Despite losing a number of businesses--like Family Dollar in Northern Lights shopping center, the Stuffed Pepper on Duss Avenue, Ohio Valley Lumber on 14th Street and 85-year-old Sol's on Merchant Street-- local communities also saw their business districts flourish with renewed foot traffic and grand openings.
In Economy, PennDOT announced an $81 million road project, a new BBQ joint opened and Walmart made a big splash with its big debut, bringing plenty of fanfare to its grand opening celebration.
In Ambridge, Trinity School for Ministry broke ground on a new Cobblestone Hotel and a developer proposed new senior housing. Other new business openings included The Moonbeam Jar, Lickety Split Cafe, Yoga Edge, Sweet Pickles Treasures, Touched By Time Collectibles, AK's Gold Shop, Tyson's 24 Hour Tire and Auto Clinic, Let's Get 2gether, Gist Catering joint , Joe's Latin Dance Factory, not to mention the virtual grand opening celebrating Ambridge Connection
and renovations at local establishments.
Beatlemania Magic invaded Old Economy Village and the Rapp Houses reopened after two years of extensive renovations.
Value Ambridge Properties was awarded a $105,000 grant to update and repair existing rail, ties, switches and bumpers
Harmony Township ushered in a new Speedway gas station and convenience store on Route 65 and welcomed plans for a new Wright Chevrolet dealership. The company plans to open in 2015. Beemac Trucking was awarded a state grant toward the purchase and conversion to trucks that run on natural gas. They also opened a natural gas filling station that services both the company and the public.
In early July, a fast-moving fire swept through Rook’s Cantina 505 on Fourth Street, destroying the historic landmark and devastating its new owners and patrons. Two months earlier, owners Denise Romero and Marty Costanza were celebrating the grand-opening of their restaurant and lounge that featured a new menu of American and authentic New Mexican cuisine.
Duss Avenue Cafe
Less than a week later, fires would also destroy three more buildings in the business district--a former 24-hour tanning salon, Anderson’s Candy, and Fashions by Shelby Lynn.
Months later, a fire broke out in an upstairs apartment at the Duss Avenue Café, forcing the popular bar to close and displacing eight residents.
The Ambridge Theatre
The family owned and operated Ambridge Theatre reluctantly closed its doors in August after a silver-dollar size piece of irreplaceable equipment broke. The owners, Glenda and Rick Cockrum, said the unit is more than 40 years old and regretfully there are no replacement parts available anymore. The couple hosted a farewell open house and held a fundraiser in hopes of boosting a new owner to revive the theater.
After opening in 2012, the Bottom Dollar grocery store in Ambridge announced it would close at the end of 2014. Ambridge officials have written a letter asking to use the site for another grocery store and the owner of the nearby Shop'n Save is offering a shuttle bus for shoppers.
Changes in Harmony
In February, Harmony Township secretary Lyla Swan was charged, accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from the township over the course of eight years.
Harmony hired its first township manager. Ambridge welcomed a new borough manager and code enforcement officer, and Economy promoted a new police chief and hired a new secretary.
The Baden Library and Laughlin Memorial Library also welcomed new librarians.
There was plenty to celebrate. Community events and festivals brought residents and visitors together, which included: Ambridge Eagles Wing fest , Nationality days , Clean and Green Energy Fair , Economy Community Days , Baden Community Days , Baden Applefest , Zanafest , Wine and Chocolate Walk , Ambridge Fall Festival , Autumnfest , An American Celebration, Soap Box Derby , Historic District Wine Tasting , Christmas on Merchant , Memorial Day celebrations.
Churches also held festivals that brought the community together. Some were the Rusyn Food Festival, Good Samaritan Parish Festival, New Hope Community Block Party, and Greek Food Festival.
Over the year there were a number of community block parties , fundraisers ,parades, and senior projects that helped raise money and awareness.
Local photographer Alan Freed released a series of aerial videos, showcasing a handful of the local landmarks that make the Ambridge Area a special place to live, worship and work.
Ambridge Area Junior High
Students at the junior high left their legacy by creating a large scale mosaic, while Ambridge found itself embroiled in controversy with the idea to close the junior high school building. The school board hired Architectural Innovations to do a district-wide facilities study, with one of the main areas of focus being the junior high school in Economy.
Bomb Threats, Attempted Homicides
Area police and school administrators also dealt with a series of other issues, from fake bomb threats and school lock downs to child endangerment charges.
Ambridge saw a string of deadly heroin overdoses in February. There were a few attempted homicide cases, including one by vehicle and a bus stop stabbing.
A state ranking of crime statistics roiled one community, while another showed no violent crimes reported. And police were left investigating after a resident found an embalmed head in Economy borough.
Despite the crime reports residents came together in a show of solidarity and walked the main street of Ambridge. Lead by Grace DeBona and Felicia Mycyk a group of citizens walked to show that Ambridge was undeserving of a crime rating that was based on Uniform Crime Report.
Community Engagement meetings were started to allow a dialogue to happen in an informal setting where a community-focused meeting could take place. Next meeting with be January 22, location to be announced.
Highlights for school sports included the Ambridge boys volleyball team winning streak all the way to the state championships, earning second place.
Ambridge football hired a new head coach. Boys basketball coach Mark Jula reached an elite group with 500 wins under his belt. The football and basketball teams lost a standout athlete when Stephon McGinnis transferred to Aliquippa mid-football season, and was found eligible to compete.
Three Ambridge gymnasts qualified for spots in the state championships.
Cross country Senior Marissa Golgosky and Sophomore Mica Hanish qualified for the 2014 PIAA Cross Country Championships.
Track and field athletes made it to WPIAL Championship Isaac Elliott,
Davon Jackson , Anthony Hill, Khalil Harvey and Davon Jackson
Baden Academy hosted four-time Olympian Lauryn Williams who is the only woman to ever win medals in both the summer and winter games. Ambridge Connection with Help Them Play brought in two-time Olympian Brianne McLaughlin, goalie of the USA Women's Hockey Team.
Others would pass on through the year:
- Bernard Grzegorek, former Ambridge fire chief
- Robert Burzese, former owner of the Original Style Pizza shop
- Ann Davis, actress who formerly played Alice on "The Brady Bunch"
- Ray Kurash, owner of Beaver Valley Floral for over 38 years
- Don Wuycik, founding member of PUSH Beaver County and former owner of WMBA-AM Ambridge radio station
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