Muralists Paint a Pleasant Picture for Coffee Shop

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The inside of Trek Coffee House is a work in progress, but on the outside, it’s a masterpiece.

The eye-catching mural recently was completed on the side of the building at 1588 Mahoning Ave. in Youngstown.

The 40-foot mural was designed and painted by the 16 students in the public art class taught by Youngstown State University art professor Dragana Crnjak. Inspired by nearby Mill Creek Park, it depicts a bucolic outdoor scene.

Crnjak and her students created four mural designs and let the public pick the winner in voting at the Mahoning Avenue Fall Fest on Sept. 16.

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the interior of the 100-year-old building. Co-owner Levi Smith expects to open for business in late December or January.

The Trek project is the third mural Crnjak’s class has completed in recent years. The first two are on a massive retaining wall along Andrews Avenue, near downtown.

Selecting the Trek Coffee House site was an easy choice for Crnjak. It is highly visible to eastbound motorists and brightens up a business district that is in the early phase of a comeback.

“We get lots of inquiries from people who want us to do a mural,” Crnjak says. “But this one … there was heart in it. And the location was perfect.”

The nature-based theme might have sealed the deal.

The first two murals had a theme of Youngstown’s history and depicted scenes of steel making.

“This one was so refreshing,” Crnjak says. “There was no steel involved. It connects to nature and to the park.”

Trek Coffee House and Voyager Specialty Coffee & Teas – which will be in a neighboring building that is also undergoing renovation – is owned by Smith and his twin sister, Emily. The company, which was founded in 2015, is expanding because it outgrew its Canfield location.

Working with the Economic Action Group and Western Reserve Port Authority, the owners bought the buildings at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave. for the roastery and coffee shop.

The owners have invested between $500,000 and $600,000 in the project. Voyager supplies coffee and tea to shops in western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“Originally, we only wanted a building to do roasting,” Smith says. But with the adjacent building also available, the owners saw it as an opportunity to open a coffee shop.

Both buildings formerly housed Bernard Auto Parts and its warehouse. Before that, it was Lazar’s Super Market until 1978.

The coffee shop was open for the Mahoning Avenue Fall Fest, and its first customer was Sanford Lazar, whose family owned and operated the supermarket for decades.

Lazar has a trove of photos and other memorabilia from the market, which he later shared with Smith.

At a celebratory gathering of the mural painters Oct. 30 at the shop, photos of the old market were displayed on the wall.

Trek will offer coffee, tea and pastries when it first opens. Later it will add soups, salads and wraps, Smith said.

Plans call for it to be open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“That’s the hope for now,” Smith says. “If we have staffing difficulties, we will start off with hours of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then add to it.”

Pictured at top: The students in YSU professor Dragana Crnjak’s murals and site-specific art class stand in front of the mural they painted at Trek Coffee House.