Three business owners are expressing confidence in downtown Johnstown by opening businesses inside vacant Main Street storefronts.
Ron and Tammy Honkus are working on major renovations to open R.J.’s Cafe and Lounge at the former downtown landmark Johnnie’s Restaurant and Lounge.
Up the street, Michelle Geisel and Lisa Broadwater have crews preparing to open their new business, The Vault Salon and Spa, in the former Moxham National Bank building.
Another new dining spot, Rocco’s Submarine Sandwiches, will be opening soon at the former site of Em’s Sub Shop at 345 Main St.
Owner Robert Fetzko also has Pizza Man’s Pizza shop at 1745 Lyter Drive in Westwood.
Ron Honkus said he and his wife have always wanted to open a restaurant.
“We have been tossing this around for years,” Honkus said while polishing the metal ceiling tiles above the bar.
“This came up last summer and we made the move.”
His family owns G.M. Honkus & Sons salvage yard at 2030 Seanor Road, Windber. His sister, Sharon Honkus, has Celestial Brides just around the corner at 142 Market St.
The couple is buying the entire 415 Main St. building from Southmont resident Tim Corcoran, who operated Johnnie’s for about a year after founder M. John Mavrodis retired in 2008. Tammy Honkus will manage the operation.
Ron Honkus said the couple hopes to return the business to the popularity it had under Mavrodis’ guidance.
“I think there is a place in downtown Johnstown for a restaurant and lounge like this,” Honkus said. “We have a lot of people we are working with, consulting on the restaurant.”
Opening is targeted for spring.
The Vault will combine Geisel’s 25 years as a licensed cosmetologist and Broadwater’s background in business management to create a new experience in luxury, Geisel said.
“It will be a complete day spa and hair salon,” Geisel said.
Manicures, pedicures, and a variety of massage and facial treatments will be offered by The Vault’s staff of about 10 employees to start, she said.
Patrons may spend the day being pampered, with lunch brought in from nearby restaurants.
“There is no full-service spa in Johnstown,” Geisel said. “We will cater to wedding parties and groups.”
The former bank lobby will serve as the main salon and manicure area. Additional rooms in the back and on a mezzanine will provide more privacy for massages and facial treatments. There will be a relaxation lounge overlooking the main salon.
Geisel and Broadwater have been friends for 16 years, when both were waitresses at a Richland Township restaurant.
Broadwater was promoted into management and went on to run other businesses. Geisel renewed her cosmetology training and later opened her own business, Sublime Hairstyling, at 540 Edward St. in Southmont.
Sublime will continue to operate, but Geisel will be working in The Vault at 407 Main St.
An early February opening is planned.
Fresh-baked bread, never-frozen hamburgers and fresh french fries will set Rocco’s apart from the competition, promoters say.
Final touches are under way for Rocco’s to open on Monday, an employee said.
City leaders welcomed news of the downtown investments.
“There are a lot of good things going on in the downtown area,” city Councilman Frank Janakovic said during Wednesday’s meeting.
Others agreed, and noted their appreciation for existing businesses.
“I want to just say I appreciate the existing businesses that have stuck with the city and not moved up onto either of the hilltops,” Councilman Pete Vizza said. “They’ve seen good and bad times, and they’ve stuck with it.”
“(Existing businesses) are also very happy these new businesses are opening up, too, because that brings people,” Councilwoman Marie Mock said. “It’s a good thing the whole way around.”
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