The Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce opened The Neighborhood Visitor and Information Center (VIC) last month as a place to learn more about our membership and to display some of the rich history that makes our communities such amazing and unique places to live, work and visit.
We wanted to tell the story of where we came from, where we are and where we’re going. The brightly colored Neighborhood logo on the building welcomes everyone to the new resource center, which features the area’s history in various cases when you enter.
A glass display case holds items from Arnold Palmer and features a Ryder Cup Captain’s bag and a set of self-customized Calloway clubs, along with golf shoes, photos, books and a small version of the famous Pennzoil tractor.
Thanks to the McFeely-Rogers Foundation and the Latrobe Historical Society, a re-vamped case of Fred Rogers’ memorabilia was unveiled in late-February that tells the story of Latrobe being the television icon’s hometown. We really do live and work in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood!
Across the room is another case filled by Jim Mickinak, owner of J.M. Builders, from his collection of Rolling Rock artifacts, including a guitar from the Rolling Rock Town Fair music festivals, taps, buckets and sports balls all marked with the beer brand brewed in Latrobe until 2006.
You can walk into bars in just about anywhere in the country and be able to order a Rolling Rock Beer. That’s quite a tribute to the former locally-manufactured product, and it’s also behind the 20-year quest that has made a Latrobe resident a special collector in all things Rolling Rock.
When we first met with Jim, he stated, “I have 98 percent of all the Rolling Rock memorabilia there is,” Jim Mickinak said. “And that is the biggest Rolling Rock collection in the world.” When you visit the new VIC on Route 30 in Unity Twp., you’ll see a pair of display cases filled with a fraction of Mickinak’s collection. It’s been a labor of love for the 69-year-old Mickinak, who has put together the collection over the span of 20 years.
All along we wanted to tell the story of what makes our great communities special and unique. What do people think of when they hear the word Latrobe? Arnold Palmer and the famous Pennzoil Tractor, the Steelers and St. Vincent College, Fred Rogers’ hometown … and, Rolling Rock Beer. You will find all of that and more, at the new Neighborhood VIC.
For sale are local history books, pottery, jewelry, works from local artists and the Latrobe Art Center, Fred Rogers items, historic images of our communities and much more.
And of course, you will find information about the Chamber’s incredible membership. From where to eat, shop and have fun, to healthcare, local services, attractions, real estate, contractors, non-profits, local events and much, much more!
I remember being asked at the end of 2013: what makes a chamber of commerce “special?” I replied that a chamber should be the ultimate “storyteller” when it comes to its membership and the communities it serves. It should promote, educate and shout from-the-rooftops all that is distinctive about its members, partners and neighborhoods. The new Neighborhood VIC does just that. Stop by soon and discover all that is special in “The Neighborhood.”