Tag Archives: Cambria City

Cambria City green space project given $60k

Our Town Correspondent

The parking lot located across the street from the Bottle Works and Art Works buildings along Third Avenue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood will soon be transformed into a green space. 

And thanks to a recent $60,000 grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the project is on track to be completed by next summer.

“We’re not just going to go out and pave the parking lot,” Bottle Works Executive Director Angelo Rizzo said. “We’re going to create a parking lot that will use green infrastructure. We’re also looking to put greenery out there — gardens, for instance. 

“Our intention is to create an urban green space in Cambria City.”

Rizzo said that the planned parking-lot-turned-green-space is intended to make the area more vibrant and welcoming.

“(Third Avenue) is one of the gateways into Cambria City, so if we can make it an eye catcher, it will be great for everybody,” she said. “When we get this project done, I think it will really transform Cambria City and Bottle Works in general.”

A majority of the money from the grant will be used for construction fees, Rizzo said. Currently, however, they are still in the project’s development phase. Bottle Works is working with Pittsburgh-based landscape architectural firm Paschek and Associates to develop initial plans and designs.

“The work that they’ve done in other communities is in line with what we want to accomplish with this project,” she said.

Rizzo described the timing of the grant as “perfect,” as the grant money will be matched with a grant that Bottle Works received last year from the Commonwealth Financing Authority. That grant, provided by the commonwealth’s Department of Community & Economic Development, totaled $100,000.

These grants will provide a majority of the funding Bottle Works needs to complete the project, but some additional funding will still be necessary.

Rizzo said that she and her fellow staff members were excited to hear that they had received the $60,000 grant.

“With these types of grants, you never know if you’re going to get them or not,” she said. “We are really excited and happy about it.”

She gave her appreciation to local politicians, as well as Johnstown Area Regional Industries, a nonprofit economic development organization that Rizzo described as “a big cheerleader for Bottle Works.”

“We really appreciate the support,” Rizzo said. “These guys get the bigger picture, that this project is going to make a big impact. That’s what we are trying to get across. Once we get these projects funded and finished up, it will make a tremendous impact on our community.”

State Sen. John N. Wozniak approved the $60,000 grant, which was one of three awarded within the region. 

In Bedford County, $96,219 was allotted for the continued development of the Martin Hill ATV Trail in Buchanan State Forest. The grant will be used to add a half-mile of new trail and make improvements to the existing trail. 

In Clearfield County, Curwensville Borough received $15,000 to prepare a master site development plan for Irvin Park.

“We need to do all we can to access state funds for projects that spur economic revitalization and boost recreational activity,” Wozniak said in a press release. “Improving facilities helps our communities grow. Well-maintained and accessible parks, recreation venues and community facilities are attractions that drive business activity, enhance progress and improve the quality of life throughout the region.”

Funds for all three grants were approved through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s Community Conservation Partnership Program grant program.

Rizzo said she’s looking forward to the day when the parking lot becomes yet another space in Cambria City for people to appreciate what Johnstown — and Bottle Works — has to offer.

“This is part of our big vision,” she said. “Bottle Works may be one little entity, but we have the opportunity to make a big difference.”

“We have a lot of positive momentum going in Cambria City, and this will transform the neighborhood and make it a really big community asset. It will help us offer more programming, such as gardening and composting. We want to educate people on green infrastructure, too.”

Bartender of the Month: Amber Saade

Staff photo by Cody McDevitt Amber Saade
Staff photo by Cody McDevitt
Amber Saade


Amber Saade is constantly moving. She’s behind the bar at the Back Door Café in Cambria City, making exotic cocktails like the Salted Caramel Chocolate Apple, the Peach Mule and a Pumpkin Latte-tini.

Saade, 24, of Westmont, is the head bartender there, and her customers, co-workers and boss respect her for her disarming demeanor and understanding of bartending. She’s picked up a lot of tricks while working at the bar.

“I’ve learned everything there is to learn as far as the basics go, and then I added my own elements,” Saade said. “I think this is a lot of hands-on (learning). That’s how I learned everything. I think I can apply that anywhere else I go.”

Her first job was in a gelato shop. Then she lived in Arizona with her dad, working at El Pollo Loco, a Mexican restaurant chain based on the West Coast. She went to high school for a year in 2007 in the suburbs of Phoenix before moving back here.

Saade returned to Arizona after she graduated from Westmont Hilltop High School. She worked again at El Pollo Loco. She then had a stint at P.F. Chang’s.

The well-traveled Saade moved back to Johnstown most recently in 2012, and she started work at the Back Door soon thereafter.

Saade doesn’t think there is a large craft cocktail scene in Johnstown like there is in Pittsburgh, but there are benefits to working in a smaller community.

“We have a lot more downtime to observe what goes on in the town,” she said. “That’s kind of to our advantage. It’s a little more personal.”
Denise Thompson, co-owner of the Back Door, praised Saade’s meticulous nature.

“Her attention to detail makes her a great bartender,” Thompson said. “Our recipes must be adhered to precisely so our drinks have consistency. She is also beautiful inside and out. That makes the customers want to come back.”

Tom Chulick, chef and co-owner, said Saade is reliable and talented.

“She knows all the cocktails and mixes them well,” Chulick said. “She’s a great employee. She’s always on time and she does all the things we need her to.”

Saade thinks that overcomplicating the bartending craft is what trips people up in their efforts to be a great bartender.

“Essentially, I don’t think you should be super-duper fancy,” Saade said. “I think actually caring about people makes a good time overall.”

Cambria City prepares to host Ethnic Fest

Our Town Correspondent

Cambria City is about to fill with dancers, musicians and plenty of Eastern European food once again for the annual Ethnic Festival. 

This year’s event runs from Sept. 4 through Sept. 6, but some participants are starting things a little early.

“We are actually kicking off Ethnic Fest weekend on Thursday, Sept. 3,” Bottle Works Arts on Third Avenue Executive Director Angela Rizzo said. The organization plans to host The Six, a band composed of members of The Clarks and Rusted Root.

“We’re just going to open up the garage doors and let the band play. It should be a fun time and a great kickoff to the weekend,” Rizzo said.

Throughout the weekend Bottle Works will feature a variety of entertainment and also open up the displays in their center as they have in the past. This allows some of their artists to sell goods including jewelry and photography.

“We’re not big on food — I’ll let everyone else worry about that,” Rizzo said. “We’re here to bring the art. That’s what people look to us for.”

She added that a draw for many people is the performance by the Johnstown Concert Ballet that has become a staple for many who go to the Bottle Works during the festival.

Traditional foods associated with the festival including halupki, haluski and hot sausage can be found at St. Mary’s Byzantine Church, Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish, each with a dish not offered by the other churches. St. Mary’s offers a sweet pastry called cherige as well as Hungarian goulash, Resurrection will have potato pancakes and shepherd’s pie, and Holy Cross will have palacinki, which is a crepe-like dish.

Holy Cross will also feature pulled pork and lamb — on Sept. 6 only — cooked in what festival co-chairman Paul Kushner described as a mobile barbecue unit. Kushner said that he and Patrick Kelly have worked closely with a local veterans association on this year’s festival.

“Every year we pick a different theme to feature,” Kushner said. “We usually pick a nonprofit and place that in our advertising, give them a booth outside of our church and give them 10 percent of the proceeds we make at the festival. We also put out cans for additional donations.”

He added in the past organizations like the West End Food Pantry, the St. Vincent DePaul Society and the Gabriel Project were beneficiaries.

For the third year the Alternative Community Resource Program, also known as ACRP, will be teaming up with the Ancient Order of Hibernians to host The Irish Corner at Columba on 10th.

“The (Hibernians) first approached ACRP in 2013 to form a partnership and co-host an event that would make up for the lack of Irish festivities at the ethnic festival in recent years and to bring back to life the upper end of Chestnut Street,” ACRP marketing coordinator Camette Standley said. 

“The main goal for this partnership is to provide a family-friendly event that celebrates Irish heritage and brings attention to the traditions and history of St. Columba. We are happy to have the opportunity to offer such an event again this year.”

She added that the location will offer Irish foods including: Irish stew, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and Reuben sandwiches, Irish soda bread, potato soup, Irish mac ‘n cheese and scones.

Various local Irish bands including The Michael O’Brian Band and Full Kilt will play at the location. Additional music will be provided by Ace’s and the Venue Of The Merging Arts, also known as VOMA, as well as the churches. 

Various craft and food vendors will fill the festival that will also feature play areas at Resurrection, on Sept. 5 only, and ACRP. There will be a polka mass at Resurrection with Rosie and the Jammers on Sept. 6.