Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Manchester Gets Jolt and Whiff of Coffee from la Prima Site

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Manchester Gets Jolt and Whiff of Coffee from la Prima Site

Article excerpt

The contest over whether the produce terminal in the Strip District remains intact or loses one-third of its five-block identity may take years to play out.

A recent nomination for historic designation will at least delay plans the Buncher Co. has to develop the site by demolishing 535 feet of the terminal for a $400 million residential and office complex.

What an irony: The building is nominated for protection for its role as the city's wholesale food delivery nexus for more than 80 years, but it has almost no wholesalers left carrying on that tradition. Buncher's plans made several antsy enough to leave, and others had no choice.

Sam Patti, the owner of La Prima Espresso, was one of the latter. His lease was up at the end of last year and could not be renewed. But La Prima has found a welcoming home in Manchester for its production and wholesale unit.

"I was looking for a place to rent, and a real estate agent told me about this place being for sale," said Mr. Patti, who bought the former Snyder Electric Co. at 1500 Chateau St. "When I saw that it had a 5,000-square-foot parking lot and 4,000 square feet of space, I thought, 'This will work.' "

La Prima, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall, roasts coffee to order -- 1,000 to 2,000 pounds a week for restaurants and stores and its retail coffee shop on 21st Street in the Strip. It donates a portion of proceeds to Grow Pittsburgh and the Rachel Carson Homestead.

"We're a microroaster," Mr. Patti said. "We're trying to do fair trade and organic to sustain Mother Earth and the farmers."

Its new location is a square building with offices and an in- house cafe being planned in the front and the production area behind. Two roasters work on 25 pounds of green coffee beans at a time. Caleb Sisco, head roaster and production manager, monitors the time, the temperature and the beans as they deepen from a green lentil color to varying shades of brown.

"You have to use all your senses," Mr. Patti said as Mr. Sisco turned a lever that sent a cascade of dark, smoking beans into a cooling drum. It revolved like a carousel, its paddles gently nudging the beans around. …

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