a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, May 7, 2012

Polishing a Brownsville gem

Paul Orris of Brownsville is nearly lost in the mist from a power washer he is using in his hometown to remove paint from a storefront a local couple are reopening as Mitchell's Cafe & Bakery. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Scott Beveridge

BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – It's always inspiring to see young people invest in the redevelopment of derelict buildings in the Mon Valley, where blight in downtown districts has become a common sight.

Mitch and Brianne Mitchell have taken on such a project in Brownsville, Pa., between raising two you children and making marks in their own careers. She's a college professor and runs the Brownsville Film Office, and her husband is a bail bondsman, attorney and publisher of a local online newspaper.

"My husband has such a passion for Brownsville," Brianne Mitchell said in March, while workers remodeled and restored the former Plaza Bakery at 121 Brownsville St, which the couple hopes to reopen next month as Mitchell's Cafe & Bakery.

"So we said, 'Yes. Go for it.'"

Going for it can be a lot easier than it sounds in these older municipalities, some of which inhibit reinvestment by taxing merchants on their sales. It's no wonder all the new retail has shown up in such nearby places as Rostraver Township, where that tax doesn't exist. Bureaucratic red tape also can make it costly and confusing for start-ups to apply for historic preservation tax credits in these towns, which rarely offer tax breaks for those who choose to invest in historic preservation.

So these reasons make it all that much more impressive that the Mitchells are taking the time to hire local people to help them by using eco-friendly products to remove paint from the glass and brick on their two-story brick building. They want to reinstall a decorative tin ceiling inside above the original white marble honeycomb tile floor, and also recreate the wooden lunch counter that used to be inside Brownsville Pharmacy.

They also plan to hire a soos chef to recreate family recipes.

And, there appears to be a lot of local buzz about the opening of this cafe, of which I can't wait to be among the first customers.

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