Announcing Another Investment Opportunity Along the Mon River

image001For any entrepreneurs and developers  looking for an exciting development opportunity, there’s one to be considered at 401 Railroad Street in Monongahela.  A 24,000 SF former manufacturing plant overlooking the Mon River next to the Aquatorium, the property sits on 7.2 level riverfront acres.  With that much building and land area available, multiple uses are not only possible but desirable, particularly uses that would attract attendees at Aquatorium functions, e.g. a microbrewery.  Rail access is available.

Interested parties should contact:

Melanie Patterson


Detailed information and other photos are available at:

Riverlife continues workshops in river towns

Photo by Nina Chase / Riverlife
Photo by Nina Chase / Riverlife

You may have heard that Riverlife is taking our show on the road: we’re sharing the lessons we’ve learned working on Pittsburgh’s riverfronts with neighboring towns looking to revitalize their waterfronts.

Earlier this month Riverlife and our partner the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center hosted a workshop in Fairmont, West Virginia to hear from the community about waterfront redevelopment projects. Our goal was to share our past experiences with planning, fundraising, and project implementation, and to help local stakeholders identify and overcome potential obstacles for their riverfront projects. Thank you Fairmont for your hospitality (and the pepperoni rolls), and for sharing your riverfront plans for Marion County.

Riverlife’s outreach program to provide riverfront planning tools to Monongahela River towns is funded through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Partners include the Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center and the Mon River River Towns Program.


fireworksParting Shot

Fireworks from Comcast Light Up Night explode in the sky over “Energy Flow” on the Rachel Carson Bridge last Friday night. Photo by Larry Rippel.

Entrepreneurs finish ‘Planning for Profits’ in Charleroi

pitt-profit-class-article-sbdcBy Pat Cloonan

Twenty-three entrepreneurs from as far away as Lawrence County received their certificates Thursday
at the conclusion of the University of Pittsburgh
Small Business Development Center’s “Planning for Profits” program in Charleroi.
“It really is a great day in Washington County,” said county Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan. “Thank you for choosing t his region to invest in.”

“I learned so much from all of you, from your comments and ideas and struggles,” said Doreen Walters
of Northwood Realty in Pleasant Hills, whose start there came 20 years ago Thursday — on what was her 21st birthday. Twelve of the 23 participants in the six-week program have Washington County roots, while others hail from Fayette, W estmoreland, Allegheny and Butler counties.
“I spent more time driving here than being here,” said Fran Ramsden of Ramsden Elite Fitness. Still, the 26-year-old entr epreneur found the time spent each week at the Charleroi municipal building to be a valuable learning experience.
“I’m actually hiring people who are better than me, who have better talents,” Ramsden said. “I am not a sales guy.” He’ll continue commuting in January, when he has the grand opening of a fitness center in Wexford, Allegheny County. “I was given an opportunity to have a grand opening at a second location (with SBDC support),” said Tanya Chaney of Ch aney’s Natural Spa & Salon in

Monongahela, whose other takeaway from the program was a revelation that “you don’t really get the time … to sit dow n and … focus on what really needs to happen.”
“We hope this is a good investment of your time,” said Ray Vargo, director of the Pitt SBDC program
The “Planning for Profits” series is part of a federal Small Business Administration pilot program, “Lean for Main Street T raining Challenge,” which permits SBA to adapt curriculum assisting Main Street growth in towns like Charleroi.

“So many great things have happened,” said Kelly Hunt, Pittsburgh area SBA district director.
“It is fun to see how you have developed over these six weeks,” said Victoria Hassett, a management consultant who works with the Pitt SBDC in Washington and Greene counties.
“Eighty percent of people who start this program finish this program,” said Vargo, whose center is one of
18 across the state.
Graduates gave two- to three-minute presentations as part of the ceremony.
“We had zero idea about what we were doing, and 100 percent passion for doing it,” said Zach
Benkowitz, co-founder with Randy Keech of Intervention
Fundamentals in the Pittsburgh area. “We appreciate everyone’s support.”
“Entrepreneurs are virtuous and have passion,” said Mary Reis of Authentic Awareness in Washington. “It is not about w hat I want or what I can do, it’s about what the customer wants.”
“You need to find and follow your passion, and you need to be your real and authentic self,” said “Planning for Profits” p articipant Gina C. Lynn, executive director of the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce.
Lynn told fellow participants that she got “a better perspective of your point of view, of the struggles you face every day. ”
“It’s your business,” said Joshua Turkovich of Mon Valley Phone Repair in Monessen. “If you can’t speak on it, who will?” Turkovich said his biggest takeaway from six weeks were lessons about listening to customers. He said it leads him to go further in dealing with customer problems.
“You have a broken device, but what else is wrong with the phone?” Turkovich gave as an example.
Helen Behn of Spand-Ice in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood said tackling customer feedback has been the hardes t thing for her to do.
Seeing how beneficial it can be, Behn said, “I realized I shouldn’t be fearful of that.”
Walt Bianchi may have offered the most dramatic presentation. He ran Tri-County Cleaners in Charleroi for 20 years —

then took it back after the business collapsed under his successor there.
“I sold it in 2012,” Bianchi later said. “I financed the sale. He defaulted on the loan and kind of ran it into the ground. It cl osed in 2014. I reopened it in May 2015.”
And his customers came back.
“It’s a great customer base from 20 years,” Bianchi said. “When they heard I was back they really supported me.”
Jim Logan of Battery Giant of Pittsburgh, based in Cranberry Township, is hoping that he can maintain his customer base “when the national presence goes away.” For now, the franchise owner is planning his second Pittsburgh area outlet. Barry Piacenza of Climate Change Economics in North Charleroi said assumptions the participants
brought into the program we’re not necessarily the ones they had coming out.
“It has reawakened in me a lot of the aspects I’ve lost due to my disability,” Piacenza said. “It really has been a value-add ed experience.”
Piacenza went on to predict that the Mon Valley “is at the precipice of a reawakening.”
Tara Stottlemyer, a Charleroi native who runs Tara’s Homegrown, thanked Hassett and Michael R.
Wholihan, a fellow management consultant with
Hassett in the Pitt SBDC’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, for their kindheartedness and others in the class for th eir input and confidence.
Her business is natural food.

“This is a product you cannot even buy in the stores,” Stottlemyer said. “My birds are moved onto fresh pastures every d ay. It is food that is raised ethically and locally.”
Consultant Barbara Nicholas, who hails from the Fort Cherry area and is a California University of Pennsylvania alumnus, said she gained courage from others to take greater risks —

which she plans to utilize in establishing an “urban dude ranch” in the Penn Hills area, in
part so urban youth may get an economic chance that is not usually available.
Michael Ryan of e-merge inc. in Finleyville said he’s hired an engineer since the six-week series began.
“I have stability, I’ve been around for 11 years, but my growth has been slow,” Ryan said. “It is OK to ask for help. I found

small business owners are really willing to help.”
“The presentations were excellent,” said Regina Abel, SBA deputy district director. “You all took away what you needed f rom this class.”
The class may continue to build on the takeaway. Michelle DeHosse of Sparkles by Shell in Monongahela hailed the “sou nding board” that her fellow
participants became during the six-week course and said she would create a private Facebook group page for her classm ates.
Christian Conroy, state SBDC director, came to hail the graduates as well as a “true champion for small business in Penns ylvania,” retiring state Rep. Peter J. Daley II, D-California, who received a special award at Thursday’s event. “(Representative Daley) has truly been a champion for this region and you will be greatly missed,” Vaughan said. “Thank you,” Daley replied.
“We have wonderful people,” Daley said. “We come from a diverse background, all strivers.”
Some of those strivers couldn’t make it for the ceremony, either because of illness or family
Emergencies or, in at least one case, an emergency on the job.
“It happens in small business,” said Bryan Ghingold of Steel City Movers in Wilkinsburg, who hailed program organizers f or providing not just information but tools to better get that information out to customers.
Other participants in “Planning for Profits” were Ryan Galiotto of Fields Financial Services in Hopwood; Laura and Jason Koon of Steel Dog
Construction in Fallowfield Township; Daneen Troup of Prima Diva Boutique in Charleroi; Victor Maga of Spartan Constru ction in Beaver Falls; and Buddy Rieger of Rieger Music Education in Mt. Lebanon

Gateway Communities

Gateway Communities is a program similar in many ways to the River Town Program.  Community leaders, residents and business owners work collaboratively with nearby public parks and forests officials to improve connections for visitors and residents.  Public lands offer a myriad of great outdoor recreational opportunities and often public programs for the whole family.  In turn communities can be a resource to advocate, sustain and continue to support these nearby lands.

For more information on this program, see the article below.

In early 2015, the R.K. Mellon Foundation supported our idea to explore the “Gateway Community” concept as it would relate to our state parks and forests. (See our fact sheet for additional information.)

Simply put, a gateway community is any community next to public lands. It is a “gateway” to the resource by virtue of its location but a gateway community is also a branding mechanism. Many in a community already recognize the value and the natural mutual goal – parks and forests wants visitors. Town businesses want customers. Residents benefit as a result of having the park and forest nearby and property values increase. Anything that gives a visitor something else to do and see is another reason for him or her to stay a little while longer, spending money and spreading the word about the fun they’re having and the beauty they’re experiencing. The goal of the Gateway Community Initiative is to make sure the state parks and forests and the communities that are the “gateway” to them form an unbreakable partnership for the benefit of both.

Our pilot community is Ligonier, gateway to Forbes State Forest, Linn Run State Park, Laurel Mountain State Park and, indeed, the entirety of the beautiful region known as the Laurel Highlands. A Community Action Team, led by our facilitator and consultant Cathy McCollom of McCollom Development Strategies, with members from the local chamber of commerce, visitors’ bureau, township and borough government, and business, community, and nonprofit leaders came together to assess the connections that exist and those that can be improved.

As a result, the Action Team:

Assessed the community through the eyes of a new visitor * Created and installed new signage * Shared promotion on websites and other marketing pieces * Developed a “rain and shine” walking tour brochure and mobile app * Hosted an open house at Linn Run for business and community leaders and the public *

Ligonier is just the beginning! If you would like to discuss how your community might become the next Gateway, contact Marci and let’s explore the possibilities.


One of the most important objectives of the River Town Program is to encourage investment in the Mon River Towns.  We are willing to help promote available buildings and commercial opportunities on the web and in our newsletter.

There is a Commercial-Industrial Building now available in Fredericktown.  The address is 395 Front and was a bar and grill.  If you are interested, contact Frank Hammond,  724-518-6564

Quirky, Crunchy, Cool

Interesting sites and happenings along the Mon River

Let’s start with “cool.” The McTrail (Marion County Trail) is a short stretch of trail (2.2 miles) that packs in a lot of beauty and the ultra-cool Meredith Tunnel. Built in 1914 and put back into use in 2005, the 1,200 foot lighted tunnel in Fairmont, West Virginia, offers a cool respite on a hot summer day.

While in the area, head over to downtown Fairmont and check out Joe ‘N Throw, where coffee shop meets pottery studio. The shop celebrates local arts and culture, hosts pottery classes, and makes for a great little place to rehash your ride.

Just like the north-flowing river, let’s move from south to north.

We could write a list a mile long about things to do in Morgantown. Isn’t it amazing that you can bike to a state park (Prickett’s Fort, via the Mon River Trail) or drive to a state forest (Cooper’s Rock) so effortlessly? In town, there’s the Mountain People’s Co-op and a number of great restaurants (find Thai, Indian, burritos, and more on High Street). But what we really want to tell you about is how Keith McManus, Mayor of Greensboro, Pennsylvania, has been driving down to Morgantown for years to lead Morgantown Brewing Company’s Old Time Appalachian Jam starting at 9:30 on Wednesday nights. We were there last week and loved the atmosphere. Here’s a sneak peek into the experience:

Crossing into Pennsylvania, Point Marion’s most known local institution is Apple Annie’s, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and known for its pies, cakes, and cobblers. You won’t believe the spread! While you’re in the area, drive just outside of town to the Friendship Hill National Historic Site. Two tips here: take your walking shoes if you want to explore over 10 miles of hiking shoes, and go in September for the annual FestiFall event. Festifall will be held September 24-25 this year. Don’t forget to try the bean soup that keeps the locals coming back year after year.

One other thing about Point Marion…have you ever heard of Jordan Motor Cars? They were assembled in Cleveland from 1916-1931, made with parts from other manufacturers. We’re not exactly sure how a collection of them ended up here in Point Marion (other than the fact that they’re housed at Jordan Auto Parts on Main Street), but it’s worth peeking through the windows to see some early twentieth century wheels.

We mentioned Keith McManus’s weekly trips to Morgantown. He’s also doing a lot locally to encourage the arts at home in Greensboro. We recently partnered with Keystone Edge on this story on Greensboro’s arts-driven revitalization efforts. Check it out for more on how the community is embracing the arts. The town’s Art Blast on the Mon, being held September 3 and 4 by the Nathanael Greene Community Development Corporation, is now in its 11th year.

In the Northside of Brownsville, keep an eye out for the occasional ghost walk event. We were there for one in August and were blown away by the turnout (they had a whopping 255 people show up). We couldn’t take the whole guided tour (as we had plans to go to the Brownsville Drive-In), but stopped by one of the sites. The volunteer portraying Jacob Bowman weaved a story of abolition, George Washington, deception, and community values that was absolutely riveting. Also in Brownsville, Nemacolin Castle hosts ghost tours in October and standard mansion tours on weekends throughout the year.

Finally, we cannot write about the Mon River’s “quirk and cool” without mentioning the Donora Smog Museum. The volunteer-run museum commemorates the 1948 smog event that blanketed the town in a toxic wall of smog that killed and sickened community members and was an impetus for creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The museum also pays tribute to local community life. It’s well worth the stop.

We’ve covered only some of the many “quirky, crunchy, cool” spots along the Mon River. Please tell us what we missed in the comments section below.

Amy Camp of Cycle Forward loves the Mon River Valley and the work of the River Town Program so much that she wrote this and several other posts for us this summer.  

Group of 40 Ventured Out to the Mon Valley for Fresh Salsa and Farm Tour

Photos courtesy of S Lynn Lee and Venture Outdoors

40 members of the nonprofit Venture Outdoors attended a members-only event at Triple B Farms in Monongahela on Saturday. The free event included hayrides, a salsa-making demo by farm owner Carolyn Beinich, and a make-your-own salsa component.

It seems a given that a family-run farm that offers pick-your-own (berries, apples, peaches) experiences would want to venture into offering classes. We were told that Carolyn had been thinking about doing so and this custom outing gave her the opportunity to try it out. The day’s salsa, Pico de Gallo, is actually considered a fresh salad in Southern Mexico. It featured tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the farm (participants picked their own peppers while on the hayride).

Event benefits the Mon Valley

Venture Outdoors’ Membership Director Kathi Radock said of the experience, “Triple B Farms is one of those places that as soon as you arrive, you know you’re in for a treat. One of our Members said it best when leaving, saying ‘I don’t know how Triple B could’ve done a better job – it was great!'”

In addition to having the opportunity to interact with the owners, a part of the event’s success was sending people home with food (always a good thing!). Participants took their homemade salsa with them and were also able to visit Triple B’s farm market. It was a win-win, with folks supporting the small business while procuring some goodies to take home. One couple was spotted with a whole cart full, something that makes those of us at the River Town Program quite happy.

The benefit may have been felt beyond the farm as well. The River Town Program provided Venture Outdoors with information about local trails, attractions and eateries to encourage participants to extend their visit.

About Venture Outdoors

Venture Outdoors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting everyone to the benefits of outdoor recreation throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. They provide a variety of activities that inspire an active lifestyle, promote the region’s unique amenities, highlight its excellent quality of life, and foster a greater appreciation for the environment. Many of its most popular outings incorporate regional fare, which made an outing at Triple B Farms a natural fit.

About the River Town Program

The River Town Program helps communities to recognize the river as an asset around which potential community and economic development can occur, and thus a resource worthy of protection. Success is built from the work of partners that recognize the inextricable links between the environment, the economy, and quality of life. Originally launched by Pennsylvania Environmental Council in 2011, National Road Heritage Corridor assumed the leadership role in 2014.

Lee2 Carolyn B

Lee4 peppers