BRIAN C. RITTMEYER| Sunday, March 28, 2021 12:01 a.m.
Ashley Bodycombe’s hashtag is “Gather, Eat, Laugh.”
The new business was born at home, in her kitchen.
“I like cooking. It’s my passion,” said Bodycombe, 34, of New Kensington. “I like to make people happy through their bellies.”
While her menu will have homemade soups, salads and desserts, the stars will be her stuffed breads, which she likened to a rolled Stromboli. Packed full of things like buffalo chicken, meatballs, spinach, Italian beef, and more, she promises no empty ends.
“I’m determined to feed everyone in New Kensington a stuffed bread,” she said.
At Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue, Ashley’s Kitchen will be at a gateway to New Kensington, heading into downtown from the New Kensington bridge. The building had previously housed Walt’s Deli, which closed after a massive fire destroyed three buildings next to it in September 2018.
“It’s amazing that this place survived,” Ashley Bodycombe said.
It was one of several buildings bought by Mike Malcanas, president of Olde Towne Overhaul.
While most of the buildings Malcanas bought in his mission to improve downtown New Kensington are on Fifth Avenue, he said he bought this one because of its prominent location coming into the city.
Malcanas said the building had not been damaged by the fire, just soaked from the fire fighting effort.
“The only reason it survived was because they doused it with water. That’s why it was so wet,” he said.
Malcanas said some mold remediation was needed, along with repairing drywall and fixing some brick.
“Inside it was actually a lot better than most of the buildings,” he said.
While the exterior got decorated with rusty metal barn roofing and some red accent paint that matches their signage, the inside got all new flooring, Malcanas said. The counters at the windows are built from reclaimed barn timbers.
Malcanas said he plans to eventually have apartments in the building’s upper floors.
A mural covering the Fourth Avenue side of the three-story building, from sidewalk to roof, is expected to be installed in April. Residents helped paint panels for the mural.
Plans are for the mural to be dedicated April 11, during a community cleanup sponsored by Sonward Youth Programs, Olde Towne Overhaul and Westmoreland Community Action, said Tim Holler, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and director of the Community Arts & Reintegration Project.
The mural will be installed the week leading up to the cleanup, providing weather cooperates, Holler said. If the cleanup uses its rain date of April 18, the mural dedication would be changed for that date as well, he said.
Bodycombe and her husband, Joe, also 34, have been together since they went to high school together at Burrell, where she graduated in 2004 and he did in 2005. They have three children, Nolan, 11, Brycen, 8, and Lillian, 7.
Joe Bodycombe, who refinishes wood at West Interior Services, handles the books, but Ashley’s Kitchen is, well, all Ashley’s.
“It’s all her,” Joe Bodycombe said. “All her hard work and dedication and determination.”
Ashley Bodycombe said her dream is for the business to be so successful they can pass it down to their kids.
“They see us working hard, then they’ll want to work hard,” she said.
“It’s great what they’re doing. I hope it changes everything,” Ashley Bodycombe said. “All these small businesses, there’s so much amazing happening.”
While she’s worked at and managed restaurants, this will be her first business.
“I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I’m very excited but I’m also very nervous.”
Ashley Bodycombe said they looked at six places, and settled on the old Walt’s Deli place. It wasn’t Joe’s top pick, but she could see it there.
“I already have a following,” she said. And where they are, plus with the huge mural, “It’s not hard to find us.”