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Putting some Perks back in the Burgh

The Grand Opening of the Perksburgh Cafe' was held on Saturday June 3. From left to right, Colonel Patricia Blassie, Mission Support Group Commander; Mr. Jerry Cardinal, AFRC Services Director; Mr. Chris McIntire, 911th Services Director; Colonel Randal Bright, Wing Commander; Mr. Franco Harris, Former Pittsburgh Steeler; Mr. Bob Moeslein, Base Civil Engineer; Mr. Phil Frantangeli, Santa Barbara Applied Research Project Manager

The Grand Opening of the Perksburgh Cafe' was held on Saturday June 3. From left to right, Colonel Patricia Blassie, Mission Support Group Commander; Mr. Jerry Cardinal, AFRC Services Director; Mr. Chris McIntire, 911th Services Director; Colonel Randal Bright, Wing Commander; Mr. Franco Harris, Former Pittsburgh Steeler; Mr. Bob Moeslein, Base Civil Engineer; Mr. Phil Frantangeli, Santa Barbara Applied Research Project Manager

PITTSBURGH AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. -- A combination ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony were held June 3, at the 911th Airlift Wing in Pittsburgh, for the new “Perksburgh Café,” a quaint little place many Reservists would say appeals to the senses.
As you walk into the freshly-painted, contemporary looking café the first thing being attacked is the sense of smell from aromas of various coffees, teas and delectable goodies. Then, sight takes over causing you to sort of inhale through the eyes a color scheme which, along with the rest of the furniture and artwork, creates a sense of relaxation.
If relaxation is what you had in mind all along then, settle down in one of the comfy chairs and begin watching the high definition, 42 inch flat-screen television hanging on the wall in the lounge area. If watching television isn’t your cup of tea, move to the café area which has a seating capacity for approximately 35 people. Of course, you might first want to grab a cup of java and a scone to help wake-up those taste buds.
Who would have imagined that the former snack bar could be renovated into something members at the Air Force Reserve Base could be really proud of?
“One person in particular might have had something to do with that vision,” said Mr. Jerry Cardinal, AFRC Services Director.
“When you put a services guy (speaking of Mr. Chris McIntire, 911th Director of Services), with a services thought process, in a services position, you get a person who is a visionary,” said Mr. Cardinal. “And that’s what it takes sometimes to get a concept such as this up and rolling.”
“This is a benchmark program for the Air Force Reserve Command,” said Mr. McIntire. “We are offering an expanded menu with more variety. We not only have Starbucks coffee, we have soups, salads, sandwiches and other specialty items that offer something for both the health conscious, as well as the not-so health conscious.”

So what does it take for a concept of this nature to get off the ground?
“It takes a lot of team work,” said Mr. McIntire. “It was a team effort and a culmination of ideas ranging from color scheme, to logo, to type of furniture,” he said. “We wanted it to reflect the proud history of this City of Champions with the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, but more importantly, we wanted it to recognize the pride we have in our base and its personnel.”
“But first,” he said, “you must get all the right buy-ins.
“We needed to first get the buy-in from the wing commander (Col. Randal L. Bright), who was for the idea when he found out we could have Starbucks coffee,” said Mr. McIntire.
“When I first mentioned the idea of a coffee shop to the colonel, he asked ‘Can you sell Starbucks coffee?’” “When I told him we could, his next question was ‘Who’s going to pay for it,’” said Mr. McIntire.

With most any renovation, there comes the question of funding.
Mr. McIntire decided to place a call to AFRC Services Director, Mr. Cardinal, to help answer that question.
“I sold the idea to Mr. Cardinal at AFRC, and he was most gracious in providing us with an initial startup grant of $35,000 to help get this off the ground,” said Mr. McIntire. “We also were able to use local NAF (nonappropriated funds) money to the tune of about $10,000,” he said.

The big payoff
After all the hard work was completed, the project wrapped up with the combined ceremonies taking place during the June unit training assembly. Everyone on base, as well as some special guests, was invited.
One of the special guests in attendance was former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Mr. Franco Harris, most notably known for his fingertip catch in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, a catch later termed the “Immaculate Reception.”
“We invited Mr. Harris because he owns a company called Super Bakery, and we are using some of his healthier products on our menu,” said Mr. McIntire.
“We also thought it would be great having him here since, as I mentioned, most of our artwork in the café revolves around the City of Champions and the proud people of Pittsburgh,” he said.
Another special guest also in attendance was Mr. Jerry Cardinal who flew from Robins AFB, Ga., to join the 911th AW in the ceremonies. After all, he did have a big hand in it.
“It’s amazing,” said Mr. Cardinal. “This is definitely a touchdown! It blew away my greatest expectation of how I thought it was going to be,” he said.
After the ceremonies, members were flowing in as quickly as the coffee was flowing out. Starbucks had donated enough coffee mugs for everyone on base. Of course, a free cup of coffee came with it.
Everyone was able to also partake in some of those delectable goodies, thanks to donations from vendors such as Otis Spunkmeyer and Krispy Kreme.
It would be safe to say that everyone from the airman basic to the colonel had a good time.
“The great thing about the café is that everyone can enjoy some of the other benefits as well,” said Mr. Aaron Spangler, 911th Services Squadron marketing assistant.
Under the auspices of the former snack bar, the base did not have control over the funds generated by the business. Now, according to Mr. Spangler, the situation is quite different.
“Being services owned helps put the money right back into the hands of the Reservist through programs such as MWR (morale, welfare and recreation),” said Mr. Spangler. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.
The commander seemed especially pleased with the outcome.
“This is a great way to end an exceptional Unit Compliance Inspection. The wing did an outstanding job presenting themselves to the AFRC/ IG team and now it is time to reward those actions. The Perksburgh Café is a place that all members of the 911th can be proud,” said Col. Bright.
Although not everyone was able to attend the event, it seems that those who did attend discovered one of those other senses that the Perksburgh Café appeals to. It’s that good old sense of pride.