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Koskey’s Korner revives some treats from Tarentum’s past

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Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Koskey's Korner Ice Cream Cafe owner Darnicka Koskey finishes double chocolate cupcakes with Irish green icing in her Tarentum shop on Friday, March 3, 2017.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Fresh muffins and cupcakes on display at Koskey's Korner Ice Cream Cafe in Tarentum on Friday, March 3, 2017.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Orders to go at Koskey's Korner Ice Cream Cafe in Tarentum on Friday, March 3, 2017.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Koskey's Korner Ice Cream Cafe owner Darnicka Koskey, pictured in her Tarentum shop on Friday, March 3, 2017.

Koskey’s Korner Ice Cream Cafe is featuring 10-cent cherry Cokes this month as a remembrance of a treat once served at Chapman’s Drug Store in Tarentum.

And that’s just for starters.

Darnicka Koskey, 39, is owner of the specialty coffee, ice cream and baked goods shop that opened in November at 312 E. Sixth Ave. Her cafe will serve a different food favorite from a business of bygone days each month through November as a tie-in with the borough’s 175th anniversary.

The shop always serves ice cream, milkshakes and smoothies, and Koskey bakes pastries, cookies, cupcakes and muffins. Hot dogs also are on the menu, with more food items to come, she said.

Tarentum historian Cindy Homburg helped Koskey, who moved to the borough seven years ago, develop a month-by-month lineup of nostalgic items from stores that closed mainly in the 1980s and ’90s. Chapman’s, at Fifth Avenue and Lock Street, closed in 1972, according to Homburg.

“We are just going to incorporate all of those different things with everything that we have, to help people remember what used to be here,” Koskey said. From what she’s learned, “There were so many stores with so many good things.”

Following March’s cherry Cokes will be whole dill pickles — like the ones sold at Isaly’s — in April.

In May, buttered popcorn will remind visitors of the former Manos Theater on Fifth Avenue.

June’s theme is proving to be a challenge.

“We are working on trying to master the “Skyscraper cone” similar to the Isaly’s dessert made with an elongated scoop. Homburg and Koskey have searched for a similar gadget.

“They don’t sell them anymore, so we are playing around with a garden tool,” Koskey said, referring to a trowel Homburg found at a hardware store. Koskey vows to keep looking.

Koskey said she ran a small ice cream shop about 10 years ago in Verona, where she lived previously with her husband, Michael, and their family. Their search for a bigger house led them to Tarentum.

A plan to adopt two children prompted her to leave her job as an Allegheny County case worker, working with foster children, she said, because she frequently was on the road. The adoption didn’t happen, Koskey said, but the business now keeps her close to home for her five children, who range in age from 3 to 18.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I love it, and I’ve been trying to become more involved with the community,” she said.

Tarentum Mayor Carl Magnetta said Koskey’s anniversary campaign is a great idea.

“We have merchants who are starting to pick up on this and say, ‘What can we do?’ ” he said. “This is going to be a great, great year. Every month we have something going on.”

Merchants are being asked for permission to have their windows painted in some way to mark the borough’s 175th birthday, Magnetta said.

Some walls inside Koskey’s shop already feature Tarentum’s colors, red and black. Her regular hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, although she’ll also open from noon to 5 p.m. this Sunday to coordinate with Diamond Antiques and Gifts’ spring open house next door. About 28 antique vendors sell items there.

Diamond Antiques owner Dianna Roney said visitors will be encouraged to stop at Koskey’s. The open house events have been held for years, and shoppers “always ask, ‘Where should I go to eat?’ ” Roney said.

July’s special food will be a cookie or cake to recall Kummer’s Bakery off Corbet Street. August’s feature will be homemade candy, once served at the Greeks delicatessen, also on Corbet.

September’s theme will be a banana split, a reminder of Bard’s ice cream shop at Fourth and Corbet.

And in October, Koskey’s will serve hot nuts like G.C. Murphy, on Corbet next to the railroad track, once did.

She said she hopes to keep prices low, another nod to nostalgia.

Eight O’Clock coffee, a reminder of the A&P supermarket on Fourth Avenue, will be served free through the campaign.

“We saved the best, and the most challenging, for last. It’s the spudnut,” Koskey said, referring to mashed potato-based doughnuts that Homburg said were sold at a shop by that name on Sixth Avenue.

“I’m going to practice on that from now until November,” Koskey said.

Kim Leonard is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 724-226-4674 or [email protected].

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