When Laura Vernola and Ed Simpson decided to purchase Steel City Coffee House in May of 2016, after it was at risk of being shut down for good, they did so because the couple believed in being part of the “Phoenixville Movement.”
“Ed and I had been looking to open in Phoenixville for a few years, so we were actively looking when it came up for sale. We believed, with our experience in the restaurant and marketing industry, we could turn Steel City around to be profitable while keeping the live music, but expanding on locally sourcing our fare,” says Vernola.
Their doors officially reopened on July 15th and since then, Vernola and Simpson have already had a significant impact on the local community. From hosting photography workshops with Brian Miller of Chorus Photography to partnering with Royal Bank for a day of giving back, Steel City has become more than a coffee shop and entertainment venue.
On September 10, 2016, Vernola and Simpson were married at their Mont Clare home. “It was a lovely day, and we enjoy our yard even more now,” said Vernola, who beams every time she speaks of her newlywed life.
As a belated wedding gift and early Christmas gift, Steel City employee Lisa Katarynick commissioned local LGBT artist Michael Riley-Hill to paint a photo taken by Miller earlier this year.
“I have known Michael for a little more than four years now,” reminisced Katarynick. “He’s part of my close circle of Phoenixville friends. It seemed natural to call on Michael for this commission when I decided to go ahead with this project/gift.”
“While I have only known Laura and Ed since July, Steel City has always been a sort of home to me over the years. Every friend I have in town or musician I’ve worked with or ‘friended’ can be traced back to Steel City.” She decided to thank the owners who kept her venue alive.
“When I saw the photograph [by Brian Miller] it made me think that no matter how difficult owning a small business can be, love ALWAYS wins!”
Riley-Hill spent ten hours pouring his heart and soul into the tiny 6”x6” miniature painting to capture the beauty of the original photo and the love of the newlyweds.
“For me, to do a mini, I start like any other painting. I do a really rough sketch on the board to get the proportions right and then I start to block in the color. Then as I paint I make refinements as necessary. About half way through I send a picture to ask if any changes in direction are needed. Then I finish as directed,” explains Riley-Hill.
The painting now hangs in the home of Vernola and Simpson. “We love this painting so much and thank Lisa for such a personal touch on her gift giving skills,” says Vernola.
The next time you are in Phoenixville, stop by and say hello to Vernola and Simpson, but don’t leave without trying one of their scrumptious treats or tasty beverages. And watch out for Simpson…he’s a hugger! Although that’s one of my favorite things about visiting this small town hot-spot.
Steel City Coffee House will host Ben Arnold & Friends this New Year’s Eve. To purchase your advanced tickets and to learn more about the event, click here.
Also keep Chorus Photography in mind for any and all photography needs.