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Koolkat Designs to take over big red barn as The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh

Since its inception eight years ago, Mt. Lebanon art boutique Koolkat Designs has nurtured local artists and fostered a supportive creative community throughout Pittsburgh. Now, the artist collective is going big, with a re-branding, an expansion into a roomy red barn, and a partnership with one of the neighborhood's most recognizable family businesses.
In spring 2015, Koolkat Designs will relocate to the iconic big red barn where Banksville Road becomes McFarland Road in Mt. Lebanon. Koolkat owner Kate McGrady, creative director Kate Wagle Hitmar and Bob, Chuck and Doug Satterfield are working together to create this 10,000-square-foot art and cultural center in the South Hills. The Satterfield brothers are the third-generation owners of Rollier's Hardware; the business occupied the barn space from 1953 to 1994 before moving to its current location on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon.
The new art space will continue in the Koolkat tradition, fully dedicated to showcasing the talents and creations of greater Pittsburgh artists, though the business will be renamed The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh.
The building's barn facade appealed to McGrady. 

"There are many art barns throughout the United States. The arts and barns are a natural fit,” she said. “Artists and farmers share a history of producing, crafting by hand, creating something new from the ground up and valuing their communities.”  
This expansion was born from Koolkat’s success in the community as the go-to spot for handcrafted jewelry, accessories and art made locally. In its eight years in business on Washington Road, Koolkat grew from 22 local artists to more than 200.
"We have truly amazing and loyal customers," McGrady said. "We have ideas and talent that far exceed our existing store's capacity. The Pittsburgh region is overflowing with creative energy, and we want to serve that need in the South Hills.”
Wagle Hitmar said she attributes some of this support to the “Buy Local” and “Support Small Business” movements. 
"People want to support the arts and their community, and feel connected to the businesses with which they interact. The Satterfields, [McGrady] and I are all Pittsburgh-born and raised; our love for the city is innate. When people shop with us, they're not only supporting our small business, but the creative enterprises of hundreds of fellow Pittsburghers," said Wagle Hitmar.
The Satterfields still own the art barn, situated at a well-traveled location not far from where Mt. Lebanon and Dormont meet the City of Pittsburgh. Doug Satterfield, who creates ceramics, explained the need for the Satterfields and McGrady to join forces.

"We decided to put our best qualities together, combine our strengths and to bring something unique to Pittsburgh at a scale not usually seen," Doug Satterfield said. "We share the vision and want to see this develop."  
The barn will undergo substantial interior and exterior renovations in the coming months. Berryman Associates Architects of Shadyside are consulting on the design. Tedco Construction Corp. of Carnegie will manage the construction.  
The first floor will include a significantly expanded showroom and a café with a performance space for live events, such as musical performances, lectures and life drawing. Larry Lagattuta of Enrico Biscotti will supply artisan foods to the cafe. The downstairs, affectionately dubbed "The Underground," will have additional showroom space, a revolving exhibition gallery and a dedicated teaching space.  
In addition to a fresh coat of paint and a new color scheme, 1635 McFarland Road will see other improvements including a re-graded parking lot, a new main entrance, outdoor seating, landscaping, lighting and space for art installations. McGrady said she plans to take full advantage of the outdoor space, using it to host food trucks, farm stands and outdoor eating.  
"The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh will be a destination, and help bridge the South Hills to the Greater Pittsburgh arts community. We look forward to collaborating with this community to enhance everyone's exposure and experience with local art, music and food," McGrady said.  

Source: Koolkat Designs

Life is Sweet Bakery Café coming soon to Mt. Lebanon

Life is Sweet Bakery Café will open in late August on Bower Hill Road in Mt. Lebanon. The café will offer an assortment of pastries, coffee and a restaurant menu of soups, salads and sandwiches.  
Business owners Kelly Bareford and Christine Mains look forward to sharing their new retail space with their neighbors in Mt. Lebanon.
“We wanted to open a business in a community that we know and that we’re a part of,” Bareford says.
She adds that the 1105 Bower Hill Road café is next to she and Mains’ children’s elementary school, Hoover Elementary School, and that they are excited to open a small business in their neighborhood.
The café will offer an assortment of treats crafted by the self-taught baker/confectioners. Some favorites include: apple cake, salted caramels, chocolates, lemon pound cake, cakes made to order for events and Callebaut chocolate dipped coconut macaroons. The shop will also feature 40 different cupcake flavors from chocolate and vanilla staples to chocolate Irish car bomb, tiramisu and rainbow.
“It’s always been a dream,” Bareford says about opening Life is Sweet. “We’ve always been bakers.”
The retail space will allow seating for approximately 25, coffee, light breakfast and lunch options. There will also be children's menu. To find out about opening news, follow the bakery café on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lifeissweetpgh.
Source: Kelly Bareford, Life is Sweet Bakery Café

Yellow Couch Studio provides inviting space for aspiring musicians

Music has always been a big part of Steven Foxbury’s life. He had some success years ago as a singer-songwriter before it was pushed into the margins of his life. When he and his wife moved into their current house in Mt. Lebanon, he saw the potential to turn his basement into a studio space, just for fun.

When his mother passed away in 2010, Foxbury decided to direct more energy into his music.

“It forced a laser-like focus,” Foxbury says. “I knew I wanted to make music a more central focus and the studio was a big piece of that.”

Foxbury had worked with lots of different kinds of artists before, and decided he wanted to again. His basement became Yellow Couch Studio.

“I put an ad on Craigslist and people just started showing up,” he says. “It started growing.”

It's grown so much that earlier this year, Foxbury left his job at the Society for Contemporary Craft to devote himself to the studio full-time. He’s worked with local musicians Tarra Layne, Sleep Experiments, The Velcro Shoes, Jimbo Jackson and Joy Ike, and Florida-based band The New Lows, just to name a few.

“There’s one guy I’ve worked with who I don’t even record. We just work on his songwriting,” Foxbury says, adding that the space itself is pretty modest, but what it lacks it glitz it more than makes up for in comfort, comparing the space to a warm, cozy treehouse.

Yellow Couch offers a wide swath of options for musicians in various stages, from full bands who know exactly what they want out of recordings to aspiring players who show up with nothing more than a vocal harmony and want build around it.

“So far, everyone’s been very happy with the results,” Foxbury says.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Steven Foxbury

Eat + Drink: Stay Tuned Distillery, La Prima Espresso, Mt. Lebanon Winterfest, chili and beer

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.

- La Prima Espresso is moving its roasting operations to the North Side.

The company will continue to operate its coffee shop in the Strip District, but will move its roastery to a building it has purchased at 1500 Chateau Street in Manchester. The 4,000-square-foot building was formerly home to Synder Electric, and includes a 4,000-square-foot lot.

La Prima is moving from its longtime location in the Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction and Sales building. The historic building is part of the Buncher Co.'s massive riverfront development called Riverfront Landing.  Buncher plans to demolish one-third of the structure.

- A micro-distillery is coming to Munhall.

The former John Munhall Neighborhood House will be renovated for the new Stay Tuned Distillery, which will produce and sell small-batch gins and Copper Fox Whiskey. Located at 810 Ravine Street, the distillery is expected to open this summer.

The distillery recently received a $70,000 loan from the Steel Valley Enterprise Zone Corp., to be used for building renovations and business investment.

- Mt. Lebanon's Winterfest, a celebration of hometown chili and beer, will take place this Saturday, February 23rd, from noon till 3:00 p.m. at Clearview Commons. Chili Tasting Tickets are $10 in advance; $15 day-of. Proceeds benefit Relay For Life of Mt. Lebanon.

For an extra $10, guests can taste beers from invited home brewers, including coffee, chocolate, and oatmeal stouts.
Writer: Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Charcuterie and cocktails; 90-second wood fired pizza; yogurt and more

This week in Pop City's Eat + Drink roundup:

- Nicky's Thai Kitchen, the popular Allegheny West Thai restaurant, will be opening a new location downtown, at the corner of Penn Avenue and 9th Street.  Sinful Sweets by Christopher George is also planned to open in the adjacent storefront at 901 Penn Avenue.

- The Strip District’s Bar Marco has announced it will team up with Chef Justin Severino, of Cure, every Monday for charcuterie, cheese, and cocktail pairings.  The weekly events will be menu-free, with custom-made cocktails built for guests based on personal preferences.  Cocktails, with small charcuterie and cheese tastings, will be $10.  Bar Marco, 2216 Penn Avenue.  412-471-1900.

- Stone Neapolitan Pizzeria at River Vue is now open.  The restaurant features an Italian imported wood-burning oven and promises a 90 second cooking time.  Located in the ground floor of the recently opened RiverVue apartments, the pizzeria is across the street from downtown’s Point State Park.  Also on the menu are house-made mozzarella, Italian sodas, draft and bottled beer, as well as made-to-order salads and sandwiches.  300 Liberty Avenue, Suite 100.  412-904-4531.

- Yogli Mogli, a franchise of the national chain, opened recently on Washington Road in Mt Lebanon.  The eatery is a self-serve yogurt shop that features classic flavors with unique parings such as blueberry acai, and pomegranate raspberry tart.  Toppings range from mango, lychee, and peaches, to cookie dough, walnuts, and granola.  695 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon.  412-207-2291.

- Mrs. Jean’s Southern Cuisine has moved to a new location at Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., Wilkinsburg.  The restaurant also recently finished taping an episode for Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  412-723-2015.

- The South Side’s Carson Street Deli has reopened after closing briefly for renovations to the sandwich shop and craft beer store.  In addition to bottled beers from local breweries and specialty imports, Carson Street Deli now features 20 taps.  The deli hosts weekly beer samplings Wednesdays, from 6 to 8 p.m.  1507 E. Carson Street.  412-381-5335.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Mt. Lebanon celebrates 100 years, new hotel, and redeveloped high school

On February 6th, the town of Mt. Lebanon will celebrate 100 years with champagne, cake, and a toast to the future from some of the municipality's founding families.  And indeed, there is much to look forward to in the near future, as Mt. Lebanon High School has embarked on a massive redevelopment project, and construction is underway on the town’s first hotel.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last Thursday at Mt. Lebanon High School, following a 6-year planning process which had been marked by controversy, including questions about its cost.  The school board gave final approval to the project last winter.

The $109 million project will be built in phases, and is part renovation, and part new construction.

At last week’s groundbreaking, School Board President Josephine Posti said Mt. Lebanon was built around a vision for excellence in education, which has developed the character of residents and  has shaped the town’s legacy.

“This new school is a gift to the children of our community and will be used by generations of students who most of us will never know," Posti said.  "But our community's leaders did the same for many of us and for our children.”

Additions include a new academic wing, with state-of-the-art science labs and classrooms; an athletic wing, including a new pool and three gymnasiums; and a renovated Center Court, which will serve as a meeting place for students at the heart of the school.

The original Mt. Lebanon High School, built in 1931, will be completely renovated, but will remain at the campus’ entrance facing Cochran Road.

On the site of a former surface parking lot off Washington Road, work has begun on Mt. Lebanon’s first hotel, a Marriott Spring Hill Suites.  Mt. Lebanon Municipal Planner Keith McGill says it will be an upscale, 7-story, boutique hotel, with an expected completion date of March 2013.

McGill says the developers, Kratsa Properties, intend for hotel guests to capitalize on Washington Road’s existing businesses for dining and entertainment.  And as the site is near the T light rail service, guests will have easy access to Downtown Pittsburgh. 

And in Uptown Mt. Lebanon, Walnut Grove will take-over the former Molly Brannigan’s Pub.  According to owner Kirk Vogel, both interior and exterior spaces will be completely remodeled to better fit design aesthetics of the community.

Walnut Grove has two other locations, in Wexford and Fox Chapel, and Walnut Grille in Shadyside.  Vogel says the new menu will be identical to the other two Grove restaurants.  But he describes the Mt. Lebanon concept as "urban meets suburban."

The Centennial Celebration will begin at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 6th, at the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, 710 Washington Road.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Cissy Bowman, Mt. Lebanon School District; Keith McGill, Mt. Lebanon Municipal Planner

Mt. Lebanon Historical Society leads Saints and Stained Glass tour on Friday

This Friday the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon will lead the Saints and Stained Glass tour inside the St. Bernard and Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian churches. As Mt. Lebanon celebrates 100 years in 2012 the Historical Society hopes to help area residents learn more about their community's past.

"This [tour] is one way of educating and letting the people know about the wonderful history and architecture that we have in the community," says M.A. Jackson, president of the Historical Society.

In addition to stained glass, St. Bernard's features eight frescoes by internationally known artist Jan Henryk De Rosen. Among murals and mosaics in Europe and the United States, De Rosen also completed a mural for Pope Pius XI's private chapel. The mural at St. Bernard's, which tells the story of the Book of Revelations, received a minor restoration in 2006.

The 200-plus-year-old Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian church is the oldest and first church in the community. One "Gospel" window in the church was designed by Howard Gilman of the Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios.

The complex includes a 1929 Gothic sanctuary, a 1961 modernist education wing, and a new multi-purpose building designed by Celli-Flynn Brennan Architects & Planners. Stained glass panels and limestone medallions were salvaged from a demolished 1922 education wing and are included in the church's expansion.

The cost of the tour is $5 for Historical Society members, and $10 for non-members. The tour begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 12th, and will run approximately 90 minutes. Patricia Calvelo and Judy Sutton will lead the tour which leaves from the Presbyterian church parking lot on Washington Road.

E-mail info@hsmtl.org or call 412-563-1941 to make a reservation.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: M.A. Jackson

Construction starts on $15 million Marriott Springhill Suites in Mt. Lebanon

Construction started last week on the Marriott Springhill Suites on Washington Road in the heart of the main business district in Mt. Lebanon. At seven stories, the hotel will be the area's largest structure.  It will feature three levels of on-site parking and in its location in front of the T, have easy access to the light rail.

Kratsa Properties acquired the former North Parking Lot space (adjacent to Howard Hanna Real Estate office) from Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority and proposed the Springhill Suites location. The project will give the South Hills area a welcome addition to its sparse selection of hotels, says Eric Milliron, manager of commercial districts in Mt. Lebanon.

Although news of the hotel was met with reactions both good and bad, the hotel will bring vitality to Mt. Lebanon, says Milliron. Springhill Suites will not have on-site restaurant or shops, but it will bring more investment to the Mt. Lebanon area, he says, with hotel guests shopping and eating in the area.

Steve Denenberg, owner of Create A Frame/Handworks Gallery, says he's excited for the new business it will bring. "It was definitely a deciding factor in moving my shop here," he explains.

The hotel will also further the progress of Mt. Lebanon's transit development around its T Station, Milliron says. "Any time there's a big event, this will be a new option and people can take the light rail," he explains. "It really opens our horizons."

Burt Hill Architecture is currently working on the parking garage area, and construction should be completed by July 2012.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Eric Milliron, Municipality of Mt. Lebanon
             Steve Denenberg, Create A Frame/Handworks Gallery

Mt. Lebanon approves $113.2 million high school renovation project

Last Tuesday, Mt. Lebanon commissioners approved the $113.2 million renovation of Mt. Lebanon High School in a 3-2 vote. The project has been subject to much debate since it was proposed in 2006, following a feasibility study performed by DeJong-Richter. While controversy has stemmed from the cost of the project, its proponents argue that the 83-year-old high school suffers from outdated infrastructural systems, limited classroom space and technological resources, and a generally inefficient layout, and that the renovation is necessary to bring the school into the 21st Century.

"It's a combination of new construction and renovation of existing space. The new construction is going to include a new academic wing along Horsman Drive and a bridge that will connect the academic center to the new field house," says Cissy Bowman, director of communications for The Mt. Lebanon School District. "The field house will have one central gym, two auxiliary gyms, and a new eight-lane pool."

Within the next six weeks, the District will finalize documents in order to put the projects up for architectural and construction bid, and ideally ground will be broken by May. The new facilities will target LEED certification, and renovations will correct many current issues, such as failing heating systems, outdated roofs and windows, and a lack of handicapped accessibility. The construction will be carefully phased in order to prevent educational disruption.

"The goal has always been that we're going to be housing students in different sections of the high school as we build these new buildings. There was a very clear desire from parents that they did not want trailers. So, we're going to be building certain sections of the project first and then moving students to different parts of the building. There will be a phased construction process that will last about 48 months," says Bowman.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Cissy Bowman, Mt. Lebanon School District

Image courtesy of Mt. Lebanon School District

Neighbor Teaze: Growing Steel City T-shirt line laughs with, not at, yinz guyz

Fashionista Julia DiNardo was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and now splits her time between her here and New York City, which offers a few more opportunities for the style industry-ambitious than does Steel City. DiNardo teaches and advises fashion students at NYU's Gallatin School, has worked with GQ, Redbook, Liz Claiborne and J.Crew, and has her own website, FashionPulseDaily.com.

DiNardo had her own eponymous sportswear label for awhile, but about five years ago, nostalgia drove DiNardo to try something new -- T-shirts. She was holding a trunk show at Sugar Boutique during Lawrenceville's 2005 winter Cookie Tour, and the boutique asked if she'd be interested in creating something wearable and gifty. DiNardo -- who at the time had no experience working with tees, graphics or screenprinting -- was loving and missing Pittsburgh's neighborhoods from afar, so came up with the first two Neighbor Teaze -- Lawrenceville and the South Side.

Five years later, she's still coming up with tees. Each tee features a snappy slogan and an accompanying image. For instance, Squirrel Hill reads, "Keepin' it Kosher Since 1927," and Point Breeze is "Frickin' Fabulous Since 1903." The all-purpose "Pittsburgh" one, with its yellow bridge graphics, reads, "446 Bridges, 3 Rivers, & 1 Dahntahn Since 1758."

The line now includes 15 neighborhood-specific tees, including the Strip District shirt ("Stimulating the Senses Since 1915"), which was just released a week-and-a-half ago at the inaugural Pittsburgh Flea. The Heinz History Center is even keeping a shirt from the first printing in its permanent textiles collection.

DiNardo says she releases a new shirt every three to four months (Mt. Lebanon may be next), and is always looking for grassroots input, as well as interns. Future plans include a photo submission project (email an image of yourself in a tee; get a discount); a short video, in mid-May, of people discussing what they think makes the Strip District so special; and even a message board where people can post personal stories about their neighborhoods.

DiNardo maintains a Neighbor Teaze web store, and the tees can be purchased locally at Jupe Boutique, Sugar, the Picket Fence, CoCo's Cupcake Cafe, the Mattress Factory and more.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Julia DiNardo, Neighbor Teaze

Image courtesy of Neighbor Teaze

A'Pizza Badamo focuses on fresh flavors, family traditions in Mt. Lebanon

The first pizzeria Anthony Badamo ever set foot in is now his own.

The twenty-something grew up South Hills, chowing down at the Caruso family's pizzeria on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon.

Badamo had been planning on opening his own pizza and sandwich shop for some time, but always imagined it in the city--in Lawrenceville, or the Mexican War Streets. But when Caruso's shut down, Badamo knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity to be in the heart of Mt. Lebanon's walkable Uptown business district. Badamo opened A'Pizza Badamo last month in that spot at 656 Washington Rd., not far from his father's salon, Bill Badamo's Hair Styling Studio.

Before opening A'Pizza Badamo, Badamo worked in sales for seven years for Cricket Wireless, and spent many years as a lead singer of staple Pittsburgh band Black Tie Revue. But after deciding he wanted to get back into the "pizza game" (a part-time occupation of his youth), Badamo started also working at That's Amore pizzeria right by Remedy Restaurant and Lounge in Lawrenceville. He was pulling 65-hour weeks, but it paid off. In addition to starting his own small business, Badamo also recently became a homeowner--in September he took advantage of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and bought a fixer-upper in Lawrenceville.

Badamo says the key to A'Pizza Badamo is freshness, and family. As for freshness, the dough is made daily, and baked off the peel, which gives the chewy crust a nice crispness. Cheeses come from Penn Mac and meats from Parma Sausage in the Strip. Nothing is fried (the chicken and eggplant are baked, and the tomato, basil and mozzarella Caprese sandwich is a big seller); and salads come with mixed greens rather than dull iceberg. And family? Badamo's mother Lynn helps out at the shop and serves as chief soup-maker, and come spring, tomatoes will come straight from Badamo's grandfather's garden on the North Side.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Anthony Badamo, A'Pizza Badamo

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Kous Kous brings traditional Moroccan cuisine to Mt. Lebanon

Pittsburgh now has its first authentic Moroccan restaurant.

Kous Kous Cafe opened a couple weeks ago at 665 Washington Rd., Mt. Lebanon in the former space of Enrico Biscotti. The 500-square-foot, 28-seat eatery is helmed by Abdel Khila, a Morocco native who's been chefing in Pittsburgh for about a decade, at such venerated spots as Shadyside's go-to BYOB Cafe Zinho and the now-defunct Baum Vivant and La Foret.

A few years ago, Khila decided to get out of food, got his master's degree in education, and became a foreign language teacher in Upper St. Clair, not far from where he lives with his wife and two young children in Beechview. He's taking a break from teaching to open Kous Kous, but says he hopes to get back to his high school Arabic students after the restaurant gets on its feet. The students actually helped shaped Kous Kous Cafe's menu: Their favorite roasted vegetable hummus (thick and creamy with an earthy tang) made the cut even though Khila acknowledges that hummus is not a traditional Moroccan food.

The rest of the menu is pretty classic French-influenced Moroccan, from mint tea to start to creme brulee to save room for. A sweetly spicy eggplant "ratatouille" dip; whole grilled fresh sardines; vegetarian couscous served with homey chunks of seasonal squash and chargrilled peppers and carrots; sandwiches on house-made flatbread; briny green olives; braised beef in plum sauce with whole roasted almonds; a tagine of flaky, chermoula-marinated skate wings and saffron rice. Proteins are glass-fed and free-range, and the produce is as fresh and whenever possible, local. The flavors are complex and a lot more muted than anticipated for those who are used to Americanized Moroccan cooking that goes heavy on the cinnamon and tongue-singeing spice.

Khila spent five months renovating the space himself, and transformed the former bakery into what feels like a genuine (classy) hole-in-the-wall in Casablanca. Most of the decor, including the tiles and lanterns are imported, and Khila's brother created the paintings, whose rich cultural vibrancy mirrors Kous Kous' gorgeously plated flavors.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Abdel Khila, Kous Kous Cafe

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Architectural building product PR group moves to architecturally interesting space

LarsonO'Brien Marketing Group has relocated from offices in Mt. Lebanon to a converted train station at 3591 Ridgeway Dr. in Bethel Park. This is the first time the train station will be used as an office space. The building was previously used as a warehouse.

LarsonO'Brien signed a five-year lease, and changed addresses effective Oct. 30.

The train station offered LarsonO'Brien the opportunity to design the interior entirely to its own specifications, with the help of Pittsburgh-based Design 4 Studio. The open office space encourages collaboration among the firm's advertising, public relations, interactive and continuing education arms, says CEO Ron Larson. The space also include whiteboards that encircle the entire conference room, and energy-efficient elements, including large east and west-facing windows that promote a high degree of natural sunlight without heat gain.

LarsonO'Brien previously had offices Downtown, and was in Mt. Lebanon on Washington Road for about five years. The new, 3,600-square-foot space is about the same size as LarsonO'Brien's former Mt. Lebanon facility, but its open layout works better for the groups' collaborative nature, Larson says. The office currently houses 15 employees, but could easily fit 10 to 12 more, adds Larson.

LarsonO'Brien, which is in its 37th year of operation, specializes in PR for architectural building products manufacturers. LarsonO'Brien is a member of the Second Wind Network of Advertising Agencies and the United States Green Building Council.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Ron Larson, Lauren Ban, LarsonO'Brien

Photographs courtesy of LarsonO'Brien

Asylum Coffee House: Uptown's first caffeination destination

The Uptown neighborhood now has its first coffee shop, a sign of the potential growth and community to come.

Asylum Coffee Bar, which opened Saturday morning at 1919 Forbes Ave., serves coffee and espresso drinks, teas and some uniquely Pittsburgh treats.

The cafe originally announced its opening in July, but delayed several months due to zoning issues that have now been resolved.

Asylum uses beans from Iron Star Roasting Company, the wholesale branch of the Coffee Tree, which has locations in Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon. Asylum's menu also features prepared wraps, sandwiches and salads, including vegan options; baked goods and desserts from the rapidly expanding sweets empire Dozen Bake Shop; Spanish pies by Pittsburgher Daniel Aguera, who also sells his pies at Espresso A Mano in Lawrenceville; and water and energy drinks by Pittsburgh-based GIVE, which donates $.10 from every can or bottle to a charity.

Asylum's 700-square-foot space, which includes a sidewalk patio and garage-front, feels more of-the-moment bar than typical corner cafe. It's got a 40" LCD HDTV and a wall-mounted gas fireplace. The walls are exposed brick, the floor poured concrete and the coffee bar a sleek metal. Pieces by local artists are on display and for sale.

Asylum is connected to River City Flats, a 32,000-square-foot, 12-unit residential loft building owned by Asylum co-founder Chip Fetrow. Fetrow acquired and renovated the former linen factory in 2003. All apartments are currently occupied and rent for $750 to $1,050 per month.

"This neighborhood doesn't have a lot of residents, and most coffee chops survive on pedestrian traffic," says Fetrow. "But the Fifth and Forbes corridor sees thousands of people driving to Downtown for work every day, so we're planning on doing curbside service down the line to reach those customers."

General manager Matt Hoover, who lives in a loft above the coffee house, says Asylum is not just for commuters--it's a "safe haven of sort" for Uptown residents, including himself.

"In a neighborhood like Uptown, people are looking for somewhere to come together and bring about ideas of change and revitalization," says Hoover. "They need a meeting place, and we want to be that place."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Matt Hoover, general manager, co-founder, and Chip Fetrow, co-founder, Asylum Coffee Bar

Photograph courtesy of Asylum Coffee House

Eden's Market brings health-conscious convenience to Mt. Lebanon

Mt. Lebanon's walkable business district has gained its first healthy, convenient grocery option with Eden's Market, which opened at the end of June and will host a grand opening in September.

Located at 99 Alfred St., in the former space of Art Store Gallery near Clearview Common, the market is accessible to nearby residents who don't feel like driving to Giant Eagle or Kuhn's.

Eden's Market is no run-of-the-mill convenience store, though. Owner Jeff Weiner sees Eden's Market more as an alternative to Whole Foods than 7-Eleven. The market specializes in allergy-friendly, gluten-free, organic and local products. About two-thirds of the 1,800 square-foot, ground-level shop is dedicated to specialty items, while the other one-third offers traditional convenience goods. Standout products include a hard-to-find gluten-free challah bread for Jewish customers, and handmade Italian entrees from Mariani's Pleasure Bar in Bloomfield.

"One of the biggest holes in the community was the fact that there was no place to go for healthy groceries without getting in a car," says Eric Milliron, Jr., with the Municipality of Mt. Lebanon. "Eden’s Market is like manna from heaven for the neighbors."

Weiner, who has more than 20 years experience in the grocery business, was inspired by his family to establish Eden's Market. Weiner himself adheres to a gluten-free diet to treat celiac disease, and two of his four children follow strict, supplement-rich diets to manage autism.

After moving to Sedona, Ariz. after Hurricane Ivan-related flooding damaged his McDonald, Pa. supermarket five years ago, Weiner is happy to be back in the region, which he says offers not only a stronger economy but also superior access to special needs services.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jeff Weiner, owner, Eden's Market; Eric Milliron, Jr., manager of commercial districts, Municipality of Mt. Lebanon

Photograph copyright Tracy Certo
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