Photo by Nick Buzzelli
Owner Latersa Blackwell cuts the ribbon during Cafe On the Corner’s grand opening Sunday, Aug. 30 in Brightwood. (From left to right: Judge Leah Williams Duncan, Michael Blackwell, Manny Williams, Lateresa Blackwell and Councilwoman Darlene Harris.)
By Nick Buzzelli
As a former corner tavern turned creamery on Shadeland and Woodland Avenue sat vacant for 14 years, Brightwood residents Lateresa and Michael Blackwell thought it would be the perfect opportunity to purchase it from the New Hope Church, which owned the property at the time, and turn it in to a fresh, new business.
The Blackwell’s – along with their son, Manuel Williams – decided to rebrand the business as Café On the Corner in order to revitalize the building, which had once been tagged as a “nuisance bar” in the community.
“One day we just said, ‘Hey, this building is sitting here, it’s an opportunity to do something beautiful in the community, to draw the community together as one. Let’s look at it,’” Lateresa said during Café On the Corner’s grand opening Saturday, Aug. 30. “And so we approached the church and they were waiting for us, actually. They were waiting for us because as soon as we went to them and asked them if we could purchase the building they were elated.”
After acquiring the blue-bricked building the husband and wife duo wanted to create a family-oriented venture that would allow them to spend more time together.
And they found it in the current eatery, which specializes in soup, salad and sandwiches.
“My experience as a chef, my son’s experience as an entrepreneur and my wife’s experience as a leader, we just all came together with the café being available and we put our thoughts together and our prayers together and it happened,” Michael said. “We always had visions of doing something. If it wasn’t this, we were going to do something as a family.”
In her job as an admissions counselor at South University, Lateresa is tasked with helping students find what they are passionate about so they can chose a career path.
By combining the skills she utilizes on a daily basis at the online educational institution with her new endeavor, Lateresa said the restaurant’s unused second floor can eventually serve as a computer hub where patrons can receive résumé and cover letter training.
“My heart is in Café On the Corner working with my family, but we’re new and so as far as revenue is concerned, we’re not there where they can actually take me on full-time so I have to work admissions,” the 47-year-old Lateresa said. “But my heart is in the café.”
Joining in the celebration of the inaugural opening of Café On the Corner was Pennsylvania state rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr. and Pittsburgh councilwoman Darlene Harris.
“The neighborhood has been working on the (Brightwood) area,” said Harris, who is a life-long Northside resident herself. “They have been rebuilding homes so they are continuing to do that so this is really helping the neighborhood to have a business here like this.”
Although Lateresa’s main priority is to provide the community with a clean and comfortable establishment, she ultimately hopes to help rejuvenate the economy of a once bustling neighborhood.
“This was once a very thriving community, but it suffered some things and so we feel that Café On the Corner is like a cornerstone of the community …,” she said. “People see us, they respect us and they’re so excited about what we have actually done here in the community.”
Nick Buzzelli is a contributing writer.