Downtown coffee shop has new owners
Visitors to South Main Street today might notice a new name on the former Rachel Rose’s Specialty Boutique and Coffee House.
“Chicco Baccello” is the new name for the business that was recently purchased by Don and Laura Ross, Laura’s sister, Nancy Ogburn, and Nancy’s son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Lauren Ogburn.
Lauren, 23, said Thursday the “chicco” is Italian for coffee bean, while “baccello” refers to bean pods, such as those that contain vanilla beans used for baking.
The Ogburns, all of whom reside in Mt. Lebanon, will operate the business, which includes the adjacent Italian market.
The combined businesses at 239 and 241 S. Main St. were purchased from Mark Kennison, owner and operator of the Upper Crust restaurant, just a few stores north at the corner of South Main and Maiden streets.
The announcement was made Thursday during a networking meeting of the Shale Media Group at Toffee House in the Maiden Business Park in Washington, where the Rosses operate the successful candy business.
The Toffee House was also where Nancy had worked as a baker, turning out toffee cookies and cheesecakes for the retail shop in front of the candy production area.
Ogburn and her sister said when they learned that Kennison wanted to sell the business, they immediately entered discussions with him.
“We love to bake,” said Ogburn, 53, adding she began baking for Toffee House shortly after its founding in the Ross’s house in 2003, and made the move with them when they opened their 6,000-square-foot production facility in the business park a few years later.
While Ogburn will bake for her new venue, with plans to add other types of cookies and some pastries, the Rosses will also gain a more high-visibility retail area for their toffee creations.
“When this became available, we said, ‘We have to do this,’” Ogburn said.
Laura Ross said the family began discussing the transfer of the business with Kennison just after Christmas.
On Friday, as she prepared for today’s opening, Ogburn showed a wall area near the entrance to the cafe that will contain shelves for the Toffee House products.
Kennison, 30, a graduate of Trinity High School who studied business administration at Washington & Jefferson College, opened the coffee house and market last March.
Kennison will continue to own and operate the popular Upper Crust, but is working on some even bigger plans for another business project on North Main Street.
While he hasn’t closed on any property yet, he said Friday that the project, which will be a combination of retail, dining and residential space “will be the biggest thing I’ve done so far on Main Street.”
That project will also continue a strategy Kennison said involves starting up and running successful businesses on Main Street with the hope that others will follow him in creating a rejuvenated residential and business district in the city.
“It’s super-important that we get some young professionals to come to the area who want to live on Main Street,” he said, adding that those residents will drive the continued creation of goods- and services-based businesses downtown.
Kennison said Friday that with the county’s population continuing to grow from the shale-gas industry, he believes now is the time for the city to create a residential and commercial district to take advantage of the area’s growing economy.
“There’s a lot of money coming in,” he said.
While there is an abundance of commercial property to be had in the city – Kennison estimated that about “half of Main Street” has buildings that are either available for sale or lease – many are in need of full-scale remodeling.
Some properties, he said, are probably beyond rehabilitation and will need to be demolished for new development.
But Kennison said he also sees a bright side to downtown’s fortunes, noting that some buildings that have sold recently have actually appreciated in value as the area’s economy has improved and expanded.
He said the plans by Pittsburgh-based TREK Development for converting the Washington Trust Building into a mixed-use project of apartments and commercial businesses as well as the city’s new intermodal transit center under construction on East Chestnut Street are signs of better things to come for a city which is the county seat, but has struggled to find a business identity while commercial development continued unabated beyond its borders.
Kennison said he’s also detecting a change of attitude about the city’s business climate among other local young professionals he meets with on a regular basis.
“Five years ago, I think the attitude was ‘We give up – the place is just too far gone.’
“Now I think they’re starting to get a glimmer of hope.”