One of Latrobe’s oldest 19th century residential buildings is entering a sweet chapter in its existence, newly restored as the home of an ice cream parlor and coffee shop.
Michael Ciotti of Harmar, a 2002 Greater Latrobe High School graduate, opened 512 Coffee and Ice Cream in mid-June and welcomed customers and local dignitaries to an open house Thursday at 512 Ligonier St., in Latrobe’s First Ward.
“We were always looking for an investment property, and a coffee shop kept coming up,” Ciotti said. Pairing his java offerings with ice cream was the answer that came to him when he asked himself, “If you’re not a coffee drinker, what else in my store would you want?”
He also has a selection of pastries from Prantl’s Bakery and soy candles, but he believes the atmosphere in the restored Victorian home is just as appealing to customers as the treats he sells.
“The community has just been super supportive,” he said. “Everybody has been coming in with a smile.”
Ciotti’s shop occupies part of the first floor of a three-story home built in about 1873 by John Oursler. He and his younger brother, Jacob, constructed identical side-by-side dwellings on Ligonier Street.
According to the Latrobe Area Historical Society, the brothers operated a marble and stone business and both served in the Civil War, later supplying granite bases for several monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park. John Oursler went on to hold prominent local positions, including Latrobe postmaster and Westmoreland County registrar of wills and recorder of deeds, before he moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the federal government.
The home at 512 Ligonier boasts a red brick exterior and neoclassical style. Ciotti’s choice of business name reflects his family’s decision to preserve the best pieces of the past when renovating the building.
“We saved everything that we could,” said Ciotti’s father, Paul, who noted the house had been divided into five apartments when he purchased it in 2016.
Several original fireplaces remain, including one of inlaid marble in what is now the coffee shop lounge. “It’s pretty cool, pretty ornate,” Paul Ciotti said.
In an adjacent parlor, which he intends as a barber shop, the tile and carved wood fireplace’s cast iron reflector plate features an image of the three witches from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
The maple hardwood flooring in the rooms was installed when the house was used as an Italian social club, he noted. He was able to save some of the original multi-species wood flooring on the second story, which he’s planning to adapt as an Airbnb.
He was able to repurpose some other original elements. He replaced the dilapidated rear wraparound porch with a concrete surface but transformed some of the salvaged wood planks into shelves.
Funding obtained through the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program helped with repointing bricks on the side of the home facing Thompson Street.
“I wanted to help revitalize the community,” Paul Ciotti said. “I think we made a step toward that.”
Michael Ciotti’s business venture comes after teaching fifth-graders for seven years in Hawaii and coaching wrestling locally, once he returned to Pennsylvania to be closer to his family.
His two sisters have helped in developing his new shop’s online presence.
He’s also partnered with other area businesses. He gets coffee beans from Mechanic Coffee in Verona and his ice cream from Kerber’s Dairy in North Huntingdon. And he uses his space to promote local artists.
“We want to try to connect with as many local businesses as possible,” he said.
He’s hoping to add a line of tea, noting he worked at a tea shop in Shadyside while earning degrees in education and communications at the University of Pittsburgh.
The timing of his business launch turned out to be fortuitous. He was able to acquire needed equipment when the Valley Dairy restaurant chain recently closed its downtown Latrobe location.
And his shop opening coincided with eased customer capacity restrictions and mask-wearing guidelines, as the region begins to emerge from the covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.
Visit 512coffeeandicecream.cafe to learn more about the business.