Business badly damaged by arson reopens in honor of owner

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VANDERGRIFT, Pa. —

A family-owned service station and towing business in Vandergrift reopened Monday less than five months after someone robbed the business and set it on fire.

The robbery and fire was reported Sept. 23 at Kochka's Towing and Car Care Center.

According to investigators, the flames were put out before they reached the gasoline pumps at the Citgo station. But the fire caused about $600,000 damage to a business that's been a fixture in the Westmoreland County borough for decades.

Paul Kochka, 75, had owned and operated the business for 53 years before he passed away. Kochka’s granddaughter, Lindsey Bigley, said she’s upset her grandfather died before seeing his legacy rebuilt.

“We all had to stand around and watch my grandfather’s legacy and my childhood dreams all go up in flames,” Bigley said.

Bigley said a picture of Kochka hangs in the shop and a memorial bench was placed in front.

“Before he passed, he said that they took his heart and he’ll never see it open. But we know he’s here today,” Bigley said.

Police ruled the fire arson, but no arrests have been made.

“Whoever tried to bring us down only did one thing, and that’s make us stronger,” Bigley said.

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