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Kenneth L. Miller Barber Shop

UNUSUAL SHOPS AND FRIENDLY PEOPLE ARE REASONS WHY PORTERSVILLE IS MORE THAN JUST A WIDE SPOT IN THE ROAD.


LUGENE HUDSON for the New Castle News 2006


Traffic on Route 19 in Portersville is steady on weekday mornings. By afternoon, it accelerates to a brisk, almost bumper-to-bumper pace. The little town built near the highway is more than just a wide spot in the road. It's situated on the thoroughfare that, before I-79 was built, was the main corridor between Erie and Florida. Eppinger's Restaurant and Brown's Country Kitchen are local landmarks. But Portersville also is known for its three annual antique steam engine shows, a few quaint shops and, as I was about to find out, hospitable people. Before entering this Butler County community and Muddy Creek Township, I passed through Grant City with its sign, "Population -- 69 and going strong." That brought a smile to my face. Delight got kicked up a degree upon discovering some of the handsome, early 1800s buildings on Portersville's "main drag." What was once a two-family, two-story farmhouse is now Muddy Creek Originals. Walking through the door is double-duty enticement because the home was built in 1840 and maintains many original features. And inside are truly some of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever seen. Owner Sheryl Robinson operates a quilt shop on the first floor. She explained the original dwellers shared a stairwell and each had an upstairs and downstairs room. The summer kitchen was in an outbuilding. "When I saw it, I loved it," Sheryl said. "It's a good fit." Walking across a few uneven floorboards reveals the home's character. The four original fireplaces can still be seen, but none are functional. In one room is a hidden second wall, which slaves purportedly used for hiding. Sheryl has made about 250 quilts, teaches classes and creates original designs and patterns, such as the pieced sunflower quilt with three-dimensional leaves and stems. The 1,400 bolts of quality cotton fabric are a dizzying whirl of colors. Calming blues and greens. Exciting oranges and reds. Jump-at-you yellows. Sweet peaches. But I was drawn to the delicate pink prints that evoke ideas, even if you're not a quilter. Sheryl especially enjoys the batiks, of which there are more than 300 bolts. Upstairs is a contemporary art gallery with raku pottery, paintings and other commissioned items from artists all across the country and none are cookie-cutter pieces. Scattered along this stretch and on side streets are Vivenne's Antiques, pizza and sandwich shops, the post office, a bank, convenience store, old-fashioned hardware store with a visible-to-motorists second-floor display, and a "Welcome to Portersville" sign. It's easy to figure out that Ken Miller, with his curled handlebar mustache, is the community barber. His one-barber-chair shop, sans television or telephone, means lively banter flies. Ken is sort of the resident historian. Black-and-white photos of his place confirm this was originally a tin shop. Ken has cut hair in this location since 1972. And he knows Portersville once had two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, a funeral home and a hotel. An old wall map shows the route of the Western Allegheny Railroad. "This became a barber shop in the early 1920s," he said. "19 was an old dirt road." Ken picks up stories from older clientele and likes the area because people know one another. Portersville celebrated its 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial in 1994, and it's only 13 more years until its 175th. Judging from the traffic, nothing is about to slow down.

(To submit a Cruisin' idea, contact Lugene Hudson at (724) 654-6651, extension 620 or lhudson@ncnewsonline.com. (with a few 2019 corrections of historic details)

The pictures to the left, taken before the move of 21 structures to allow for widening of US 19, show the side-by-side millinery shop and the old Tin Wares Shop. Notice that the two shops are at street level.  In the lower picture, samples of the tin ware produced and sold at the shop are displayed.

The color picture show the same two buildings today.  In the move, the buildings were set back and raised to a higher elevation to make room for the new four lane road. The old tin shop building today is the Kenneth L. Miller Barber Shop where Ken has been in business since 1972.

Today's Perry Highway is still as wide, but has been repainted to one lane each direction with a turning lane in the middle.