Frank Iannarelli is “fired up” to begin rebuilding his North Strabane restaurant and bar that was destroyed by fire last January.
Construction vehicles have been moving dirt around the past week to prepare for the installation of footers and the foundation at the former Frankie I’s Bar & Grille along Route 19.
That process is expected to begin early next week, and an aggressive construction timeline has the restaurant reopening in early fall, Iannarelli said.
“It’s been such a long (process) that every time I drive by, I get a smile on my face,” Iannarelli said. “I’m ready to get fired up and get back to the grind and do what I love. It’s been a long haul, and I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. I can tell it’s going to be very satisfying.”
Everyone inside escaped uninjured when the 100-year-old barn converted into a restaurant was destroyed by a kitchen fire Jan. 26, 2012. Iannarelli said the procedure to obtain proper building permits, acquire loans and remove antiquated farm holding tanks below the barn’s surface has been trying and ultimately delayed reconstruction. North Strabane officials said the building plans have been submitted to the township and the codes and zoning department is reviewing them.
“The whole process has been harder than what I thought it would be,” Iannarelli said. “I wouldn’t put a disaster like this on anyone. It’s been a tough go from government codes to policies to bank issues.”
But the support from the community has been strong. Iannarelli’s mother, Joyce, said she is constantly stopped by customers wondering when reconstruction will begin.
“I can’t go anywhere without people asking me, ‘When is Frank going to open up again?’ People are still curious about it,” she said.
The exterior will keep the classic appearance of a barn with vaulted ceilings, but offer a modern touch. Iannarelli hopes to accentuate the restaurant’s original rustic atmosphere while designing a new interior layout that can still accommodate bands and other live entertainment.
If the comments on the street and social media are any indication, customers are eager to return for the wings and entertainment.
“I see (comments) on Facebook a lot,” Iannarelli said. “They’ll say, ‘Nights like this make me miss Frankie I’s.’ It’s constant. Every time I’m out and about I get questions. We can’t wait. We really miss the place.”