Lions Den cafe opens in South Fayette
Opening a restaurant has been a lifelong goal for South Fayette native Raymond Hrapczak.
While that aspiration for the 38-year-old man started as a child, it really took off a few years ago after being approached by a food truck vendor offering a sandwich, bag of chips and a drink for $7.99 in rural West Virginia while he worked at a job in the Mountain State.
“I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant,” he said. “I wanted a place that would serve as a diner for breakfast and lunch. I was working on the gas wells and got laid off. I just said to myself that it was time to take matters into our own hands.”
What he didn’t expect was for it to land him in the exact same spot owned by family twice since the late 1990s.
After years of conversations with his wife, Jessica, 32, the couple decided to turn the former gas station at 674 Millers Run Road – where Millers Run and Battle Ridge roads intersect – into a café and deli grab-and-go restaurant called the Lions Den, which opened Oct. 22.
“When we had it as a gas station, none of these housing plans were here,” Hrapczak said. “We didn’t have the customer base that we have now. Seeing the tremendous growth in this township, on top of the horrible traffic in Bridgeville, was what sparked doing it here. It’s a little more out of the way from the busy traffic, but it’s a hub for traffic in this area.”
Although small, the Hrapczak’s flexible menu allows for customization that isn’t offered at chain restaurants a few minutes away. There are a few tables in the café, but it’s mostly for takeout orders.
“You can go to Bridgeville and ... get corporate food,” Hrapczak said. “Is it probably good? Yeah, but is it going to be the highest quality you can get? The difference here is we put our eyes and hands on the food and say, ‘That is what we want to serve to our customers.’”
However, getting to that point of making what decision to serve on a day-to-day basis required an abundance of work to the building that has been vacant for the last six years. The couple began constructing new walls, a new floor and updating electrical and plumbing in late July, an expensive process that came as an out-of-pocket expense.
It was nearly three months of intense labor that made the opening date that much sweeter.
“It was great,” Jessica said with a smile. “It’s pretty neat to see something you dream about become reality.”
“We were very busy that first day,” Raymond said. “A lot of friends, family and people who have been watching us work on the building were excited about getting something new in the area. We had a huge outpouring of community support, which was awesome.”
From changing pastries to freshly-brewed coffee – picked up weekly in Pittsburgh by Jessica – accompanies a lunchtime spread of sandwiches, hoagies and pizza. The couple is also looking forward to spingtime where they will begin serving ice cream.
Now, nearly three months after opening the doors to a goal that once seemed unreachable, Raymond has a new set of accomplishments to focus on.
“When it comes to our food, we want to serve the freshest, best tasting and largest portions around,” he said. “Most importantly, we want to be a part of this community.”