Retail shops, community centers and yoga studios can be found readily enough on their own around the area, but The Center of Harmony's owners are taking those concepts and sticking them all under one roof.
Add to that a location inside a century-old building within the heart of Historic Harmony, and you’ve got a rare combination.
“There’s really not anything else like this in the Pittsburgh area,” said Dana Lowers.
Along with Josh Meeder, Lowers is cofounder of The Center of Harmony, a onetime opera house on Mercer Street built in the 1880s that has been reconfigured to house a variety of tenants.
Tying the center together is a shared focus on mind, body and community inside one recently renovated—and environmentally friendly—building.
“This is really the focus of what Dana and I want to do in the center,” Meeder said.
Tenants inside the 12,000-square-foot space include Wunderbar, a locally-owned and operated coffeehouse; Pearlette, a venue featuring handcrafted jewelry made by Harmony resident Adrienne Grafton; and Darn Yarn Needles and Thread, a knitting and crochet shop carrying organic and fair trade yarns.
“This is exactly the type of place I like working in, with creative people around me,” said Grafton of what attracted her to bring her business to the center.
On the second floor of the building, an airy space that once was an Odd Fellows hall will be used for wellness seminars, Tai Chi and yoga classes and community events.
Folks got to explore the different spaces themselves Saturday when The Center of Harmony celebrated its grand opening.
Festivities included an introductory belly-dancing class, seashell readings, reiki and chakra balancing and more.
The opening caps off months of construction on the building, which Meeder and Lowers purchased in October after falling in love with the space.
“Growing up in this area, I’ve always liked this building,” said Meeder, who is a graduate.
Until a few years ago, the building was home to Otto & Gert’s, an ice cream parlor and gift shop. As were many businesses in Harmony, the café was damaged when waters from the Connoquenessing Creek flooded the area during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Meeder said the business never reopened after the flood. Part of his desire to open The Center of Harmony, he said, was to revitalize the business district.
“It was stagnant after the businesses folded up, so we wanted to bring businesses back into town,” he said.
Meeder and Lowers plan to turn a still-empty space in the building into a retail shop selling yoga accessories, wellness books, CDs and incense.
The Zelienople-based couple also is looking for the right tenant to lease a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse that was added to the building in the 1990s. Meeder said ideas for the space include a gardening co-op or a church meet-up spot.
“We’re tying to figure out what to do with it,” he said.
Dr. Mary Davis will lease a detached building on the property, which once housed a consignment shop, for her SuMa Integrative Medicine and Medical Acupuncture practice.
Meet the Tenants
Davis is a board-certified doctor of osteopathy and mother of two who will continue to work for MedExpress locations in Pittsburgh when this practice opens. She said she has long desired to open a place that combines Eastern and Western medicine.
The SuMa medical practice will focus on medical acupuncture along with integrative medicine. Along with Eric Mason, she also will offer Qigong, the practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation.
At the Wunderbar, owner Roc Dornbrook and his wife, Vicky, said they decided to open a coffee shop after the closure of Beecher’s, a Zelienople coffeehouse that burned down in 2008.
“They were the only coffee shop in the area” said Dornbrook, a native of Argentina who now lives in Zelienople. “We really missed them.”
To fill the void, Dornbrook said he and his wife decided to open their own cafe. The Wunderbar, which is the German word for wonderful, will feature coffee roasted by Kiva Han in Cranberry and teas by Beecher's, which still sells items although it no longer operates.
For now, Wunderbar will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. Dornbrook said he hopes the coffeehouse will become a regular hangout for people in the area.
“We don’t want to focus so much on the coffee as we want to focus on the relationships,” he said.
An Eco-Friendly Space
Meeder said being as eco-friendly as possible is important at The Center of Harmony. High–efficiency windows partner with high-quality insulation to keep the building warm. The center also has all LED or CFL lights. Upon renovating the building, the couple recycled 300 pounds of copper, wire, brass and glass.
The owners also have an agreement with eLoop LLC, a sustainability group specializing in hard-to-recycle items, for the center to become an electronic recycling drop-off point.
“Everything we’re doing is eco-friendly and sustainable,” Meeder said.