Nancy Pilla was only 12 years old when she stood on a wooden Coke box and learned how to cut and prepare meats as taught by her father, the late John Risteter.

"I had to stand on the box to reach the meats," she said.

The Risteter family owned John and Bob's Friendly Market in Lansford for 20 years. Nancy went on to work at Drigan's Market, Nesquehoning, and Agosti's IGA in Hometown.

Due to her extensive background in fresh cut meats, Pilla developed special skills in working with whole beef hanging on a hook. She knows how to break it down from into various cuts.

"She has it in her blood," says husband Tom.

The Lake Hauto couple will showcase Nancy's skills and a whole lot more when Nancy's Fresh Cut Market opens next month. The food market will be the anchor store of the area's newest shopping plaza, Hometown Village Square, 220 Claremont Avenue, Route 309 in Rush Township.

The Pillas, and Nancy's brother, Joel Risteter, Pottstown, purchased the site last May and proceeded to gut the building and completely reconstruct it from ground up.

Nancy's Fresh Cut Market will occupy 4,500-square-feet of the complex.

"It will be a grocery store, too," says Tom. "There will be bread, milk, vegetables, pasta, sauce, ketchup, mustard, and all of the staples.

"It'll be like the mom-and-pop grocery stores found on the corners in the old days, very friendly," he says. "We're gearing it to look like a little Italian market."

Nancy says the meat department will feature red meats, pork, chicken, seafood by order and available Fridays and for holidays, plus lamb, veal and special cuts including crown roasts, standing rib roasts, stuffed pork chops and marinated chicken.

There will be a variety of sandwiches, hoagies, specialty trays, jumbo 'Super Bowl' hoagies, salads and hot foods to include soups, halupkis, stuffed peppers, lasagna, french fries - all homemade - and lunch meats to include Boars Head, Hatfield and Berks brands, along with fresh grated cheeses, special treats, and dessert items such as Heisler's ice cream.

"The goal is to cater to my customers and give them what they want," says Nancy. For the elderly and those who live alone, Nancy will provide smaller amounts of ground beef, for example, those who might want just one pound, but want it to be fresh.

The Pillas also own Keystone Kitchen and Bath in Hazleton.

Pharmacy to open

Opening at the site in late March or early April will be Hometown Village Pharmacy, a project of Lou and Paula Rubino of Lake Hauto. The Rubinos will utilize 1,500-square-feet of retail space to provide an independent, full-service pharmacy with delivery service, along with gifts, greeting cards, Nature's Bounty vitamins and health foods, first aid supplies, cough and cold items, and many over-the-counter items.

Those who remember the former Flamini's Pharmacy will feel right at home as the Rubinos have hired the staff that worked at Flamini's.

"I tried to keep things the same because it was a great crew," says Lou, who worked at Flamini's and said many local residents missed their hometown pharmacy after it closed. The opening of Hometown Village Pharmacy will fill that need, he says.

"There was a void in Hometown. People are tired of the box stores. If you want personal, friendly service, this is the place."

The Rubinos are from the Philadelphia area and met while attending Temple Pharmacy School. However, they're no strangers to the Tamaqua area as they vacationed in Lake Hauto, where they spent time with relatives.

The Rubinos, assisted by daughter Megan, are looking forward to renewing friendships when the pharmacy opens. The exact date is uncertain because the new facility must first be inspected by a board of pharmacy before it can open its doors.

The pharmacy will be open Monday through Friday, and one-half day on Saturdays.

Hometown Village Pharmacy also will house Pamkakes, McAdoo, a business providing decorated cakes. Details will be announced.