Business Columns & Blogs

Bits of business | Worth Twp. motel converted to hostel

The main building at the hostel. Bart Grande is the owner of Godspeed Hostel located at 7897 S Eagle Valley Road in Port Matilda which will be opening this summer, May 12, 2015.
The main building at the hostel. Bart Grande is the owner of Godspeed Hostel located at 7897 S Eagle Valley Road in Port Matilda which will be opening this summer, May 12, 2015. CDT photo

If you clean it up, they will come.

Bart Grande hopes that is the case.

His family spent the last two years renovating what was once Jarcy’s Motel, constructing four new buildings and turning it into Godspeed Hostel. The hostel is set to open on July 4th weekend.

Grande will first hold an open house at his new venture along Bald Eagle Creek during Memorial Day weekend.

“If you’ve watched “Hoarders,” imagine that show but with everything wet and covered in mildew, a complete mess,” he said. “It took 18 months to clean up the place, and the last seven months we’ve constructed new buildings. We’ve turned an eyesore into a something really neat.”

But what exactly is it?

“A lot of people have no idea what I’ve been building,” Grande said. “This will be a fun place to stay instead of your usual chain hotel. I wanted to bring something fun and unique to our community, a place that’s not just a bed and roof but also an experience. Every other place in town looks about the same, so we’re going to be different.”

Grande converted the old motel into a workshop for cars. He also turned the first floor of the house on site into a large TV room, coffee bar and check-in desk and created four bedrooms on the upstairs floor.

The four new buildings consist of a bunkhouse for up to 20 guests, a space with 13 private rooms, a bathroom house with eight private bathrooms and a similar building with eight private shower rooms.

The bunkhouse, he believes, will typically be rented by groups on retreats and by large families.

Grande’s idea is a foreign concept that he enjoys while traveling in Central America. A surfer, he often stays at this type of lodging during his trips to the beach.

“It’s modeled in a way for people who enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

The hostel will open on weekends until the end of the Penn State football season and then go into hiatus until next spring.

“We’ll probably be more event-driven early on, and Arts Fest is a great example as are football game weekends,” he said. “This is a great, tranquil place to wake up in and come back to for families where the kids can run around and parents can grab a drink, sit by the river and relax.”

UMI Performance committed to Philipsburg

Employees of UMI Performance say there isn’t a better place to grow their business.

UMI Performance, a manufacturer of replacement automobile suspension parts, relocated to 509 Hemlock St. in 2011 on a rent to own agreement for a 35,000-square-foot facility. A recently approved loan from the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership means UMI Performance is in Philipsburg to stay.

The MVEDP approved two loans totaling $95,000 to assist the company in purchasing the property.

“Absolutely, we’re here to stay,” UMI product development engineer Ramey Womer said. “Our president lives in State College, and before we moved here it was in Bigler, outside of Philipsburg. When this came open, it was big enough for us to expand the way we wanted to and we’ll continue to expand inside this building.

The loan will also assist the company in buying new equipment to expand operations inside its building.

Womer, who began working for the company three years ago, said 20 people worked in the facility when he came on board. There are now 32 employees “and the potential to increase” that amount.

“Just in the last few months I’d say we’ve hired six or seven additional people,” UMI Performance accountant Jill Irwin said. “It’s really going well for the area. We’re settled in.”

The loan was made through the partnership’s Revolving Loan Fund Program, which is available to manufacturing, service, retail, commercial and distribution companies for land, building and equipment purchases and working capital.

Company expands manufacturing

John Bonislawski envisioned an electronic manufacturing mecca in State College.

He just had to start Homeland Manufacturing Services in his basement three years ago.

The electronic manufacturing company has grown in that short time from an in-house operation into a 5,000-square foot-facility at 2591 Clyde Avenue, moving just across the street from its original 2,200-square-foot facility last month. There will be a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County at noon on May 27.

“A few of us were building circuit cards in my house a few years ago, and then we moved to a building over a year ago, and there were 10 of us,” Bonislawski said. “We’re expanding operations again. I think we could eventually grow to about 40 to 50 employees. It’ll be great for our local assemblers that have the skill to do this work, but don’t have a place to do this work.”

He said potential employees with the skills to work in electronic manufacturing were put out of work in past years due to companies like Corning and Jostens closing its factories.

“My mission is to work on bringing back manufacturing to Central Pennsylvania, so that companies aren’t outsourcing to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Ohio, India and China,” he said. “There is a lot of potential here.”