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Coal transition: How a weatherization grant helped a music venue build community

An elk mount surveys the Juice Box Public House music venue.
Jeremy Long
An elk mount surveys the Juice Box Public House music venue. The mount is a holdover from when the building housed an Elks Club.

Levi and Sarah Althauser opened the Juice Box Public House in 2021 because they wanted a new family-friendly social space. The couple was inspired by stories from their grandparents of dancing all night with friends and family of all ages at the rural grange halls.

“We grew up here and we just want to bring a community space where everybody can come here. You can bring your kids here, you can bring grandma here, everybody in between can come here and hang out,” Sarah Althauser said.

The Juice Box is housed in an old Elks Club on Centralia’s Tower Avenue. There’s a bar in the front, with plush chairs and a few high top tables. Local artwork hangs on the walls.

A huge elk head named Arthur hangs above the entrance to the back room, which houses the music venue.

The high ceilings are covered with reddish-brown splotches. Each one was a leak.

The Althausers covered the whole thing in plastic, but it still kept leaking.

We were kind of in a panic trying to figure out what to do next. And that’s where the grant came in and really helped us get through,” Levi Althauser said.

They got an $80,000 grant in 2022 to help replace the roof and the failing heating system. Without it, they probably would have had to shut their doors.

Now the space hosts events every week from open-mics and concerts to “Adult Lego Night” with the local library.

The Althausers hope the Juice Box is part of what makes Centralia a good and fun place to live, and gets more people, and businesses, to call it home.

“I think that if you don’t know the people you live next to, then you’re not really living a full life,” Althauser said.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among WESA, The Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY.