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Shippenville’s ‘Sweet Basil’ Has Fresh, New Look
The popular Clarion County eatery has updated its interior with American-made furniture and has plans for more, according to owner Jason Conley.
“We wanted to get out of the Pizza Hut mould, and it was long overdue, but it feels very good to have it done,” Conley said.
When the location opened as a Pizza Hut in the 1980s, it had the appearance that all Huts did then.
The location re-opened as Sweet Basil in 2005 under the ownership of Shawn Babington and Ellen O’Day, and Conley was a chef there after having previously worked with O’Day at the Clarion River Lodge in Cook Forest.
Conley, a 1994 Union High School graduate and ’95 graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary School in Pittsburgh, had cooked under chef Patrick Bruzinsky at the Clarion River Lodge for a decade before coming to Sweet Basil.
He bought into the ownership in 2007 and has been the primary owner for a number of years now.
“We had some tough times when it opened, but in 2012, things started coming around, and now we feel pretty good about where things are and where we are headed,” Conley said.
Conley credits his staff with that direction, including manager Marty Fye and chefs John Davis and Eric Fye.
“It got to a point where I knew I needed help, and I knew people that were more than capable of doing the job. When I first owned it, I was working seven days a week for about five years, and there was a lot of sacrifice in that time, a lot of things you miss.”
“But now, I can step away, and I know things will be fine because they take pride in their work, and I’m proud I can pay them a livable wage,” Conley said.
The bar is also scheduled to be redone in April, and a new roof is in the works, too.
Nevertheless, Conley said the most important things about Sweet Basil – the food and the service – is not changing.
“We’re just dressing it up a bit. The menu isn’t changing, and the service is not changing.”
“We have judges and attorneys sitting next to construction workers, and we like that it’s like that,” Conley said.
Conley relied on the talents of Christin Adams of CMA Designs and B & R Construction, both Clarion area businesses, for creating the updated look and the building.
“We’re pretty pleased with the way things turned out,” Conley said.
Other than updating the bar and replacing the roof, the next step for Conley and Sweet Basil is expanding its catering operation, and that should be music to the ears of those who enjoy Italian cuisine at affordable prices.
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