The Pilla family has plans for the former Agosti's Food Market in Hometown.
Tom and Nancy Pilla of Lake Hauto, along with Joel Risteter, Pottstown, who is Nancy's brother, closed on the sale on the Agosti property, located on Route 309, on May 27.
The store, which at one time was the Hometown IGA, was previously owned and operated by Ermano Agosti of Lake Hauto and his family for many years before closing last year.
The new owners are planning to operate an old fashioned butcher shop in the store, as well as opening up space for tenants to lease.
The proprietors are not new to the business. While the Pillas own Keystone Kitchen and Bath in Hazleton, the Risteter family previously owned John and Bob's Friendly Market in Lansford for 20 years, into the 1990s.
The market has 8,600 square feet of retail space available, and currently has 20 parking spaces in the front lot. Tom Pilla said he plans to improve the side and back of the store to create more spaces for employee parking.
The Pillas and Risteter will utilize about 2,500 square feet for their butcher market, which is yet unnamed.
"We want this to look like an old time mom and pop butcher shop, with fresh cut meats, chicken, pork, lunch and deli meats," said Tom Pilla. "We will also have sandwiches, hoagies and staple groceries, such as dairy products like milk, eggs and ice cream.
"The meat will all be freshly cut from behind the glass cases, not wrapped. If someone would like to get a couple of steaks for dinner that night, we can go back and cut that for them."
Pilla said Nancy has 30 years of experience in the market business with butchering and meat preparation, previously working at John and Bob's, Agosti's and Drigan's Market in Nequehoning.
"She will also be able to do specialties, such as crown roasts for the holidays," he noted, adding that they plan to carry specialty foods such as kielbasa and seafood as well.
Pilla related he got the idea for the butcher business while driving past the empty store last October.
"The light bulb went off when I saw the for sale sign go up," he explained. "I went home and talked to my wife and family, and the response was overwhelmingly positive."
There is plenty of competition on the grocery front along that stretch in Hometown, including a Walmart Supercenter just north of the property and a new Turkey Hill market right across the road, and Tom is aware of it. One of the people he spoke with while in the process of obtaining the store was Linda Yulanavage, executive director of the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, who advised him to seek a niche not provided by the competition.
"We felt there is a niche here for a specialty butcher shop," he related.
The store will have a new look as well.
"The building itself will be totally transformed outside and inside," stated Pilla. "It will have a different physical appearance. We are not just putting a coat of paint on it. The inside of the building is wide open, and it will be reconstructed and completely remodeled."
Pilla said he has been interviewing prospective tenants, and the response he has received so far has been positive.
"We are looking for tenants that will enhance the community and fill some voids in the Hometown area," he stressed.
Pilla suggested he would have room for about 2-3 tenants and is willing to subdivide space accordingly in order to suit their needs. "Once we have the tenants sewn up, we will announce them and begin to work on that end of the store," he said.
Contrary to rumors, one of the tenants will not be Keystone Kitchen and Bath. "We plan to have that business continue to work out of Hazleton," said Pilla.
Currently, the family is looking to open the store sometime before Thanksgiving, Pilla mentioned.