Street — but Don Pepe, the borough's manager, is looking forward to when the Kaufman House is vibrant again.

“The Kaufman House is not only iconic, but it's an anchor to downtown. It's an anchor that's been missing for more than two years. It has a serious repercussion,” Pepe said.

The Butler County Tourism Foundation wants to buy the Kaufman House and turn it into a boutique hotel, restaurant and training facility for Community College of Butler County students.

The foundation is seeking grants to help pay for the $2.5 million project.

An agreement with owner Ken Pilarski to buy the property is pending.

Pepe said the Kaufman House's transformation could tie into the ongoing Main Street revitalization project.

“I think this is a good, sound project, and if it works, it's going to be fabulous for the town,” he said.

Rape said the Kaufman House project could boost interest in turning the old Sapeinza's Market building back into a hotel that could be a historic draw in the museum district.

“It would be great if someone took that over,” Rape said.

Bob and Jodi McCafferty, owners of the North Brewing Co. in Slippery Rock, bought the Harmony Inn several months ago. It reopened briefly, for a New Year's Eve celebration that was packed with people, Calvert said.

These days, crews are busy, putting dining areas upstairs while being sure to retain the historic flavor of the old inn, even leaving the painting of a woman's face on the floor by the bar. Crews have pulled down plaster to reveal brick walls. Furniture is stacked in some rooms, awaiting final painting and renovations.

“The community support has been overwhelming,” Calvert said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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