JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The Emporium’s 49-year history ended in July as long-time owner Lu Makin-Byrd closed up shop.
But the site’s new owners, Jodi and Eric Kabler, plan to reopen the building at 3006 Somerset Pike as a 24-hour crafting hangout called La Bella Embrace.
Eric Kabler said they plan to offer card-key access through a membership and aim to have 30 craft stations available for people to bring their materials and make their crafts.
They plan to open LaBella Embrace by Thanksgiving.
As a specialty craft store, the Emporium had a loyal customer base from Johnstown, Somerset and surrounding areas – including Ebensburg and Greensburg.
Makin-Byrd curated a gallery of handcrafted items for sale – pottery, jewelry, weavings, wood carvings, candles, chimes, paintings, castings and mirrors.
“I had people coming in for years and years,” Makin-Byrd said. “Some of my customers predated me with the history of the store.”
The building was originally a church that was built in the 1800s.
Through the years, a succession of owners gave the structure new purposes. In 1972, the building was sold to Jack and Pat Roseman, who remodeled and reopened the site as the Emporium, a craft gallery and stained-glass studio.
The Rosemans moved to Florida in 1982, and Lu and David Makin-Byrd bought the Emporium.
“I walked into the store and met Jack,” Lu Makin-Byrd said. “He said they were mov- ing and were going to be selling the store.”
‘A community building’Makin-Byrd was looking for a career change at the time and offered to buy the store.
“I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided that’s what I needed to do,” she said.
“There’s a feel in the building. It’s been a community building for so many years.
“It has a comfortable feeling. I just knew I wanted to be there and I could figure it out.”
Now, she and her husband David are both retired and ready to leave the building with new ownership.
“My customers were loyal, appreciative, kind people,” she said. “And we had people who grew up here but moved away.
“When they would come back for holidays to visit family, this was the spot for them.
“It held a lot of sentimental value. When people came in for their final visits, they told me how they looked around their houses and saw so many things in their homes that came from the Emporium over the past 40 years.”
The Makin-Byrds have two daughters, one of whom is a clinical psychologist in New Zealand. The younger daughter is a senior adviser for a college in Ohio.
Makin-Byrd said she didn’t expect her children to take over the store.
“They have their own careers, which is what I wanted for them,” she said.
‘Positivity and conversation’
But the Kablers stepped forward to keep the building in use.
With six children, the couple said they know it can be difficult for mothers to find the time and space to pursue their hobbies.
Eric Kabler works full-time in financial services and also is a pastor. Jodi Kabler makes and sells crafts while being a stay-at-home mother.
“We are both very God-minded; we are both involved in church and wanted a space for women to be uplifted with positivity and conversation,” Jodi Kabler said.
They are planning to include a play area for children, in view of the crafting stations, that would be open during morning and early afternoon hours.
“We want it to be not just for women who want to craft, but for anybody who wants to have a cup of coffee and conversation,” Jodi Kabler said.
Russ O’Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Russell- OReilly.