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WILDERNESS TRAIL: Ridgway natives breathe new life into old Main Street building

RIDGWAY — The building that is now Wilderness Trail Restaurant & Saloon on Main Street in Ridgway sat empty for nearly eight years until Ridgway natives Billie Jo and Josh Amacher brought it back to life.

The Amachers, Ridgway natives, have four children and two other businesses — Today’s Carpet and Furniture and Super Shine Tile Cleaners — but that didn’t stop them from taking over another, she says, despite having no experience in the restaurant business.

After watching the old Lumberjacks building sit empty for too long, the couple wanted to see something in it, Amacher said, and saw a liquor license up for auction. After purchasing it in 2018, they planned to restore and sell it, keeping aspects like the original flooring, colorful wall murals, a historical “Lumbering in Elk County” display and tree trunks in the front rooms. The business opened in November 2019, at first only offering service on weekends.

“We did our best to keep it like it was,” Amacher said, but noting they bought all-new kitchen equipment. They also replaced the porch beams, and used the upstairs deck and bar in 2020 for occasions like gatherings, parties and showers. Outside dining was a “huge hit” last year.

The Amachers did all the remodeling work themselves, she said. Purchasing and opening a renowned Main Street location was also a way of giving back to the community.

The plan with the menu was to change it often, bringing things unique to the area to it, says Amacher, including burgers with a twist and regular specials. Amacher does the main cooking herself, she said, but aims to have the employees know how to cook as well, and learn all aspects of the business. Wilderness Trail has around 12-15 employees.

The COVID-19 shutdown gave people the chance to try the restaurant’s food, Amacher noted, which encouraged them to come back for more when it reopened.

People appreciated that Wilderness Trail opened a window in the front of the building for takeout, Amacher noted, and curbside service, for those who didn’t want to enter the building.

This has been a full learning experience for Amacher, she said.

“It took being open and learning and seeing what I could do to improve,” she said, noting that she upgraded kitchen equipment as she learned about the process.

Goals include working in a Friday and Saturday night dinner menu, said Amacher, and slowly working into seafood dishes. Some popular customer favorites have included wagyu beef steaks and flatbreads.

Wilderness Trail celebrated its one-year anniversary in November 2020. The community has been extremely supportive, Amacher said, glad they rejuvenated the building and offered takeout during COVID-19.

The Amacher family typically travels, she said, but not in 2020, which allowed them to see and appreciate more of what’s around them in their native town of Ridgway.

The roadside establishment has seen its fair share of travelers, too, with lots of out-of-towners all summer long, Amacher noted, as well as large crowds during elk season in Benezette.

Visit Wilderness Restaurant Trail and Saloon on Facebook for more information. The business is now open Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Neighbors give Forest woman a birthday to remember

FOREST — While COVID-19 has suppressed many activities, residents of the village of Forest wanted to make sure a special birthday for one of their neighbors received the recognition it deserved.

Irene Rasdorf celebrated her 99th birthday Dec. 31. Her friends and neighbors wanted to do something to ensure her birthday was not forgotten so they erected a sign, placing it on the lawn in front of her home, asking those passing by to honk their vehicle horn to acknowledge her noteworthy day.

Neighbor Angie Deliman said, in the days leading up to Dec. 31, she had been giving a lot of thought to what could be done to observe Ransdorf’s birthday. “It had been on my mind. She is such a nice lady and she was going to be 99. I wanted to do something to make sure she wasn’t missed. Ninety-nine is quite a birthday,” she said.

Deliman crafted a two-sided sign. The message on the sign facing the street in front of Rasdorf’s home asked those passing by to honk their vehicle’s horn to wish her a happy day and the writing on the other side said “Happy 99th birthday Irene! We love you!”

Neighbor Amy Luzier said Rasdorf is a very significant part of her community. “She is a wonderful lady. I have known her all my life. She and my mother worked together for Bell Telephone and she babysat my kids. She is like family. She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. Everyone thinks she is just wonderful.”

Irene’s son Dan Rasdorf said he was delighted the community would remember his mother on her natal day. “It was pretty special. Amazing really. She was pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Dan Rasdorf, who is one of Irene Rasdorf’s five children, said his mother is a transplant to the community, coming to Forest after marrying his father. “She got established here and built a nice life,” he noted.

He said his mother is a faithful reader of The Progress and enjoys entering its contests. She has won several of the newspaper’s contests but he said she doesn’t keep the prize money. “She donates it to her church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, and she always remembers the grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said.

Irene Rasdorf told The Progress, the celebration was “One of the most wonderful birthdays I’ve ever had in my life.”

“In my family we really didn’t celebrate birthdays all that much so to think they would do this for me is just wonderful,” she said, “I’ve been blessed by my friends and neighbors. They look after me and show me that they care.”

Irene Rasdorf said she saw quite a few vehicles and heard a number of horns on Dec. 31. “Someone even went through a couple times, backing up and blowing their horn,” she said.

Rasdorf said she moved to Forest in 1951. She grew up in Bay City, Mich., and after meeting her husband in Chicago, Ill., they married and returned to the area where he grew up to settle and raise their family.

She attributes her longevity to hard work and the knowledge that many care about her.

“When I was a little girl my family didn’t have much but I learned that you treat people the way you’d like to be treated and they will do that,” Irene Rasdorf said.

Pennsylvania details who's eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Pennsylvania on Friday released an updated coronavirus vaccine plan that details who is eligible for shots in the initial phases of the rollout.

Health care workers and nursing home residents remain at the front of the line, followed by people 75 years and older and “essential workers” like police officers, grocery store clerks and teachers.

With COVID-19 continuing to rage throughout Pennsylvania, health officials cautioned the state is still months away from having enough doses of the two approved vaccines to inoculate the general public.

“I know it is difficult to ask, but we must have patience,” Dr. Rachel Levine, the state health secretary, said Friday. “It will take several months before this vaccine is available for everyone.”

To date, the federal government has allocated to Pennsylvania more than 827,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. More than 235,000 shots have been given, though Levine said the actual number is certain to be higher because reporting by hospitals and pharmacies lags by one to three days.

Doctors, nurses and other health workers, and residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities — a group that numbers about 1 million — are rolling up their sleeves first. State officials have not offered a timeline for when that initial phase of the vaccination campaign, which began last month, will be completed.

Next up under the state’s revised vaccine plan are people 75 and older and frontline essential workers, a huge and diverse group that includes clergy; first responders; prison guards; school staff; and food, manufacturing, postal, public transportation and grocery store workers.

After that, eligibility will extend to people from ages 65 to 74, those with serious health conditions, and another huge batch of workers in industries ranging from banking to energy.

Levine, at a media briefing Friday, predicted it might be late spring or summer before the state will be ready to offer the vaccine to anyone who wants one.

“This is going to take time, but a future without COVID-19 is coming,” said her boss, Gov. Tom Wolf.

The state reported more than 10,000 new, confirmed cases of the virus on Friday — the most in several weeks — likely indicating the beginning of a post-holiday surge, according to Levine. The state has been averaging about 7,500 new cases per day.

Geisinger, one of the state’s largest health systems, said it continues to see high rates of infections and hospitalizations. The numbers are “consistent with what you would expect during full-blown community spread,” Dr. Jaewon Ryu, Geisinger’s CEO, said in a separate briefing Friday.

Geisinger said it has been giving more than 1,000 vaccine shots a day, inoculating about half of its workers, and expects to have administered initial doses to about 19,000 people by the end of next week.

U.S. Post Office delivery issues delaying water billing process in DuBois

DuBOIS — DuBois City water customers won’t be penalized if their payment for the current bill is late.

City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio told the city council at its work session Thursday that delivery issues at the U.S. Post Office is delaying the normal billing and payment process.

It is not a result of anything the city did or did not do, and customers will not be penalized.

The Post Office has posted notices online explaining that heavy Christmas mail along with staffing shortages have slowed the mails.

Consolidation studySuplizio reported that a draft report of the proposed consolidation of the city and Sandy Township has been provided to council members for their review and comment.

Once they and township officials have completed their review, the report will be updated and made available to the public.

The study is a joint effort by the city and the township.

Power outagePenelec plans a power outage between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in order to make equipment repairs. The rain date is Friday, Jan. 22.

“Street Stroll”West Long Avenue between High and Brady streets will be closed from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 13.

The Clearfield-Jefferson Drug & Alcohol Commission will hold a “Street Stroll” to raise awareness of drug and alcohol issues.

A DUI simulator will be on display at the city building on West Scribner Avenue and the city’s K9 drug dog will also be on hand.

More moneyThe city was notified that its 2020 Community Development Block Grant allocation has been increased by $9,185. The additional money will be added to the pumper fire truck activity, whose funding balance will now be $259,167.

Planning CommissionThe council will consider a recommendation from the city Planning Commission regarding Day Property Holdings, LLC at Monday’s regular meeting.

ReorganizationThe council held its annual reorganization meeting Monday morning.

Mayor Ed Walsh will continue as president of council, with Diane Bernardo serving as vice president.

Regular meetings will continue to be held at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. If the date occurs on a holiday, the meeting will be held on Tuesday.

Work sessions will continue to be held at 4 p.m. on the Thursdays preceding the regular meetings.

Next meetingThe council will meet n regular session at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers in the city building on West Scribner Avenue.