Photo by Kristy Locklin.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for Black Forge Coffee House in McKees Rocks.

The long-awaited business is set to open July 15 in a former bank at 701 Chartiers Avenue.

“I’m super-pumped for the public to see this place. I want people to feel the love that’s been put into it,” says owner Ashley Corts, who also runs the original location, a 1,600-square-foot rental space in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood.

Housed in a 6,000-square-foot, century-old building, Black Forge II is part-café, part-performance venue — where the coffee’s strong and the music’s loud.

Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Awhile back, after numerous noise complaints from Allentown residents, Corts began searching for another site to host bands. The 29-year-old has called Allentown home for a decade and wanted to be a good neighbor.

She closed on the second location in August 2018 and began gutting it. Years of water damage, a few untrustworthy contractors and a falling out with her business partner made the process even more difficult than she thought it would be.

Luckily, a Kickstarter campaign raised $36,000 in a month to help her and a small army of volunteers make the repairs.

The new facility boasts black walls and floors, while cathedral ceilings, large windows and a skylight keep the place bright. There’s a stage with professional lighting and a sound system, second-floor office space and parking lot in the back.

Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Each Sunday, Corts and her crew will roast a variety of organic and free trade coffee beans on a machine in the corner of the café. Within the last month, Black Forge opened its first wholesale account; its coffee is now available at Market Street Grocery Downtown.

In addition to drip coffee and Gryphon’s Tea, patrons can order seasonal and specialty beverages for $6.66, including the Hell Hound, a mix of espresso, dark chocolate, chili, cocoa powder and cream that’s shaken over ice.

The drinks are made on a Modbar espresso system that moves all of the equipment under the service counter, giving customers a clear view of their hard-working barista.

Within the next year, Corts plans to transform the spacious basement into an art gallery and retail shop and open the kitchen to create on-site eats. For now, customers can purchase pastries made by 350° Bakery and sandwiches from Black Market Deli.

A poem that inspired the business is written on the stairs leading up to Corts’ office. After a year of running on fumes, frustration and caffeine, she’s excited to open the doors to Black Forge and let the light in.

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.