Construction workers carrying drywall and members of a recording crew setting up camera angles hustled around each other inside the 416 Main St. building in downtown Johnstown on Monday afternoon.
Installing the walls was part of an overall project to remodel the once-dilapidated interior of the historic structure, previously known as Lincoln Center, which, in late 2017, was purchased at a judicial sale by Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, which is looking to transform it into a hub in the central business district.
The video and sound people from Picture North were documenting the process, as part of making a collection of short films about small business development in the city.
Including the crew that will be in Johnstown all week, about 30 to 40 Picture North team members will have a hand in creating the films. Rodahl said the experience, so far, has been “inspiring.”
“I’ve also been really impressed by the small community,” Rodahl said. “I feel like people here are very ready to help each other out and they have a strong sense of ownership of what they’ve got going on. You can feel their personality and their charisma in everything they’re doing.”
Rodahl continued: “This is one of those film projects where the filmmakers and the clients and the subjects, everybody is aligned here … to bring the incredible small business efforts to light and present them in the best way possible and for us to really do these stories justice.
“We can see that this is a community that’s sort of on the brink of really hitting its stride when it comes to the small business ecosystem.”
Intuit selected three subjects – JRA Executive Director Melissa Komar; Morris “Butch” Manson from Carrie’s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in downtown Johnstown; and Bantly Hardware, in Dale Borough.
Komar, Johnstown’s former city manager, talked with the crew about work being done to try to revitalize downtown and the rest of the municipality when she was interviewed with her father, John Pavich, at her house early Monday morning.
“Being asked to be a part of this Intuit documentary is a real privilege for me,” Komar said. “I have grown up and lived in this resilient city my entire life and I’m very encouraged about the story that they will tell about our community. The Intuit name will soon be a part of the story of Johnstown and this documentary is their way of introducing that to a global audience.”
Intuit has operated Concentrix (formerly Convergys), a call center in Lower Yoder Township, and provided assistance to the city through its Mission Hope program, designed to bring jobs to underserved communities, since 2017.
“Over the last two years, our community leaders have embraced Intuit and their plans to have a permanent presence in Johnstown,” Komar said.
“The relationship that has been created with them is very strong and is going to have a significant impact in the future of our community.”
Carrie’s Kitchen was selected as a subject not only because it is a new small business in the city, but also for the contributions it makes to the area, especially helping children, according to Rodahl.
Bantly Hardware was selected as an example of a small business that has survived challenges.
Family-owned and operated since 1861, Bantly has endured the region’s population loss, triggered by the collapse of the steel and coal industries, and the presence of mega-hardware stores in the region. The business also needed three decades to pay off the loan it used to rebuild after the 1977 Johnstown Flood.
“I think their purpose is to show that, despite hardship, you can succeed in a small business – I think that’s their goal – even in a town that’s having problems,” said Robert Bantly, a fifth-generation owner.
He added: “Through it all, we’ve persevered. There have been 13 other hardware stores going out of business in the intervening years. And we stuck it out and survived.”
Bantly is also being recognized for his company’s charitable contributions to the community, which include working with numerous organizations, such as Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy and the Hornerstown community garden.
“I have more than I ever dreamed I would have, so I want to give back as much as I can,” Bantly said.
The clips, when completed, will be posted online by Intuit, an international financial software company that has been active in promoting business and community enhancement in the area.
“They picked Johnstown as a city to focus on to show the rest of the country how you can create small businesses and have a successful small business community despite big industries like coal and steel leaving town,” said Martin Rodahl, a director with Picture North, a production company that has done work with the National Football League, Ford and Google.