There’s an air of romance that abounds at 1125 Philadelphia St. in Indiana. It’s a feeling that the community train station just hasn’t given up, even 114 years after its crafted wooden walls went up under a sturdy protective roof, its platform hugging the bright steel rails of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad that once connected Indiana with all the world.
Little matches a train station, with its imagination-inspiring glamour, its hope-sustaining warmth. It stands as the realization of the here and what is, and the connection with all else and what could be.
It’s a center that represents the convergence of local humanity, people’s comings and goings through untold arrivals and departures. The reuniting of families and friends in the confines of what they call home, and parting of people, the turning of pages in their lives, but almost always with a sense of the adventure that comes when the wheels stop turning.
Work is underway now to restore the glamour, the excitement and air of welcome of Indiana’s train station as a family-oriented eatery that its owners dream of opening before Christmas.
It’s a work of love for John German and Angela Schrecengost, of the Indiana area, the leaders of the new venture, and a nearly equal investment of pride and expertise by their friends, Tom and Elizabeth Wahlstrom, of Marquette, Mich., who as design consultants are helping to breathe new life into the station.
In its new form, the Philly Street Station will offer a menu of what German called “Americana/fine dining — from fresh fish to liver and onions to pork chops.”
Look for Swedish meat loaf, burgers, sandwiches and salads among the offerings, he said.
“We’ll have something for everyone,” Schrecengost said. “If you bring Grandma and the kids, everyone will have a nice choice.”
“It’s perfect for a date night, perfect for a family get-together, or a business meeting,” German said. “And it’s going to be family priced. People will like that.”
Philly Street Station will operate amid a decor of original train station artifacts, other railroad memorabilia and regional cultural pieces to create a unique look and maintain a warm feel.
Schrecengost said they expect to hire 40 to 50 people for the staff.
Since the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh rail line pulled out in the early 1980s and the building saw its final days as a true railway station, it has been brought back to operation thrice, each time as a fine restaurant:
• The original Train Station, which also capitalized on the building’s history and d￩cor, stayed in business only a year, from 1989 to 1990;
• The reincarnated Train Station, under its second and third owners, as a steak, seafood and pasta house, was open from 1999 to 2012;
• Taze Ristorante, which specialized in Spanish, French, Italian, Greek and Turkish cuisine under the train station roof, served guests from mid-2013 to early 2016.
The operators of the earlier Train Station restaurants also owned the building. Tom and Annette Almes, owner of the adjacent Autosport business, bought the building in early 2013 with its preservation as a historic landmark at heart. As with Taze Ristorante, the Almes will be landlords to Philly Street Station.
“What we’re looking at is not to exactly recreate the old Train Station Restaurant but that is the theme,” German said. “It’s sort of a reboot to modernize that whole concept. That’s kind of the foundation of the whole thing.”
German and Schrecengost are relying a lot on the Wahlstroms to guide them to success at Philly Street Station.
“I’ve known Tom since I was a teenager,” German said. “Angie and I have always worked in service-related industries, so we have spent a long time finding out what’s important to people, what goes into customer service, we’re both passionate for this type of industry — Angie owns a small business here in town, the Cloud vape shop — and we’re putting all those things together here and now.”
Serving professionally as Excellence Hospitality Consulting, the Wahlstroms are advising German and Schrecengost on nearly every facet of the operation.
“It’s ‘menu-plus,’” Elizabeth Wahlstrom said, describing their role with Philly Street Station. “(Tom) will help John with the menu and the layout. Then what we specialize in mostly is, besides the menu, is help training the kitchen staff and helping in hiring. We also help to train the front-of-the-house staff so that they have a team of professionals by the time they open the door, so that they’re not practicing on the public.
“That’s what we do, come in and help get all of those training things done, help them get materials and policies and procedures put together so that they can start their restaurant. Once the doors open, they’re ready to roll and they have a great staff from the beginning.”
Tom Wahlstrom said the Indiana dining market will factor into the kinds and styles of foods served at Philly Street Station.
As in the past, the restaurant will include a bar and table beverage service.
German and Schrecengost have nearly completed the regulatory requirements to post a liquor license for the premises. Indiana Borough council in September approved the transfer of a license from East Wheatfield Township to Indiana for Philly Street Station.
“Annette and I are thankful the borough had the foresight to approve it, and we appreciate support from borough residents,” site owner Tom Almes said.
As of Friday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board still listed the permit as in “safekeeping” for the previous owner, the Joyland adult club.
Opening Philly Street Station in December hinges on final approval of the transfer by PLCB.
The connection among German and Schrecengost and the Wahlstroms goes back to the upper peninsula of Michigan, which the Wahlstroms still call home and where a recent restaurant overhaul and start-up project had them, Schrecengost and German seeing an inspiring connection with Indiana.
“Jimmy Stewart filmed some of the scenes in his film ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ in that restaurant in Michigan, and now here they are in Jimmy Stewart’s hometown,” German said.
That puts them in the unique position of rehabilitating the Mount Shasta Lodge, in Michigamme, Mich., where Stewart most assuredly had a presence, and renewing another that saw its heyday during Stewart’s growing-up years.
The BR&P RR station was built in 1904. Stewart was born less than two blocks away in 1908.
“Finding out that this was where Jimmy Stewart is from was really pretty neat, that the two tie in together,” Elizabeth Wahlstrom said.
Their expertise also goes to advising German and Schrecengost in the nuances of budgeting, scheduling workers, and buying stock and supplies, with regard to the needs of the Indiana market that don’t necessarily match the practices of other places.
“We want to bring it to a level of customer service that is above and beyond what people consider the norm these days,” Elizabeth Wahlstrom said. “Greeting people at the door, having servers that are attentive to the tables, in nice uniforms, that speak properly and understand the etiquette of dining — not to take it to a level of five-star — but in this setting where it can be casual fine dining, where people come in and no matter how they’re dressed or where they’re coming from, they can feel comfortable coming in and receiving not only the best culinary experience but a true hospitality service that will be just the best.”
What The Philly Street Station will try to provide diners is a meal to remember.
“You don’t want people to just come in and eat and leave,” Elizabeth Wahlstrom said. “You want it to be an experience. That means bringing in the original things from the train station, and adding to that a great cuisine at a price that people can afford, and yet a style of service that makes diners feel like they’re special, in a special place.”