JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — As a young girl in Johnstown, Donna Baxter Porcher loved stopping by the L&D Candies store in the city’s Hornerstown neighborhood.
She left for school and settled in the “big city” of Pittsburgh, but Johnstown was never far from her heart – even with her magazine Soul Pitt Quarterly hitting a milestone.
Donna and her husband, David C. Porcher, purchased the former candy store at 404 Messenger St. in December, with plans to turn the building into a community center.
This summer is a celebration of this new adventure and the 50th edition of Soul Pitt – available now in Western Pennsylvania.
L&D Candies owners David and Linda DeFazio retired in 2015 after 52 years – and the store was closed. Until the Porchers come home to bring the place back to life.
“We used to walk down the street to buy candy,” Donna said, recalling trips to the store with her mother. “She was always decorated for the seasons – chocolate bunnies at Easter.”
A grant through the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is helping Porchers prepare the place for use by the Hornerstown community.
The couple plans a place for movie nights as well as educational programs on topics such as financial literacy.
This grant helped them add new doors and awnings, and they often went home to clean up the area around the store.
“We try to make the exterior look nice so the community can get excited about it,” Donna said. “Maybe it will inspire other people in the neighborhood, bring something positive to the city.
“Our goal is to come back and give back. When we retire, that’s probably when it will happen.
“In the Community”
Retirement is not imminent for the founder and CEO of Soul Pitt Media, whose magazine is free to readers and fully ad-supported, with 10,000 copies printed and distributed each quarter.
She said the magazine is available at many locations in Johnstown, including Cassandra Hair Studio on Market Street; Flood City Youth Fitness Academy on Lincoln Street; Camille’s House of Styles Salon and Boutique on Village Street; Taco Chellz and Boost Mobile, both on Main Street; and various churches in the area.
“We wanted it to be free,” she said. “We knew we had to get it out into the community.”
She launched Soul Pitt in 2010, inspired by Jet magazine – a publication that started in 1951 but became fully digital in 2014.
“I grew up with Jet magazine,” Donna said. She said the size of her magazine — 5 1/4 inches wide by 7 1/2 inches tall — is “our homage to Jet.”
Donna started her magazine to provide “a voice for the minority community in western Pennsylvania”, and also to help businesses reach that readership – providing “a resource not only for the African-American community, but also a source of information” on educational programs, health care and other topics.
She got the idea when she was a student at the University of Pittsburgh and operated a website for several years – first as a “clandestine” publication featuring lists of local entertainment and gatherings, aimed at a college-age audiences and visitors to Pittsburgh. Region.
“We really thought it would just be a website where you could find out about events,” she said. “Or, where is the Black barber shop, where are the churches?”
But Donna said friends were telling her, “Maybe we should have a magazine.”
She was skeptical, fearing that “print is dead”. But she learned that wasn’t true, and “it just goes on and on.”
The success of more than 50 editions is based on the celebration of people and organizations. Porcher said the collaborations have been significant — including a recent partnership with Point Park College and a connection with media group Allegheny Front to shine a light on environmental issues through multimedia content.
And, of course, each edition includes a history of Johnstown.
One of his first correspondents in his hometown was Ronald Fisher, who was also a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat before his sudden death in late 2019.
Johnstown resident Mercedes Barnett now contributes to Soul Pitt while also serving as a correspondent for Johnstown Magazine.
His feature in the spring issue of Soul Pitt celebrated The
Tribune-Democrat’s Black History Month Poster and Essay Contest for local youth – sponsored by the Ron Fisher African American Educational Fund of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
“Ronald Fisher was Donna’s first writer to focus on the events and accomplishments of Johnstown,” Barnett said.
“After his passing, he was my inspiration to continue the Johnstown Spotlight. Donna was determined to keep this article in her magazine.
“I’m proud of Donna and happy to be one of her writers. Although I’m more of a community advocate than a writer, my stories in SPQ magazine reflect the building of Johnstown. Donna allows me to do what I do best, which is what she wants me to do, represent where we come from.
“We took the leap”
Donna said she and David were “hometown sweethearts” on Oak Street who “separated around 1987” when he took a job in Harrisburg and she moved on to Pitt.
They reconnected in 2015, married a year later and are now making a significant investment at their home in Johnstown – where her father was a minister.
“I have to thank Johnstown for their (Soul Pitt) support,” she said. “I got Johnstown’s support from the start.”
Porcher was recently interviewed by the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh, which will air a segment on the magazine’s 50th issue this fall — just when the Hornerstown Community Center might open.
“When we started, we had no expectations,” she said. “But we didn’t think we were going to go on for so long. It was a pleasant surprise. … We took the plunge, and now we are in 2022.”