Cafe Carnegie is officially open in Connellsville library

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 7:30 p.m.

Cafe Carnegie is officially open.

Cafe Carnegie is a project of the FRIENDS of Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville, an all-volunteer group that strives to raise funds and sponsor programs to benefit the local library.

Chris Wallander spearheaded the effort.

“This idea to have a coffee shop in the library all started in October of 2012 when two friends, Rick Grimaldi and Robin Bubarth, said to each other, ‘I will if you will,' which meant they would match each other's very generous donation and help with the project by contacting people they knew who might be willing to give financial support as well as labor, materials, talents and supplies. At that time I had no idea that I would come to know so much about lighting, electrical and dozens of other new subjects,” said Wallander.

What happened over the next year was just short of miraculous, according to Wallander.

The original overhead lights were repaired by students at Connellsville Area Career and Technical School, and later tables that had been salvaged by Jonathan Walker, who works at the library, were redone with the help of the students from the electrical occupations, masonry and auto collision repair shops, under the direction of their instructors Vince Speer, Jeff Puskar and Karl Butchko.

Connellsville Area School District board member Gary Wandel, who is on the board of the library, salvaged library shelving from the Connellsville Area High School remodel that could be used at the cafe and then organized football team members to deliver it.

Early on a floor plan was needed. Business neighbors of the library, Windy Tuffs and Dan and Zack Froble of Lyndan Cabinets, designed it, then custom-made and installed the cabinets they had built. They also made a generous donation toward the project's budget.

“It was amazing to me that things that we needed always appeared. An example of that was when we needed a refrigerator, not only did Craig Appliance donate one, they donated two, and that is the kind of thing that kept happening that brought us all such joy. We have seen real generosity throughout this remodel, one favor after another. It has been remarkable,” said Wallander.

Chuck Shandorf found a door in the upstairs of the library and totally reconstructed it to match the existing door across the hallway, and he finished the wall that is on top of the book shelves. His grandson, Johnathan Puskar, helped him. Fox Glass donated the glass and installed it. Then Sam Emanuel from McCusker Lock donated and installed the dead bolt.

Those who want to play chess in Cafe Carnegie can do so while sitting in leather chairs redone by Marshall Pence of P&S Upholstery. A chess set was donated by Connellsville Councilman Aaron Zolbrod.

Martin's of Connellsville has been generous and extremely helpful.

John Lypson has been an adviser and worker. He volunteered at the Cafe Carnegie preview on Dec. 7 during “It's A Connellsville Christmas” and spent the entire day helping to make paninis and specialty coffees. The panini maker was donated by Wallander's nephew Jud Mongell, who owns two restaurants in New York. Her niece, Graciela Mongell, who lives in Boston, developed the logo. Wallander's daughter Beth and son-in-law Jeff Francis developed a geo cache for Cafe Carnegie, and her son, Vince Wallander, set up the computer system and website and continues to be the technical adviser.

“Jonathan was my ‘go-to guy.' He assisted in many ways and is a big part of this cafe. He painted the walls and ceiling, and they are beautiful. I need shelving installed, and he's the man,” said Wallander.

Tommy Johnson is Grimaldi's son-in-law and secured the donation from Consol for the espresso maker.

“Dom Grenaldo, who teaches English at the CACTC, helped the students document their electrical installation experience for a future newspaper article. Tim Gigilotti was able to fix the old fan we found upstairs. It just seems to belong in the cafe,” said Wallander.

As a prelude to Monday's official opening, Cafe Carnegie held an appreciation luncheon to thank all those who helped, including Maggie and Joe Hardy for their generous donation.

“The Café Carnegie is giving the community a new way to view the Carnegie Library. This is not your grandma's library. It is one that we hope will be a vibrant and integral part of our community. Our goal is for people to come to not only use the library traditionally, but to enjoy the various hot and cold beverages, delicious panini sandwiches, soup and luscious desserts our café has to offer. Our library is changing with the times, and we hope that the community stops by to take a look. You might end up coming back again and again,” said Wandel.

Wallander thanked the FRIENDS members who helped to make the cafe a reality, including Sheryl Craven, Karen Macko, Linda Ruth, Cathy Kumor and Rose Galik.

Wallander's mother, Fotenie Mongell, made homemade pies for the appreciation luncheon.

The cafe has two paid employees, Joanne Wilson and Brandi Turtzer.

Cafe Carnegie is on the first floor of the Carnegie Free Library at 299 S. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville. Phone 724-550-1320 for takeout orders.

Nancy Henry is a contributing writer.

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