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The Penn Avenue detour is over! Discover what is #OpenOnPenn

Two-way traffic returned to Penn Avenue in December following a multimillion-dollar reconstruction project, which hindered businesses along the corridor between Bloomfield and Garfield.
Though the barricades are down and traffic has returned to the community, the businesses still need a boost, according to Amber Epps, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation commercial district manager.
Epps explained that the BGC’s current campaign #OpenOnPenn seeks to spread awareness that these shops are still open and ready for business. 
“Our businesses have suffered pretty substantially during this process,” Epps said in a previous Pop City interview.  “[We’re] trying to get some business back to Penn Avenue.”
To participate in Open on Penn and show support for the community, one can purchase a gift certificate to any of the following businesses listed on www.pennavenue.org/openonpenn: Los Sabrosos Dance Company, Yoga Hive, Clay Penn, Most Wanted Fine Art, Diva Den, People's Indian Restaurant, Artisan Piercing and Artisan Tattoo.
“We wanted to make a way for people to [get] cash flowing, while also giving the purchasers something tangible in exchange,” Epps said.
Epps encourages Twitter users to utilize the hashtags #OpenOnPenn and #ProudToBeBeen when purchasing the gift cards or patronizing Penn Avenue shops.
“Even though we’ve dealt with the construction, we are optimistic about what’s to come on Penn Avenue,” Epps said.

Source: Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Amber Epps 

Convenience store opens in Public Market for Strip residents and shoppers

Living in the Strip District, one has access to some of the finest local and international goods, from Penn Mac cheese to Mon Aimee Chocolate to Wigle Whiskey. The list could go on and on.

But despite the abundance of little luxuries and ethnic varieties, neighborhood residents lacked access to things like toilet paper and paper towels — until Mike Bregman opened a new kind of convenience store for Strip dwellers in the Pittsburgh Public Market.
Within the microcosm of the Pittsburgh Public Market, patrons peruse handmade goods, fill growlers of East End brew and grab goodies at Eliza’s Oven. And now, among the local and organic selections, the Public Market offers Bregman’s Bull Dawg’s mini mart for Strip District shoppers.
The mini mart offers all-natural hot dogs for $2, Coke products, Gatorade, Red Bull, toiletries and other conveniences.

Before opening the Public Market shop, Bregman said he walked from 25th Street to 11th Street and noticed there wasn’t a convenience store selling things like chips, soda or toilet paper for Strip neighbors.
“In a year from now, there’s going to be more than 3,000 people living in these condos,” said Bregman, a University of Georgia alum with the nickname Bulldog. Bregman cited the current condominiums under construction in the neighborhood and other recent development in the Strip.
The shop's hot dogs are locally sourced and handmade at DJ’s Butcher Block in Bloomfield, Bregman said.
“I’d like to feed the people for lunch and I’d like the residents to know about the toiletries,” Bregman said about his business within the Public Market.
He added that he would love feedback from Strip District residents about the kinds of soap, hygiene products and toiletries they would like to see in his shop -- for their convenience.
Source: Mike Bregman

Tour de Penn shopping program circumvents the "Penn detour"

The multimillion-dollar Penn Avenue reconstruction project has been a detriment to the Bloomfield and Garfield communities where the one-way detour has inhibited traffic and hidden local shops behind barricades.
“Our businesses have suffered pretty substantially during this process,” said Amber Epps, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation commercial district manager.  “[We’re] trying to get some business back to Penn Avenue.”
But the BGC, with help from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, is working with businesses to bring foot traffic back to the impeded mom-and-pop shops between Mathilda and Evaline streets along Penn Avenue.
The URA-sponsored “Biz Buzz” program Tour de Penn -- a play on “Penn detour” -- kicked off on Dec. 6 and will run through the holidays until Feb. 14, 2015. Patrons who visit construction-affected businesses along Penn Avenue can receive rewards.
To participate, pick up a map and attached passport at businesses outside the construction zone. This neighborhood passport is the ticket for participants to win “Penn Bucks” or gift cards to participating Penn Avenue businesses.
Visitors can receive one passport stamp just for stopping in at businesses within the construction zone. Make a purchase of $5 or more at these businesses and get an extra stamp.
Participants who earn 10 stamps will be entered into a weekly raffle for a $25 gift card; those earning 20 or more stamps will be entered into a $50 gift card raffle. Each week, four gift cards will be raffled off. They can be used at any business on Penn Avenue between Mathilda Street and Negley Avenue.
Epps recommends holiday shoppers head to businesses including Mostly Mod & ARTica Gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art, Modern Formations gallery, Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina, Robin’s Nest and the Pittsburgh Glass Center for passport stamps and gift-giving ideas.
Two-way traffic is expected to return at the end of December, Epps said, explaining that construction will continue in the spring with sidewalk and landscaping improvements that are projected to be completed July 31, 2015.
Tour de Penn visitors are also encouraged to use social media, posting images with hashtags #tourdepenn and #proudtobepenn. Visit www.pennavenue.org for more information, as well as to find out which business will be highlighted each week -- shopping at highlighted businesses will earn an extra stamp.
Source: Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Amber Epps 

Bloomfield welcomes 4121 Main, a mixed-use arts space and espresso bar

4121 Main, a mixed-use space featuring quality handmade items, curated vintage wares, art and an espresso bar, is coming to Bloomfield. The 4121 Main venture is a partnership among Thommy Conroy and Quelcy Kogel, the stylists behind Harvest & Gather, and local coffee expert Kira Hoeg.
The 4121 Main brand premiered at the curated Trade Union trunk show, where it provided pour-over coffees, whole-grain baked goods, prints and artisan products. While the shop is not yet open for regular business hours, 4121 Main’s will join with Unblurred for its first public event on Nov. 7. The partners behind 4121 Main invite Pittsburghers to enjoy an evening of art and Conroy’s new series of alphabet prints with a dark, fairy-tale theme, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St.
The space is a creative collaboration that will feature curated products with a common theme or style while providing quality coffee and espresso and whole-grain baked goods. 4121 Main will also host events, workshops and local happenings.
When 4121 Main does open with daily hours, the partners envision an evolving space influenced by their personal passions, experiences and seasonal baking and coffee products. Sometimes the shop may offer handmade ceramics, on other visits patrons may peruse a selection of vintage finds. The group promises quality products for the customer who shops with intention.
The varied influences come from Conroy, Kogel and Hoeg’s backgrounds, travels and interests. Conroy described the partnership as taking their available skills and creating a larger picture.  
Hoeg has an anthropology background and sees coffee as a cultural pastime. In addition to her experience with Pittsburgh coffee and espresso bars, she has traveled from Scandinavia to Turkey to California to explore how people are communicating with coffee and what other coffee and espresso retailers are doing in the United States.
“Exchanging time and moments has always been my interest in coffee,” Hoeg said about the type of atmosphere she envisions at 4121 Main, adding the she wants to create a coffee culture inviting ideas, dialogue and curiosity. Also important to Hoeg is the transparency of where the coffee was grown and the craft of roasting it. She will be sourcing from Heart Coffee in Portland and will be working on an espresso machine hand-built in Holland.
Kogel will provide the baked goods to accompany the espresso bar. She currently chronicles her passion for baking with whole grains and natural ingredients on her blog With the Grains. She said she hopes to offer cakes and breads that are “a wholesome way to satisfy your sweet tooth.”
Harvest & Gather’s Conroy and Kogel will rebrand under the 4121 Main moniker and will offer event-design services. Conroy described the group as “natural hosts and entertainers” and said this aspect will be part of 4121’s model.
The collaborative setting will also feature workshops and have a DIY-inspired element. The partners said they hope to offer how-to sessions from floral arrangements to entertaining and decorating tips.
The first event will be held on Friday, Nov. 7, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St. in Bloomfield between Liberty and Penn avenues.


Landmarks Community Capital Corporation awards $99,000 loan to Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Landmarks Community Capital Corporation, a nonprofit lending subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, closed on a $99,000 construction loan to the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation in September to renovate its storied community center.
The loan will provide rehabilitation funds for BGC's community center, located on North Pacific Avenue in Garfield. This building, a former Methodist church constructed in 1898, serves as a primary meeting place for public events in the Garfield community.
Rick Swartz, BGC executive director, explained that the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation was interested in the community center as an important part of the neighborhood. Although the 19th-century church is not a certified historic landmark, the building has a lot of history, Swartz said.
“It is something of a historical asset in the neighborhood,” Swartz said. 
The first phase of building improvements include: new flooring in the main hall, window replacements, heating and cooling upgrades, new entry doors, painting and enhanced lighting. Exterior brickwork, window replacements and outdoor painting are also planned to enhance the building as a visible part of the neighborhood.
The BGC serves Bloomfield, Garfield and Friendship; the center provides programming for those communities, including a BGC children’s summer camp. Swartz says these improvements will benefit events and programming.
He said renovations will make the space more attractive for neighbors seeking a family-friendly venue. He said he hopes the upgrades to lighting and lower-volume heating and cooling can attract more professional and job orientation sessions. The improved temperature systems will also help with costs to the nonprofit.
Swartz said it is difficult to find grants and gifts for building improvements of this kind. But the loan from the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation is helping the BGC get started.  Swartz noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority did assist the BGC with a $5,000 grant for community center renovations. And, he said, Garfield resident and architect Gary Cirrincione is lending a hand by assisting in plans and overseeing construction.
“We’re just trying to make it … a space you feel very comfortable in,” Swartz said, adding that he hopes neighbors see it as a place for meetings, baby showers and anniversary parties in the future.
Construction on the BGC community center should be completed December 2014.
Source: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Rick Swartz

Locals create Indiegogo campaign to save Bloomfield sandwich shop

Mama Ros’ Sandwich Shop customers have taken to Indiegogo.com, a crowdfunding website, to help the local business known for helping others.
When Jonathan Tai and Jon Potter grabbed lunch at Mama Ros’ (also known as The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop), the two men ended up making new friends and leaving with a mission.
While eating at Mama Ros,’ Tai and Potter met the Mama and the Papa themselves, Rosalyn Dukes and her partner Mike Miller. In a video on the Indiegogo page, Tai states, “Just as in Game of Thrones, the winter has been long and hard, and now they need our help.”
Tai added in a phone call that the winter business was slow and the shop is in need of a boost to help with operating costs.
He said the restaurant has a reputation for wanting to feed everyone, even those who can’t always afford it. And, this campaign can help Dukes and Miller continue to do just that.
In the video, Tai introduces the shop’s famous Thanksgiving meals.
“We try every year, as best we can, to serve as many people as we can a free Thanksgiving dinner,” Dukes says.
She added that patrons are welcome to eat in the diner or they can take the traditional turkey dinner home with them. Last November, Mama Ros’ served more than 200 Thanksgiving meals — using 15, 20-pound turkeys.
“It’s for everybody,” Miller adds. “College kids that can’t come home. People that have families who just can’t, right now, afford to have a good turkey dinner.”
This spirit is what led Tai and Potter to volunteer to create the online fundraiser and lend their professional services as prizes for donating to the campaign.  
Tai is a magician and Potter is a paraglider. Ten $100 donors can receive a 20-minute magic performance from Tai. Potter is giving away paragliding lessons to ten $150 donors. Yes, Potter is the Pittsburgh paraglider who made news for his goal to paraglide off the Seven Wonders of the World — including Machu Picchu.
Tai said local response has been great so far and he noted that Pittsburgh rallied behind the restaurant after a fire a couple of years ago. He said people know the shop and have continued to support it.
“It’s about so much more than just food. It’s about community,” he says.
Source: Jonathan Tai, Indiegogo “Saving Mama Ros' Sandwich Shop”

The Penguins and the City announce a dek hockey rink in bloomfield

Mayor William Peduto announced plans last week for a new outdoor dek hockey rink in Bloomfield Park. The arena will be built in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s Project Power Play program.
Project Power Play is a three-year plan that began in 2012. The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and Highmark teamed up on a $2.1 million project to build 12 dek hockey rinks in the Pittsburgh area. The Bloomfield rink will be the fourth facility built by the Penguins and the city, following others in Banksville, Brookline and Hazelwood.

Dek hockey is essentially street hockey, played without skates or ice and often using a ball in place of a puck.
“Part of the reason for the Penguins Foundation is to get kids off the couch and exercising, and to value sports and competitiveness and the lessons they learn through sports,” says Penguins President David Morehouse, who played street hockey growing up in Beechview. “Physical activity and education is what we’re focused on.”
The project is designed to give young hockey players access to newly constructed, outdoor, multi-use athletic facilities. These structures provide safe areas to play games under the supervision of established organizations, according to the mayor’s office.
“We do everything we can as an organization to fulfill the needs of the community as far as helping kids see if they really want to pursue ice hockey," says Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation President David Soltesz. "That’s why we do the deks, the equipment in the schools, why we have the YMCA programs — trying to nurture our sport and trying to help these kids.”

The dek location will be adjacent to Officer Paul J. Sciullo II Memorial Field. The Sciullo family was in attendance when Mayor Peduto announced the rink.
“This facility will be built as a legacy to a community that has invested heavily into the sport, and it will be in the shadow of Paul Sciullo Field, recognizing a great life, a great person and a great athlete,” Peduto says. “We want to give to other kids the same opportunities that Paul had to help guide his life and follow in his footsteps.”
Construction is expected to start in June and be completed in October. Existing bocce courts and a playground will be moved slightly and a new parking lot will be built under the Bloomfield Bridge. The project cost is roughly $800,000.
A map of the site is available here.

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Office of Mayor William Peduto

Bloomfield Saturday Market will launch next month with local product and handmade crafts

The Bloomfield Development Corporation will launch The Bloomfield Saturday market next month. The fresh event will boast local produce, handcrafted products and entertainment geared towards a regional audience.

The market, set to launch May 31, will be held every Saturday until November from 8AM to 1PM at 5050 Liberty Avenue, which is a parking lot owned by West Penn Hospital. 

"The Bloomfield Saturday Market will be a great event, while also providing residents with the opportunity to purchase good, healthy food," said BDC board chairperson Joey Vallarian. "Community health, both the health of the brick and mortar neighborhood as well as the health of its residents, is very important to the BDC, and we think the Bloomfield Saturday Market will help accomplish these goals."
Christina Howell, BDC program manager, called the market “eclectic and lively” with vendors who create and package their own food — teas, olive oils, baked goods — in addition to standard farmers market fare. There will also be jewelers and artists selling handmade goods.
The market will also feature music and dance performances, health screenings, nutrition information, cooking demonstrations and healthy recipes that can be made from the week’s featured food items. Howell noted that she is also working on a program where teens can harvest urban farms and then sell their fruits at the market.
Howell said she hopes to foster a community atmosphere where market-goers can sit and stay awhile. She added that the focus on health, nutrition and access to local produce aid in a healthier Bloomfield.
The BDC is currently accepting applications from farmers and vendors for the Saturday Market. Interested vendors should visit www.bloomfieldsaturdaymarket.org or contact Howell at christina@bloomfieldnow.com or 412-708-1277. 

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Bloomfield Development Corporation, Christina Howell

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly look at epic local nommz.

Toro Fest 2013
Bloomfield’s Fukuda, which celebrated its first anniversary in October, is hosting its first annual Toro Fest this week, with a full calendar of events scheduled through next Monday. Named for the Japanese term for fatty Bluefin tuna, Toro Fest isn’t just a celebration of the food itself, but of fish and sustainability on the whole.

Throughout the week, Fukuda will offer sessions on Japanese culture and language at the restaurant, and end the week by taking over No Menu Monday at Bar Marco on December 16th.

For more information, check out Fukuda’s Toro Fest calendar or the event’s Facebook page.
Macarons by mail
Gaby et Jules, the French patisserie on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill which started this year as a joint venture between Paris 66 owners Fred and Lori Rongier and Master Pastry Chef David Piquard, has opened up an online store and begun taking orders for its deservedly celebrated macarons.

In addition to its normal range of flavors, Piquard has rolled out a holiday line which includes gingerbread, peppermint white chocolate, Orangette (chocolate and orange, Eat + Drink’s favorite), chestnut and egg nog — a flavor Piquard was initially skeptical of, but which was made at Lori Rongier’s urging and much to our delight.

To ensure the macarons arrive fresh, Gaby et Jules ships only Monday through Wednesday and utilizes USPS Priority Mail.
Get inside, get warm
Today’s high is under 30°. Tomorrow’s is under 20°. But are you really going to let that keep you from enjoying your weeknight happy hour? Consider joints with fireplaces:

For drinks, stop by 1947 Tavern on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Monterey Pub in the North Side’s Mexican War Streets district is another cozy option. A few blocks away, Max’s Allegheny Tavern offers German fare by an old fireplace. Toast! offers excellent food and great wine in a beautiful old building in Shadyside which has fireplaces on all three stories. Eat + Drink’s favorite, though, is The Oak Room — the hotel bar inside the Mansions on Fifth. It’s seldom crowded unless there’s an event, and it’s easily one of the five coziest rooms in the city.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Pittsburgh Brewing Company names Brian Walsh new CEO

Uni-World Capital, the private equity firm that owns the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and all of the Iron City Brands, has tapped career beverage executive Brian Walsh to run the iconic local operation.

He succeeds interim CEO Rob Matteucci, who had served in the role since May.

“Brian was the ideal candidate,” Scott Porter of Uni-World says. “He has a strong beer-specific background, a strong background in understanding and working in local markets, and he has a lot of experience in the Pittsburgh area specifically.”

Walsh spent the past six years as president and CEO of the Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. During Walsh’s tenure at Long Trail, the microbrewery increased its shipment volume by 123 percent and more than doubled its revenue. Walsh also oversaw Long Trail’s acquisition of the Otter Creek Brewing Company and its Wolaver’s Certified Organic brands in 2010.

\Walsh is no stranger to the Pittsburgh beer market. Prior to taking over Otter Creek, he served as a regional vice president with Labatt USA, during which he managed Rolling Rock’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was also part of his territory while working as a regional sales manager for Guinness.

“[Walsh] understands the importance of Iron City to the Pittsburgh community and how to translate that into profitable, sustainable growth,” Porter says. “The Pittsburgh community wants Iron City to succeed. We want this brand to succeed and we want to do it the right way.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Scott Porter

City debuts first green bike lane in Bloomfield

Last week, Pittsburgh joined the growing number of cities with green lanes — dedicated bike lanes separate from the rest of the street and easily identifiable by color.

A 200-foot stretch of road on Liberty Avenue near the Bloomfield Bridge is the first color-coded, dedicated bike lane the city has installed since painting blue lanes on the Birmingham Bridge in 2007.

The project was made possible with a $23,000 grant from Bikes Belong, a national cycling advocacy organization of retailers and suppliers. Pittsburgh became eligible to apply for the grant after sending a delegation which included city and county officials to a conference in Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis wanted to have us learn more from them,” says Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker. “Against all odds, we have a great bike community here.”

Color-coded bike lanes in areas which see high car and bike traffic help make drivers, cyclists and pedestrians more aware of the spaces they occupy, and reduce the chance of conflict in areas that might otherwise be confusing to motorists — such as where Liberty Avenue turns from two lanes to four near Main Street and the Bloomfield Bridge.

The lane coloration isn’t standard road striping paint, but a mixture of thermoplastic and epoxy, designed to be slip-resistant and last between three and five years — significantly longer than standard road paint.
Bricker says he hopes the city will soon adopt color uniformity for more bike lanes so that there is even less confusion.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Scott Bricker

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of restaurant and food news.

Cure, Chef Justin Severino’s Lawrenceville restaurant, has obtained a liquor license. While the restaurant will offer a full-service bar, its full menu of wines and specialty cocktails won’t be ready for another few weeks. “Right now, they’re just testing some stuff out,” says restaurant spokesperson Gita McCutcheon.

- A new addition to Pittsburgh’s food truck scene, the PGH Crepes cart sets up at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street on weekends and makes its way around town during the week.

“We really like the carts in general. We think it speaks well the entrepreneurial spirit of Pittsburgh,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s a new twist on things, and a nice compliment to the many restaurants downtown.”

To find the crepe cart, follow it on Twitter @pghcrepes.

Waffalonia, the Squirrel Hill-based makers of Belgian-style Liège waffles, will open a kiosk in Schenley Plaza in mid-May.

And now that the weather is good, it’s time to dine outdoors. Here are some of the latest openings:

Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze opened its serene back patio last week.

The garden portion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville is ethereal and lovely.

The partially re-done patio at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty is open, as is the spacious back patio at Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

Marty’s Market in the Strip has tables around the outside of its corner location, as well as stools at its garage-door coffee counter.

Orange chairs adorn the patio at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

The Porch in Oakland has some of Pittsburgh’s best outdoor seating, and plenty to go around with school out for the summer.

Biddle’s Escape, a coffee shop tucked away off the main drag in Regent Square, has a spacious and tree-shaded deck.

And Il Pizzaiolo, in both Market Square and Mt. Lebanon has outdoor spaces. In the Mt. Lebanon location, the charming terrace in the back just opened and in Market Square, you'll find tables outside the new location next to Starbucks.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Eat + Drink: Nicky's Thai Kitchen, Sinful Sweets, Rose Tea Cafe, and The Grateful Deli

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

Since our last update on Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, one of the Northside’s most popular restaurants, its second location has opened in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The interior is decorated with artwork and statues from Thailand, an atmosphere manager Dave Brunner says is like a Thai art gallery.  The space, originally built for a bank, had most recently housed a pizza shop and art gallery.

Unlike the original Northside location, the downtown restaurant will not be BYOB.  But while the full-service bar is still under development patrons are welcome to bring their own alcohol without any corkage fee.

The new restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, as well as lunch Monday through Saturday.  Reservations are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinner service.  903 Penn Avenue.  412-471-THAI (8424).

Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company has also recently opened in the space adjacent to Nicky’s, at 901 Penn Avenue.  Owned by chocolatier Christopher George, the shop sells a variety of handmade, gourmet chocolates.  Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  412-235-7865

- Rose Tea Café is opening a second location on Oakland’s Craig Street (414 S. Craig Street).  The original Squirrel Hill location (5874 Forbes Avenue) is well known for its Taiwanese cuisine, considered to be among the best in Pittsburgh.  The new location replaces a former mail store which closed last year.  412-421-2238.

- The Grateful Deli & Catering Company has opened at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Main Street, one block from the Children’s Hospital.  The deli offers hoagies, soup, salad, pizza, and more.  It replaces a portion of the former Sammy's Famous Corned Beef.  4065 Penn Avenue.  412-682-8000.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.J’s Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

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

•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

Writer:  Andrew Moore     

East End Book Exchange to open in Bloomfield on Friday

The East End Book Exchange has grown from a small stall in the Pittsburgh Public Market to a new storefront location in Bloomfield, and a grand-opening celebration will be held this Friday evening to mark the transition.

Owner Lesley Rains says the move from a smaller footprint to a brick-and-mortar shop had always been a long-term goal, but that demand and interest in the exchange moved her business quicker than expected into this new phase. 

Located at 4754 Liberty Avenue, the new shop joins The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore and Café on the avenue, turning this stretch of Bloomfield into a budding literary destination.  Rains says that in this current bookseller climate— with heavy competition from Amazon and e-book sales—brick-and-mortar sellers have to work together.

“I think proximity can only help bookstores,” Rains says.  “I think we can hopefully over the long-term create a little book neighborhood."

According to Rains, the East End Book Exchange is a general interest used bookstore featuring genres such as fiction, poetry and history, as well as gardening and cook books.

“It’s just meant to be a place where whether you’re an avid reader or more of an occasional reader you can come here and find something,” she says. 

The exchange will also feature an extensive children’s books section, with bean bag chairs and activities for young readers.  And adults, meanwhile, will find lamp-lit nooks with couches and chairs, allowing guests to read and relax while they browse.  Rains hopes the shop will be a comfortable new space for neighbors to meet and gather.

And while the shop opens on Friday evening, it’s still a work in progress, as Rains grows her business from an 80-squarefoot booth to a 1,600-squarefoot storefront.

““We’re still growing,” she says.  “One of the things we like about this space is that there’s still a lot of space to add more bookshelves.” 

The grand-opening celebration will be held this Friday, November 16th, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lesley Rains

The Big Idea Bookstore celebrates grand opening of new cafe in Bloomfield, 11th anniversary

The Big Idea Bookstore is celebrating the grand opening of its new café in Bloomfield as it also celebrates 11 years in business.  And for the rest of the week the store will be offering 11% off new and used books to commemorate the occasion.

After relocating to a more prominent location on Liberty Avenue last year, the worker-owned cooperative, which specializes in radical literature, launched a Kickstarter campaign in February with hopes to start a new café. The campaign was successful and surpassed its goal, raising over $3,000, enough for café equipment and a hot water system, as well as costs related to permits, inspections, and various other start-up goods.

Talon Smith, a Big Idea volunteer/worker-owner, says her vision for the café was to be a comfortable place for casual reading or working, able to suit the needs of any patron.

“If that means not buying anything and just hanging out and spending time and talking to us, that's fine,“ she says. “We're ok with that.”

For volunteer Brian Werner, that freedom to ask questions and explore various subjects is what originally attracted him to The Big Idea.

“I've always liked being here because it's just a safe place to explore ideas in literature that for the most part you don't often have access to,” he says, a place to demystify various ideologies, like anarchism, that can seem alienating or unapproachable to some people.

The café offers locally-roasted, fair trade coffee from Building New Hope; vegan wraps, salads, and sandwiches from Strictly Business and the Greek Gourmet; baked goods from My Goodies Bakery; and sodas from the Natrona Bottling Company.

In addition to the new café, Big Idea’s new storefront is more than double in size than the previous location. Now at over 1600 square-feet, the bookstore has been able to host a variety of programming, from reading groups and book signings, to yoga and bicycle safety classes.

On May 20th, Judith Redline Coopey will read from her latest novel, Waterproof: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Talon Smith, Brian Werner, Lars Peterson

Thai Cuisine celebrates grand re-opening, expansion in Bloomfield

Fans of Bloomfield’s Thai Cuisine can once again enjoy that restaurant’s signature curry and noodle dishes, as it recently celebrated a grand re-opening on Liberty Avenue.  The restaurant has operated in the same location since 2001, but had closed for major renovations last year after its owners purchased one of two storefronts it then occupied.

Now located exclusively within the 4627 Liberty Avenue storefront, Thai Cuisine seats up to 75 guests, and has gained additional square-footage with additions to the building’s rear.  Renovations include an expanded, industrial kitchen, raised ceilings, tile floors, and three new windows along Pearl Street. 

Co-owner Lisa Jirachertchoowong says the restaurant had hoped to re-open much sooner, but that it was well worth the wait, as everyone, especially the kitchen staff, is very happy with the new look and added space.

In addition to classic Thai curries and Pad Thai, Jirachertchoowong says her restaurant features a variety of weekly specials, such as a recent spicy duck entrée, and a spicy, crispy trout, topped with Thai chilies, cashews, cilantro, and lime juice, over a bed of lettuce.

While the restaurant was closed, Jirachertchoowong and brother Chai lent a helping hand to their sister June, while she was busy opening the South Hill’s first Thai restaurant, Thai Spoon.

Jirachertchoowong, who lives just a few blocks away, says she has felt very much at home in Bloomfield since day one.  With the purchase and renovation of their Liberty Avenue storefront, Jirachertchoowong says her family hopes to be in the neighborhood for a long time to come. 

Thai Cuisine is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, and takes reservations for parties of 5 or more.  The restaurant is BYOB, and charges only $1 per wine glass, with no charges for beer.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lisa Jirachertchoowong

Sound Cat Records opens in Bloomfield

As one record store exits, another enters.  Sound Cat Records has opened in Bloomfield, picking up the reins from neighborhood-favorite Paul's CDs.  Sound Cat Records sells new and used vinyl records, and CDs, from jazz, blues, and funk, to rock, pop, punk, and metal.

Sound Cat is owned by Karl Hendricks, who has worked at Paul’s for the past 18 years, and at Jim’s Records in the same location before that.

Hendricks is well aware of the difficulties facing brick-and-mortar music shops in this digital age of instant streaming, and both legal and illegal downloading. But he’s also confident in the value local businesses add to the community.

Hendricks says shops of all kinds, “make up the fabric of our existence outside of screens,” and if they were to go away, there would be a tremendous loss.

“I think people recognize that…[and] that's why more and more young people are coming in, because they don’t want to live their lives strictly on screens.”

Michael Seamans is co-owner of Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill.  His store has been open just under two years, and he says it’s a strong, loyal customer base which keeps Mind Cure in business.  Seamans acknowledges there’s been a major resurgence in collecting records, especially among young people, and says it’s a reaction to digital media in general.

Seamans says in these times operating a records shop is  not unlike owning a used bookstore or antique shop.

“My main business is more of a collectors market,” Seamans says.  “And that doesn’t even have to mean high-end--it's just people that really want to have vinyl records.”

At Sound Cat, Hendricks says it’s exciting to have younger people interested in vinyl, alongside customers who have shopped at Paul’s CD and Jim’s Records for over 20 years.

“It’s interesting to see a format go though a lot of changes over the past couple decades, but it's still hanging in there even with all the changes in technology,” Hendricks says.  “People of all ages and all demographics are still buying music.”

Sound Cat Records, 4526 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield.  412-621-3256

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Karl Hendricks; Michael Seamans

Pittsburgh Dance Center to open in Bloomfield, largest in city

Beginning November 1st Bloomfield’s former Plaza Theater will become the home of the new Pittsburgh Dance Center, a 5,000-square-foot dance studio.  But for those eager to move, this Saturday and Sunday the center will be open for special Halloween themed Salsa, Tango, and Ballroom dance parties.

“It’s a really fun time of the year, and it's kind of fun to dress up and be silly, and dance,” says  Holly Dayton-Kirby, owner of the Pittsburgh Dance Center.

The dance center, located at 4765 Liberty Avenue, will be open seven days a week.  Adult lessons will begin at 7 p.m., and offerings include Ballroom, Tango, Bachata, Salsa, and Swing.  Each evening, lessons will be followed by a dance party for attendees.

And after school youth programming is scheduled for Monday through Friday, featuring Ballet, Tap, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Modern styles, as well as Zumba and yoga.

Located on the second floor of the former theater, Dayton-Kirby says she was lucky to inherit the theater’s ceiling, which retains original bass trapping properties along with beautiful craftsmanship.

“This theater ceiling is making it Acoustic Heaven in a way,” she says.

Dayton-Kirby was born and raised in Bloomfield, and says opening this center is an effort to give back to the community where she was raised.  She hopes to be able to offer scholarships for youth with an interest in dance, and will be competitively priced.

“Some people don’t dance because they can't afford it, and that's not fair,” Dayton-Kirby says.  “I lucked out as a kid and got a lot of scholarship based on my talent.  If that wasn't available I wouldn't be dancing today.”

Until the end of the year, all lessons will be offered on a drop-in basis; youth lessons $5, adults $10.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Holly Dayton-Kirby

Cycling success: bike racks on all city buses, new bike lanes, and more

It has been a good week for the Pittsburgh bicycling community.  Several upgrades have been made to the city’s bike infrastructure, including the reopening of the Eliza Furnace Trail and new bike lanes in Bloomfield.  And on Friday, the Port Authority announced that 100% of buses are now equipped with bus-mounted bike racks.

Bike Pittsburgh’s Eric Boerer says these racks are a win-win for bikers and the Port Authority .  According to Boerer, this type of multimodal transit helps increase the catchment area for bus stops and can potentially increase ridership.

For cyclists it allows commuters the option of utilizing bus routes for an otherwise lengthy commute, or for avoiding riding in poor weather conditions.  And buses can also address the issue of hills.

“Pittsburgh’s a hilly city and it's easy to bike downhill, and not so easy to bike uphill,” Boerer says.  “[Bike racks] just help increase the options for people to use as many modes as possible.”

Boerer says the effort to fully equip the Port Authority fleet with bike racks began over ten years ago with the work of Sustainable Pittsburgh.  In recent years Bike Pittsburgh had continued to push for this goal as a priority identified by the organization’s membership.

The Port Authority has also announced that for the first time bikes will be allowed on the T light-rail service during peak hours.

In on-street improvements, the city’s newest bike lanes are now in place along Liberty Avenue, through the business district of Bloomfield.  These lanes replaces earlier sharrows (or shared lane markings) and connect with an existing lane leading to the Strip District.  According to Boerer, those original sharrows were quite successful in attracting riders, and are recognized as the first “bike lanes” in Pittsburgh.

“Liberty is a major connection on the city's bike network, and we look forward to more bike lanes going in that area, hopefully by the end of the painting season,” Boerer says.

And finally, after a year of construction and detours, the $5.2 million improvement project which includes the Eliza Furnace Trail Bridge is now complete.  New signage, traffic signals, and landscaping have been added to the intersection, which is a bicycle corridor linking downtown, Oakland, and the South Side.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Eric Boerer, Bike Pittsburgh; Friends of the Riverfront

Box Heart Gallery buys building, expands in Bloomfield

Box Heart Gallery is expanding the art footprint of Bloomfield with the purchase of their building at 4523 Liberty Avenue.  The gallery announced this expansion with a celebration this past Saturday, and a public reception for “Landscape with Red Roof,” paintings by Erin Treacy. 

Co-owner Nicole Capozzi says this expansion will broaden Box Heart Gallery's exhibition possibilities, which had previously been limited by spatial constraints.  Additionaly, it represents the gallery's commitment to the historic Bloomfield neighborhood.

"We've been here for 11 years and we always hoped that one day we would be able to purchase the building," Capozzi says.  "And so our plan is to turn the entire building, all three floors, into our gallery.”

The first floor will remain a gallery and framing space with framing samples, but because of the extra space acquired the framing section will be expanded.  

The second floor will become a gallery space, but it will be displayed in a live/work environment.  Capozzi says artist-made furniture will be paired with the visual artwork, as well as elements like artist-made clothing, and ceramics in kitchen cabinets.

And on the third floor artist Sherry Rusinack will have a studio for her work, which Capozzi describes as steampunk, visionary  art.  Also on the third floor will be a workshop facility for artists to teach small classes or individual lessons, as well as an area for photographing individual works. 

Capozzi says the building renovations should take about two years to complete.   Current exhibitions will continue as scheduled through 2013. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Nicole Capozzi

Pedal Pittsburgh showcases design and architecture with one-of-a-kind city bike ride

What better way to enjoy Pittsburgh's great neighborhoods and architecture than on a bike? That's the goal of Pedal Pittsburgh's 18th annual ride scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

A fundraiser for the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP), the various bike rides will all begin and end at SouthSide Works. Attracting more than 2,000 riders each year, it's the only ride of its size within the city limits says Jennifer Fox, director of administration at CDCP.

"It's not about the first one to the finish line," she explains. "It's really about a leisurely ride that's going to take you past some fantastic views and places." With routes ranging from six to 60 miles, and many refreshment stops along the way, riders and families of all skill levels can take part.

The six routes travel through the South Side, Northside, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill and Mount Washington, giving cyclists--especially those who travel the entire 60 miles--a great way to experience the city and its neighborhoods, says Fox.

One group joining the ride is Team East End Brewing Company and OTB Bicycle Café (EEB/OTB). The first 50 riders to RSVP for their team will get half of their registration covered for the event and a Team EEB/OTB t-shirt.

This year, Fox explains, CDCP will have activities for riders at its rest stops to showcase what good planning and design brings to communities.

Over the past 10 years Fox has coordinated Pedal Pittsburgh, she says they have consistently seen more people get involved. "It's amazing to see that many people on bikes," she adds.

Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at SouthSide Works, with the first group of riders taking off at 7 a.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Jennifer Fox, CDCP

Eight neighborhoods receive Elm Street funds from URA

Pittsburgh now boasts more Elm Street districts. Manchester, Central Northside, Troy Hill, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and the South Side Slopes were all deemed Elm Street districts by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, with Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield receiving overdue funds.

As a complement to its Mainstreets Program, the Elm Street Program focuses on the neighborhoods surrounding Mainstreet districts, says Elm Street Program Coordinator Josette Fitzgibbons. Recipients of the funds must focus on five areas: clean, safe and green; neighbors and economy; design; image and identity; and sustainable organizations.

Each community is given funds for a one-year Elm Street planning process, says Fitzgibbons, which Mt. Washington and Bloomfield-Garfield were late in receiving. Both neighborhoods were designated as Elm Street districts in 2009, but due to state budget cuts the funding was not available.

Bloomfield-Garfield has its plan ready, say Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation Deputy Director Aggie Brose and its resident Elm Street Coordinator Kathryn Vargas. They plan on using funds for vacant lot and street cleanups, outreach and community groups. "The residents feel ownership over the planning and outcome," says Vargas, adding that she hopes more residents will get involved as plans develop further.

Mt. Washington will use its Elm Street funds to engage residents and increase curb appeal by cultivating growth, development and community investment, says MWCDC Executive Director Chris Beichner. "It will help us to attract a different population of our community to become involved," adds Program Manager Greg Panza.

Fitzgibbons says it is unknown whether the usual five years of operational funding that take place after year one will occur, depending on the state budget.

For now, it's important to work together to create stable plans that include both community programs and initiatives like streetscape improvement, she says. "It's the combination of the human and the bricks and mortar together that make it a successful program."

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Writer: Alex Audia
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, URA
               Chris Beichner and Greg Panza, MWCDC
               Aggie Brose and Kathryn Vargas, BGC

LA Fitness location might finally solve Bloomfield's Don Allen dilemma

The former Don Allen Auto Center on Liberty Avenue has sat vacant for three years, posing a huge challenge to groups wanting to redevelop the site. Despite its superb location at the entrance to Bloomfield from Shadyside and Oakland, community groups concerned with traffic congestion halted a proposed $230 million hotel project in 2008. Now, however, it looks as if LA Fitness may have better luck with their plans for a new 56,782-square-foot fitness center at the Don Allen location, as they try to avoid past mistakes.

The site, located on Liberty between South Pacific and South Atlantic streets, contains the former Mazda building and adjacent parking lot, but not the three-story brick building at the corner of Liberty and Baum Blvd, which may become a hotel at a later date. LA Fitness proposes tearing down the Mazda building and constructing a new facility that would house a fitness center and indoor parking under one roof.  The unique design would help reduce the traffic impact, while preserving the streetscape aesthetics. LA Fitness approached City Councilman Bill Peduto with their plans in January.

"We've been having meetings since February with different stakeholders. There have been a lot of questions about traffic and parking impact on the neighborhood," says Peduto. "There's a lot of issues but they've been great about answering them and using their architects and development team to really engage the community's concerns."

The next step is for LA Fitness to go before the Planning Commission with their design. If they're approved, construction might begin as early as this summer, which Peduto believes would benefit the community both economically and health-wise.

"LA Fitness usually offers low-cost memberships the community can afford. At the other end of the neighborhood, they've closed down the Rec Center. Even though you've still got the Exercise Warehouse, that is for one type of clientele. This would be a more general community clientele. It will be a positive step for the neighborhood," says Peduto.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Bill Peduto, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph copyright John Farley

Los Cabos brings the Southern California taqueria to Bloomfield

The void left by the demise of Bloomfield's secret taco stand has been filled! Los Cabos, located at 4108 Penn Avenue, specializes in Southern California-style Mexican eats, made by Southern California natives.

Owner Joel Lopez has been mastering the art of the burrito for nearly three decades through his family and years of experience in San Diego Mexican restaurant kitchens. When he came to Pittsburgh three years ago to visit relatives, a conversation about the lack of Mexican restaurants in the city got him thinking, which culminated in a cross-country move and one year's worth of planning with friends and family to open his dream restaurant.

The setup of the 400-square-foot space will be familiar to anyone who's patronized a California taqueria, with a simple open kitchen and counter staffed by friendly, knowledgeable employees, and a casual seat-yourself dining room for about thirty people in the back.  Los Cabos is currently putting the finishing touches on their colorful dining room, which will be complete by their Grand Opening in two to three weeks.

The menu boasts a variety of affordable classic burritos and tacos, as well as experimental models like the "Pittsburgh Burrito", rolled up with Carne Asada and French fries. They also offer a large selection of house specials, soups, salads, frothy Horchata, tortas, quesadillas, desserts, and breakfast options like chorizo con huevos.

Los Cabos is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Joel Lopez, Los Cabos

Photograph copyright John Farley

Bloomfield plans Liberty Avenue updates after $26K design study

The Bloomfield Development Corporation (BDC) recently completed a streetscape and gateway study for Liberty Avenue.

The plan focuses on three gateways along the avenue, improving pedestrian safety and the neighborhood's identity, and re-knitting the building fabric of upper and lower Liberty Avenue. The specific areas to be addressed include in front of West Penn Hospital, and the imposing intersection where Liberty Avenue meets the Bloomfield Bridge.

"Those areas set the tone for how people experience the neighborhood," says Andrea Lavin with Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP).

Initial plans explore adding bump-outs, similar to those in Oakland, to slow down traffic and create shorter, safer crosswalks; and adding street trees with higher growing branches that will not impair pedestrians' or drivers' line-of-sight. Other suggestions under consideration include benches and bike racks, and shifting from metered to pay-and-display parking. The plan also includes a parcel layout for the development of the Bloomfield Shure Save site for whenever, it ever, the owner is ready to sell, says Karla Owens, executive director of BDC.

"This is not a plan that is going to be immediately implemented. These are not changes that are going to happen overnight," explains Lavin with CDCP.

The plans have already been shaped in two community meetings, and the final design boards will be presented to the community in March, says Owens.

BDC engaged Burt Hill Architects and transportation engineers Wilbur Smith to conduct the study and create a plan for improving the corridor.

BDC received funding through a $12,000 CDCP Design Fund Grant, as well as an additional $10,000 through Senator Jim Ferlo's office, and about $4,000 through the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Mainstreets program.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Andrea Lavin, Community Design Center of Pittsburgh; Karla Owens, Bloomfield Development Corporation

Photograph courtesy of Bloomfield Development Corporation

Stagioni: Seasonal Italian cuisine in Pittsburgh's Little Italy

The latest eatery to bolster Bloomfield's status as Pittsburgh "Little Italy" has arrived. Stagioni recently opened at 4770 Liberty Ave., in the former spot of Cafe Roma, which closed in April.

The cozy, causally elegant BYOB spot features "seasonal fare with an Italian flare," says chef Stephen Felder, whose girlfriend Cara DelSignore owns the restaurant. Ingredients are fresh and local, and the preparations are classic with a twist. The seared diver scallops get a side of apple-fennel slaw, the potato gnocchi are treated to a meaty-tasting but all-vegetarian porcini demi-glace, and even the standard mixed green salad is punctuated with a fresh blood orange vinaigrette.

Menus will be changing throughout the year according to whatever is in-season, says Felder. Current menu highlights include beef short ribs braised all day long, and a mozzarella appetizer that is literally made-to-order in the kitchen for each customer (mozzarella this fresh is unlike anything you've ever tasted from the market, Felder promises). Also made-to-order: Coffee. La Prima is freshly French pressed for each customer.

Felder and DelSignore, a Pittsburgh native, moved to the area from Florida about two-and-a-half years ago with the intention of opening a place like Stagioni. Felder, who has been cooking professionally for about a decade, met DelSignore while working at one of her family's Italian restaurants in Florida. For Felder and DelSignore, food is a family affair, and opening Stagioni was no different. A family member who does granite work even special-made the restaurant's gleaming granite tabletops for the couple.

For reservations or more information, call 412.687.5775.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Stephen Felder, Stagioni

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

With 200 additional racks, city nearly doubles bike parking spaces

With no bike racks available, cyclists are often forced to chain their transportation to signs, fences, parking meters and even, yes, trash cans.

"We shake our head when we have to lock to a trash can, and joke, 'Ah, the indignity of bike commuting,'" says Bike Pittsburgh director Scott Bricker.

Now, with the addition of 200 more bike racks throughout the city, dignified bike parking opportunities will just about double, says Bricker. Each rack has parking for two bikes, meaning that there will be 400 more bike parking spaces throughout Pittsburgh.

The City officially launched the Small Business Bicycle Rack Program last week with the installation of a rack in front of Enrico Biscotti in the Strip District. The Small Business Bike Rack Program was created through a collaboration of Bike Pittsburgh and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Taking Care of Business Districts Program, which " aims to revitalize business districts through targeting City services and providing resources for small business owners and the residents who frequent those neighborhood lifelines," according to the City.

The City will install bike racks in the Strip District, Bloomfield, South Side, Polish Hill, Squirrel Hill, Carrick, Lawrenceville, Friendship, Garfield, Shadyside and Brookline, and will install more upon request and evaluation. Businesses can request bike racks online at www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us. Requests will be assessed by the City's Bike Ped Coorinator.

The bike racks are in the same style as the original Bike Pittsburgh Three Rivers model, designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios and made locally by Red Star Ironworks. The new racks were manufactured by Dero Bike Rack Co., from Minneapolis, Minn for $251 per rack. The total cost of the bike rack program is $25,100 and will be paid for from the City's Taking Care of Business budget which consists of $850,000 in grant money from the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Bike Pittsburgh donated 100 racks through support from Richard King Mellon Foundation and William Benter Foundation.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh; Joanna Doven, City of Pittsburgh

Photograph courtesy City of Pittsburgh

Port Authority to change routes and fares, expand service to in-demand areas

Port Authority of Allegheny County announced approval last week of plans that will change the way Pittsburgh uses public transportation.

Yes, some routes are being cut, and yes, some fares are being raised, but Heather Pharo from Port Authority explains how these changes are being put into place to increase ridership and efficiency. Duplicate and underused routes are the only ones being eliminated; and these cuts, she says, are enabling Port Authority to add trips, increase hours of operation and simplify service for the routes are in-demand. Just 0.04% of routes are being totally eliminated; nearby alternatives exists for the other 10.1% that are being cut, according to Port Authority.

"The Port Authority system hasn't seen real service changes since the beginning," says Pharo. "We've had the same route system in Allegheny County for decades. Certainly Allegheny County has changed, the population has shifted. The purpose of the plan is to better match service to demand to serve people where they live today."

Some of brand-new routes include busses connecting neighborhoods that are up-and-coming and heavily student-populated with key centers of work and play. Lawrenceville, for instance, figures heavily into the new route plans. A new bus will connect Lawrenceville to the Waterfront at Homestead, with stops along the way in Bloomfield, Squirrel Hill and Shadyside; another a new bus will connect Lawrenceville directly to Oakland, which will enable students to live in the area rather than around campus; and yet another bus will travel directly between Shadyside and the South Side, without the traditional transfer in Oakland.

Other route changes include the introduction of rapid busses, described by Pharo as "like a light rail on rubber tires," between Pittsburgh's major employment centers, Oakland and Downtown, and to and from the airport (when you're trying to catch a flight, that 28X stop at Robinson Town Center can be a real time-suck, says Pharo).

In terms of the fare increase, the $2 base fare in Zone 1 will not change, and the Zone 2 fare will increase from $2.60 to $2.75. Transfers will cost 75 cents (up from 25), and prices of monthly and annual passes will rise.

Fares will increase starting January 1, and the other changes will start to go into effect in March 2010.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Heather Pharo, Port Authority of Allegheny County

Photograph courtesy of Port Authority of Allegheny County

$600K PNC grant helps build community in East End neighborhoods

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation (BGC) announced this month it has received funding of $600,000 from PNC Bank.

The grant--$100,000 each year for six years--is aimed at the long-term revitalization of portions of the Garfield, Friendship and Bloomfield neighborhoods, and represents almost 25 percent of BGC's annual operating budget. The agreement is part of the state's Neighborhood Partnership Program.

BGC is in year two of its PNC funding, but is just discussing the grant publicly now.

"We want to be accountable for what goes on and who we work with," says Rick Swartz with BGC. "PNC is not a passive funder. They're looking for programs and activities that complement the bank's own mission. They want to know what we're doing, and how it is going to help improve the market in the neighborhood, and make it more viable for people to own homes and businesses, and move away from using check-cashing stores and into being able to utilize bank services."

BGC goals for the next year include: education and employment programs for neighborhood youth; financial education and job training and placement services for adults; access to affordable heath care for all; and the elimination of blight and the development of homeownership and rental opportunities for low-income residents, including the sale of and/or financing for 18 single-family homes and the development of at least 50 units of scattered-site, affordable rental housing units in Garfield.

"A lot of what we're doing is building economic self-reliance in the neighborhood," says Swartz.

Future BGC projects include a major upgrade of the Penn Avenue corridor, expected to begin in 2011. The 4800 to 5100 blocks of Penn Avenue will most likely see new roadways, sidewalks, curbs, street lighting and public landscaping, as well as traffic signal synchronization and crosswalk upgrades, says Swartz.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Rick Swartz, executive director, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Photography courtesy of Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Little Flea market buzzes on Butler Street

On the corner of 36th and Butler Streets in Lawrenceville, card tables are stacked high with costume jewelry and beaded handbags, little bits of porcelain and yarn and paper recycled into cards and magnets. Lamps without bulbs, toys, dresses in pretty prints, and bikes that could carry you up the hill, into Bloomfield, and then anywhere from there. People mill about, sipping coffee from the nearby shops and nibbling treats from the parked Goodie Truck. Dogs pull on leashes, and there's talk of where to go for brunch and what time the bowling alley opens.

The Little Flea, which started Sat., Aug. 8, is taking what's already so good about Lower Lawrenceville (the art, the people, the food), and bringing it to the streets.

The weekly flea market runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather-permitting, and is a project of Equita, a locally-owned, ethically-conscious gift shop at 3609 Butler St.

"We wanted to have another venue in the neighborhood where people could meet one another, and also make some extra money in what is a challenging economy," says Sara Parks with Equita, which operates a web shop in addition to its brick-and-mortar store.

The three-year-old company will be celebrating its one year anniversary in its street-front retail space at the end of September. Previously, the shop operated its online business from the Ice House Artist Studios, the redeveloped warehouse at 100 43rd St. in Lawrenceville.

Parks says the Little Flea could run year-round, depending on how successful it is within the coming months. She points to the Aspinwall flea market as inspiration for the Little Flea. That market runs 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday in the municipal parking lot along Freeport Road near Center Avenue.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Sara Parks, Equita

Photograph courtesy Little Flea

Tours explore historic Downtown, expand to neighborhood main streets this fall  

Pittsburgh's buildings have stories to tell. Sometimes, we just get too caught up in the daily grind to listen.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) is helping is reconnect to our urban environment. The organization has long hosted walking tours of Downtown Pittsburgh, and now--this fall--they'll be adding other neighborhoods to the repertoire.

Previous Downtown walking tours this summer have focused on Grant Street, Market Square, the Penn-Liberty Cultural District and more. During the month of August, PHLF is hosting free tours every Friday at noon of the historic Fourth Avenue and PPG Place area. One of 18 National Register Districts in the city, Fourth Avenue showcases buildings designed by more than a dozen distinguished architects, in styles from Greek Revival to Post Modern, constructed between 1836 and 1983. Reservations are not necessary, but are recommended.

The Downtown walking tours project, which occurs from May through October, has been running for about 20 years. This year is the first year PHLF will also be hosting Saturday walking tours through Pittsburgh's other neighborhoods, including Mt. Washington, Friendship/Garfield, Lawrenceville, the Strip District, Bloomfield and East Liberty.

This new program, presented in cooperation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Mainstreets Pittsburgh, will begin the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and continue throughout the fall.

"We hope tour-goers will leave with a better appreciation for the built environment; not just the old, but also the new," says Mary Lu Denny with PHLF. "We're looking to show history and preservation in these areas, but also development. We hope to bring some attention to neighborhood businesses, so that people will go back to them as customers."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Mary Lu Denny, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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

$90K lighting, $800K townhouses completed along Penn Ave. in East End

The East End Partnership has announced the completion of two notable projects: Three townhouses at 5000 Penn Ave., and lighting along Penn Avenue between Children’s Hospital and the Allegheny Cemetery entrance gates.

According to Sarah DiLeo with Friendship Development Associates, Inc. (FDA), the Cemetery Row lighting is the first completed project recommended in the Penn Avenue Corridor Master Plan, which outlines goals and guidelines for the 2.25-mile stretch between 34th Street and Penn Circle West.

The $90,000 lighting initiative, designed by Hilbish McGee Lighting Design, was offset by a $60,000 grant awarded by Duquesne Light. Twenty-three low-wattage lights were mounted on more than a half mile of cemetery wall, according to designer Rick McGee.

“The up-tree lighting contributes to public safety, and at the same time creates an interesting ambiance for pedestrians between the hospital and arts district,” says Maya Haptas with the East End Partnership, an alliance between Bloomfield, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield and Lawrenceville.

The three new townhouses are located at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Gross Street, just a few blocks from the cemetery. Designed by Friendship-based Hammer-Mann Designwerks, the $800,000 project was constructed on a previously unoccupied lot. Of the homes, which are energy-efficient and are priced from $185,000 to $208,000, one has sold, one is under agreement and one is still available, says DiLeo with FDA

A lighting dedication will be held 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the townhouses. The event is part of Unblurred, a monthly program that celebrates Penn Avenue’s art, music and performance options.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sarah DiLeo, marketing & communications coordinator, Friendship Development Associates, Inc.; Rick McGee, Hilbish McGee Lighting Design; Maya Haptas, business district manager, Lawrenceville Corporation, co-manager, East End Partnership

Image courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation

Nearly $50K awarded to Garfield, Mt. Washington for residential revitalization

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has authorized Garfield and Mt. Washington’s community development corporations to receive state-funded Elm Street grants.

Elm Street is the residential companion to the Mainstreets program, which focuses on neighborhood business district revitalization. Both are part of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s New Communities Program.

Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation was allocated $20,400 for use in Garfield, and Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation was allocated $25,000. Both neighborhoods were approved for their Planning Year, which does not guarantee full five-year funding. Within the upcoming year, the neighborhoods are expected to develop implementable goals and strategies for their proposed Elm Street districts, says Josette Fitzgibbons with the URA.

Elm Street’s other neighborhoods—East Liberty, North Side, South Side, Lawrenceville and Friendship—have used funding for a variety of projects, including residential façade grants, street trees, sidewalk repairs, trash cans, block watches, alleyway lighting and acquiring and demolishing problem properties.

“This part of Garfield has seen some new investments coming in around the fringes, but not in the heart,” says Richard Swartz with Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation. “We want to use the Elm Street program to get residents more optimistic about the future and investing in their communities.”

Greg Panza, with Mt. Washington CDC, says Elm Street funding will branch the Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights districts, and also attract new property buyers once area senior citizens vacate their homes to move into the senior housing facility being built at the neighborhood’s former South Hills High School site.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Josette Fitzgibbons, Mainstreets/Elm Street coordinator, URA; Richard Swartz, executive director, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation; Greg Panza, program manager, Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

EdenHouse brings new rental/event space, Old World charm to Bloomfield

EdenHouse, a one-of-a-kind short-term residence and event space, opened with a splash on May 8 in Bloomfield.
The unique and urban alternative to hotel accommodations is now available for weekly and monthly stays, as well as for small weddings, cocktail receptions and dinner parties. The fully-furnished residence is centrally located at 4069/4071 Liberty Ave., steps from Lawrenceville and minutes from Oakland and the Strip District.

Owners John and Jody Walter—who between them boast an impressive arts résumé and previously lived in part of the property—share a passion for reclaimed materials. The pair opened the project as part of Iron Eden, John’s ornamental iron gallery based in the building’s ground floor. For some 25 years, John has created hand-forged iron works for homes, gardens and workspaces— from king-sized beds to desktop sculptures—while Jody, a jewelry designer, ran Sunshine in the City in the Strip and Sunshine Bead Company Mt. Lebanon.

Furnished with Iron Eden’s signature designs such as a tree branch dining room set and spiral staircases, EdenHouse blends urban chic with Old World charm. While John constructed the property’s new kitchen and master bathroom, Jody selected the warm Mediterranean palette and eclectic design elements.

In a purple and orange kitchen, shutters from a North Side Victorian become cupboards, pressed tin from York, PA forms a backsplash and a turquoise flea market chandelier provides illumination. Other rooms feature recycled bowling alley flooring, architectural fragments and windows retrieved from Dixmont State Hospital.

EdenHouse’s 1,200-square-foot "Loft"—which sleeps six—features an open living/dining area, designer kitchen, Jacuzzi tub, and a roof garden with city views. The 700-square-foot “Apartment” sleeps four and features an eat-in kitchen and deck access. Based upon availability, EdenHouse can also be rented for nightly and weekend stays.

Added bonus? EdenHouse includes off-street parking, a laundry room, WiFi, and a full stock of S’mores supplies.

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Writer: Jennifer Baron
Source: Jody Walter, owner, EdenHouse

Image courtesy EdenHouse

Creative TreeHouse gets new leader and looks for new home

Jesse Hambley founded the Creative TreeHouse as a place to support local artists and spur neighborhood revitalization. Its short but successful stint in Bellevue ended last October when issues with the property led him to leave the space and rethink the project’s concept and location. After relocating to Los Angeles for a job with the nonprofit Liberty in North Korea, Hambley also started looking for someone to take over. 

 “John is a great fit with his ties to the creative community here in Pittsburgh and his history of business development,” says Hambley of John LeDonne, creative director of LeDonne Creative.

Rather than go the route of nonprofit, LeDonne plans to capitalize on his 17 years of experience in marketing and create a business plan for the Creative TreeHouse based on corporate sponsorship.

“I’m working with the tagline - Learn, Explore, Become. Members can learn through presentations, explore through classes and become what ever kind of artist they want to be,” says LeDonne. “I’m currently looking for financial and creative partners. Adobe has shown some initial interest and I’ve been talking with Bill Peduto among others about potential locations in Bloomfield and throughout the city,” says LeDonne.

“The Creative TreeHouse is the perfect example of what we’re looking for in Bloomfield. What we now have here are the two blue hairs – older women with tinted blue hair living next to young people with blue Mohawks," says Councilman Bill Peduto. "The new economy is spreading out from Oakland and Bloomfield is capitalizing on that.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Sources: Jesse Hambley, Founder, Creative TreeHouse
John LeDonne, Creative Director, LeDonne Creative & Councilman Bill Peduto

Pittsburgh Cares celebrates MLK Day with two unique community events

Pittsburgh Cares offers two unique ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this year. On Saturday, Jan. 17 from 11am-1pm for $20 per person, you can take part in one of seven Neighborhood Diversity Crawls. Crawls take place in the West End/Mt. Washington, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield/Friendship, South Side, Regent Square, Strip District, and Oakmont and include a narrated tour, sampling of various traditional foods and beverages, exploration of locally owned businesses, and fun facts like who Lawrenceville is named for and what Oakmont claims as the largest in the country.

“Last year we lead one tour to four different places throughout the city, but this year we wanted to highlight Pittsburgh’s diverse neighborhoods and help boost the local economy at the same time,” says Kristin Brown with Pittsburgh Cares.

In addition, Pittsburgh Cares has teamed up with Manchester Craftsmen's Guild to host their MLK: Celebrate the Dream event. On Monday, Jan. 19 from 10am-12pm, more than 350 youth and adult volunteers will design and construct upwards of 75 "diversity shelves." The wooden bookcases will be adorned with words and images from the Civil Rights Movement and will serve as a platform for initiating dialogue around race relations, community organizing, volunteerism, and diversity. From 12-1pm local performing artists will showcase their talents as the volunteers unite in celebration of Dr. King's dream for a community that respects and embraces diversity.

“After the event our volunteer groups will present the shelves filled with books to local schools so the discussion of diversity continues throughout the year.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Kristin Brown, Pittsburgh Cares

Chipotle spices up Bloomfield with third Pittsburgh location

Chipotle Mexican Grill opened its newest Pittsburgh location Nov. 21 at 4800 Baum Blvd in Bloomfield. The gourmet burrito chain entered the Pittsburgh market in Aug. 2006 with its first location in Robinson and quickly followed with a second in Jan. 2007 in Oakland. “We were very excited to bring Chipotle to Pittsburgh. College students are some of our best customers so the Oakland location especially has been a great success,” says Jenna Simenic for Chipotle.

While all Chipotle restaurants use similar materials to achieve a sparse, clean, urban look, no two are alike. Glavan Feher Architects (Columbus, OH) designed the Bloomfield store with local help from South Side based Morgan Associates. The interior of the 2100-square-foot Bloomfield store combines steel, concrete, unfinished metal, birch-veneered plywood and has wooden bench and chair seating for 40 indoors and 20 outdoors. “Our architect worked closely with the local planning commission to address the pedestrian orientation of this area and specifically relate the building directly to the intersection,” says Cheryl Obert, Northeast Design Manager for Chipotle. “We incorporated an exterior patio, a brick wall behind the bus stop and convenient on site parking to make this building blend with its surroundings.”

In addition to being design conscious, Chipotle stands out with its commitment to environmental responsibility. With over 800 stores nationwide, Chipotle serves more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant company, an ever-increasing percentage of organically grown beans and exclusively rBGH-free dairy products.

Another store is already in the works near the Century Three Mall and will open in early 2009.

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Jenna Simenic, Public Relations Representative, Chipotle
Cheryl Obert, Northeast Design Manager, Chipotle

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

$230M Baum-Liberty Crossing goes before zoning board, seeks public input

On Nov. 18, DOC Economou, the developers of the Baum-Liberty Crossing complex on the former Don Allen Auto City site, held the latest in a series of community meetings about the proposed project. While the 84,000-square-foot development is in Bloomfield, its proximity to Shadyside and Friendship has given residents from all three neighborhoods reason to stay abreast of the planning process. 

“This is not a community development project but the developer has been proactive in reaching out to the community well in advance. They have made a conscious effort to maintain the residential quality of the location,” says Henry Pyatt of Friendship Development Associates.

Traffic is the major public concern and an independent study prepared by Trans Associates Engineering Consultants, recommending a series of optimized signal timings and reconfigured turning lanes, was the focus of the Nov. 18 meeting.

"We are working with multiple community groups to build a public-private partnership for community betterment by adding to the quality of life and the economic vibrancy of the area," says Christine Fulton of DOC Economou.

The mixed-use development, set to have a seven-story hotel with retail space on first and second floors, condos on sixth and seventh floors, and 330 underground parking stalls, goes before the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment to request variances for height and maximum floor area ratios on Dec. 4 at 9:50 a.m. The meeting takes place at 200 Ross St. and is open to the public. Ground breaking is still yet to be determined.

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Sources: Henry Pyatt, Neighborhood Planning Manager, Friendship Development Associates; Christine Fulton, VP Public Finance and External Relations, DOC Economou

Image courtesy DOC Economou

Crazy Mocha continues expansion with new locations in Bloomfield and Downtown

With the opening of two new locations at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield in late October and the Westin Hotel at Liberty Center Downtown in November, Crazy Mocha Coffee Company now claims 20 total locations and employs more than 100 people company wide.

More of a traditional coffee kiosk than some of its other stand-alone stores, the West Penn Hospital location uses the entire lobby as its stage, allowing for an open setting. The 900-square-foot location at Liberty Center offers ample seating with 24 tables and a complete menu of desserts and sandwiches in addition to tea and coffee drinks. 

Owner Ken Zeff has already opened eight new locations this year alone, but he’s not slowing down. Another Downtown location is already under construction in the old Westinghouse Building, 11 Stanwix St., now the home of advertising giant Brunner. His 10th Downtown location, set to open in the first quarter of 2009, will occupy 1000 square feet of Brunner’s heavily trafficked lobby.

Zeff has been working with Jill Joyce of Lawrenceville-based Joyce Design Group since store number five. “We’re putting a lot of effort into the design of this particular store given its high-profile location. We’re still in development but I expect this to be one of our most unique interiors with a lighting and color scheme that really stand out.”

When asked about his continued success despite the slowing economy, Zeff points to his deep roots in the community. “The hope is that our customers understand we’re just a local Pittsburgh business committed to staying and growing here.”

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Writer: Lauren Urbschat
Source: Ken Zeff, Owner, Crazy Mocha Coffee Company

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen
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