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Allegheny County begins endorsing local entrepreneurs for Kiva City Pittsburgh

For small businesses like Oakdale-based Carrie Ann's Bridal looking for funding to expand and grow, social underwriting may be the most effective way to secure financing.

While banks run background checks, credit reports and analysis before writing a loan, Kiva Zip requires endorsements based on relationships, said Emily Keebler, Kiva City Pittsburgh lead. Now, Allegheny County is becoming part of the social underwriting movement with the ability to help endorse local businesses for Kiva loans.
Kiva, an international micro-loan nonprofit founded by Pittsburgh native Jessica Jackley Flannery, began working to alleviate poverty across the globe in 2005. In 2011, Kiva began supporting small domestic businesses with Kiva Zip. Since Kiva City Pittsburgh launched in March 2014, the number of Kiva-sponsored Pittsburgh businesses has grown to more than 60.
Borrowing businesses must show that they are reputable with an endorsement from a Kiva Zip Trustee in order to participate in the program. These small businesses endorsed by Kiva Zip Trustees gain access to 0 percent interest -- AKA “zip” -- loans of up to $5,000 for first-time borrowers. 
Allegheny County has formed a partnership with the nonprofit to help small businesses gain access to capital and improve the local economy. Via this relationship, Allegheny County Economic Development, the county’s lead economic and residential development agency, is able to recommend entrepreneurs for Kiva’s innovative crowdfunding platform.
Kiva Zip Trustees are individuals, organizations and governmental agencies that vouch for entrepreneurs they know and trust in their community. Allegheny is the third county in the nation to become a Trustee and is home to 1.2 million residents, making it Kiva Zip’s second-largest Trustee.
“Kiva Zip's vision is one of a community of individuals coming together to lend their support to small business owners and entrepreneurs,” said Kiva Zip Director Jonny Price. “This vision is shared by Allegheny County and we are delighted to welcome them into Kiva Zip’s growing network of Trustees.”
Kiva Zip uses social underwriting to screen loan applicants. Keebler explained that social underwriting means that the business has a Trustee willing to speak to an entrepreneur’s good character and reliability. She said the organization understands that many have had bad credit in the past; so, instead, Kiva looks to a person’s network. Once endorsed, entrepreneurs can post their loan request on kivazip.org and begin crowdfunding their loan with the help of friends, community members and Kiva’s growing global community of 1.3 million lenders.
“Our economy continues to do well because we work together and support each other in this community,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Kiva Zip’s vision allows us to build on that history and to further expand the ways that we can support small businesses in Allegheny County. Kiva Zip, literally, allows everyone to play a part in a business’ success.”
One of the county’s interests is to help businesses in areas of the county that don’t have a strong business development corporation or chamber of commerce, Keebler said. She explained that many established business districts serve as Trustees for entrepreneurs, but there are areas of the county that do not have these organizations for support.
“We’re just so excited to have [Allegheny County] on board to fill in those gaps and give additional legitimacy to our program,” she said.
Allegheny County Economic Development identified an ambitious female business owner for its first endorsement. Since she was a young girl, Carrie Ann has been passionate about fashion, but she has also suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome, causing her to feel uncomfortable in her own skin. As an adult, she strives to raise awareness of PCOS and make all women feel beautiful, two goals she aims to combine via her Oakdale business, Carrie Ann’s Bridal.  
“We're a one-stop bridal shop that believes all women are beautiful and should embrace their uniqueness,” said Carrie Ann, as she is known on her crowdfunding page. “We want to make our customers' bridal, prom or other big day fabulous, fun and stress free." 
Keebler added that Carrie Ann’s business falls outside of an established business development district and there was no obvious Trustee for her until the county stepped in to support the shop.
Carrie Ann hopes to raise $5,000 via Kiva Zip to improve the e-commerce portion of her website in order to increase online sales and to purchase equipment and supplies to bring her custom designs in-house. Lenders can visit www.kiva.org/Pittsburgh to browse entrepreneurs’ profiles and stories, including Carrie Ann’s, and make a loan as small as $5 to the person of their choice.
Visit www.kiva.org/pittsburgh for more information on the Kiva City Pittsburgh initiative, including a list of all 39 Trustees in the Pittsburgh area. 
Source: Emily Keebler, Kiva City Pittsburgh

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 

God rest ye merry, gentlemen: Hit up Manta Claus for a night of manly holiday shopping

When it comes to holiday shopping, are you man enough?
Manta Claus is back on Butler Street this year to prove to men --  and women -- that holiday shopping doesn’t have to be about braving the mall or fighting crowds. In fact, it can be a fun, local experience.
In 2011, a group of Lawrenceville businesses started Manta Claus, a last-minute holiday shopping extravaganza for men (and, let’s face it, anyone) who put off holiday gift purchasing. The last last-minute shopping event returns to Lawrenceville from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18.
“[It’s] more or less a way to coerce men to come out and shop local,” said Pageboy Salon & Boutique owner Dana Bannon about the holiday event.
She added that Manta Claus started as a solution for men who shop impersonally online, grab a gift card or avoid the mall.  Bannon added that Lawrenceville businesses participating in Manta Claus also promise to help shoppers find the perfect gift.
And, just as Butler Street has grown, so has the holiday shopping event. Businesses up and down Butler Street will be offering free drinks, snacks, no-cost gift-wrapping and lots of great gift guidance.
Additionally, food trucks will be parked near 45th Street. Hitchhiker Brewing will be on hand at Pageboy Salon & Boutique to offer tastings of winter beers. And Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwiches will also be handing out treats at Pageboy.
Pageboy (3613 Butler St.) will also offer 10% off men's and women's grooming products, $25 gift certificates for $20 and free beard trims by a student barber. Divertido (3609 Butler St.) will offer 10% off all purchases, free snacks and beer. Jules (4502 Butler St.) will feature 10% off all menswear, plus $25 credit for every $100 spent. Jupe (3703 Butler St.) will be offering $10 off every $40 spent. Mid-Atlantic Mercantile (4415 Butler St.) will also give 10% off all purchases. Mister Grooming & Goods (4504 Butler St.) will offer 10% off grooming products. Atlas Bottle Works (4115 Butler St.) will host a holiday beer tasting. Pavement (3629 Butler St.) will provide snacks, free gift-wrapping and specials. And, Matthew Buchholz will be signing his book "Alternate Histories of the World” at Wildcard
Garbella Studio (5202 Carnegie St., one block off Butler and 52nd streets) will be open to the public, providing refreshments and complimentary gift-wrapping. An open house studio at Perry And Co. (5212 Butler St.) will feature FareFeathers Jewelry and 25% off -- shoppers are also welcome to enjoy their fireplace overlooking Butler with free drinks.
“This is the first year that we’ve had more than two or three of us … and it’s amazing the amount of camaraderie we have between businesses,” Bannon said. 
She added that as Butler Street has expanded, she has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of community that she still feels. Instead of competing salons and retailers, she says, Lawrenceville remains a friendly network of small businesses.
Source: Matthew Buchholz, Dana Bannon 

Farm to Table Harvest Tasting celebrates the season, The Market Kitchen and new food startups

A new shared-use commercial kitchen in the Strip District will make its debut at the third annual Farm to Table Harvest Tasting on Nov. 16, offering inspiration to home cooks planning meals for the upcoming Thanksgiving and holiday feasting frenzy.

A VIP party before the Pittsburgh Public Market and Wigle Whiskey event will celebrate the opening of The Market Kitchen at the Public Market and the new food startups making use of the shared commercial kitchen.
More than 60 area vendors will provide a cornucopia of artisanal cheeses and breads, local meats, fruits and vegetables, sauces, jams, baked goods, craft beers, ciders, cocktails, wines and more. Products will be available to sample and purchase.    

This year's Farm to Table event will be held for the first time at the Public Market and Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District. Public Market vendors will participate at the venue's location at 2401 Penn Ave., and 24th Street will be closed with Farm to Table vendors lining the way, connecting the event to Wigle Whiskey at 2401 Smallman St.
The holiday event will also celebrate the launch of The Market Kitchen at the Public Market -- a shared-use commercial kitchen for food startups that want to start a business without the costs of a brick-and-mortar. During the VIP event at The Market Kitchen, chefs will offer exclusive sampling opportunities of hot mulled cider and cider cocktails, local craft brews and an exclusive Thanksgiving-inspired recipe book.
Kelly James, The Market Kitchen’s kitchen manager, explained that the seasonal cookbook was put together with recipes from Public Market vendors, chefs from across the city and future businesses using the new kitchen.
James also gave a preview of some of the Market Kitchen businesses participating in the VIP tasting. She said Root System Juice Company will debut a new recipe and Mix Salad Concept, a salad delivery company from Rachael Bane and Lia Vaccaro, will feature fresh salad ideas and samples. Second Breakfast, a breakfast-inspired venture featuring glazed waffles and crepes, will debut at the event. This new vendor to the Public Market will open on Nov. 19. And, Voodoo Brewery will be there sampling beer. James said Voodoo will soon launch a food truck that will use the kitchen as a food prep home base.
James explained that The Market Kitchen is a way to assist new businesses, from vendors to food trucks to caterers. She said this could be the startups' first step on the road to a bigger venture. 
“Now, they’re actually able to market themselves and live their dream,” she said about the kitchen’s opening and the ability to launch a food business without paying for a storefront. “It’s really exciting to give them a start.”

The Harvest Tasting is 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16. Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for kids, though children ages 2 and under are free. The day of the event, Harvest Tasting ticket prices will be $35 and $15, respectively. The VIP Preview is from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with tickets at $50, which includes the Harvest Tasting. 
Source: Pittsburgh Public Market, Kelly James, Farm to Table

Lawrenceville's mini-milestone: Wildcard turns five

When owner Rebecca Morris opened Wildcard at 4209 Butler St. in October 2009, Lawrenceville was a different place. Since then, the neighborhood has transformed into one of the city’s most active communities. And Wildcard has been a key player in the neighborhood's retail revitalization.
Morris moved to Lawrenceville from Shaler Township in 2003 and said she wanted to open the shop in her own back yard. When she first opened the stationery, craft and gift shop, she said she had to invest in word of mouth and getting people to come to Lawrenceville. While there was some foot traffic, it was nothing like the bustling weekend shoppers the neighborhood sees today.
“So many businesses have opened, even in the last five years,” she said. “I really like that a lot of them are not chains … [they are] a lot of small businesses.”
On Saturday, Oct. 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wildcard will host its Fifth Anniversary Fantastic Festival of Fun, which will include free tote bags to the first 200 customers who spend $10 or more. The event will feature coffee from Espresso a Mano in the morning and an in-store scavenger hunt to win a Wildcard gift card or giant prize basket. And the store will also host an Artist & Small Business Owner Happy Hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The happy hour will feature several of Wildcard’s artists and vendors, including Nick Caruso (MakeBelieveIt.com), Allison Glancey (strawberryluna.com), Becki Hollen & Chris Bencivenga (EverydayBalloonsShop.com), Amy Garbark (GarbellaDesign.com) and Matthew Buchholz (AlternateHistories.com).
The Fifth Anniversary Fantastic Festival of Fun will also celebrate the grand opening of Wildcard’s online store, set to launch on the same day. Morris said the online shop was created for customers wanting to send gifts outside of Pittsburgh. She noted that it may take some time for Wildcard’s entire collection to be featured online, but Pittsburgh-inspired items will be some of the first to premiere on the website.
Wildcard’s fifth anniversary is also part of Full Time Pittsburgh, a city-wide, open-source festival with events that center around art, design, small business, music and creativity. The festival will run at various locations throughout the city from Thursday, Oct. 16, to Sunday, Oct. 19. Learn more at fulltimepgh.com.
Morris thanked Lawrenceville and Pittsburgh for the past five years and invites Pittsburghers to come out and enjoy the free event on Saturday.

Source: Wildcard, Rebecca Morris 

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.


Mobile boutique sets up shop in Lawrenceville

When Samantha Lugo was visiting family in New York in 2013, she frequented her first boutique on wheels. She says she was so inspired by the clothes-truck, that she said, “That’s it, I’m bringing this to Pittsburgh!”
In July 2013, Lugo did just that and launched Broke Little Rich Girl, Inc. mobile boutique. After one year on the road, Broke Little Rich Girl opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Lawrenceville on Saturday, Sept. 6.
Lugo says the 3816 Butler Street store features her signature selection of “urban” and “edgy” designs. She explains that by first launching the mobile shop, she was able to test the Pittsburgh market with styles and see what would sell at a permanent address.
“Lawrenceville is just such an up and coming neighborhood,” Lugo says about choosing a site for her store.“I love the vibe.”
The Lawrenceville location will offer a wider selection of clothing and sizes. Lugo notes that clothes will be at the same price point as the mobile unit. She said the truck will still roll around Pittsburgh and is available for private parties like “ladies nights,” where cupcakes and wine are included in her rental fee.
The store’s opening featured food and drink provided by local businesses, several from Lawrenceville neighbors, including Pittsburgh Winery, La Gourmandine and Coca Café.
Source: Samantha Lugo, Broke Little Rich Girl

New brewery opens in Braddock

A new brewery is opening in Braddock, Wednesday. Two Carnegie Mellon grads are the brain children behind The Brew Gentlemen, opening in the former Halco Electric Supply store at 512 Braddock Ave. Matt Katase and Asa Foster created their first beer in the garage of their fraternity house and have been working toward this day ever since.

"We were both kinda unsure about pursuing careers on the tracts we were on," says Katase, originally of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. "Beer seemed like a happy medium that allowed us to wear multiple hats. So far, no two days have been the same."

Since 2010, Katase and Foster have poured all of their time and resources into creating both a brewery and a tap room to brew and sell their beer. They both changed their majors, Katase from math to operations research and entrepreneurship and Foster from art to digital media and fabrication. Katase took an independent study and worked with a mentor to build The Brew Gentlemen business plan.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $32,118, they were off to the races, building their brewery and perfecting their recipes with their own four hands.

They chose to open their brewery in Braddock because they loved the energy of the small city and could see its potential.

"Intially when we were writing the business plan and working on all of that our entrepreneurship professor made us choose three potential locations," Katase says. "Braddock was kind of an afterthought. Asa mentioned it because he had taken a class called Mapping Braddock and spent a lot of time down here and was drawn to the energy. In senior year we spent a morning walking around and after that, it had to be in Braddock."

That first beer, brewed back in 2010 is called White Sky, a wheat beer brewed with chai tea spices. They jokingly call it their "year round seasonal," because it evokes a different seasonal sense memory for everyone who tastes it. They've gone on to produce several beers with clever, regional names such as General Braddock.

In Feb. of this year they hired master brewer Brandon Capps who has chops from working as an Anheuser Busch/InBev
systems and processes engineer.

And what about the name?

"It started as kind of a joke," Katase says. "Both Asa and I were in the same frat, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the frat motto is 'The true gentlemen.' After trying our beer one of our other friends joked and called us 'the brew gentleman.'"

Tomorrow beginning at 4PM The Brew Gentlemen are holding their grand opening, where they'll sell growlers and pints and the mac n' cheese food truck, Mac and Gold, as well as Street Foods will be on hand for grub.

Source: The Brew Gentlemen, Matt Katase.

Pittsburgh Public Market to open shared commercial kitchen this summer

The Market Kitchen at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a shared-use commercial kitchen, is set to open this summer.  Located on the campus of the Public Market in the Strip District, The Market Kitchen will be available to both market vendors and local chefs.
Kelly James recently came on as the kitchen manager for The Market Kitchen and addressed a group last week at a Farm to Table lunch and learn focusing on small business development. Many attending the event were interested in learning about the shared, commercial kitchen.
“I come here, to this project, as a chef,” James said to the group.
She shared her own experience of opening and running the Sugar Café in Dormont. Though the business closed, James says she learned how to help other entrepreneurs navigate the competitive food industry and consider other business models — instead of the traditional, and costly, brick-and-mortar store.
“I get to help other people in small businesses avoid the pitfalls,” she says.
The Market Kitchen is an economical way for startups to begin their business. James says that by having a space that provides a state-of-the-art kitchen — and is up to code ­­­­— entrepreneurs have the opportunity to start small, get noticed and grow into a shop. 
“We’re a nonprofit, so we are here to help people start,” James says.
She says a yearly membership of $100 and a $17.50 hourly rate for use of the kitchen — a nominal price compared to most new business costs — will provide Market Kitchen members with the opportunity to utilize the space and have access to Public Market customers. Members can schedule to access the kitchen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
This access to the Public Market is flexible. For extra costs, one could become a vendor; or, it could be as simple as providing samples to market patrons for product exposure.
James says she began accepting applications for the kitchen last week. Applicants must be businesses with proper food safety certifications. Fledgling and seasoned chefs are both welcome to apply, and those getting in on the ground floor will have priority, first-come, first-serve kitchen scheduling.
“Whether you are just starting out on the path or looking to expand and grow your food business, our goal is to provide you a service that is economically superior to building or leasing your own commercial facility. We offer a unique direct line to success with access to a retail space to sell and market your product within Pittsburgh Public Market. Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District is a perfect place to spread your wings,” the Public Market’s website states.

In addition to entrepreneurs, James says caterers, food truck owners, cart vendors, established restaurants seeking more space, bakers and personal chefs may find the kitchen attractive for its professional appliances and secured storage.
After this kitchen is completed, the market may build a second kitchen. James calls this demo-kitchen “phase two.” She says this installation will provide opportunities for cooking classes and events.
The Market Kitchen is expected to be open July 1, 2014, or a few weeks earlier in June. She invites those interested to follow construction progress on the Public Market’s website.

Source: Kelly James, the Pittsburgh Public Market

Carnegie Mellon architecture professor and students recognized for Garfield cityLAB efforts

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture recognized cityLABUrban Design Build Studio and Carnegie Mellon University architecture professor John Folan with the 2014 ACSA Collaborative Practice Award for cityLAB's 6% Place project in Garfield.
CityLAB is a small nonprofit that produces local economic development projects, its website describes “6 percent” as the magic number for a tipping point.  
“If a neighborhood can get that many creative workers, it becomes an attraction in its own right,” the site states. “CityLAB has been testing out this hypothesis in Garfield, an overlooked neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End, since 2011. Our goal is to fill in the neighborhood’s vacancies with creative workers who will be good neighbors, invest in the community and help the neighborhood grow sustainably.”
Sara Blumenstein, cityLAB program manager, explains that the initial idea to draw creative neighbors stemmed from  data that showed that after creative types move into a region, development follows. She said the initiative had multiple goals: to improve the community and to put Garfield on the map for prospective residents.
During the fall of 2011, Folan’s students worked with Garfield community members to come up with proposals for 16 ideas for Garfield cityLAB, detailed in the 6% Place book.
“[It was an] opportunity to get experience that they wouldn’t get in school,” Blumenstein says about Folan’s CMU architecture students. She explains that students worked with neighbors while applying classroom skills to budget costs and develop plans.
Two projects have taken flight from the 16 fledgling ideas: the Tiny Houses project and the Garfield Night Market.
The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation’s Garfield Night Market is returning Friday May 2, with assistance from cityLAB. Blumenstein says visitors to the market can expect a street fair setting with paper lanterns, food and crafts. She notes that the market does more than draw families and patrons to Garfield for a good time — it is also a business incubator. 
Garfield community members who have the goal of running a small business can get the training and skills they need by starting at the Garfield market. About a dozen of the market’s current vendors are Garfield residents, but Blumenstein says it is a goal to eventually have Garfield entrepreneurs host at least half of the market.
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: cityLAB, Sara Blumenstein

State considering changing delivery laws for small distilleries

Imagine a world in which local craft distilleries are thriving and you can buy their products online, rather than only at the distillery because the state stores still don’t carry them.

That’s crazy talk!

Where do you think you are? Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission are vetting regulation changes which would allow permit-licensed limited distilleries to deliver their products directly to consumers.
If everything goes smoothly, you’ll be able to order that bottle of Wigle Rye or Maggie’s Farm Rum over the internet and have it delivered straight to your door.

According to PLCB spokesperson Stacy Kriedman, there are three stages left in approving the process. The first step will take place next Thursday, when the PLCB and IRRC will hold a public meeting on the regulatory changes.

“If the regulations are approved, the attorney general’s office will have 30 days to approve them. If the attorney general’s office approves, the regulations would be effective once published in the state bulletin,” Kriedman says.

All told, home delivery from permit-license limited distilleries could be a reality in Pennsylvania by late April.

“We’ve been working on this with them for a couple of years and they very readily saw the potential of cultivating local and state economies around this opportunity,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. “We’ve built a business on selling directly to consumers, so we see this as a continuation of that, but we’re doing things that you can’t really do if you’re trying to meet volume demands for a big distributor.”

In November of last year, the state relaxed laws on limited distilleries, allowing them to self-distribute to bars and restaurants on a wholesale basis. That makes it easier for restaurants to patronize local liquor makers, but the new regulations would do even more to open up the market.

“Act 113 of 2011 created the limited distillery license and the regulations are really just an update to that, and to make sure that limited distilleries have the same privileges as limited wineries,” Kriedman says.

Craft liquor sales account for .1 percent of Pennsylvania’s alcohol market. That might not sound like much, but availability has always been a mitigating factor.

“It’s an enormous opportunity for growth for us, going from one retail location in Pittsburgh to being available to entire state,” Grelli says. “If we can go from .1 percent of this area to .1 percent of the state, that’s meaningful.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Stacy Kriedman, Meredith Grelli

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nomz.

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

The Brew Gentlemen plant roots in Braddock

In the great tradition of what Braddock once was, Asa Foster and Matt Katase are out to build something.

“Braddock’s not going to be back to what it was, but it will reinvent itself as something else,” Katase says. “We want to be a part of that.”

Foster and Katase, who met during their freshman year at Carnegie Mellon and became fast friends, started brewing their own beer three years ago while college juniors. Last year, they took over the space at 512 Braddock Avenue and set about — quite literally — building The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.

Katase recalls showing the space to his brother last year around Thanksgiving.

“I unlocked the door and said, ‘this is where it’s going to be!’ and it was, well, not a disaster, but the remains of what was once an electrical supply store.”

Though they’ve taken a break from actually brewing to physically construct their brewery — they’re doing nearly all of the renovations themselves — they’ve already developed and tested a number of recipes, including four flagship beers which they plan to keep on tap year-round.

Foster, a Boston native, and Katase, who hails from Hawaii, envision their space as a large, serene and inviting area, full of exposed brick and wood, and moving at a different pace than most breweries.

“We are definitely looking to bring something to the Pittsburgh beer market that doesn’t already exist,” Foster says. “We want to have a more café kind of vibe in that we want people to feel comfortable with it as a hangout space, not just a tasting space.”

“Come in and read a book. Come in and get some work done. Nobody’s going to rush you out of your seat just because you’re taking up a barstool,” Katase added.

“It’s a manifestation of our brand, and we want that to be reflective of what our beer is,” Foster says. “It’s the place where we have the most control over quality.”

Foster and Katase hope to start brewing again by late December or early January, and have the taproom open to the public early next year. In the meantime, they’ve had plenty of support.

“Almost every day, someone comes up to us and says something thankful or encouraging,” Katase says. “People are psyched to see young people doing things in Braddock.”

You can follow The Brew Gentlemen’s progress on their blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Asa Foster, Matt Katase

Eat + Drink: Blowfish BBQ, Butcher and the Rye and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of epic local nomz.

Finely. Smoked. Meats. 
Just because the Steelers are terrible doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a great game-day experience, food and all. And when it comes to Sunday barbecue, few do it better than Justin Blakey.

Blakey, who’s in charge of all things beer at D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square and is better known to Pittsburgh beer drinkers as “Hootie,” played off his longtime nickname in creating his new venture, Blowfish BBQ. Every Sunday, Blakey sets up shop at D’s around 1 p.m., selling pork ribs, chicken and beef brisket, along with a host of savory sides such as smoked mac-and-cheese, red potatoes and a vinegar-dressed slaw.

“This is the perfect outlet to start it out,” says Blakey, adding that  while he's fine working out of the D's kitchen for the time being, he's looking to expand and perhaps open up a commercial space offering restaurant and catering services.

Blowfish BBQ’s meats aren’t grilled, but slow-smoked, requiring Blakey to carefully maintain a steady fire at a specific temperature over several hours. Pork and poultry spend the preceding days in various rubs and brines. The brisket takes a different path.

“I really don’t believe beef needs any special treatment — just salt and pepper, and let the smoke do the work,” he says.

In addition to a Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style ribs and his own special recipe for chicken, Blakey is still developing various sauces to complement his offerings. He’s most adamant about perpetuating vinegar-based sauces.

“It accents the meat more than it covers it up. I think with true barbecue, that’s what you’re really looking to do,” he says.

And while you're in the neighborhood…
Unlike Christmas-themed ads or Halloween parties seeping between weekends, one seasonal pleasure limited to November is D’s Franksgiving dog — a turkey hot dog on a steamed, poppy seed bun, topped with mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing and gravy, served with a side of cranberry sauce.

Trust us on this one.

Butcher and the Rye now open Downtown
After a few small events and a soft opening, Butcher and the Rye, the long-awaited second venture from the team responsible for Meat & Potatoes, opened for business last week.

Located at 212 Sixth Street in the Cultural District, Butcher offers creative small plates and open seating to go with their veritable archive of more than 350 kinds of bourbon. Yes, really. There’s even a ladder, reminiscent of those you’ll find in high-ceilinged library stacks, and giving new meaning to the term, “top shelf.”

Whether you stop in to try one of Chef Richard DeShantz’s new offerings or just to have a drink, the view alone warrants a visit, and the big leather chairs near the second-floor bar are especially comfy.

A new Downtown eatery from the creators of Skybar
Ten Penny, an upscale-casual restaurant with a diverse menu, will open later this month at 960 Penn Avenue in Downtown. The latest from Adam DeSimone’s AMPD Group, Ten Penny will offer dinner seven days a week, lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on weekends and special happy hour and late-night menus.

In addition to a large bar with 24 craft beers on tap, the space will offer a variety of seating options including a private dining room which will seat up to 20 people and café-style outdoor dining starting next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey

After a long, strange trip, Maggie's Farm Rum is open for business

When we checked in with Tim Russell in August, he was a ventilation system away from starting production on Maggie’s Farm Rum out of his distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip District.

With all of his equipment in place, all Russell needed to open for business was federal approval of his label from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to approving alcohol labels, often requiring applicants to make multiple revisions and resubmit to what can be a month-long process.

Russell submitted his third iteration in September. Then, the government shut down.

With his label in limbo, Russell found his entire business on hold. The Washington Post took notice, making Maggie’s Farm the lead item in a feature on how the shutdown impacted people outside the federal workforce. That feature led to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Texas, telling Russell’s story on the floor of the House.

Last Friday, about two weeks after the 16-day shutdown ended, Russell got word that his label was approved, allowing him to open for business.

“Initially, because of limited quantities, I’m just going to make it available to bars and restaurants,” Russell says, adding that he’ll likely open to the public once the cocktail bar and tasting room areas of his space are ready in the next couple of months.

“I might do a Black Friday thing where I’d open up bottle sales to the public whether the tasting room is done or not,” he says.

Russell will do a tasting of Maggie’s Farm Rum tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson. You can follow the distillery’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

New 'innovation campus' coming to East Liberty

Kit Mueller, co-founder of Rustbuilt and Built In Pittsburgh, plans to buy the building at 6400 Hamilton Avenue in East Liberty and turn it into something he’s calling The Forge — Pittsburgh’s first innovation campus.

“The intent is to provide a framework for all that’s happening in that neck of the woods,” says Mueller.

Each floor in the 98,000 square-foot building is big enough to hold one fairly large company, as well as flexible space for growing companies. The building, which is more than 100 years old and formerly served as a slaughterhouse, will include education and maker space, a rooftop nanotel — living quarters made from recycled shipping containers for use by visiting teachers and innovators — and agritecture, a state-of-the-art operation for sustainable, urban, indoor farming.

The building should be ready for tenants within about 20 months.

“Other rust belt cities are doing this sort of thing, and this will add our own special flavor for what’s going on here in the ‘Burgh,” he says. “This wouldn’t be feasible in some other parts of the city, and we’re glad to be doing it where the rest of the innovation is happening.”

One of the main ideas behind building an innovation campus, Mueller says, is that it would not only provide affordable space for businesses coming out of startup incubators, but that it would have enough space to retain them as they grew and keep them in geographically close like-minded institutions, such as Google, Tech Shop and Thrill Mill.

“You never have to grow out of the building. You come out of the accelerators and grow into a full floor.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kit Mueller

AlphaLab Gear, new accelerator, signs lease in East Liberty

AlphaLab Gear, a new accelerator from the South Side-based InnovationWorks program, has signed a lease for space in East Liberty.

Colliers International, the leasing agent for the new East Liberty developments at Indigo Square and the nearby space on Broad Street, confirmed that AlphaLab Gear will occupy 10,000 square feet and its lease includes rights to expand. The space, located at 6024 Broad Street, places it right next door to Thrill Mill and its business incubator, HustleDen, and within close proximity to the Tech Shop and Google’s Pittsburgh headquarters.

“It’s great to have these types of business. If we can mash together enough high-tech, like-minded startup groups, that can start a great tech community in that area,” says Mark Anderson, vice president of office and retail brokerage with Colliers.

AlphaLab Gear is a new accelerator for companies creating hardware, robotics and other physical products, says Terri Glueck of Innovation Works. Their AlphaLab, which is on the South Side, runs two sessions per year, each lasting 20 weeks. During sessions, enrolled entrepreneurs receive $25,000 in investment capital, office space, mentoring and educational sessions to help get their fledgling companies off the ground.

“We were interested from the beginning in having tech companies in the area. It’s good for East Liberty and Pittsburgh as a whole to mass these tech companies in one location,” Anderson added.

Anderson added that the building at the corner of Highland Avenue and Broad Street still has some 9,000 square feet available in retail and office space.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Mark Anderson

Meet Hop Farm, Lawrenceville's newest craft brewery

Lawrenceville will get its second craft brewery of the summer within the next two weeks when Hop Farm Brewing Company opens the doors to its 4,700 square-foot space at 5601 Butler Street.

“This is the first time I’ve done this,” says Hop Farm founder Matt Gouwens. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Gouwens, who worked as a web and graphic designer before deciding to start a brewery, has been operating as a home brewer for the last five years, growing different varieties of hops in his yard.

When he decided to go commercial, he knew he couldn’t grow all of his own hops, and wanted to add a local spin to his product.

“I thought, ‘why not get a farmer involved in this?’” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s hops will come from an actual hop farm that’s currently being set up in Cranberry Township.
When he opens for business later this month, Gouwens says he’ll have a selection of three beers — a saison, a nut brown and naturally, an IPA.

“Our plan after that is getting into a Russian Imperial Stout and aging it in some bourbon barrels,” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s beers will initially be available only in growlers, but Gouwens says he will begin canning them once the government approves his label.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Matt Gouwens

The Hardware Store brings a new cooperative, entrepreneurial space to South Pittsburgh

For a startup company or freelance media producer, office space can be an unaffordable luxury.

That’s why Josh Lucas, the founder of internet crowd-funding startup Crowdasaurus, had been looking to open a shared office space on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“It’s hard to run your company in a Google Hangout,” Lucas says, referring to Google's free videoconferecing tool.  

With help from with Mount Washington Community Development Corporation and developer RE 360, he found that space at 744 East Warrington Avenue in Allentown.

Dubbed The Hardware Store, the co-working office space is designed for entrepreneurs and freelance media producers to have access to fundamental, day-to-day business needs. Among its facilities, The Hardware Store will feature 30 desks, 20 glass markerboards, a podcasting studio, a full audio production suite and a 20-foot green screen.

Having access to the space and tools to create a product is only part of The Hardware Store’s appeal, says Lucas. “The benefit to a small company occupying this space is that they get to interact with the collaborative network of people coming through the doors. We’re using our network of entrepreneurs to get the space rolling.”

Anyone may apply to rent a desk in the space on a month-to-month basis, which includes access to all of The Hardware Store’s facilities. Day rates are also available for smaller project work.

The Hardware Store will be ready for tenants to begin occupying the shared space by July 1.

For more information on The Hardware Store, contact Crowdasaurus.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Josh Lucas

Eat + Drink: open-air Sienna Mercato; Andys Wine Bar on the street; Embody Natural Health

- A three-level, multi-restaurant concept known as Sienna Mercato is coming to Downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Owners of Market Square’s Sienna Sulla Piazza have recently bought the former Trombino building at 942 Penn Avenue, and plan to build a glass-enclosed, rooftop dining space on the building’s top level. The enclosure will be retractable, creating an open-air dining space in warm weather.

Each floor in the project will be a separate restaurant concept, which owner David Gilpatrick says will be unique from each other, as well as Sienna Sulla Piazza. Chef Matthew Porco, also of the Market Square restaurant, will lead the Sienna Mercato project.

Gilpatrick says each restaurant will be sit-down, casual dining, and each floor will feature a bar.

- Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week (PCBW), a celebration of the region’s local brewing culture, continues this week until Saturday, April 27th. The festivities include beer tastings, exclusive PCBW releases, dinner pairings at local restaurants, and brewer meet-and-greets.  For more information visit the PCBW website.

- Andys Wine Bar has taken it to the streets. Located in Downtown’s Fairmont Hotel, the bar has added sidewalk dining and a lunch menu of international street food, including ramen, sushi, bánh mì, and more. Andys continues to feature live jazz in the hotel’s lobby, Tuesday through Saturday, every week.

- Embody Natural Health, a juice cafe and studio, will mark its first year in Lawrenceville with a celebration this evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The cafe offers fresh, organic juice and smoothies, and features sidewalk seating.

Owner Aimee Woods also offers healthy food at her shop that is ready-made and available for take-out, what she calls healthy convenience food. Among other items, Embody now offers sushi from Penn Avenue Fish Company.

Woods also provides health coaching at the studio, helping clients plan for individual lifestyles. Yoga, juice cleanse, and other services are also available.

Writer: Andrew Moore

The Wheel Mill now open, city's first indoor bicycle park

Pittsburgh’s first indoor bicycle park, The Wheel Mill, is now open in Homewood. The 80,000 square-foot facility is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth, and is one of just a few in the nation.

Located at 6815 Hamilton Avenue, the facility offers year-round riding opportunities for mountain biking and BMX, with with skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Lines are marked in green, blue, and black diamond, corresponding to difficulty.

Current features at The Wheel Mill include the expert jump line, mini ramp and micro mini-ramps, foam pit, beginner mountain bike room, and street plaza (similar to a skatepark), as well as the 7-and-under area.  A lounge area is also open.

Owner Harry Geyer says several ramps are repurposed favorites from the former Mr. Smalls Skate Park, reconfigured in the new setting. Construction of the lines was completed in-house by Geyer—who also owns a reclaimed lumber business—and other local builders.

Several features under construction and opening soon include the beginner jump line, technical mountain bike line, and flow mountain bike trail section. A banked oval track and intermediate jump line are also coming soon.

Geyer credits the city’s dedicated bicycle scene—including Velomuse, the Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group (PTAG), and Bike Pittsburgh—for fostering an engaged cycling culture in the city. “That’s really the only reason that this was a feasible idea, is because everybody else laid the foundation,” Geyer says.

The Wheel Mill is open Monday to Friday, 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Harry Geyer

Eat + Drink: Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square; Aspara Cafe; The Steer and Wheel food truck

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

- One of Pittsburgh’s newest food trucks is The Steer and Wheel, which serves antibiotic- and hormone-free beef burgers. All beef is sourced locally from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance, ground fresh daily on the truck, and served on Mediterra Bakehouse breads and rolls.

Burgers included the Chesapeake (Old Bay rub); The Bacon Squared (balsamic bacon jam, chive cheddar, lettuce, tomato, bacon on an onion roll); and the Andre (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, smoked gouda, grain mustard on an onion roll).

To find The Steer and Wheel food truck, look for them at The Coffee Buddha (often along with the PGH Taco Truck), or follow them on Twitter or Facebook. 412-230-7323.

- Apsara Cafe has opened in the South Side, a new restaurant offering Thai and Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. 1703 East Carson Street. 412-251-0664.

- Il Pizzaiolo’s opened a second location in Market Square, serving its highly regarded and authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. Like the Mt. Lebanon original, the new restaurant’s pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning ovens, built by Italian artisans.

Il Pizzaiolo replaces the former Lubin and Smalley flower shop at 8 Market Square (between Starbucks and Moe’s Southwest Grill). The 40-seat restaurant includes a bar on each level of the storefront space. 412-575-5853.

- On Monday, April 22nd, Downtown’s Vallozzi’s will host a benefit dinner and film screening of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The event is a benefit for the Western Pennsylvania & West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online or at the door; for more information contact: rachealleelacek@gmail.com. 226 Fifth Avenue. Monday, April 22nd, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore

Urban Stitches hopes to build a community of sewers

Although Tameka Reed comes from a long line of seamstresses, she learned to sew in her middle school home economics class. So when she learned that many area schools had dropped sewing from their curriculum, she decided to open a business that would help the craft continue to thrive.

Reed’s recently opened Urban Stitches shop is a sewing lounge that she hopes will inspire crafters of all ages to pick up needle and thread for the first time, as well as provide a supportive, social environment for more advanced sewers.

At her Monroeville facility Reed offers weekly classes for adults and youth, in addition to open studio hours for independent work. Her Introduction to Sewing class allows newcomers to use sewing machines for the first time, and complete a series of small projects.

"Learning the basics is a good thing to get you out of catastrophies," Reed says, "and I've had several wardrobe disasters over the years that sewing came in handy for."

Additional workshops include dressmaking, children’s wear, alterations, and contemporary quilting, as well as men’s fashion. Classes range from $35 to $150 for single-day and multiple-day workshops.

Reed says her fashion sewing classes are geared for working women wanting to make or amend career clothing that is hip and contemporary.

Reed hopes Urban Stitches can introduce sewing to new audiences—especially within Pittsburgh’s vibrant maker community—as a creative, useful skill. "Things are finally starting to trend back toward things made by hand, and crafting, and things that you can make and put your own personal little stamp on," she says.

In addition to Urban Stitches, Reed teaches sewing at Westinghouse High School in Homewood through the YWCA's After School Program.

Urban Stitches is located at 3948 Monroeville Blvd, Suite 1 in the Presidential Village Plaza, Monroeville.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Tameka Reed

From Etsy to a storefront: Garbella's handmade goods and gear

In just a few short years Amy Garbark has turned a screen-printing hobby into a thriving storefront business.

Garbella, Garbark's hand-screen-printed apparel, accessories and home goods line, began as an Etsy store in 2006 but now boasts distribution in over 50 stores across the country, and locally in boutiques like Lawrenceville's WildCard. In May Garbark is moving production to a storefront in Lower Lawrenceville, a building she has recently bought with her husband, Stephen Cummings.

 "I've always been a maker," Garbark says, "In 2008 I set up a little studio in my basement, and started from there."

Garbark's first foray into screen-printing began with an I Bike Pittsburgh t-shirt, made just for herself and friends, at Artists Image Resource (AIR). But the shirt became popular with other cyclists in the city, and remains a top seller. Other designs include P is For Pierogi baby onesies and bibs, a line of women's and men's clothing, clocks made from reused bicycle parts, as well as kitchen items and tote bags.

With exposure at The Handmade Arcade and I Made It! Market craft shows Garbella continued to grow, and in 2008 it became her fulltime job. As the business grew and production slowly took over her living space, Garbella clearly needed a home of its own. In preparation for her first wholesale industry tradeshow last August, Garbark moved production to a small storefront in Morningside.

But when the space in Lawrenceville became available—a small, 1,000-square-foot, one-story commercial structure amidst residences—it offered Garbark an opportunity to create a custom production facility suited to Garbella’s specific needs. Garbark is working with JCI Development to raise the flat roof, create storage space, and install skylights that will add an abundance of natural lighting.

Garbark and Cummings have lived in Lawrenceville for several years. "I am excited to bring my business back here and be able to easily walk or ride my bike to work," Garbark says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Amy Garbark

Eat + Drink: Tender Bar + Kitchen; Notion now open; Redbeard's; The Pub Chip Shop

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

- Tender Bar + Kitchen will celebrate a grand opening next Friday, April 5th. The restaurant features a “Gatsby-era atmosphere,” regional American cuisine, and a craft cocktail list.

Renovations to the restaurant’s historic building—the former Arsenal Bank—unearthed artifacts such as bank checks from the 1890’s, a pair of handmade stone dice, and a vault alarm system, whose 1930’s electronics will be on display in the restaurant.

Tender is the second concept from Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina proprietor Jeff Catalina.  The menu includes regional dishes such as lobster rolls, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits. Tender is located at 4300 Butler Street, Lawrenceville. 412-402-9522.

- Notion has reopened in East Liberty. Chef-owner David Racicot closed the original Oakmont eatery in late 2011 with plans to bring the restaurant to a more central location in Pittsburgh. The smaller, 28-seat space is located at 128 S. Highland Avenue, near the neighborhood's many popular dining destinations, including BRGR, Abay Ethiopian Cuisine, Paris 66, and more.

- Piper's Pub owner Drew Topping is opening a new United Kingdom-style fish-and-chip shop called The Pub Chip Shop. The menu will include pasties, a stuffed British pastry, and other U.K. take-out fare.  It will be located in the adjacent Victorian storefront to Piper's Pub, at 1830 E. Carson Street. 

- Redbeard's  on 6th Sports Bar and Grill is opening soon in Downtown Pittsburgh, at 144 6th Street. It is a second location of the original Redbeard’s, which has served Mount Washington for more than 20 years.

Redbeard’s replaces the former Palazzo Ristorante, and is adjacent to Six Penn Kitchen. The Roberto Clemente Bridge is just one block away, which connects pedestrians to PNC Park on Pirates game days.

Writer: Andrew Moore

Morningside rising: Ola's Herb Shop, Capoeira Angola; and coming soon: The Bulldog Pub

Ola's Herb Shop is not located in a busy retail district, and that's fine with owner Ola Obasi.

On a sleepy corner in Morningside, Obasi's shop is a multi-use space that is dedicated to enhancing the personal wellness of all members of the community. It's a center for herbal medicine, energy work, and lifestyle coaching, but also the production facility for Obasi's all-natural product line, Nourishing Botanicals.

And Obasi's husband, Eric Biesecker, also teaches Capoeira Angola, the Afro-Brazilian martial art and fight dance, at the shop.  While the neighborhood's commercial district might be quiet, this particular storefront (typically open by appointment only) is filled with a holistic, healing energy.

Now, thanks to businesses like Obasi's and the dedication of many other community members, Morningside itself is poised for an awakening.

A new commercial structure has been built next to the neighborhood’s Rite Aid. The pharmacy itself has been renovated, as has the Morningside Market, which benefitted from the URA’s façade renovation program.

And the long-awaited Bulldog Pub & Grill—named for the neighborhood's youth football team—is expected to open on March 15th, at 1818 Morningside Avenue (just in time for St. Patrick's Day). The restaurant is a project of Morningside native Terry Golden.

Grant Ervin, Executive Director of the Morningside Area Community Council, says there has been a need for family-friendly community gathering spaces.

“There’s a big opportunity for that type of third place in the neighborhood,” he says. Ervin expects the Bulldog Pub—whose renovations are making the space even more inviting—to succeed in filling that role.

Ervin says Morningside’s lower rents have allowed entrepreneurs to develop their companies without the burden of excessive overheads. “It’s a good place if you’re looking to open a business,” he says.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Ola Obasi; Grant Ervin

Eat + Drink: Casa Rasta, Pizzarita, Texas de Brazil, Egyptian in Brookline: Isis Cafe

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

The popular Beechview restaurant Casa Rasta has reopened at a new space on Broadway Avenue, just two doors down from its original location. While patrons can still order tacos and burritos—like jerk chicken or citrus marinated pork—an expanded menu now includes appetizers, entrees, and desserts. 

Chef Antonio Fraga says these new menu items are an even better showcase of Casa Rasta’s fusion of Caribbean and Mexican flavors, including beef tongue with avocado or Isleño sauce, and a Caribbean salad with grilled pineapple, roasted corn, and spicy coconut.

The new space—at 2056 Broadway Avenue—also includes a full-service bar, though a liquor license is still pending. The restaurant seats up to 60, including a seasonal outdoor dining area. 

In the former Casa Rasta space—which sat only ten, and was primarily take-out—Fraga and his wife, Laura, plan to open a vegan and vegetarian restaurant serving Rastafarian Ital cuisine. They expect to open the new eatery within the next several months.

Casa Rasta first opened just over a year ago, in December 2011. Previously the couple had briefly operated a taco stand in the Strip District. 412-918-9683.

- Texas de Brazil has announced it will open a new, 7,500-square-foot restaurant in the South Side’s Station Square. It will be the Brazilian steakhouse’s 27th location. Seating over 200, the restaurant will include an interchangeable bar and patio space with river views.  Visit the restaurant's website to stay updated on an opening date.

- Isis Café, a new restaurant serving Egyptian cuisine, opened recently in Brookline.  Its menu features traditional Egyptian dishes—including okra tagen, duck with honey, samboussa, and fava bean falafel—with special entrees changing daily.

Isis is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, and offers a Sunday brunch.  815 Brookline Boulevard. 412-207-2485.

- Pizzarita opened recently in Shaler Township, the third pizzeria owned by the Posteraro family.  It joins Bloomfield’s Angelo’s and Grazzino’s pizza shops.  Located off Route 8 (580 Burchfield Road), Pizzarita is open Tuesday through Sunday. 412-487-1112.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

ZipPitt plans to run zip line from Mount Washington to North Shore

Adam Young is one step closer to flying from Mount Washington to the North Shore.  The Carnegie resident is proposing a zip line that would sail from near the Duquesne Incline to the Carnegie Science Center.

ZipPitt, as the project is called, was awarded a $1,000 Awesome Pittsburgh grant last week.  The organization has also helped Young with strategizing and advising on how to make this dream of flight a reality.

 “We think it will be pretty amazing taking in the view from that perspective,” Young says.  “I think it would be great for the residents and people visiting Pittsburgh to immerse themselves into the essence of the cityscape.”

The half-mile proposed zip line would cross the Ohio River at 50 mph and with a 400 foot vertical drop. Young will use the grant funds to bring a national zip line company to Pittsburgh to conduct a feasability study.

Young says the project has verbal arrangements with property owners at the proposed take-off and landing sites.  A landing platform would be constructed at the North Shore location with enough height to prevent interference with river traffic.

ZipPitt still needs approvals and permits from the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Army Corps of Engineers. 

Young says currently the only urban zip line in the United States is in Las Vegas, where for five blocks riders sail between buildings in that city’s downtown skyline. 

ZipPitt would cost customers approximately $30 to ride.  Young believes it would of interest to city visitors, particularly those riding bikes or renting kayaks near other North Shore attractions, as well as city residents.

Awesome Pittsburgh, which awarded its most recent grant to ZipPitt, is a local chapter of the Awesome Foundation, whose goal it is to forward the “interest of Awesomeness” with $1,000 micro grants.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Adam Young

La Dorita, maker of all-natural dulce de leche, opens co-working commercial kitchen

Josephine Caminos Oría grew up with the inimitable taste of homemade dulce de leche.  Her Argentine grandmother, who often lived with Oría’s family in Pittsburgh, always kept a fresh jar of this sweet spread on hand—for breakfast, dessert, or anytime in between.

Recognizing that all-natural, preservative-free dulce de leche was nearly impossible to find—much less understood—in the region, Oría began producing her own brand for sale at farmers markets in 2009. She used her Grandmother Dorita’s recipe, and named the company after her—La Dorita.

But when it came time to increase production, and expand distribution to a Whole Foods or Giant Eagle, there was just one problem—there were no suitable commercial kitchen spaces for a food startup like La Dorita.  So Oría and her husband, Gaston, have started their own.

The La Dorita Kitchen Share Space has just opened in Sharpsburg, and is a co-working space for food.  The licensed, commercial kitchen is fully equipped—standard and convection ovens, stainless steel work areas, freezers and refrigerators—but aims to offer more than just physical space.

Oría says the plan is to make the kitchen a synergistic food incubator, offering consulting on topics from insurance policies and loans to small business resources and distribution networks.  It's open to groups or individuals, and Oría hopes it can be a hub for artisan foodmakers.

A successful Kickstarter campaign, which ended last fall, raised over $50,000 to help convert the 4,000-square-foot space into the new community kitchen.  Members will also have access to a bar and dining space for special events.

Since this type of facility wasn’t available when La Dorita first began production, the Orías had to convert their home kitchen into a commercial kitchen.  With the co-working kitchen now open in Sharpsburg, the new goal is to convert an adjacent space into the official La Dorita production facility.

“Hopefully by 2014 we will be out of our kitchen and I will have gotten my dining room back,” Oría says.

La Dorita’s line of products—including dulce de leche with dark chocolate and a dulce de leche liqueur—are now available at Giant Eagle Market Districts, McGinnis Sisters stores, and Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic region.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Josephine Caminos Oría

Unifaun, Rather Ripped, new record stores in Lawrenceville

Unifaun Records opened last week in Upper Lawrenceville, the second record shop to open in the neighborhood in just two months.

Located at 5417 Butler Street, the shop is owned by recent Brooklyn-transplant Larry DeMellier.  Unifaun specializes in rock, jazz, and Americana, as well as soul, prog, psych, and other “record collecting” genres, DeMellier says.

DeMellier had worked in New York City’s music industry ever since graduating from Syracuse University in 1997.  Having spent time at Sire, London, and Warner Bros. Records—and at record shops in high school and college—DeMellier amassed a sizeable record collection, and a passion for the hobby. 

But as that industry began to downsize, DeMellier looked to Pittsburgh—where his family has migrated—for a new opportunity.  He believes Pittsburgh’s music history, live music scene, and record collecting culture make it a place where record shops can still thrive.  “I believe there’s room for all of us,” he says.

In addition to vinyl, DeMellier’s collection of 60’s and 70’s non-commercial posters—used to promote an album’s release—are on display throughout the shop.  The music inventory consists primarily of used vinyl and CD’s, but DeMellier expects to carry new vinyl releases in the near future.

Unifaun’s storefront location had been vacant for the past five years, but was most recently an auto-parts store.

And another shop, a new incarnation of Rather Ripped Records, has opened recently at 4314 Butler Street.  It’s a new life for the shop which first opened over 40 years ago in Berkeley, California, and hosted album signings for bands like the Clash, Blondie, and Sonic Youth.

Lawrenceville’s third record store, 720 Records, opened on Butler Street two years ago.  Located at 4405 Butler Street, 720 specializes in hip-hop, soul, and jazz, and also serves as a performance space, café, and clothing shop. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Larry DeMellier

Pittsburgh Paragliding instructor is first to speedfly from Machu Picchu

Last month Pittsburgh resident Jon Potter became the first person to speedfly from the top of Peru’s Machu Picchu.  The flight, which is like paragliding but much faster, wasn’t permitted and afterward involved hiding from authorities in the jungle for several hours.

Having conquered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Potter is back to a tamer pursuit: teaching paragliding to Pittsburghers.

Last fall, Potter launched Pittsburgh Paragliding with lifelong friend Adam Schwartz.  Since opening they’ve taught the sport to over a hundred folks in the hills of Allegheny County.  For $195 students get two hours of instruction, which Potter says is ample time to learn to fly.

“I have never had someone who wasn’t able to fly,” he says.  “It’s relatively easy to start out.”

Paragliding is free flight using a parachute that’s large enough to actually gain lift.  According to Potter, a flyer can stay in the air for hours at a time.  With speedflying, a flyer can only go down, and at very high speeds.

The business is the only of its kind in Western Pennsylvania.  Schwartz and Potter are licensed through the United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association.  All equipment for gliding or flying is provided, except for boots, which students should be comfortable running in.

Lessons typically take place in Hampton Township, but locations are subject to change based on wind conditions.

Unpredictable wind conditions are one of the main reasons speedflying from Machu Picchu, which descends from 7,970 feet above sea level into a steep canyon, is considered so dangerous.  A previous paragliding attempt from Machu Picchu was successful, but according to Potter, he was the first to speedfly from the heritage site.

“There’s something to be said about doing something first,” he says.  “It’s like the bread and butter of what paragliding is all about, being able to do something so monumental.”

Potter is also co-operator of Not Another Hostel, in Lawrenceville.  The donations-based hostel opened last summer, and is the only accommodation of its kind in Pittsburgh.  The University of California, Berkley is currently studying the hostel’s pay model.

Click here to watch a video of Potter's speedflight off Machu Picchu.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jon Potter

Eat + Drink: River City Java in Uptown, Acacia craft cocktails, Ramen Bar, Crux, and more

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

- Squirrel Hill’s Ramen Bar celebrated a grand opening on January 2nd.  The restaurant is dedicated to the Japanese noodle dish that is its namesake, a concept popular throughout Asia and elsewhere.  5860 Forbes Avenue.   Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.  412-521-5138.

Also in Squirrel Hill, Tan Lac Vien, a Vietnamese bistro, opened recently at 2114 Murray Avenue.  412-521-8888.
- Uptown has a coffee shop once again.  River City Java held a soft opening recently in the space once occupied by Asylum Coffee Bar, which closed in 2010. 

For the past two years, owner Kelly Russell has worked with the nonprofit StartUptown to bring other businesses to the neighborhood.  Now, she hopes her coffee shop can provide a community gathering place for those new arrivals and longtime denizens, and will further rebuilding efforts in Uptown.  1919 Forbes Avenue.

- Acacia is one of East Carson Street's newest drinking establishments, but you'll have to look a little harder than normal to find it.  The bourbon and whiskey bar is marked only by the Masonic Acacia logo, and has no windows or other adornment.

The candle-lit “conversation bar” features 116 types of bourbon, whiskey, and scotch, draft beer, and craft cocktails.  And despite its clandestine appearance, membership is not required.  A small-plate menu is under development.

Co-owner Lynn Falk was manager at the Strip District’s former Embury and Firehouse Lounge.  Falk and Spencer Warner will soon be re-opening Embury in the second-floor space above Acacia, in the former Z-Lounge building.  2108 E Carson Street.  412-488-1800.

- In Mount Washington, The Micro Diner is now serving classic breakfast fare and lunch seven days a week, and is even open late on Friday and Saturday nights.  221 Shiloh Street.  412-381-1391.

- The next Crux dinner—a nomadic, pop-up project of Chef Brandon Baltzley—will take place at the South Side’s Stagioni.  The meal, a collaboration with Chef Stephen Felder, will feature a 7-course modern Italian menu.

Baltzley’s collaborative kitchen series has traveled through Boston, Chicago and New York, and since last October he has hosted occasional dinners in Pittsburgh.  The event at Stagioni will be held on Monday, January 14th, at 7 p.m.  For reservations and more information, call 412-586-4738.

 Writer:  Andrew Moore

With coffee and beer under one roof, East End and Commonplace to offer Coffee Porter year-round

What’s better than coffee and beer?  Having it all under one roof.  Wholesale roasters Commonplace Coffee recently joined East End Brewing Company at its warehouse space in Larimer, with the latter planning to offer its collaboration Coffee Porter year-round.

Commonplace co-owner TJ Fairchild says the match-up is a good fit, as both companies share a craft approach to their products.  And through their collaborations, he says they came to realize that not only do they share a similar skillset, but a similar market.

“We started to notice that a lot of our customers were the same,” Fairchild says.  “The same people that were seeking out really good beer were the same people that were seeking out really good coffee.”

During the brewery’s popular Growler Hours customers can now purchase pounds of direct-sourced beans and sample select brews from the roastery.

Commonplace opened its original coffeehouse and roastery in Indiana, PA in 2003.  Since then, it has opened two shops in Pittsburgh, and delivers the majority of its beans to the city. 

While the original location will remain open in Indiana, the new facility, at 6580 Frankstown Avenue, will bring the company closer to its customer base, and will be its main roastery producing approximately 600 kilos of beans a week.

According to Fairchild, Commonplace purchases many of its beans directly from farmers, in addition to the fair-trade system.  He says they are also now roasting beans with a lighter profile to highlight each single-origin coffee’s subtleties and nuances.

Last December, East End introduced its Coffee Porter, brewed with Commonplace’s Sumatra Coffee.  While it had been offered seasonally, Fairchild says it will soon be on solid rotation at the brewery.

East End officially relocated from Homewood to its new Frankstown Avenue location last month, with expanded Growler Hours from Tuesday to Sunday, where customers can fill half-gallon glass jugs straight from the brewery's taps.

And even though the brewery is not open for growler hours on Monday, Fairchild says folks are still free to visit Commonplace and peer over the roaster’s shoulder to observe their process.

“Pretty much every day of the week we’re open for a visit if people want to see what we’re doing,” he says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  TJ Fairchild

Correction:  In last week’s Eat + Drink column, we incorrectly reported the operating hours of BZ’s Bar and Grill.  The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.  140 Federal Street.  412-323-BZBG.

Mansions on Fifth celebrates grand opening as 22-room boutique hotel

The Mansions on Fifth, a 22-room boutique hotel, celebrated a grand opening yesterday along with the complete restoration of the McCook Reed House. It’s the culmination of a seven year historic restoration process that has given new life to a pair of unique Pittsburgh homes.

Mary Del Brady, who owns the Mansions with husband Richard Pearson, says they are eager to share these historic spaces with the community.

“We feel more like stewards than owners,” Brady says.

The homes, which are Elizabethan Revivalist and Tudor styles, were built between 1900 and 1906 by industrialist and lawyer Willis F. McCook on what was then Millionaires Row.  According to Brady, McCook also helped build the nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The buildings’ most recent owners vowed to only sell to someone who would restore them.  Pearson, a developer and preservationist, had long admired the mansions. When they went up for sale, he and Brady jumped at the opportunity.

“You can’t ever rebuild a building like this again, and that’s the magic of it,” Brady says.

The hotel was restored consistent with Secretary of Interior standards.

The main McCook House, a 30,000-square-foot, solid granite structure, was opened to guests last year.  In addition to 13 guest rooms, this building contains most of the Mansions’ public rooms, including the grand hall and staircase, the Oak Room, library, as well as a wine cellar and fitness room. 

The Mansions feature a gallery specializing in 18th and 19th century European art (Gallery Werner), and has begun to host live music.  The hotel is also available for weddings and other special events.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Del Brady

ReDesigNation home design and furniture shop reopens in Wilkinsburg

ReDesigNation, a new and used consignment furniture and home design store, has relocated to Wilkinsburg.  In the spirit of the business—to remake old things—owner Jordan Deane has retrofitted a former church and cathedral space to showcase her work.

And while the space is an interesting way to showcase furniture that Deane has refurbished, and in some cases completely reimagined, she wants to make sure the building plays a greater role in the community.

“We don’t just want it to be about my furniture store and business,” Deane says.  She and her husband are considering ideas such as a community garden, or a community kitchen, to be hosted here. 

“We already know that it’s great for events,” Deane says, as the cathedral was recently used for a community member’s baby shower.  And because the furniture is already used, it can be part of an event, and remain listed for sale as well, she says.

According to Deane, midcentury modern is currently very popular in home decor and furniture, which suits her own tastes.

“It’s actually my favorite era to go for,” Deane says.  “I take a lot of midcentury modern pieces and I’ll either restore it back to its original grandeur, or I'll paint it funky colors, because it just kind of lends itself to being a funky piece.”

There are numerous empty storefronts in this part of Wilkinsburg.  But Deane hopes her revival of the former church, which was a foreclosure and had fallen into disrepair, can encourage more businesses to relocate to this part of the city. 

ReDesigNation was previously located in Squirrel Hill.  The shop is currently open by appointment.  For more information, visit Deane’s blog.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jordan Deane

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

Crested Duck Charcuterie to expand, USDA certification in Beechview

Crested Duck Charcuterie, the Beechview-based meat market and deli, is expanding to become a USDA certified facility.  The planned upgrades will allow the French-inspired charcuterie to ship out of state, and supply large chains such as Giant Eagle.  And according to owner Kevin Costa, it will also be an opportunity for him to give back to the region’s small-scale farmers.

“The small farmers have made my business what it is,” Costa says.  “They have supported me and supplied me with a really good, quality product.  So if I can help them out I don’t know why I wouldn’t.”

According to Costa, there are just a few USDA certified processing facilities in the region.  He says they’re not always easy to work with, nor do they give farmers many options in terms of gourmet products.

Costa says farmers are losing customers because they can’t provide certain custom cuts and higher-end products, especially around the holidays.  He hopes that with the new certification, Crested Duck can help to meet that need.

The shop will offer farmers a full range of nitrate-free meats, including bacon, sausage made with farm-grown produce and many other specialty cuts and orders.  Although similar products are already offered through Crested Duck, the certification will expand the shop’s capacity and distribution means. 

In order to complete the necessary upgrades, Costa launched a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded last month.  In addition to USDA certification, the campaign will aid in expansion of its Beechview retail service, including a new Sunday brunch and occasional evening dinners.

Crested Duck also remains a mainstay at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  412-892-9983.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kevin Costa

PGH Mobile Food coalition wants to bring more food trucks to Pittsburgh

Operating a food truck in Pittsburgh can be quite difficult.  In fact, some trucks operate illegally.  But the recently formed PGH Mobile Food coalition is hoping to change that.

“We are trying to change the law that the City of Pittsburgh currently has in place for mobile food,” says Megan Lindsey, co-owner of the Franktuary Food Truck.  “We would like to see more food trucks here because it’s part of a thriving city-scape.”

The coalition also wants to make it easier for prospective vendors to understand the current set of rules, and how to successfully operate within them.

PGH Mobile Food is partnering with the Institute for Justice (IJ), a D.C.-based public interest law firm that has worked in various cities to refine rules governing mobile food.  According to Lindsey, IJ has established best practices that keep food safety standards in place, but remove anti-competitive barriers to food truck operators.

Lindsey points to successful code modifications in El Paso, Texas.  In that city, once a more user-friendly code was put in place entrepreneurs, many of them immigrants, were able to launch their businesses with greater ease. 

“They found a lot of these folks were coming and starting trucks and serving a lot of great food,” Lindsey says.  “That’s what we hope will happen in Pittsburgh.”

Prior to forming PGH Mobile Food, Lindsey learned that City Councilman Bill Peduto’s office was working independently to amend the mobile food codes.  That initiative inspired Lindsey and business partner Tim Tobitsch to launch the coalition.

“Now that we’re involved we feel like we can help influence things from the owner/operator perspective,” Lindsey says.

PGH Mobile Food is partnering with the Saxifrage School and IJ for a lecture series titled “How to Change a Law.”  The first will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at Bar Marco (2216 Penn Avenue, the Strip District).  The second discussion will take place the following Wednesday, October 10th, at the same location.

And a Food Truck Rally is planned for Sunday, October 14th, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Parking Lot, at 5989 Penn Circle South.  The event will include Pittsburgh’s various mobile vendors and a speech from Peduto.

The PGH Mobile Food coalition includes the Franktuary, Oh My Grill, BRGR, PGH Taco Truck, Fukuda, Dozen Food Truck, and Zum Zum food trucks.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Megan Lindsey

The Shop in East Liberty now open, handcrafted art, home goods and jewelry

The Shop in East Liberty celebrated a grand opening last week, and is now offering home goods, everyday art, and jewelry.  All items in the store are handmade, and curated from local makers, as well as from artists throughout the country.  Owner/artist Julia Reynolds describes it as a retail store for design-conscious people.

Reynolds’ vision for The Shop is to be a comfortable space to display and view handmade items, appearing naturally as they might in a home.  She wants the space to contrast with the experience of viewing objects in a gallery, which she says can often be intimidating.

“You want to own something unique and that’s handmade, but you want to come to a place you feel comfortable, where you can touch the artwork or objects,” Reynolds says. 

And The Shop aims to be affordable too. 

“I hope that people can find things that they love and can easily take home to enjoy,” Reynolds says.

The Shop is located at 214 N. Highland Avenue, two doors down from Union Pig & Chicken. 

Reynolds, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Arts Management, has lived in East Liberty with her husband for several years.  When she began looking for a location to open The Shop, she says staying in the neighborhood was a priority.

The space was completely remodeled from an office-use space to now have a bright and modern feel, reflecting the type of products offered at the store.

The Shop is open until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings.  Reynolds is hoping her store can help to build foot traffic in this commercial district.

As a first-time business owner, Reynolds believes she has chosen the right neighborhood to open a store.

“We’re in an area that I think encourages this opportunity for anyone,” she says.

The Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, at 214 N. Highland Avenue. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Julia Reynolds

Urban Design Associates publishes open source manual on energizing communities, Everyday Squares

It’s often the smallest of spaces that can radically transform neighborhoods.  Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates (UDA) has spent the past summer documenting such places in the city where cafés, galleries, and boutiques have become agents of change.

“A lot of the things that are working organically in American neighborhoods are the sparks of inspiration and hard work by small businesses,” says UDA chairman Rob Robinson.

Their findings have been published in an open source manual titled Everyday SquaresThe manual offers as case studies cafes and restaurants like Espresso A Manno, Tazza D’Orro and Round Corner Cantina, and traditional squares like the new Village Park at Point Park University.

But in addition to just providing a gathering place, Robinson says he has found Pittsburgh’s small business owners to be incredibly community minded, and willing to share their facilities for various neighborhood needs.

“They give up space for the bike club meeting, or the family planning meeting, whatever it is,” Robinson says.  “All those spaces are almost universally used for community good as well as just private gain.”

But according to Robinson, designers and architects don’t always plan for these Everyday Squares.  He says many redevelopment efforts are too big, asking tenants to lease expensive storefronts with enormous footprints.  His firm is working to address these considerations.

“We have started to design spaces where the footprint for a commercial user is tiny—400 or 500 square feet, not 1,200—which is about triple of what you really need,” he says.

Robinson hopes the manual can aid commnity development corporations and other planning agencies in revitalization efforts and new development projects.

And aside from being small and flexible Robinson says successful squares are able to blend the line between public and private space. 

Not only does blending these spaces help to build a sense of comfort and community, Robinson says, it’s also good for business.  A restaurant that is able to take advantage of sidewalk or terrace seating, for example, is often able to triple its revenue without tripling overhead.

Robinsons says it’s important for neighborhood groups and planners to find out what’s working for small entrepreneurs and to create spaces that allow businesses to share resources.

“I think everybody recognized, wow, if I had three more friends here and we were all contributing to a little piece of this neighborhood, we’d be better, and our businesses would survive better,” Robinson says.  “It would be a more interesting place.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Rob Robinson

The Frown Crown boutique now open in Lawrenceville, illustrator Matt Gondek

Like many independent illustrators and designers Matt Gondek spent much of his time working from home.  Too much time in fact. To change his lifestyle, Gondek has opened a new urban boutique and design studio, The Frown Crown, in Upper Lawrenceville.

“I wanted to get out of my house and talk to people throughout the day,” Gondek says.  He hopes to use the shop as a meeting place for clients, as well as a place to build connections in the community. And while the shop functions as a regular clothing boutique, Gondek is in a back studio working on various illustrations, some of which will end up in his Jock n’ Roll clothing line in the new shop.

It wasn’t until Gondek participated in a pop up shop event that he realized the potential benefits of a brick-and-mortar space. The 2 Week Street Boutique, hosted by Fe Gallery this past May, drew a very positive reception. 

Inspired by that success, he sought a new permanent space. Now, he hopes the boutique will help other local designers gain more recognition.

In addition to clothing, the shop features prints from local artists, national underground brands, as well as Gondek’s own artwork, illustrations, and vinyl figures.

Gondek, who was named Pittsburgh Magazine's Best Local Artist in 2011, says his work is geared toward younger people, and is bold, colorful, and cartoon-like. “I try to put something on a shirt that gets people’s attention quickly and is recognizable,” he says.

The Frown Crown is located at 5179 Butler Street, next to Remedy Restaurant and Lounge, and is open noon to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Matt Gondek

The Brew Gentlemen to open region's latest craft brewery

The Brew Gentlemen--Asa Foster and Matt Katase--have admittedly been drinking underage for the past several years.  But unlike other college students, the setting wasn't a keg party, but rather a serious recipe-testing endeavor, an effort to found the region's latest craft brewery. 

Foster and Katase met as undergrads at CMU, where they quickly switched to self-designed majors in order to focus their studies on craft beer and entrepreneurship.

"We got the business off the ground before we were even of legal drinking age," Foster says.  "We spent the last three years going total immersion."

Since graduating in May, the pair (officially the Brew Gentlemen Beer Co., and now of legal drinking age) has been busy preparing their pilot brewing facility in Braddock, a former warehouse turned production facility.

After securing the space, which is owned by the Heritage Community Initiatives nonprofit, they learned that restaurateur Kevin Sousa would be their future upstairs neighbor.  Sousa plans to open his newest restaurant, Magarac, by late 2013. 

Foster hopes to offer Brew Gentlemen beers at Magarac, in addition to collaborations with other Pittsburgh breweries.

The brewery will be participating in several upcoming events where the public will have an early opportunity to taste Brew Gentlemen beers.

The Brew Gentlemen will initially have three different styles: White Sky, a Chai-spiced white ale; an amber east-coast style double IPA called General Braddock's IPA; and a session red ale.  Foster says their goal is to produce exploratory takes on traditional styles.

In the next five years Foster hopes to be able to open a second facility with a 20 to 30 barrel system, with production on the scale of other regional breweries, as well as offering canned products.

For a first taste of The Brew Gentlemen beer, kegs will be available at the latest Tapped Pop Up Beer Garden.  The event will be the last of the season, and will be held on October 6th,  from 2 to 9 p.m., John St., Braddock.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Asa Foster

Kelly O's Diner now open in the Strip in modern, updated building

Kelly O's Diner has opened in the Strip District, serving breakfast seven days a week.  It is the second location for the diner which has been serving the North Hills for the past eleven years. 

Owner Kelly O'Connor says she had been looking to open a second location in the city, and most recently in the Strip District, for many years.  But then recently everything fell into place.  “It almost felt like fate," she says.

Located at 100 24th Street, Kelly O’s replaces the former Jo Jo's Restaurant in a building that had once been an automotive garage.  The diner is adjacent to the Otto Milk Condos and across from Marty’s Market.

Due to an earlier fire, O'Connor says the interior was partially demolished when she took over the space.  She needed to rebuild the kitchen and bathroom, as well as install new electric, plumbing, and HVAC.

Kelly O's flooring is finished with the diner's signature black and white tiles, and its walls are wrapped in sparkling diamond plate.  On the building's exterior, O'Connor covered the entrance side in a stainless steel facade, providing a modern twist on the diner look, she says.  The remaining exterior walls will be covered in murals.

O'Connor has been working with the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Women in Business for the past three years. The school provides expertise to entrepreneurs in the city, assisting with drafting business plans and providing a business attorney, among other services. 

O'Connor says was attracted to the Strip District for its diversity, and because of its concentration of independently-owned businesses.

"The fact that you’re surrounded by a bunch of small business that make this one really big business community, I think that's awesome," she says.

In keeping with the Strip's tradition, Kelly O's opens early for breakfast, at 5 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 7 a.m. on Sunday, and closes at 3 p.m.  412-232-EGGS.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kelly O’Connor

Wigle Whiskey to host Modern Tar & Feathering, will soon unveil new distilled spirits

To celebrate this year’s anniversary of the Whiskey Rebellion--which occurred near here in 1794--the Strip District's Wigle Whiskey plans to tar and feather its patrons.  But don't worry, while the distillery might make its rye whiskey much like it was done in 18th Century, their process for tarring and feathering is much more humane.

The event is a collaboration between the Mattress Factory, Attack Theater, Society for Contemporary Craft, Toonseum, Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Science Center.  Each organization will “tar and feather” attendees, with guests will voting on the most inventive method.  The winning organization will receive use of the distillery for an evening.

But why tar and feather?  Meredith Grelli, co-owner of Wigle, explains that historically Europeans and Americans have protested taxes this way, and that local tax collectors were once tarred and feathered by Pittsburgh distillers.

Along with art-related tar and feather activities, food will be provided by the Pittsburgh Taco Truck, Franktuary, and the Goodie Truck.  And Bar Marco will host an afterparty with $5 Wigle cocktails.

In addition to this weekend's event, Wigle is preparing to release several new distilled spirits. 

In October, Wigle will unveil its first traditional Genever gin, and will be one of only two distilleries in the nation currently offering that spirit, Grelli says. 

And Wigle hopes to have a new line of bitters available before the holidays, with experimental flavors such as lychee or honeysuckle. 

"We hope to just keep innovating and introducing people to new spirits, to lost gems of distillation," Grelli says.

Grelli says since opening Wigle has become a destination for whiskey lovers, with enthusiasts traveling from as far as Scotland and Costa Rica, and from throughout the nation.  She expects the momentum of craft distilleries to continue growing.

"The craft distilling environment and the industry is really where craft beer making was probably 20 or 30 years ago,” she says.  “So we're really at just the start of this.”

Wigle Whiskey is open for cocktails and tastings Wednesday through Sunday.  Tours of the distillery can be booked through their website

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Meredith Grelli

Perle French-Mediterranean champagne and tapas lounge now open in Market Square

Market Square's latest dining destination, Perle, has made it very easy to celebrate.  In addition to a long list of bottles, the French-Mediterranean tapas lounge has six varieties of champagne on draft.

As the renovated Market Square has quickly filled with restaurants, Perle is offering a new nightlife concept that has been missing from this area of Downtown.

The beige interior features an open ceiling that allows light fixtures to circulate throughout the lounge, a visual ode to champagne’s signature bubbles, or pearls, after which the space is named. 

Along with flutes of champagne, the bar has created a list of champagne cocktails that includes classic recipes with French and Greek liquors, as well as interpretations of drinks like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Gin Twist.

Perle’s small menu has around 20 dishes, including French crepes, and tapas offerings designed for sharing.

Perle is a project of Peter Landis and the Big Y Group, owned by Yves Carreau.  Carreau's other restaurants include NOLA, located just next-door, as well as Seviche, and Sonoma.

Located above Bruegger’s Bagels, at 24 Market Square, Perle features a small open-air balcony that is a first for the square in recent years.  Although too small for tables, guests are able to bring drinks outside and overlook Market Square.

The amenity adds a New Orleans-Bourbon Street feeling, says bar manager Jennifer Welsh, which combined with NOLA’s sidewalk dining enhances the streets overall aesthetic.

Perle opens Wednesday through Saturday at 4 p.m., and closes late (2 p.m.) on weekends.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jennifer Welsh

Moop's handmade bag business grows, moves to larger facility in Carnegie

In just over five years the Pittsburgh-based handmade bag company, Moop, has grown from a living room operation to a new 7,000-square-foot facility in Carnegie, adding employees and growing customer base.

Moop is owned by Wendy Downs and Jeremy Boyle.  The couple moved to Crafton, where Boyle grew up, from New York City in 2009.  They returned to the region to be near family, but also because Pittsburgh was affordable, and would allow them to grow their business at a faster pace, Downs says.

Once established in Crafton, the business began hiring employees, expanded its product offerings, and increased its ability to meeting customer demand.

Last year though it became clear that their business had outgrown its 700-square-foot facility in the West End, and they would need a new shop.

While exploring various neighborhoods for a new suitable space--by road and by Google Maps--Boyle remembered an old industrial facility where he had gone to skateboard as a kid.  They tracked down the warehouse, and learned it was for rent.

Boyle, a former contractor, used his construction experience to renovate their space, which Downs says was an empty rectangle when they moved in.  They subdivided and added a fully-enclosed woodworking shop, production areas, a lounge and kitchen for the staff, as well as offices and art studios.

The facility, located at 100 Rosslynn Road, is also close to their daughter’s high school.  Downs says that as a small family business it was important for the entire family to be comfortable with the space, and to have an ease of mobility.

Downs says if Moop continues to grow at its current pace they’ll be looking to hire more employees in the coming months.

“Our growth is slow and steady, which means its manageable and its controllable and its predictable,” Downs says.  “Which are all very healthy ways of running a business.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Wendy Downs

Marty's Market, Emilia Romagna, and R Wine Cellar now open in the Strip District

A string of openings have come to the Strip District, including the new Italian restaurant Emilia Romagna; Marty's Market; and R Wine Cellar.

Marty's Market, a specialty food store and café, held a soft opening on Saturday, giving shoppers a glimpse of the new market that replaces the former Right By Nature at 2305 Smallman Street.

The market is one-third smaller than the former grocery store, and specializes in locally grown and organic foods. But Marty's seeks to distinguish itself as a unique retail experience, starting with design.

Renovations to the space include three glass garage doors--which open to the downtown skyline--two kitchen areas, and a coffee bar.  Owner Regina Koetters says transparency, from the kitchen to the street view, was a guiding principle in the market’s design.

Marty’s cafe, which seats up to 45, serves made-to-order meals from a menu that changes daily.  The cafe is also planned to serve as a community kitchen of sorts, with tastings and cooking demonstrations by local chefs and amateurs alike.

-  Just a few blocks away Emilia Romagna will celebrate its grand opening this Friday.  The restaurant is a project of Chef Jonathan Vlasic, of the Allentown restaurant Alla Famiglia, and Peters Township’s Arlecchino.

The menu features dishes inspired by those regions of Northern Italy, as well as popular dishes from the proprietors’ other two restaurants.

Located at 108 19th Street, the space will also introduce a new nightclub to the Strip--V Ultra Lounge--which will also open on Friday.  The lounge will occupy the building’s second floor and balcony, and will feature a limited menu of antipastas, burgers, and sushi.

The lounge and restaurant are a project of Vlasic, Vince Isolde, and Chef Cory Hughes.

R Wine Cellar has opened at 2014 Smallman Street, selling house-made wines.  The cellar, a family owned urban winery, currently has four reds and four whites available, including oaked and un-oaked Chardonnays.

Although juices are currently brought in from elsewhere, all wines are fermented, blended, and bottled on site.  And several wines are made using grapes from the Lake Erie Region, including the white Traminette ($12) and the Lake Erie Red ($13).

Owner Steve Russell says they chose this location because they wanted to be in the middle of the developing Strip District.

"We think the potential here in the future is very strong," he says.

Koetters agrees, and says it’s an exciting time to be part of the Strip District, and recognizes that each new businesses is a boon to the neighborhood.

“We’re fortunate to be enjoying a great time in the Strip,” she says.  “There’s a lot of stuff going on… [and] I want Marty’s to be a vehicle to encourage more investment in the Strip.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Bridge Ten Brasserie now open on South Side, French food, wine and beer

As a writer and broadcaster, David DeSimone spent the past 25 years sharing experiences with food and wine from his travels throughout Europe.  Now, with the launch of Bridge Ten Brasserie, DeSimone is going beyond words to translate those experiences into a French-inspired brasserie and bar.

Located adjacent to the South Side’s Holiday Inn Express and Suites (20 S. 10th Street), the restaurant focuses on the cuisine, wine, cocktails and beer from all regions of France.

Although the dining room is still under construction, Bridge Ten’s terrasse patio and bar are now open, seating up to 90.  The current menu features a variety small plates, mussels, soups and salads, and pizza à la Française; prices ranging from $6 to $20.

Bridge Ten replaces the former Patio 10 in this location.  The remodeled dining room will include a new floor and décor, as well as the removal of one wall. 

“Basically putting in the mode of a brasserie that you might find in Paris or Léon, France,” DeSimone says.

DeSimone expects the main dining room to be open in September.  He plans monthly prix fixe dinners, each highlighting a different region of France, with September featuring the cuisine of Provence.

The restaurant’s chef will be Shawn Carlson, a former executive chef for Toni Pais, of the former Baum Vivant in Shadyside.  And Bridge Ten’s maître d’is David Cesaro, a native of France. 

DeSimone says the brasserie, like those of France, is upscale yet casual, and even features a special student menu.  He says the effort to reach students is part of an overall attempt to make French food and wine more accessible to a broad spectrum of diners.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  David DeSimone

Pittsburgh's only hostel now open in Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh's first hostel in several years is now open in Lawrenceville.  Yet the establishment's name, Not Another Hostel, offers the first clue that it's slightly unconventional.

A project of John Potter and Steph Bercht, the hostel operates on a donations-based, pay-it-forward model where guests are encouraged to support the initiative with contributions, but aren't required to. Because, as Potter says, your stay has already been paid for.

Potter says the idea for Not Another Hostel developed during the course of the couple's own travels, informed by both good and bad hostelling experiences.  But the pay-it-forward model grew from a question Potter had been truggling with: Are people basically good, or not?

“In our last trip, we just had an overwhelming amount of people who would invite us into their homes, complete strangers, and I finally came to the conclusion that yes, I am positive, people are good,” Potter says.  “And I wanted to show that and pay back what I was given.”

The hostel's location is not available over the internet (it's about a block from the Children's Hospital, Potter says), and potential guests are vetted through their social media presence.  The website provides a contact form and a direct phone number to reach Potter.

Potter admits the current experience is something between couch surfing and hostelling.  The three-story home can accommodate up to 4 guests (comfortably), and features an information desk with maps and guides, basic amenities, and loaner bicycles.

Potter says the Pittsburgh Hostel Project, which is still seeking to re-establish a traditional hostel in the city, has been supportive of Not Another Hostel.  The city’s last hostel, Pittsburgh International Hostel, was located in the Allentown neighborhood, but closed in 2003. 

In the past two weeks the hostel has hosted around 25 guests, with visitors from Europe, Asia, and South America.  About half have paid for their stay.  But Potter says that’s not the point.

“It's really about hospitality as it should be, and not just about making money,” he says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Potter

Tapped, pop-up beer gardens coming to a vacant lot near you

Pay attention to vacant lots in the East End, as they might come alive overnight.  A partnership between Epic Development and the Strip District restaurant Bar Marco is transforming unused parcels of land into pop-up beer gardens throughout the summer in East Liberty, Lawrenceville, Downtown, and the Strip District.

The first pop-up event, called Tapped, was held this past Saturday in the Strip.  Epic Development founder Michael McAllister says he got the idea for these pop-up beer gardens while attending school in Washington D.C., where similar events were taking place.

“The whole idea is to take a site that's inactivated and turn it back over to the community,” McAllister says.

Epic and Bar Marco are seeking to partner with landowners who want to gain exposure for an upcoming development project, or with folks who are simply willing to activate an unused space.  McAllister says it’s an opportunity to build community and connections within a neighborhood.

Saturday’s Tapped event was held on a lot adjacent to Bar Marco’s restaurant on Penn Avenue.  Food was provided by the Franktuary food truck and Lucy’s banh mi sandwich cart, with beer from East End and Full Pint breweries.  The event lasted from 11 a.m to midnight, with DJ’s, bacci courts, and a block party atmosphere.

After moving back to Pittsburgh, McAllister says he noticed a large number of entrepreneurs taking risks with out-of-the-box businesses, especially with exciting, food-related endeavors.  He sees these pop-up parties as a way to continue building excitement for the local, small-business community.

McAllister says the events will be planned organically, and will take a grassroots approach to promoting each pop-up party.
The next pop-up party will take place within the next month in Lawrenceville, at a location yet to be determined.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Micahel McAllister

Silvi's SouthSide Kitchen and Buddy's Brews on Carson now open; Cafe Retro opens in Allentown

Silvi's SouthSide Kitchen opened last month on East Carson Street, serving what owner Dimitri Ávilas calls a mix of Mexican and American comfort food.  The menu ranges from tacos and enchiladas, to hamburgers and fried shrimp po' boys.

"We hope you come here and feel like you're coming home to Mexican food," Ávilas says. 

The restaurant, named for Dimitri's wife and co-owner, Silvi, is located across from the Birmingham Bridge (2212 E. Carson), and is BYOB.

Silvi, who is originally from Mexico, is responsible for the homemade flour tortillas, and items like burritos and sopadillas, while a few of Dimitri’s offerings are influenced by his Texas upbringing, and include chicken-fried steak, cowboy beans, and a pork tenderloin sandwich.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Silvi's joins the party on Carson Street with its late-night Taco Time menu (tacos only; 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and fixings bar; tacos just $3 apiece.

Ávilas came to Pittsburgh three years ago, and had been manager of Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh in the South Side Works (and previously at Hofbräuhaus Newport) before opening Silvi's, the duo's first.

In addition to their storefront location, Ávilas hopes to bring Silvi's home-style Mexican comfort food throughout the city via a roaming food truck in the near future.

Also new to the South Side is Buddy's Brews on Carson (2112 E. Carson), a specialty beer store offering a wide selection of craft, import, and domestic beer and cider.  Buddy's occupies the first floor of a recently renovated, 4-story structure built in 1901.  The storefront space had previously been home to T&T Hardware for 74 years, before it closed in 2010. 

The second and third floors have been renovated as apartment units, with two on each level. 

The space occupied by Buddy's Brews (named after owner Jake Nickman's dog), has been completely remodeled, and includes refinished original floors.  Nickman has begun hosting beer and cider tastings on Fridays, something he hopes to continue as a regular event.

And just over the hill beyond the South Side Slopes, Cafe Retro has recently opened in the Allentown neighborhood.  The restaurant, located at 637 E. Warrington Avenue, is hard to miss for its lime-green storefront.

The cafe serves diner fare—omelets, burgers, and a variety of retro-themed sandwiches—along with smoothies, specialty coffee, and free Wi-Fi.  Owner Ray Meyers encourages patrons to bring laptops and stay awhile, or just come for the food. 

Meyers hopes Cafe Retro will can add to the reanimation of Allentown's business district, which already includes the established Italian restaurant Alla Famiglia. 

Café Retro, 412-709-6647.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Dimitri Ávilas; Jake Hickman; Ray Meyers

Photo credit: Kristina Helen Schmidt

Kayak Millvale to launch at Allegheny River, boat and bicycle rentals seven days a week

For a town whose name echoes the industry of its past, Millvale has made huge strides to transform polluted waterways into public amenities.  And on May 26th, when Kayak Millvale begins operating a kayak and bicycle rental facility, it will be that much easier for residents to access a cleaner, healthier Allegheny River.

Kayak Millvale, a project of Venture Outdoors, will have an initial fleet of 20 kayaks and 15 bikes available for rent, seven days a week.  Prices for one- and- two-person boats range from $15 to $20 an hour. 

Venture Outdoors operates two other kayak rental programs, one in North Park, and the North Shore-based Kayak Pittsburgh, which was launched in 2004.  Last year, the organization rented-out over 14,000 kayaks to paddlers on the Allegheny. 

According to Millvale Borough Council Vice President John Kelley, the boat rental program is just one of many upgrades coming to Millvale’s Riverfront Park and outdoor recreation areas.  An existing walk-in boat launch will soon be joined by new finger piers and a new dock for non-motorized boats, as well as additional facilities.

Kelley says Kayak Millvale is a great fit for the borough, and expects the service to become very popular.

“[Kayak Millvale] knows the river like the back of their hand,” he says.  “These guys were born to have their concession in this spot.”

The Millvale Borough Development Corporation and borough council approached Venture Outdoors about bringing their concession to the Riverfront Park.  Kelley says the town's current leadership is committed to improving the public's access to waterways, and increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Jon Lucadomo, of Venture Outdoors, says his organization will start by offering a small fleet of boats while gauging the public's demand.

Kelley, himself a member of the Three Rivers Rowing Association, which also uses Millvale’s waterfront facilities, says paddling in the middle of the Allegheny is a “revelation.”

“It’s a completely different point of view,” he says.  “I just hope that everyone in Pittsburgh has a chance to come out and experience this.” 

Kayak Millvale will be located along the Allegheny River at Millvale Riverfront Park, River Front Drive, Millvale, PA 15209; open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to dusk; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to dusk.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  John Kelly; Jon Lucadomo, Venture Outdoors

Katana now open in Dormont, features Chinese and Japanese cuisine, sushi and hibachi

Dormont has gained another new restaurant with the recent opening of Katana on West Liberty Avenue. Owner Mandy Lin's
also operates Sushi Boat, a take-out restaurant in Central Oakland.

Katana features two hibachi grills, which includes two sets of four tables, able to accommodate up to 35 guests.  In addition to a full menu of Chinese and Japanese cuisine, Katana boasts elaborate presentations from its gourmet sushi bar.  Lin highlights two of her favorite specials: tuna wasabi dumplings, and a grilled white fish in a ponzu sauce.

Lin says she and her husband chose Dormont because they like the area, and felt it was a good place to open a business.  Their restaurant replaces a home furnishings store  which has since moved to a new location.  The space was completely remodeled for the restaurant, from floor to ceiling, including an all-new industrial kitchen.

The restaurant seats approximately 90, and is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Katana is located at 3229 W. Liberty Avenue, Dormont.  412-388-1800

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mandy Lin

Enchanted Garden plant shop and garden art boutique opening in South Side

With each planting season, independently owned garden centers are making it easier to prepare gardens for spring without ever leaving the city.  And now, in addition to established growers like the Urban Gardener and Wilkinsburg's Garden Dreams, the Enchanted Garden, which opens Friday on the South Side, is the latest plant purveyor to assist in the greening of Pittsburgh.

Located within a five-room storefront one block from East Carson Street, the Enchanted Garden features annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as succulents and bonsai trees.  The store will be selling high-quality garden tools that are ergonomically designed, or feature lifetime warranties.

Co-owner Jackie Day says her shop is focused on organic growing practices, and offers a wide range of all-natural products for the garden and the body.

In addition to garden supplies, the shop is selling locally-made honey and bee pollen, used to treat seasonal allergies, as well as artisan soaps and body creams, all-natural bug sprays, and beeswax candles.

And the center is also a garden-art boutique, featuring the work of local artists in pottery, wind chimes, stain glass, jewelry, and more.  

Day says Enchanted Garden is ideal for those planning to garden in an urban setting, offering brackets and baskets for vertical growing, and a variety of container-growing options.

"A lot of the items that we're going to sell are tailored toward people that have smaller spaces to work with," she says.

The shop is also doing vermiculture composting on-site, and will be teaching customers how to compost with worms at home, with bins and worms for sale.  

“It’s the most nutrient rich plant fertilizer that you can get, but it’s completely natural,” Day says.

For those not quite ready for the at-home system, Enchanted Garden is offering two and five pound bags of worm castings for sale.

The Enchanted Garden opens Friday, May 4th, 73 13th Street, 412-235-7680.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Jackie Day

Homewood Indoor Bike Park plans moving forward

Harry Geyer wants to bring Pittsburgh’s cycling culture to its next logical step: indoors.  Already in the preliminary stages of development, Geyer is planning an 80,000 square-foot indoor cycling facility called The Wheel Mill.  It would be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, and one of only a few in the nation.

The facility, located at 6815 Hamilton Avenue, would include year-round, indoor courses for mountain biking and BMX, a bike polo court, and possibly space for a mini-velodrome.

According to Geyer, the first indoor bicycle park of a similar scale was built in Cleveland in 2004.  Geyer says like many other bicycle enthusiasts who had visited Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park, he came back to Pittsburgh eager to bring a similar concept to his own city.

“It’s addictive [and] fun, and I think we all just wanted it,” Geyer says.  And finally, after several years of planning, “all the elements just came together.”

Geyer says the Homewood community has been tremendously supportive of the idea.  And as community groups in the neighborhood are currently working to create safe biking routes for kids to schools, and encouraging more youth-bike programs, he sees the bike park in Homewood as a good fit. 

Geyer also runs a reclaimed lumber business, and plans to build as much of the bike park’s infrastructure from reclaimed wood and other recycled materials as possible. 

A resident’s meeting was held last night at the bike park to address comments and concerns about the proposed facility.  Geyer plans to release specific details about the park in the coming months, and anticipates opening later this fall. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Harry Geyer

The Pittsburgh Tour Company adds more hop on-hop offbuses, expands routes for fourth season

The Pittsburgh Tour Company’s fourth season in the city is underway, and they’ve added a few more bright red, double-deckers to their fleet of historic London buses.  Along with the additional vehicles, the company has expanded its route to new parts of the city, and now features 21 stops.

The tour route begins in the South Side, and makes its way to the North Shore, the Strip District, and Oakland. 

Owner Vinny Lamonica says his company’s “hop on/hop off” service is one of several features that makes these tours unique in Pittsburgh.  While on a guided tour, guests are able to exit the bus at any of the featured stops.  After they have explored an area, they can then join any later bus, which arrive approximately once an hour.

And guests don’t need to commute to the company’s headquarters to join the tour.  Instead, they can begin the tour by hopping on a bus at any stop, which Lamonica says eliminates a lot of confusion for out-of-town tourists.

“A lot of people come into town and they don’t really know what to do, or how to get there,” he says.  “So you can leave your car at the hotel and let us do the rest for you.”

Becky Rodgers, Executive Director of Neighbors in the Strip, says the expansion of this tour service is a good thing for Strip District and for Pittsburgh.

“What a wonderful way to see the entire city,” Rodgers says.  “It’s just an easy thing for tourists to do—and it’s memorable.”

Pittsburgh Tour Company operated 7 days a week, April through December.  For more information call 412-381-TOUR.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Vinny Lamonica; Becky Rodgers

Biddle's Escape coffee shop opening in Wilkinsburg

Regent Square’s newest coffee shop is set to open just in time for warm weather, and is all about fresh air and open spaces.  Biddle's Escape, which will open in the coming weeks, features elevated sidewalk seating, over 25 windows, and a wall that opens completely to the avenue via a large, garage-style door.

The shop will serve a full list of coffee drinks, as well as Italian sodas, smoothies, and juice.  Baked goods and breakfast foods will be provided by Sweet Tammy’s bakery, and other local vendors. 

Common Place Coffee will roast the shop’s beans, but owner Joe Davis plans to purchase coffee directly from farmers himself.  Davis is well acquainted with direct and fair trade practices, as he had previously owned and curated an artisan bead shop in Oakland for the past 20 years.

An avid traveler since the age of 14, Davis has visited 86 different countries.  For many years he has purchased art and beads directly from artists, and artifacts from his travels will be for sale and on display throughout the shop, as well as a complete bead shop.

Located on a leafy, residential street, the coffee shop is just a few blocks from Braddock Avenue and Frick Park.

Although a bit removed from Wilkinsburg’s Penn Avenue, Wilkinsburg CDC Executive Director Tracey Evans says the shop’s opening is a good thing for the borough, and the only coffee shop of its kind in Wilkinsburg.

Evans says a neighborhood gathering spot like Biddle's Escape helps to further the cause of redeveloping Wilkinsburg.

Biddle’s Escape, 401 Biddle Avenue, Regent Square (Wilkinsburg), 15221.    

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Joe Davis; Tracey Evans

Draai Laag brewery open in Millvale

The Pittsburgh region’s newest brewery aims to make and sell beer in the tradition of a small, European village.  For Draai Laag Brewing Co. that means offering small batches of high-quality, hand-crafted beers.

Although Draai Laag’s brewing team has been experimenting with recipes for over 14 years, it wasn’t until this past winter that they began distributing to local bars and restaurants.  And after installing a new tap system at the brewery (the first in Millvale since 1845), they’re selling growlers and cases every first and third Friday.

Draai Laag’s beers go through a triple fermentation process, which continues after bottling.  According to co-owner Sean Monaghan, the beers actually get better with age.

“I can drink it when it's still young, and they’re great,” he says.  “But I'll be candid, you lay them down, and they get even better.  They just mellow, and the quality just goes from there.”

Draai Laag is a modest, two-barrel system.  Currently on tap: the Aureus, and the Simon Girty. 

The Aureus (8.0% ABV) which is described as being "aromatic of fruit esters, citrus and underlying banana custard tones," is golden in color, and can be aged up to two years. 

The Simon Girty (8.0% ABV) is off-red in color, has fruit, spice and bubble gum aromas, with citrus and rum tones, and is finished with a hint of cocoa. 

Monaghan says his team wanted to make high-quality beer that would still be considered affordable.  One approach they have taken to achieve this is through self-distribution, which helps to keep re-sale costs lower.

Monaghan says the Millvale Boro Development Corporation has embraced the brewery, and were instrumental in not only bringing them into the community, but have assisted them throughout the opening process.

Draai Laag is available at a dozen regional locations, including Remedy, Brillobox, the Beerhive, and Vivo Kitchen.

The next chance to buy directly from the Draai Laag brewery is April 6th, from 6 to 9 p.m.  501 E. Ohio Street, Millvale.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Sean Monaghan

New City Cab taxi service and Project Pop Up: Downtown, two efforts to make downtown vibrant

Hailing a cab in Pittsburgh has just gotten a little easier.  Last week, Mayor Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh Transportation Group launched a new cab service dedicated to the greater downtown area.

According to a statement released by the mayor's office, this service was created in response to a demand for additional downtown transportation options.  The new City Cabs, which are currently a fleet of six black-and-white taxis, are intended to connect residents and visitors to various dining and retail destinations within the urban core. 

The service is limited to downtown, but includes destinations in the South Side, North Shore, and Oakland.

In addition to expanded transportation options for the central business district, yesterday marked the official launch of Project Pop Up: Downtown, the storefront activation project that has brought eleven new art installations and retail projects to formerly-vacant spaces in the Golden Triangle.

At yesterday’s event, the mayor said that due to the success of current efforts, the city is looking to expand the project to additional areas of downtown, including the “Skinny Building” at 641 Forbes Avenue.

At 5 p.m. this Friday a free, self-guided walking tour will showcase the various Pop Up storefronts, which include downtown’s only bookstore, a clothing boutique, a robot repair shop, Dream Cream Ice Cream, and more.  A printable map is available here.

Currently, 9 of the 11 storefronts are up and running.  Dream Cream Ice Cream announced yesterday an opening date of April 27th.  And BikePARK, a secure, weather-protected bicycle parking lot will open at 238 Fourth Avenue in June.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Dream Cream Ice Cream, a downtown pop up store, rewards dreamers

Downtown Pittsburgh’s latest pop-up storefront, Dream Cream Ice Cream, hopes to make dreams come true with every cone it sells.  Opening in early April, the shop’s unique business model will direct a portion of its sales to 12 different “dreamers” each month.

Although the desire to open the shop originally sprang from a passion for ice cream, co-owners Alecia Shipman and Thomas Jamison say they also wanted to create a business that would support positive action in the Pittsburgh community.

To become a dreamer, one needs to submit an application.  If selected, the individual or organization picks a particular flavor of ice cream, and 25% of those sales will be donated to their cause.  Each month, a new set of dreamers will be announced.

To qualify, Jamison says the dreamer must first identify a need, not a want--that means no Rolex watches or new rims for your car.  A review committee selects dreamers based on a grading rubric to see if the idea is a good fit.

“We are looking for some key factors,” Jamison says.  “Whether it’s a theater company that needs funds for their next production, a soccer mom who wants new equipment for her kids, or a student who's trying to pay down student debt--those are all things that I think everybody would agree are just wholesome, good causes.”

But dreams won’t get funded without a little work.  To be a participant, each dreamer will work two, 7-hour work days a week.  Jamison says this relationship is beneficial for both parties: Dream Cream saves on expenses, while the dreamer can reach potential supporters.

“It’s an opportunity for you to sell your dream to folks and tie them to where this money is going,” Jamison says.

Shipman says the ice cream model, compared to crowdsourcing sites like  Kickstarter, allows dreamers to raise funds without needing to gain complete buy-in from supporters.

“Some will come down [to the shop] specifically for that reason,” Shipman says.  “But others are just going to come down because they want ice cream.  It’s more advantageous for the [dreamers] because the fund raising opportunity is a little bit more intuitive than the traditional methods.”

Dream Cream is just one of several new businesses to open as part of  Project Pop Up: Downtown, a storefront activation program that is a collaboration between Mayor Ravenstahl, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, and the URA.

And the ice cream shop also has its own dream: to become a permanent part of Downtown Pittsburgh, after the Project Pop Up term ends.

“We’re hopeful that the relationship works out and we can be there for years to come,” Jamison says.

Dream Cream Ice Cream will open in early April at 539 Liberty Avenue, 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Alecia Shipman, Thomas Jamison

Lawrenceville's Paint Monkey offers art-as-entertainment group sessions

Lawrenceville’s newest business, Paint Monkey, wants to tap into the creative juices of Pittsburgh’s many latent artists.  Located within the Ice House Studios, this “art as entertainment,” do-it-yourself venue equips would-be painters with instruction and materials, while attendees are encouraged to bring friends, imagination, and a bottle of wine.

Groups of 8-30 choose a painting type from an online catalog.  In the studio, all materials are provided--including aprons--and artist Joe Groom walks you through each step, painting along with the group in 2-3 hours sessions.  

Groom says Paint Monkey is like a personal version of PBS’s Joy of Painting, except a lot more fun.  Music plays in the background (you can bring your own iPod), and you’re welcome to bring food and drink.  And unlike in your living room, it’s ok if a few drops of paint land on the former ice-warehouse’s concrete floors.

Groom says that although many people haven’t painted since they were kids, once the first stroke touches canvas, it all comes back.

“People are creative,”  he says, “you just got to give them an opportunity to get it going.”

Groom says the point of Paint Monkey is less about developing impeccable skills, than it is about entertainment, and being creative in a social environment.

Paint Monkey accommodates all group types, including kids’ birthday parties, senior citizen groups, office co-workers, or even a candle-lit date night.

Paint Monkey is co-owned by Groom and Mary Lou Bradley.  The recently-engaged couple moved to Pittsburgh from Central Florida last October.  Mary Lou grew up in Pittsburgh’s Overbrook neighborhood, but has lived in New York and Florida for the past 30 years.

For a Pittsburgh native, whose notions of the city were informed by years of industrial decline, Bradley was excited and surprised by the city’s transformation, and by the opportunity it could now offer her.

“I don’t think we could have done this anywhere else,” she says.

Bradley and Groom enjoy exploring the revitalized city, and feel especially at home in Lawrenceville’s creative community.

Paint Monkey sessions range from $35 to $45, and offer a reduced rate for kids.  They plan special events, such as Paint Your Pet, and are able to bring Paint Monkey on the road.

Paint Money, 100 43rd Street, Studio 212. Lawrenceville. 412-770-4923.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mary Lou Bradley, Joe Groom

From a taco stand in the Strip to Casa Rasta in Beechview

Beechview’s Broadway Avenue has gained another dining destination with the opening of Casa Rasta, a Caribbean-influenced taco shop and BYOB.  The shop’s owners completed renovations to their exterior earlier this week, and have added an outdoor patio along the avenue.

Chef Antonio Fraga was born in Mexico City, but traveled extensively throughout his country before coming to the United States.  He says through this experience he learned a wide variety of regional Mexican cooking; growing up with his grandmother and mother, Fraga learned hearty home cooking at their side.

And although Jamaican Jerk Chicken tacos might at first sound unusual, if tasty, to some, Fraga says Caribbean influences can be found in many parts of Mexico.  But more than that, Fraga says he wants to show people that you can put whatever you want inside a taco.

“The whole idea of the taco is you grab your tortilla, [put] your favorite food in the middle, and you roll it, eat it, and enjoy it,” he says.

Menu items include cochinita pibil tacos, a marinated pork recipe Fraga grew up with; not-too-spicy Jamaican Jerk wings with mango and avocado salsa; and birria shredded beef tacos.  Past weekend specials have included tinga tostadas, chilaquiles with salsa verde, and spicy curry shrimp tacos.

Fraga says the goal of Casa Rasta is to bring people together over high-quality, affordable food.

"It's food that you share with people that you care [about],” he says.

Last fall, Fraga and wife Laura operated a small taco stand in the Strip District.  There they honed their recipes, and were encouraged to open a full-service shop in Beechview, where the couple lives.

Fraga admits Beechview is still off many people’s radars, but that several new businesses are transforming vacant storefronts into vibrant destinations.  He cites great pizza shops, Italian restaurants, and a growing Mexican community, as contributing to this turnaround.

“This is the neighborhood that hopefully in the future will be my kids' neighborhood too,” Fraga says, “And I’m trying to make it better for everybody.” 

Casa Rasta is open Wednesday through Monday, for lunch and dinner.  2102 Broadway Avenue, Beechview, 15216.  412-223-6106.
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Antonio Fraga

Thai Spoon, first Thai restaurant in the South Hills, opens in Dormont

The South Hills’ dining options have just grown more diverse, with Thai Spoon recently opening on Potomac Avenue in Dormont. The small, 12-table BYOB is open six days a week, for lunch and dinner.

Chef and owner June Jirachertchoowong, until recently part-owner of Thai Cuisine in Bloomfield, says many regulars of her former restaurant asked for a second location in the South Hills area, and when the Potomac Avenue storefront presented itself, she seized the opportunity to branch out.

While she had looked at many locations, she chose the Dormont site because of its heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as well its close proximity to popular neighborhood destinations like the Dor-Stop Restaurant and Potomac Bakery.

Thai Spoon’s menu is very similar to Thai Cuisine, with the main differences being a higher emphasis on herbs, and an increase in the amount of spicy offerings. One of the house specialties, The Volcano, features baby-back ribs marinated in a homemade Thai chili paste, which Jirachertchoowong warns is extremely spicy.

The restaurant offers many vegetarian and vegan options, including mock duck and scallops made of wheat, tofu, and plenty of vegetable oriented dishes.

Jirachertchoowong’s older brother and sister, Chai and Lisa, own Thai Cuisine is Bloomfield. While their restaurant is under renovation, her family has been assisting her in the evenings during these opening weeks in Dormont. Pending inspections, their restaurant is scheduled to re-open on March 9th.

Thai Spoon is open Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner; Saturday, noon till 9:30 p.m; Sunday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Thai Spoon, 1409 Potomac Avenue, Dormont, 15216. 412-563-1409.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: June Jirachertchoowong

Restaurants increasingly rely on Kickstarter (you), not banks, for financing

Thanks to websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, a handful of businesses in the region are looking not at banks or private investors for financing, but directly to their customers. 

Crowdfunding websites like these allow the general public to fund creative projects, with contributions ranging from $10 to several thousand.  Typical projects include film production, journalism, art installations, even the development of solar technology; or, as the trend has become in Pittsburgh, to fund restaurant projects.

E2 will be one of the latest restaurants to do so when they launch their campaign in March.  The small Highland Park eatery is ready to expand in their current location, and as Lauren Urbschat says, this model is preferred over bringing in private investors. 

“This allows the business owner to keep all the integrity of the business that they want to run,” says Urbschat, who is leading E2’s campaign.  “You propose the project and then people fund it or they don't… it lets you keep that creative control.”

An early adopter of Kickstarter in Pittsburgh was Legume.  When that restaurant moved to North Oakland last summer, they financed much of their new building's renovations through traditional means.  But when it came to building Chef Trevett Hooper's dream kitchen, he asked his followers for their support.

Legume's raised over $17,000, more than double the restaurant's original goal.  But those who funded the project didn't walk away empty handed and were rewarded with cooking lessons, dinner for two, recipe cards, and so on.

When Wild Purveyors launched their fundraising campaign to develop their new storefront location, it developed rewards that are similar to community supported agriculture programs.  Most supporters were given store credit for their cash donation, to be redeemed when the new shop opens.  Seven supporters even gave as much as $1,000, with rewards of $1,200 in store credit.

The Big Idea Bookstore, in Bloomfield, relocated to a prominent Liberty Avenue storefront last year.  They would still like to add a cafe, and launched an IndioGoGo campaign to help pay for it.

And in the Strip District, Bar Marco is hoping to raise enough funds to build to build “the most beautiful courtyard Pittsburghers have ever dined in.” 

Bobby Fry, a co-owner of Bar Marco, says that although it will be part of his business, the courtyard is intended to be enjoyed by others, and will have a public benefit beyond his own restaurant.

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Marty's Market, a destination food store, to open in the Strip

Marty’s Market, a new specialty food market and café, will be open this spring in the Strip District.  Owner Regina Koetters says the market will be right-sized, sourcing products from farms and other producers within a 150-mile radius.

Koetters moved to Pittsburgh in 2008 to be a part of the region’s redevelopment, and because she was impressed by the city’s offerings.  It is in that vein that she hopes to create a community gathering place centered around food, and describes the market as a community minded business.  

“I didn't see any need to go beyond the community to get something going,” Koetters says.  “Instead, I wanted a business that celebrated what already exists in Pittsburgh's community, and furthered it in some way.”

Marty’s is located in the former Right By Nature space, but Koetters is quick to say customers should not expect a similar supermarket concept.  

“I’m certainly building on what was great about Right By Nature, but Mary's Market is quite different in concept and function,” she says.  

Marty’s will only occupy 2/3 of the former tenant’s space.  In addition to specialty foods, the market will stock pantry staples, like flour, sugar, and salt.

None of the produce at Marty’s will have been treated with chemicals or pesticides, nor any meat with hormones or antibiotics.  Koetters wants customers to enter the market and not have to worry about those issues, and to know that the products here are of high quality.

“It allows the [customer] to focus on the product, the flavor, the freshness, and what they want to do in their kitchen, as opposed to reading labels the entire time they're in the store,” she says.

In the coffeehouse and café section of the shop, well-known chefs and amateur cooks will be held in equal esteem.  Koetters hopes to develop a menu and product selection that will celebrate Pittsburgh’s diverse communities, while bringing people together around food.

Koetters is currently searching for an executive chef to run the café at Marty’s Market.

“I think I'm building a really cool playground for someone who knows how to do stuff with food,” she says. “I’d love that person to show up and just have a great time, and unlock the potential that I’m creating here.”

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Regina Koetters

Kevin Sousa's Station Street Hot Dogs East Liberty

A sign at Station Street Hot Dogs boasts service since 1915.  Although it had close for a while, the shop has reopened, and looks exactly the same on the inside--same counters and stools, still serving hot dogs and fresh-cut fries. The main, critical difference though is that this time it’s a project of local chef Kevin Sousa.

At Station Street, Sousa is offering a basic hot dog, a vegan dog, and a host of other types: the New York Dog, with just sauerkraut and mustard; the Hawaii Dog, with pineapple salsa, bacon, sweet soy and mint; even a Banh Mi dog, with pork liver, pickled vegetables, and the standard toppings of this Vietnamese favorite.

Kimchi for the Korean dog is made in-house, as are most other toppings, including sweetbreads and smoked brisket.

As the sign says, Station Street originally opened in 1915, and moved to its current location in 1969.  But the shop was closed for several decades until 2006, when Bob and Ruth Tortorete reopened and renovated the space.

Sousa and his partners have made little changes to the interior or exterior.  The menu is written on a hanging chalkboard sign above the counter.  As a subtle sign of the changed culinary landscape, the standard pair of ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles is now joined by a bottle of spicy Sriracha.

Fresh-cut French fries come standard, $3, or fried in duck fat, which chef Mike Lefever says imparts the same flavor of duck confit onto the French fry.

Lefever will be the chef at the new Union Pig and Chicken, a second restaurant that Sousa is opening, also in East Liberty.  Union Pig and Chicken expects to be open and serving barbecue by the end of this month.

Station Street Hot Dogs, located at 6290 Broad Street, is open Monday though Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  412-365-2121.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Mike Lefever

Bar Marco now open in the Strip, European-style wine bar and restaurant

Bar Marco has opened in the Strip District after nearly 6 months of remodeling work in the former No. 7 Engine Co. building.  The historic space has been transformed into a European-style wine bar and restaurant, with an emphasis on communal dining and a menu designed for sharing.

Bobby Fry, one of four co-owners, says the remodeling was done to bring the space back to its original beauty.  Floor tiles have been removed, dry-wall torn down to reveal classic subway tile, and a drop ceiling has given way to an original tin installation from 1905.

The first floor's symmetrical design is intended to encourage conversation among strangers, and create a sense of comfort.  A large bar seats five to six, and opposite, a drink rail lines the window facing Penn Avenue.  In between are three large communal tables, with combined seating capacity at 40.  All furniture was designed by co-owner Michael Kreha, and built in-house, with welding provided by Gray's Welding of Braddock, PA.

Bar Marco is the first dining project of four childhood friends--Justin Steel, Kevin Cox, Fry and Kreha.  Each left various professional careers, coalescing in Pittsburgh around a shared passion for food and drink.

The menu, which Fry describes as European bar food, will change on a regular basis, but recently featured “snack” plates like patatas bravas, arancini, frico, and a duck BLT; and large entrees, also meant for sharing, such as chicken enchiladas, baked caponata, and ribeye with chimichurri.

Bar Marco offers a range of small production wines, and inventive mixed drinks, such as a tequila gimlet featuring house-made lime cordial, and the Bar Marco Manhattan, made with orange bitters.

The second floor, while still a work in progress, is used as an art gallery and private event space.

Bar Marco opens at 5 p.m. and is open late, serving their full menu until 2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday.  2216 Penn Avenue, Strip District.  724-875-2738.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Bobby Fry

Wild Stuff pop-up vintage sale, Saturdays only in Lawrenceville

(Note: Due to a technical glitch, this story didn't appear on the home page last week so we are running it again this week,)

Wild Stuff, a new pop-up vintage sale, opened in Lawrenceville on Saturday.  A partnership between Wildcard, Botero Development, and Zombo Gallery, the Saturday-only event features a range of items including original art, clothing, tiki glasses, vintage typewriters, scavenged building materials, and furniture. 

Brian Mendelssohn, of Botero Development, says he and his fellow collaborators were brainstorming uses for the vacant storefront when they identified a common thread: basements, closets, and warehouses filled with vintage and historical items, and works of art.

Mendelssohn says because Botero Development acquires many historic buildings in Lawrenceville, he has accumulated a plethora of items, such as historic light fixtures, cast iron bath tubs, and other random building supplies, that are currently in demand.

“We want everything to go to a good home as opposed to throwing it away,” Mendelssohn says.

Wildcard hosts an annual vintage sale at their Lawrenceville boutique, but are able to display many more items in the Wild Stuff storefront.  Since 2009 Wildcard has sold the city’s best in handmade goods, such as t-shirts, stationary, buttons, and greeting cards.

And although Zombo Gallery officially closed a year and a half ago, Zombo still has many works of art (offered here at lower prices), vintage musical instruments, plus tons of music and mixes from the Zombo’s Record Party radio show. 

Located at 4300 Butler Street in the former Arsenal Bank building, the sale will continue on Saturdays only, from 11a.m. to 7p.m., through March 31st.

Mendelssohn says a long-term tenant will take over the space after the final Wild Stuff sale.

And although billed as a Pop-Up Vintage Sale, Wild Stuff is not to be confused with Project Pop-Up: Downtown, an initiative between the Mayor and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership which is transforming vacant storefronts into active art installations, stores, and eateries.  

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn, Botero Development; Matthew Buchholz, Wildcard

The Beauty Shoppe coworking space to have open house Friday, East Liberty

The Beauty Shoppe, a new innovative coworking space, is now open in East Liberty.  Located at 6014 Penn Avenue, the Shoppe will have an open house this Friday as part of the Unblurred Gallery Crawl.  

Matthew Ciccone, one of the Shoppe’s creators, says his team wanted to offer an office space in the most flexible, scalable way possible, to allow startups and entrepreneurs a good experience while taking that first, often difficult step into business.

The space is approximately 4,000 square feet, and is located on the second floor of a building in the center of East Liberty.  The Shoppe offers tenants high speed network access, shared conference rooms, and a kitchen, among other amenities.  Additionally each tenant, or member, gets a dedicated desk and chair, secure access to the building 24/7/365, webcasting  and video conferencing facilities, and a physical mailing address.

But membership rates and sizes vary, and can change from month to month.

“We’re slowly and always thinking about ways to add to the space,” Ciccone says.  “When we first opened up, we tried to keep it pretty Spartan…so that we could always add in terms of responding to what users actually required, rather than having to speculate around it.”

The project is a collaboration between East Liberty Development, Inc, Ciccone, Thinktiv, and Jenn Bee Designs.

Ciccone says his team set their base lease at roughly the cost of three cappuccinos a day, about nine dollars, which is what a coffee-shop freelancer might expect to pay.

“We can offer you a full, nice office experience with the full suite of office infrastructure, and at a price point that is about the same as Starbucks,” Ciccone says.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Matthew Ciccone

Catapult co-working coffee shop opens in Garfield

Catapult Pittsburgh, a co-working coffee shop in Garfield, opened on Penn Avenue this past weekend. Currently a working demonstration, the shop aims to provide independent workers and work-from-home professionals a vibrant workspace environment for those who desire the energy found in larger  organizations.

The shop’s creators, Elliot Williams and Kevin Boyle, haven given themselves exactly one month to build that community.  The goal is to have eight to ten people signed on by November 1st, splitting rent and sharing a workplace.  Williams says that means a desk with space to leave papers and computers--just like any other office space.

But this shop will also be open to the public. Folks can come in for a few hours, print, have meetings, and pay a few dollars for time used (time is a menu item).

And yes, Catapult plans to continue selling coffee as well.  But Williams says that’s not the point.

“The problem with coffee shop business models is they're made for people to come and go,” Williams says. “We’re selling time, we’re selling this space. Coffee just happens to be there.”

But the coffee here happens to be unique.  Boyle, who is a freelance designer, has also worked as a barista throughout Pittsburgh and is immersed in the art of a good cup.  Catapult uses a siphon brewing technique, which features the best of French-press and pour-over methods.  And although siphon brewing can take up to ten minutes for a single cup, again, speed is not the point.

Williams hopes the shop will create a synergistic environment for creative thinkers, allowing for greater exposure to projects and ideas.

“In the grander scheme, this is me building a community,” Williams says.  “I would like to continue doing that, help groups of people work better together.  That's sort of my longer-term goal.”

The front of the shop resembles a traditional coffee shop, with a bar and several tables and chairs.  A second room is used for casual meetings, and a third will be used for private desk space.  The shop also has a small conference room and a usable backyard and porch.

Located at 5151 Penn Avenue, Catapult is open 10 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday.  412-979-1774.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Elliot Williams

Highway Robbery Vintage clothing shop opens on Carson Street

At Highway Robbery Vintage everything is one-of-a-kind -- from the clothing and jewelry to the handcrafted display fixtures and local art.  Owner Kate Minton remodeled the hundred year-old Carson Street storefront with help from family and friends, and has created a space that is as unique as the clothing for sale.

Minton says she wants to offer styles that are affordable and trendy, but also accessible.

“I’ve always liked vintage but I think some of it can be really hard for people to incorporate in their wardrobes,” she says. “So this is kind of baby-vintage…easier to wear on a daily basis.”

Minton describes the Highway Robbery style as vintage-casual.  Pieces range from the ‘50’s to the ‘90’s; anything that is on-trend and vintage.  Aside from a few kitschy, must-have Steelers and Penguins t-shirts, all items are from before 1992.

The building’s original hardwood flooring has been restored, as well as the original tin ceiling, and a terrazzo entrance with hand-laid tiles.  Minton worked with her father to build shoe displays from reclaimed barn wood.  A table in the back, made from an antique door with original knobs and hinges, was salvaged and built by her brother.  And she had help decorating from her stepmother, who is an interior designer, and a friend, who is an artist.

“I’m lucky I have a lot of creative family and friends,” Minton says.  “Everything is done in a way that I think is low impact and cool.”

Minton, who is an Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate, asked current AI student and friend Tyler Kozar to design the Highway Robbery logo and website.  And in the next few weeks an intern from the Art Institute will begin working at the store.

“Those kids in the Art Institute don’t get enough credit,” Minton says.  “They're so hard working [and] they are super nice to work with.”

Highways Robbery is located at 1411 E. Carson Street; open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  412-251-0818.

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Kate Minton

Coffee Buddha now open on Perry Highway

West View resident Michael Witherel has created a new gathering space for the North Hills.  Coffee Buddha recently opened on Perry Highway in Ross Township, and aims to be a  relaxing venue for movies, art, music, and of course all things coffee.

It’s not the kind of place Witherel remembers from his childhood.  Growing up in the North Hills, he says kids had few options for hangout spots outside the home.  So he created a gathering space that he would have liked to have had himself as a youth.

“I wanted to create a cool, loiter-friendly place, and something that was very welcoming and chill,” he says.  “And I wanted to create kind of a theme for it, and Buddhism was a philosophy I really appreciated.”

Witheral says “the awakened one” is a title that fits well for the shop.  He says he appreciates Buddhism-related art, and hopes to have used it respectfully.

Coffee Buddha uses beans from Indiana, PA roaster Common Place Coffee.  Pure Café in Wexford is supplying the shop with lunch items such as wraps, and Lincoln Bakery, of Bellevue, supplies baked goods and other sweets.

All syrups are made in-house.  Witherel and staff are currently working on a homemade pumpkin syrup for the month of October.

Witherel wants Coffee Buddha to be a late-night destination.  He has begun showing local sports, and plans to offer specials on game days.

The upstairs portion of Coffee Buddha features themed rooms such as a study room and a game room.  The shop also features a pet-friendly front porch and yard. 

Coffee Buddha, located at 964 Perry Highway, 15237 is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Michael Witherel

Shadyside Nursery creates aquaponic greenhouse, organic food system

Pittsburgh's newest nursery, Shadyside Nursery, is utilizing aquaponic and vermiculture techniques to raise fish and heirloom vegetables. Located one block north of the Ellsworth Avenue, the nursery is hoping to fill a niche in the local food movement by using sustainable and organic practices.

Co-owner Bill Brittain says Shadyside Nursery is one of a few for-profit aquaponic enterprises in the nation. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic relationship, which allows for conservation of resources and energy.

Brittain and partners Matt Bogel and brother Michael Georges built an aquaponic greenhouse capable of raising 1,500 tilapia, and that currently produces between 100 and 200 pounds of herbs. The system is stocked with young fish which should be ready for sale by March of next year.

The tilapia eat worms, excess produce from nursery beds, and even odd items like stale bagels from the Bagel Factory. Byproducts from the aquaculture then become vital nutrients for the growing plants, which include four types of basil, mint, and French oak leaf lettuce.

The nursery sells heirloom produce grown in raised beds to Spak Brothers Pizza in Garfield, Bryant Street Market, and Mediterrano. And Brittain says the nursery also receives food waste from these restaurants for their vermiculture composting system.

Shadyside Nursery replaces a more conventional nursery that had existed on the same site. In the fall, the nursery will sell pumpkins, and later Christmas trees from Indiana County. And the aquaponics will continue year-round.

Brittain says the nursery plans to raise heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse throughout winter, with piped heat from compost, and a rocket stove fueled by wood.

Shadyside Nursery, 510 Maryland Ave, Shadyside, 15232. Tuesday to Sunday, 10a.m. to 7p.m.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Bill Brittain, Shadyside Nursery

Wigle Whiskey brings distillation back to Pittsburgh

The first whiskey distillery since prohibition is set to open in Pittsburgh. Wigle Whiskey, located on Smallman Street in the Strip District, hopes to bring modern innovations to the classic beverage, while respecting the rich tradition of Pennsylvanian distilleries.

"Our challenge is Pittsburgh's challenge," says Eric Meyer, who co-owns Wigle Whiskey with his father, Mark Meyer. "We want to embrace the past but we also have to adapt to the modern age that we live in."

Wigle Whiskey will be a grain to bottle distillery, using only local, organic grains. Meyer says tours of the distillery will be given, allowing customers to taste, touch, and smell the whiskey in all stages of production.

Wigle has partnered with EDGE studio and MM Marra Construction to design and build an environment that will be welcoming for whiskey newcomers, Meyer says. Bright orange, green, and blue colors are used in the distillery, as a direct contrast to the dark hues often found on mainstream whiskey labels.

Although whiskey is most often associated with Kentucky, Meyer says the Pittsburgh region played an important role in developing the beverage, as evidenced by the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. Paying homage to that history, Wigle Whiskey is named after Philip Wigle, an important figure in the whiskey-tax uprising.

The building which houses the distillery was most recently an engine repair shop. But years ago, the warehouse was connected via an underground tunnel to the Phoenix Brewery just across Smallman Street. Meyer says in this way, the building is returning to a historical use.

The family-owned business will also serve as a museum of the Whiskey Rebellion, told through the experiences of Philip Wigle. Tours of the distillery will be given Thursday through Sunday.

Meyer hopes to be fully operational by the fall, once the necessary federal and state permits have been received.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Eric Meyer, Wigle Whiskey

Floral company greenSinner grows sustainable cut flowers

In the world of cut flowers, being environmentally conscious can be a difficult task. Flowers are often sprayed with chemicals and flown half-way around the world before a florist can turn those petals into a tasteful arrangement. But Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber are hoping to change that, at least a little, by locally sourcing as many flowers as possible for their new greenSinner floral & garden company.

Weber says finding a variety of local flowers is easy this time of year in Pittsburgh. In addition to their own small-scale growing operation, many regional farms grow flowers and sell to a local distributor. But then there are some flowers, like roses, that Weber says still need to be imported.

"We try to be as green as we can, but we sin when we must," Weber says.

Eventually, greenSinner would like to have a permanent flower-farming operation of their own. But in the meantime, they're making use of underused lawns belonging to friends, family, and local businesses, as well the Healcrest Urban Community Farm in Garfield.

To extend their growing season, greenSinner is looking to utilizing hoop houses and green houses, but also encourage the use of evergreens and potted plants in place of cut flowers during winter months.

In addition to their floral business, Weber says greenSinner hopes to organize a sustainable events community in Pittsburgh, in order to expand green practices to more facets of event planning.

greenSinner is a vendor at the Pittsburgh Public Market, where they sell potted plants, cut flowers, and other garden items. They do flowers for weddings, for homes, Mother's Day bouquets, and flowers for hotels, restaurants, and salons, changing arrangements every two weeks.

See them in the Strip, 2100 Smallman Street; Fridays 10am - 6pm, Saturdays 9am - 5pm, Sundays 10am - 4pm. 412-532-6107.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Jonathan Weber

Pig Hill Cafe serves fermented foods in Troy Hill

Pig Hill Cafe might only be open two days a week, but Naomi Auth is plenty busy meeting the demand for her homemade kombucha. Five gallon jugs of the living, fermented green tea are stacked at the rear of the cafe, which is now serving brunch on weekends.

This same space once held the Magnolia Cafe, Auth's first coffee shop project in Troy Hill. As she describes it, the neighborhood wasn't quite ready for a conventional coffee-sipping cafe, and there wasn't enough foot traffic to be open throughout the week.

So Auth reorganized and focused on the aspects of her business that were in fact working--the fermented foods. Within her storefront space, Auth makes kombucha and sauerkraut under the label of RedStar Specialty Foods.

Auth says it takes 5-7 weeks to transform tea leaves into a case of kombucha. Once finished, the beverage is bottled and sold at the East End Food Co-Op, the Pittsburgh Public Market, and Lili Coffee Shop in Polish Hill.

Before reopening, Auth says the shop was remodeled and "opened up to allow full usage of the space." She brought in more kitchen equipment and is able to do more cooking than before.

Auth doesn't think kombucha should be pigeon holed into the health drink category. "I prefer to think of it as an enjoyable drink, that's good for you also," she says.

And she is marketing it as such. Her kombucha is sold in soda bottles, and uses a traditional beer label for marketing. Auth is also hoping her brunch menu will cast fermented foods in a more accessible light.

"If you give somebody a bag of sauerkraut, they might think how do I eat this, what should I eat this with?" Auth says. "But if you give them a baguette with some organic, local ham and some good, grass-fed cheese and some sauerkraut on there, then they'll know what to do with it--and like it."

Pig Hill Cafe, 1721 Lowrie Street, Troy Hill, 412-586-7527

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Naomi Auth

Soup Nancys are hot and cold in the Public Market

Despite warm June weather the Soup Nancys are attracting an early following for their homemade soups at the Pittsburgh Public Market. And although they're offering inventive hot meals, on a recent Saturday a bowl of chilled spring pea and mint soup was a lesson in how to eat cool in the summertime.

Owners Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski made their debut in the market just two months ago. Their soups change frequently, but recent selections include artichoke bisque, Thai hot and sour, shitake egg drop, and sweet potato with roasted peppers and lime.

Raszewski says they place a heavy emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, and often feature produce from fellow Public Market vendors such as Goosecreek Farms, Morning Dew Orchard, and the Berry Patch.

The two began planning Soup Nancys just over a year ago. Raszewski says the business model of the Public Markets allows entrepreneurs an option for starting a business without needing large amounts of start-up capital.

And Raszewski is as eager to see the Public Market succeed as she is her own business. "I think Pittsburgh needs something like this," she says. "It's a more low risk way to start a business."

Mihalcin says for a new business, being in the market might actually be a better option than owning your own space. "You can't really beat the traffic in here," she says. "You might have your own store front, but you won't have the foot traffic."

Linzee's husband, Matt Mihalcin, built their vending space at the market using butcher block counters, and other light-colored woods. The space is warm and welcoming, and pulls people in for conversations.

"We're good at cooking and entertaining," Mihalcin says. "It's like somebody's home kitchen."

"I'd say we're pretty darn good home cooks," Raszewski says.

Soup Nancys are at the Pittsburgh Public Market, in the Strip District, Friday 10-6, Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 10-4.

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Linzee Mihalcin and Sara Raszewski

Zeke's Coffee opens small-batch roastery in East Liberty

Zeke's Coffee might have begun in Baltimore, but Chris Rhodes is all Pittsburgh. And in the next few weeks, his East Liberty small-batch roastery will be open to the public, where customers can get an intimate view of the fluid-bed roaster, and a cup of coffee, too.

"I consider my business very raw, very different," Rhodes says. Zeke's Coffee won't be an internet café, lounge type affair, he says. "I want to offer a different vibe."

For the past two years, Rhodes has been selling coffee, both hot and iced, as well as pounds of his own roasted beans, at the East Liberty Farmers Market.

While the new roastery is a franchise, it's just the first, and is staying in the family. Rhodes' Uncle Tom began the business in Baltimore in 2005, and named the small batch roastery after his father, Rhodes' grandfather, Zeke.

Rhodes has been traveling to Baltimore for the past several years, learning the trade, and picking out the right equipment from his uncle.

"All blends will be ever changing," Rhodes says, and he'll be constantly adding to the selections. Although conventionally grown beans will be available, Rhodes emphasizes his choice of natural, and fair trade growers.

The roastery is located at 6012 Penn Avenue, in a space Rhodes rents from East Liberty Development, Inc. He says ELDI were kind enough to help him with his start-up, and he's been very happy with the entire process.

Still, the space needed a bit of work before opening would be possible. "It was pretty trashed," Rhodes says. But in the coming weeks, with all that's left being a little paint work, Zeke's Coffee will be open for business.

Zeke's Coffee opens June 20th.  Early Bird hours: 6-8am, Monday through Friday.  Happy Hour: Wednesday and Thursday,

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Chris Rhodes, Zeke's Coffee

Lawrenceville cyclists have a new outlet at Love Bikes

When he returned to Pittsburgh in 2005 after studying art in England, Nicholas Brungo worked on bikes at REI. And now, six years later, he opened Love Bikes in Lawrenceville.

The tiny 400-square-foot store is mainly a service shop at the moment, but Brungo sells Charge Bikes and hopes to sell custom bikes in the future.

He chose Lawrenceville because his grandmother lived there, so he was familiar with the area and saw its transformation over the years. The neighborhood is flat and has a good riding population, he thought, but no bike shop. "I knew a lot of people that lived here that rode bikes and had nowhere to go that was close," he says.

He found the raw space off 44th Street behind Arsenal Lanes, and thought it would be a good place to provide commuters with everyday repairs. Eventually, Brungo would like to host events with other biking organizations in the area, such as Bike Pittsburgh.

Love Bikes is located at 212 1/2 44th Street. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

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Writer: Alex Audia
Source: Nicholas Brungo, Love Bikes

Photograph copyright Alex Audia

Need help finding a Main Street commercial space for your small business? Get the Best Fit

Peter Margittai has seen the scenario too many times: a small business owner, daunted by the challenges of finding an urban commercial space, settles for a logistically simpler suburban strip mall storefront. The principal of Peter Margittai Architects approached the URA Main Streets team over a year ago with plans to start a program called Best Fit, designed to take the headache out of the urban commercial space-finding process.

"The Best Fit program came out of the idea that these small business owners really ought to be located in the city and it would be perfect if they could find a space on one of the many main streets we have. They just need a little bit of help, and the apprehensions they have about the zoning and the codes are real things that need to be addressed, but we want to take the time to help our clients with those things," says Margittai.

"We thought it was a great idea," says Josette Fitzgibbons, coordinator for the URA Main Streets program, who had noticed the same problem. Through the Best Fit program, the URA supplies a $2,000 grant to provide assistance with startup costs, and Margittai assists the entrepreneur with their decision-making.

"We shepherd small business owners through the initial process and at the same time work with them to define their requirements, their space needs, their furnishings, and any kind of equipment they need, so that at the end of the day they not only find a space that suits them well, but they can also start negotiating their lease terms and construction cost estimates," says Margittai. After a space is selected, Margittai will happily assist with additional design-related services.

Best Fit applicants must meet certain requirements, which include finding a location under 6,000-square-feet within one of Pittsburgh's 11 Main Streets districts. Best Fit has already helped several clients find spaces, including the new Los Cabos restaurant in Bloomfield.

To apply for the best Fit Program contact peter@margittai.com or Quianna Wasler from the URA at qwasler@ura.org

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: Peter Margittai, Peter Margittai Architects
               Josette Fitzgibbons, URA

An inclusive home for Edgewood's creative community at Verde Art Space

Verde Art Space, a new gallery in Edgewood focused on providing a welcoming forum for both emerging and established artists working in a variety of mediums, will celebrate its grand opening gala on April 9.

Edgewood artists Suzanne Miriello and Rosemary Steiner have been friends and neighbors for nearly 20 years. "Rose's husband is a real estate developer and he had this vacant space and he said, 'Why don't you and Rose get together and open an art gallery'," says Miriello. The 216-square-foot space at 113 Edgewood Avenue used to house an architect's office that had deteriorated over the years. After undergoing a full rehab, the space now boasts bright green and purples, an original tin ceiling, a new kitchen and bathroom, and rich hardwood floors.

Miriello, who runs New Guild Studio in Braddock with her husband, does commissioned work restoring churches, and has been an avid professional painter and jewelry designer all her life. Steiner, a talented illustrator, was hesitant to show her work in the often affected gallery scene until Miriello began encouraging her. Verde Art Space is the culmination of their friendship, love of art and the creative Edgewood community, and interest in providing an alternative to more pretentious art environments.

"We want this to be a friendly place where people can feel welcome and enjoy the art here. We might do classes soon for adults and kids," says Steiner.

The grand opening show will feature illustrations by Steiner and Mark Bender, Miriello and her husband David's painting, jewelry and glass work, textile work by Fuyuko Matsubara, ceramic pieces by Michael Smithhammer, and paintings by Jay Milligan. Miriello's son Anton, who operates the Swissvale oddities museum Trundle Manor, will also be showing work. Anton founded the Drifters hot rod club, and plans to host an event at Verde in June.  Following the grand opening, Verde Art Space will hold regular hours from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: Suzann Miriello and Rosemary Steiner, Verde Art Space

Photograph copyright John Farley

Comprehensive plan charts a course for Neville Island, Stowe, and McKees Rocks

The neighboring riverfront communities of Neville Island, McKees Rocks, and Stowe face many shared obstacles. Over a year ago, community officials hired the firm Environmental Planning and Design (EPD) to conduct a cross-community study in order to identify and propose solutions to those obstacles.  Their efforts concluded at a public meeting last week with the release of the Char-West Municipal Comprehensive Plan.

The 160-page plan, funded in part by a $90,000 state grant, identifies many common problems and offers concrete solutions. Perhaps the greatest hurdles are that 50% of land in these communities is vacant or industrial, and that 40% of the population was lost between 1970 and 2000. Essentially, the plan states that if the communities are going to attract new businesses to fuel future development, they must start by attracting new residents.

"There are recommendations on where they should be focusing their redevelopment efforts. New riverfront housing akin to what they've done in Blawnox and Washington's Landing is needed. They need to get new people moving into new housing," says Andrew Schwartz, managing principal of EPD.

While reclaiming the riverfront is a key step, a great deal of existing housing is vacant and burdened with unpaid property taxes. Thus, the plan suggests the creation of a housing bank. "A housing bank uses some federal funding to eliminate tax delinquent properties and demolish those properties, so they can then focus on new construction along the riverfront," explains Schwartz.

But new residents won't come just for the housing. Quality of life must be improved. Thus, the plan calls for 12 essential implementation initiatives, aimed largely at reconnecting the communities with their natural assets. Among the recommendations are improvements to parks and the creation of new recreational opportunities, forming and connecting new community organizations, and a major transition from industry-friendly transportation and infrastructural systems to community-friendly ones with two-way streets, more traffic lights, and greater accessibility. The plan also indicates multiple sources of funding for these projects.

In early summer, the community governments will likely vote whether or not to officially adopt the plan and begin implementing changes. "The plan is drafted. What they do after that is the great question," says Schwartz.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Andrew Schwartz, EPD

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

71 new apartments to be built for Liberty Park Phase II in East Liberty

With the first 124 mixed income rental units of the $14 million Liberty Park fully occupied, construction is scheduled to begin this spring on 71 one, two, and three-bedroom apartments as part of the second phase of this housing development in East Liberty.

The phase II site is situated south of East Liberty Boulevard and east of Collins Avenue, just north of the phase I units. "Phase II covers 13 different buildings,"says Will Hopkins, associate architect for Tai + Lee, the architecture firm. "The majority of it is townhouse buildings and there is also three apartment buildings that include 12 apartments total. We're going for a contextual look. There's brick and some columns, but they'll have a modern edge to them."

Mistik Construction will start building as soon as this spring with completion intended for early next summer.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has authorized Liberty Park developers McCormack Baron Salazar, in collaboration with East Liberty Development, to hire A. Liberoni Inc. to carry out the public improvement portion of the project, which includes extending and connecting Kalida Drive and Princeton Place, and installing utilities and lighting.  SAI Consulting Engineers have been hired for construction management services.

Since the Liberty Park project began in 2006, its aim has been to supply a variety of housing options to people of all income levels, and reconnect parts of the community that were disjointed by past redevelopment.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Will Hopkins, Tai + Lee
             Gigi Saladna, URA

Photograph copyright John Farley

Second phase of Dinwiddie Street Housing will bring 23 new homes to the Middle Hill District

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved the sale of land along the 200 and 300 blocks of Dinwiddie Street in the Lower Hill District to TREK Development  Group for $34,500, officially beginning the second phase of the Dinwiddie Street Housing development. The 28-units included in the first phase of the project are almost complete and will begin leasing in April, and the $7.6 million second phase will include five new buildings with 23 townhouse and apartment units. Construction is scheduled to begin in May.  The Dinwiddie Street housing is an exciting development, because Dinwiddie Street connects the the Middle Hill District to Uptown.

"Phase II will include 12 one-bedroom apartment, six three-bedroom apartments, and five two-bedroom apartments with an office space and a small community space," says John Ginocchi, director of development for TREK Development Group, who are the URA's general development partner on the project. Mistik Construction is the contractor for the project and the architect is Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.

TREK Development was awarded Low Income Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for Phase II, and the units will be offered to households at or below 60% of the area median income. Rents will range between $650-700 for a two-bedroom, and go up to $885 for a three-bedroom. The tax credit terms stipulate that the townhouse units remain rental properties for 15 years, but after that can be sold to the tenants.

It's not certain when Phase II will begin leasing, but the completion of Phase I could be well-timed, since a nearby apartment building is currently undergoing demolition and several of that building's tenants will likely move into Dinwiddie housing.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: John Ginocchi, TREK Development Group

Photograph copyright John Farley

Will East Liberty's historic Highland Building finally get a second life?

Built in 1909 by Henry Clay Frick and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, the towering Highland Building in East Liberty has proven itself a worthy adversary against four past developers who backed out of plans to renovate the vacant structure at 121 South Highland Street. However, a large and determined consortium of development groups has their fingers crossed that this time will be different, as they await approval from the Governor's Office for $4.5 million in RACP funds for a parking garage, as well as Department of Housing and Urban Development financing that will make their project possible.

Last year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved partnering developers Walnut Capital and Massaro Properties' plans for a $23 million conversion of the Highland Building and neighboring Wallace Building into 129 one-bedroom apartments, a new parking garage, fitness center, and small retail storefronts.

"They'll be loft style apartments with oversized windows, stone counter tops, stainless steel appliances, high ceilings, and a washer and dryer in each unit. The Highland Building is going to have the great views," says Jerilyn Donahue, underwriter for the project for Bellwether Real Estate Capital, who are helping to secure financing. TKA Architects drew up the preliminary design, which essentially calls for a total gutting of the interiors, while leaving the historic façade structurally intact.

While other developers have failed to tame the Highland Building, the parties involved believe they have a good chance of success.  For one, development of the East Liberty corridor has boomed in the past several years. With the advent of Bakery Square and the Google offices, Home Depot, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, lofts, new restaurants, and an upcoming Target, the surrounding area is far more vibrant than it was at the time of the last attempt in 2006.  More directly, past developers could not secure a parking solution for the building.

Everything is dependent on the receipt of a large HUD financing package containing loans and historic tax credits, which was applied for in February, and will hopefully be approved within the next two months.  The HUD financing, though, is dependent on the Governor's Office allowing funding for the parking garage to be built.  "We're trying to get that accomplished. We're partnering with Massaro, so we think it's a good opportunity to make this work," says Gregg Perelman, managing partner for Walnut Capital, who also developed Bakery Square.  The Mosites Company is the developer for Target.

According to URA special projects manager Paul Svoboda, the parking garage that's been designed will fit the context of the surrounding neighborhood without interfering with traffic or surrounding buildings.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Gregg Perelman, Walnut Capital
             Jerilyn Donahue, Bellwether Real Estate Capital
             Paul Svoboda, special projects manager for the URA

Photograph copyright John Farley

New Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville has something for everyone

Former Café du Jour co-owner Dan Robinson left Pittsburgh three years ago for an extended journey covering 26 countries. Many of the flavors Robinson experienced in his travels can be found on the menu of his newest restaurant Kaleidoscope Café, housed in the former River Moon Café space in Lawrenceville.

"People say that you can't have something for everyone, but I tend to disagree. You can come in here for dinner and you can spend $8 or you can spend $58. It all depends on what you want," says Robinson, who opened Kaleidoscope Café in mid-November with co-owner Erin Mangan. The menu is self-described as "American eclectic", forgoing the trendy Post-It Note-sized carte in favor of a large selection of creatively adapted sandwiches, salads, pastas, and entrees. Robinson's mention of the price range wasn't an overstatement, the $7.50 Memphis BBQ Burger sounds as good as the $23 pan seared Basa.

Kaleidoscope has done away with the white tablecloths from the River Moon Café days. "As far the décor goes, all my tabletops will be made by different artists, and you can actually buy them if you want. The interior is meant to be kind of funky. We have an exploding kaleidoscope on the wall made from foam insulation," says Robinson.

Kaleidoscope Café is located at 108 43rd Street. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Dan Robinson, Kaleidoscope Cafe

Photograph copyright John Farley

URA receives $35 million in tax credits to spur development in low income communities

Last Monday, the Mayor announced that the Urban Redevelopment Authority's special purpose affiliate, Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives, LLC,  has been awarded $35 million in New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) by the U.S. Treasury Department. The NMTC program was designed to aid economic development in low-income communities by drawing capital investment for residential and commercial real estate projects, among many other revitalization initiatives financed from the private sector.

The URA was one of 99 organizations awarded with the special tax credits out of 250 who applied last summer. The tax credits will be given to groups called Community Development Entities who must use the incentives to invest in business and community development initiatives that support struggling local economies, create jobs, and provide housing and healthcare, among other improvements.  The URA has three years to deploy the credits, but anticipates doing so much sooner. 

"We anticipate doing approximately four deals with this allocation.  Each one would be with a different/ separate CDE created for each project," says Gigi Saladna, chief information officer for the URA.  "Our focus target areas are the investment corridors of Penn Avenue from the East End to CBD, Fifth and Forbes in Uptown and the Lower Hill,  Lower North Side, and Hilltop Neighborhoods of South Side."

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Joanna Doven, press secretary for the Mayor's Office
             Gigi Saladna, URA

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

Dreadnought Wines introduces new multimedia classroom and educational opportunities

Dreadnought Wines, the Strip District's purveyors of gourmet wine from around the world, has just finished construction on a new classroom space within their store at 2013 Penn Avenue, and will be expanding their famous wine classes for novices and veterans alike with exciting new multi-media tools, added programming, and certification opportunities.

"The new space will hold 33 students in classroom style, but we can configure it for whatever a particular instructor wants," says Deb Mortillaro, co-owner of Dreadnought Wines. "We'll have a 62" flat screen television for PowerPoint demonstrations and instructional videos. We'll also have our wine display with wine from different regions up against the wall."

The room will enable added daytime classes for the public, as well as private corporate events. The first session in the new room will be the Young Wine Makers class tomorrow evening from 6 to 8 p.m. for $50, where a wide variety of innovative blends and varietals made by the next generation of wine enthusiasts will be sampled and discussed. Click here to view the calendar of upcoming classes, taught by the seasoned expertise of Mortillaro and co-owner Mike Gonze, as well as a number of guest expert lecturers.

In addition to the expanded class offerings, Dreadnought is working with WinePicks on an iPad app that will display their current selection of wines with detailed information about each bottle. In the near future, they will plan to offer a program to qualify people for the prestigious Wine and Spirits Education Trust Certification.

"The Wine and Spirits Education Trust is a group out of London and they have several levels of certifications. We're discovering that because the sophistication of the restaurant business here in Pittsburgh is really rising, this qualification is going to become more and more important in the restaurant industry," says Mortillaro.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Deb Mortillaro, Dreadnought Wines

Photograph copyright John Farley

The Mansions on Fifth luxury historic hotel in Shadyside opening in March

The Mansions on Fifth, a luxury 23-room hotel located in two restored historic homes on Shadyside's Millionaire's Row, has launched a new website offering the public a sneak peek into the rooms and facilities scheduled to open next month.

"There's just surprises everywhere. Our tag-line is 'where luxury meets legacy' and that's what we really want to do for our guests. We're going to have butler-level service," says Mary Del Brady, co-owner of The Mansions on Fifth. "Part of the experience is that every room is different. We were able to do some really different things up on the third floor, including building some two-level lofts. All of our rooms are oversized. This is not a typical hotel in any respect."

When Pop City last covered the project in 2007, mother and daughter owners Mary Del and Jennifer Brady, and Mary Del's husband Richard Pearson were gearing up to renovate the 20,000-square-foot building at 5105 Fifth Avenue and 7,000-square-foot building at 925 Amberson Avenue, which were built in 1905 for Henry Clay Frick's lawyer. Since then, they've worked with Jendoco Construction Corporation and Landmark Design Associates to restore the buildings, using sustainable techniques and material reuse whenever possible. Much of the original woodwork and stained glass has been preserved.

The owners performed extensive interior redesign with the help of J.A. Lott, and the large rooms each come with unique furniture blending the historical and contemporary, complementary iPads and flat-screen tv's, and luxury bathrooms. The Grand Hall will be available for private events, with catering from The Common Plea. Visitors can dine in The Oak Room, which will serve rare cognacs and whiskeys, as well as light fare made from local, organic ingredients.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Mary Del Brady, The Mansions on Fifth

Image courtesy of The Mansions on Fifth

New restaurant to open in the Cultural Trust's Theater Square

Chef and Nine on Nine owner Richard DeShantz has reached an agreement with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to open a new restaurant in Theater Square, the $30 million nine-story multi-use facility that was opened in 2003.

DeShantz has made a name for himself by significantly elevating the Downtown dining scene over the years with the progressive contemporary American Nine on Nine and the now defunct Cafe Richard.  He will continue to operate Nine on Nine, but has been looking to open a new restaurant for the past year, and seized on the opportunity to fill the space left at 649 Penn Avenue when the previous tenant Café Zao closed last August after a six-year run. According to Veronica Corpuz, director of public relations for the Cultural Trust, Café Zao's owner Toni Pais decided to focus on his Café Zinho restaurant in Shadyside.

DeShantz is currently working on plans for the restaurant with his partners Uri Moscowitz, former co-owner of Seviche, and Tolga Sevdik, and he has stated that the new restaurant will offer very reasonably priced, exciting cuisine. DeShantz anticipates opening sometime in the spring.

In addition to operating the new restaurant, DeShantz will manage the menu of the neighboring Cabaret Theater and cater many of the Cabaret's private events.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Veronica Corpuz, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Image courtesy of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Millcraft Industries to build mixed use high rise and turn State Office building into apartments

After receiving approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority last Thursday, Millcraft Industries is moving forward with plans to build a 15-story, $50 to 60 million LEED certified multi-use high rise on Forbes Avenue called The Gardens. The developer also plans to begin construction next month on Rivervue, a $40 million conversion of the former State Office building at 300 Liberty Avenue into 218 luxury apartments.

Since 2006, Millcraft Industries has held options on several parcels on Forbes, between Market Square and Wood Street, which will be the future site of The Gardens.  Until now they have been focusing primarily on the completion of their Market Square Place project and the transformation of the former Macy's Lazarus building into the mixed-use Piatt Place. They hope close on the sale of the properties they've long held options on in the coming months and break ground on the The Gardens by the end of this year.  A projected time-line places the end of construction in 2013.

"It will feature street-side retail, parking within the building, a limited service concept hotel, and 10,000-square-feet of office space," says Brian Walker, chief financial officer for Millcraft Industries. "It's the same concept we believe works really well. There will be about 25,000-square-feet of retail space. We can't wait to get started."

Additionally, Millcraft has been working with architects Design 4 Studio and contractor Turner Construction on plans convert the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania office building into a luxury apartment facility called Rivervue.

"Anticipated groundbreaking is mid-March. So, in just about four weeks from now we'll be breaking ground on the 218 residential units. The views overlooking the Point are going to be unbelievable," says Walker. Units will range in size from single studios to four-bedroom duplexes. The ground floor will feature limited retail space and built-in parking with 24-hour valet service. Millcraft Industries hopes to have the apartments available for move-in by the beginning of 2012.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Brian Walker, Millcraft Industries

Photograph copyright John Farley

Park Bruges in Highland Park open for business after long wait

After more than a year delay due to sewer line problems on Bryant Street, the long awaited Park Bruges restaurant in Highland Park is now open for business. Park Bruges features many similarities to Point Brugge Cafe, its longstanding sister restaurant in Point Breeze.

"The name is pretty indicative of everything we're doing," says Jesse Seager, co-owner of the restaurant. "Point Brugge and Park Bruges-- it's the same but a little bit different. We're still a European neighborhood bistro and we do many of the same things, but with a little bit of a twist."

Some of those twists include menu additions like poutine and a new take on Point Brugge's famous mussels with frites. Whereas Point Brugge only hosts brunch on Sunday, brunch in Highland Park will also be served on Saturday. The interior features darker wood furnishings and penny tile around the bar. "It gives it a little more of a Parisian café feel than Point Brugge, but nothing too radical," says Seager.

Park Bruges is part of the Bryant Street Revitalization Project spurred by the Highland Park Community Development Corporation. Moss Architects and Repal Construction Company, Inc. carried out restoration work on Park Bruges' building at 5801 Bryant Street.

Park Bruges features seating for 65 and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Jesse Seager, Park Bruges

Photograph copyright John Farley

Row of vacant Lawrenceville houses being restored with historic exteriors, custom interiors

Since they were left vacant in 1995, the row of five historic brick houses on 48th Street, between Hatfield and Butler Streets, in Lawrenceville have fallen into terrible shape. With creative design and green construction, the homes are being restored to look the way they would have when they were built in the 19th century, but with customized modern interiors.

The City of Pittsburgh acquired the buildings, with the help of the Lawrenceville Corporation, in 2007 at very low cost using a tax lien process. After receiving proposals from many eager developers, the Lawrenceville Corporation closed on the sale last week with Botero Development, who's principal Brian Mendelssohn lives in the neighborhood.

"They're going to be a high quality product. We're going to restore the exteriors using real materials, meaning real stone and real slate, and install stone steps and things like that to make them look like when they were built," says Mendelssohn, who is working with Moss Architects on the project. The interiors will be custom-built for the aesthetic whims of the individual buyers, blending historic elements and original materials with modern features, such as stainless steel appliances, and energy efficient design aspects, like a 2-inch white rubber roof.

The homes, which are currently for sale, include four 1,900-square-foot, 3-bedroom units with rear yards. Two come with 2.5-baths and the other two have  2-baths. One 1,250-square-foot unit has 2-bedrooms and 2-baths. The houses will be completed by next October and are priced between $180,000 and $265,000. A sixth building was beyond repair, but its lot will serve as a private courtyard for the $265,000 unit.

"I feel the prices are below market value for what these buildings are," says Mendelssohn. "It will be good for the neighborhood not to start charging $300,000 for homes in Lawrenceville. You don't want to gentrify your own neighborhood, you want to keep it what it is."

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Writer: John Farley
Source:  Brian Mendelssohn

Image courtesy of Botero Development

Cain's Saloon in Dormont reopens after massive renovations

Looking for a place to watch the Steelers win this Sunday? Cain's Saloon in Dormont has been undergoing extensive renovations over the past year, and the updated restaurant and bar looks fantastic with totally refurbished interiors, a new tap boasting 33 craft beers, and 18 HD flat screen televisions.

Owner Joe DeMarco purchased the classic bar at 3239 West Liberty Avenue two years ago. Joe also happens to be the owner of a home renovation company and was excited to put his skills to use transforming the place into his dream bar. Renovations include a new kitchen, ceramic floors, updates to the exterior façade, brighter ambiance, a weekend brunch make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and of course a draft list with Magic Hat, Dogfish Head, and Flying Dog to name a few.

DeMarco has also acquired a license to renovate the 2,500-square-foot second floor, which he plans to do in the Spring.

"I'm working with the borough right now and I'm going to make a balcony with a deck like Roland's in the Strip. The three windows will be replaced with two glass garage doors that can open when it's warm. The other thing I'm working with the borough on is doing a small thousand-foot deck on the rooftop that will be just for dining. We plan on putting a really big fireplace upstairs, also," says DeMarco.

Cain's Saloon is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Joe DeMarco, Cain's Saloon

Photograph copyright John Farley

Bright colors and savory Turkish cooking at Lezzet in Oakland

Tucked away on a stretch of Semple Street in Oakland that has historically been dominated by the student staples of greasy, cheap eats and even cheaper beer, the new Turkish restaurant Lezzet offers Mediterranean dining that's in a league of its own.

Owner Aerh Eraen opened the restaurant four months ago, which once existed as a tiny takeout-only storefront a block away famous for their sigara boregi—delectable little feta and pastry wrap-ups. Fortunately, the sigara boregi lives again in the new menu, which has expanded to include all kinds of perfectly seasoned soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees.

Try the $10.99 Iskender Kabob, a lamb or beef doner dish dressed in a tomato sauce and yogurt. The cheese-laden Konfor Kofte is a real treat. This piping hot bowl of veggies and minced lamb meat goes great with Lezzet's homemade flatbread. Lezzet is BYOB, so if you're inclined toward alcohol you might want to grab something from Uncle Jimmy's a few doors away.

The restaurant's interior is cozy and relaxed, featuring bright colors and cute wooden tables with seating for about forty.

Lezzet is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 2 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Aerh Eraen, Lezzet

Photograph copyright John Farley

LA Fitness and Hilton moving into McCandless Crossing

Last week, AdVenture Development LLC revealed the third phase of their 130-acre McCandless Crossing development on McKnight Road will include a new LA Fitness club and 121-room Hilton Homewood Suites hotel.

The project is being carried out by AdVenture Champion Partnership, an alliance between Champion Real Estate and North Carolina based AdVenture Development.

LA Fitness closed on a 5.08-acre parcel on the property and will likely be open by mid-July of this year depending on weather. "I happened to be on site yesterday and I think we will be seeing walls popping up shortly. The utilities are already installed and the foundation has been laid," says Kevin Dougherty, principal of AdVenture Development and a Pittsburgh native.

AdVenture Champion has entered into a sales agreement with developer Widewaters McCandless LLC out of DeWitt, New York for the sale of a 3.58-acre parcel at the southernmost corner of the property, which will be the site of a new Hilton Homewood Suites. According to Dougherty, the sale is expected to close in March.

AdVenture has been working for several years to develop the entirety of the 130-acre McCandless Crossing site, which currently contains a Lowe's Home Improvement store and a Fidelity bank.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Kevin Dougherty

Image courtesy of AdVenture Development

$2.7 million expansion enhances The Priory Hotel's charm

Housed in a 19th century former monastery featuring rooms decorated with original paintings and antique furniture, the Priory Hotel on the Northside has been putting lesser boutique hotels to shame for decades. The Priory recently outdid itself with the completion of a $2.7 million expansion which includes the addition of 17 new rooms boasting king size beds and widescreen televisions, a European-style bar, state of the art fitness center, and cozy meeting room.

"Our property at the time had 25 guest rooms and we'd been experiencing dramatic occupancy growth, but we felt we'd pretty much hit the wall in terms of development due to geographic constraints. By happenstance, the apartment building directly next door unfortunately caught fire and burnt severely last January," says owner John Graf, whose parents opened The Priory Hotel in 1986 after St. Mary's Parish closed its doors.

The owners of the building decided not to rebuild, so Graf and his wife Suzanne jumped at the opportunity to buy and demolish the unsalvageable building. Working with general contractors Bridges & Company, Richard Lawrence Interiors, and lead architect and Northside resident Bob Baumbach of Denny Campbell Architecture + Design, the Grafs built an addition featuring architectural details like custom doors and woodwork that blend seamlessly into the older section of the hotel.

While the 17 new "classic" rooms feature upholstery designed to match the décor in the older rooms, they set themselves apart with larger beds and vanities, strong colors, and original works of art from the Shaw Galleries and the Graf's private collection.

The new fitness center and meeting room on the first-floor was just completed this week, along with the newly retooled Monk's Bar. "The bar is in our library and it's very intimate. It has huge walls and it used to be where the Parish records were kept for the church next door," says Graf.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: John Graf

Photograph copyright John Farley

Pittsburgh DJs unite at 720 Music, Clothing, and Cafe on Butler Street

What happens when some of Pittsburgh's most talented DJs and their friends join forces to start a record shop, clothing store, and café all under one roof? They throw a big party of course!

Lawrenceville's 720 Music, Clothing, and Café will host its grand opening this Saturday from noon to midnight with sets from some of Pittsburgh's best hip hop, r & b, and house turntablists, including Buscrates, Gene Stovall, and DJ Source.  Come enjoy the music, sip espresso, and do some shopping.

720 is the brainchild of James Scoglietti and Andrew Burger, better known as Selecta and DJ Senator Boo-Berry, who have owned and operated the funk, soul, and old school hip hop vinyl emporium 720 Records in several locations since 1999. It wasn't until they found a great deal on the 1,800-square-foot storefront at 4405 Butler Street that the proverbial light bulb turned on. The space was perfect for a multi-purpose store in which to house several entrepreneurs whose businesses would complement each other while reducing the rent.

"We're all separate businesses under the 720 umbrella. The record store is my thing. Nate Mitchell (alias: Nate Da Phat Barber), who owns The Natural Choice Hair Salon, runs the café serving coffee, espresso, smoothies, biscotti, and pastries," says Scoglietti. The café features seating for 24.

Jovon Higgins and Paul Dang sell hip women's and men's clothing by up and coming designers. Check their collection of indie fashion goods, including t-shirts, hats, handbags, and accessories.

720 will soon host events on their stage in the back room of the store. "We plan to do mostly spoken word events. It will be very chill, no dance parties or anything crazy like that," says Scoglietti. Except this Saturday!

720 Music, Clothing, and Cafe will be open Monday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., and on Friday though Sunday from noon to midnight.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: James Scoglietti

Photograph copyright John Farley

Inspiration gives new life to old furniture at Furnish

Some antiques purists might gasp at the beautifully modified wood and iron furniture in the windows of Furnish, but the artsy young owners of this new Lawrenceville shop make up for any sins against the traditional character of their vintage beds, shelves, and chairs with expert craftsmanship and imaginative reuse concepts.

Michelle Casper and Benjamin Dettinburn, fine arts graduates of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and International Academy of Design and Technology respectively, recently moved back home to open their dream store last November after a five-year stint in Wyoming. The creative couple put their whole skill set to use, which includes reupholstery, painting, wood and metal working, and screen printing, in order to update classic pieces and transform found objects into stylized decor they've dubbed "industrial country"—a unique take on wood and metal furniture.

"It really appeals to all of our talents. We're not doing the same thing over and over again. It's always fresh, always new," says Casper. "And we really try to keep the prices low. People have told us we're underpriced, but lots of times of times boutiques are so overpriced that I just have to leave."

While the selection inside the 1,000-square-foot store is always changing, you can expect to find cool, one of a kind items like a bar stool sporting a CBGB's logo, a wooden barrel converted into a coffee table, and a variety of quirky knickknacks.

In addition to their goods, Benjamin and Michelle are happy to craft you a custom store sign, screen print posters or shirts, reupholster your torn chair, or even trick out your antique bookshelf for a reasonable cost.

Furnish is located at 4312 Butler Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Michelle Casper and Benjamin Dettinburn, Furnish

Photograph copyright John Farley

The Beauty Shoppe fosters startup success with affordable, flexible coworking space

The Beauty Shoppe, an innovative new space co-working space opening this month is hoping to put East Liberty on the map as the next young tech hub by offering affordable, flexible space and all the resources a startup could ever ask for.

"We are really interested in thinking about how we can structure the space so that it's scaled down to the point where it's as flexible and accessible as possible and we spread the costs across as many organizations as we can," says Matthew Ciccone, founder of Edile, the real estate development organization responsible for The Beauty Shoppe.  Edile has worked on the project in partnership with Nate Cunningham of the East Liberty Development, the landlord.

After graduating from Heinz College at CMU three years ago, Ciccone immediately co-founded the green technology startup GTECH Strategies.  Ciccone had several needs specific to most startups—cheap and flexible space that would allow GTECH to quickly grow and change, as well as typical office supplies.  Ciccone realized that a simple space with shared resources that could be cohabited by several startup organizations would provide everything he needed at the right cost.  The only problem was that space did not yet exist in Pittsburgh.

After founding his second startup, Edile, last September, Ciccone decided to turn an underutilized 4,000-square-foot space on the second floor of 6014 Penn Avenue into his startup dream office and turn East Liberty into a centralized hub for innovation.  At the same time, Paul Burke, president of the Austin-based tech company Thinktiv and a CMU graduate, was looking for the same kind of space in order to expand his operations in Pittsburgh.  

Ciccone and Burke worked with architect Jen Bee to build out the space, which offers month-to-month leases on small, medium, and large work bays designed to suit companies ranging in size from two to eight employees, priced between $100 and $175 per month.  Included in the deal is an office environment with large windows in close proximity to resources, as well as shared internet, conference rooms, cleaning services, private meeting spaces, a physical mailing address, and a shared kitchen.  Click here to find out how to lease space at The Beauty Shoppe.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: Matthew Ciccone, Edile
               Paul Burke, Thinktiv

Image courtesy of The Beauty Shoppe

Sugar Café will make Dormont's Potomac Avenue even sweeter

Potomac Avenue in Dormont will soon be getting a whole lot sweeter with the opening of Sugar Café.  Owner Kelly James has been the pastry chef at The Sonoma Grille for the past six years but has been planning to fulfill her childhood dream of starting a café for three years with her husband.  They anticipate their grand opening by the end of January or early February at the latest.

"The menu is very dessert heavy.  There's lots of pastries, yogurts, parfaits, French toast, and waffles," says James.  "We're doing a twist on oatmeal with ginger and blueberries.  The lunch menu features salads and sandwiches focused on using really good local products and made very hearty.  Hopefully, it will add something to the culinary landscape in Dormont."

James and her husband have been hard at work decorating the 1,200-square-foot space, which now features a blue, black, and white color scheme and seating for 24.  In addition to serving La Prima coffee and all the sweets to go you could ever want, Sugar will be an inviting spot to hang out, have lunch, or grab a quick post-work sandwich.

"We're looking forward to being a gathering spot for the community," says James.  "It's a really cool space.  There's a mezzanine level where we'll be baking and the downstairs is very open as far as the kitchen goes so people can watch us cook."

Sugar Café is located at 1517 Potomac Avenue and will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. 

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Kelly James, Sugar Cafe

Photograph copyright John Farley

Objective information: Outdoor Partnership's radical 'learning cloud' will be a global first

Pittsburgh's buildings and parks are brimming with history. Ever wonder what you'd learn if these walls and trees could talk? A groundbreaking new program called Outdoor Partnership, developed in collaboration by Councilman William Peduto, The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and Florida-based company N21 LLC, is using dynamic new technology to answer the question starting in Schenley Plaza.

The Outdoor Partnership utilizes a 'learning cloud' in a given area, which allows anyone with a mobile device to instantly learn information about a given object, natural or man-made, within the reach of the cloud. Essentially, the technology allows anyone with internet access on a phone, iPad, or similar mobile device to walk up to a given object and view facts or stories about the object.  After meeting N21's founder and Pittsburgh native, David Fries, at a conference last year, Peduto saw huge potential in the startup company's technology.

"What if a lightpost was able to tell you about the technology of urban lighting and a tree was able to tell you about its biology?," offers Peduto. "When I met David, he said Pittsburgh would be the perfect place to do this. Pittsburgh has the opportunity to become a global leader in this field. Right now, the type of combination I have partnering with David and the Conservancy is not happening in other places."

A wonderful bonus for the Outdoor Partnership, which will conduct its beta-phase in the next 8-12 weeks at a cost of $5,000 and open to public users in the spring, is that the Parks Conservancy already has a massive amount of information logged about the various objects in and around the parks. Fries, though, says that's just the beginning. While the project will start in Oakland, Fries and Peduto are confident its popularity will allow it to expand throughout the city.

"Once you're in proximity to the object it has the opportunity to tell you stories, whether fictional and factual, in a richer and deeper way. Not only written and audio information, but dynamic video information. It will be interactive. Anyone will have the opportunity to add information or their own stories to any particular object. This technology now makes it available that people can get closer to the built and natural environment," says Fries.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: William Peduto, City of Pittsburgh
               David Fries, N21 LLC

Image courtesy of N21 LLC

Vallozzi's to open new restaurant in Market Square

Vallozzi's, the legendary 33-year-old Greensburg Italian restaurant, has announced that they will be opening a second location in downtown's Market Square this spring.

The new family-run fine dining establishment will be the second restaurant, after Chipotle, to move into the downstairs space at Market Square Place, a huge mixed-use redevelopment of the former G.C. Murphy building owned by Millcraft Industries. Father and son owners Ernie and Julian Vallozzi say that The Piatt family, who own Millcraft, won them over with their shared vision for a more livable downtown.

"We were originally working in East Liberty and that deal kind of slowed down around the time we were approached by Lucas Piatt, and truthfully we were just blown away by his commitment and determination to downtown Pittsburgh," says Julian.

The 6,500-square-foot Market Square Vallozzi's will be similar to the sophisticated, charming Greensburg location, but with a slightly younger energy. "It will have a traditional Italian feel, but we're also going to have a wine bar and lounge area that will be slightly more casual, but still very elegant," says Julian.

The Vallozzi family is currently working with designer Charles Stern to design the space.  They expect construction to begin within six to eight weeks.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Julian Vallozzi, Vallozzi's

PGH Antiques brings Mission style furniture to Upper Lawrenceville

Cafes and boutiques have been quietly popping up along Butler Street in Upper Lawrenceville over the last couple years. Now that PGH Antiques has arrived, the once empty strip has reached its tipping point as a breeding ground for small independent businesses.

PGH Antiques was opened three weeks ago at 5326 Butler Street by East End native Robert Ian Wilson and his wife, whose antiques hobby grew to the point of opening their own store. "Over the past two years we found out that we really like Mission style furniture, which was very popular at the turn of the century and mainly made of oak," explains Wilson. The Wilsons prides themselves on collecting their products and then refurnishing them on their own.

The same DIY ingenuity goes for their cozy storefront, decked out in exposed brick and hardwood floors, and the PGH Antiques website, which Mr. Wilson created with his background in network design. "We did it all ourselves. I had the ability to do it and I like doing it, and we couldn't have afforded to have contractors coming here. We actually worked on the space for three weeks in November to get it ready. It keeps us busy," says Wilson.

Rather than laying claim to Upper Lawrenceville as his own antiques turf, Mr. Wilson is excited for more spirited antique enthusiasts to set up shop in the neighborhood.

"I would love for more antique stores to come into the neighborhood. Just think if there were more antique stores here, it could become a real shopping destination. I think an independently owned business can do well here," says Wilson.

PGH Antiques is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Robert Ian Wilson, PGH Antiques

Photograph copyright John Farley

New Razzy Fresh opens to meet student demand in Oakland

Pittsburghers often pride themselves on the many unique culinary mini-empires the city has to offer. While Pinkberry has expanded across the nation, Burgh-based lovers of California-style fruit covered frozen yogurt swear by Razzy Fresh, which started in Squirrel Hill in 2009. Razzy Fresh owner James Chen had so many requests from college students in Oakland, that he decided to open a second location at 300 Craig Street in October.

"People kept asking me to open a Razzy Fresh in Oakland. Lots of students were asking, so I said okay," laughs Chen. Working with architect Allen Dunn, who helped design the original Razzy Fresh on Murray Avenue, Chen crafted a colorful little shop that seats about 40 people.

If you haven't had a scoop of Razzy Fresh yet, you're missing out. The self serve yogurt comes in a wild variety of flavors, with six new additions to the menu each week such as red velvet cake, mango and honeydew. You can go even wilder with a wide selection of frozen berries, pomegranates, mochi, nuts, and more. The world is your yogurt, friend.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: James Chen, Razzy Fresh

Thai Suan Thip brings Bangkok family recipes to one of Bellevue's quaintest buildings

Nobody wants to see a great restaurant space go to waste.  Jim Gehr felt so strongly about the small two-level building in Bellevue that once housed the defunct Mojo Bistro, that he and his wife decided that it needed to experience new life as Thai Suan Thip.  The restaurant has been developing a loyal following of Thai lovers from all over the region since it opened three months ago…and not just because of the ambiance.

"We really like the place we're at in Bellevue. The inside reminded us of the way a restaurant would look in Thailand," says Mr. Gehr, who lived in Thailand for eight years before relocating to Pittsburgh. When they started to get serious about opening Thai Suan Thip, Mrs. Gehr returned to her native Bangkok for several months in order to attend one of Thailand's finest culinary schools and perfect some her favorite family recipes.

The menu features affordable Thai staples like Pad Thai and curries, but also contains a number of dishes drawing from Mrs. Gehr's memory. "We have a great ginger and onion dish that my wife calls 'home sweet home', because it reminds her of her mom's cooking," says Mr. Gehr.

The Gehrs felt the restaurant's interior, with its rich wooden finishes and seating for 50, was too charming to make any major changes to, though they did redecorate with art, antiques, and other items they've collected over the years in Thailand. Thai Suan Thip is located at 172 Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, which is a dry town so BYOB if you'll be drinking alcohol.  Thai Suan Thip is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for dinner Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Their phone number is 412-766-1899.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Jim Gehr, Thai Suan Thip

Get your holiday pounds from the Pittsburgh Public Market's new vendors

Since opening September 3rd, the Pittsburgh Public Market has rapidly attracted a slew of enterprising new vendors due to their affordable rents in the heavily trafficked Strip District. Here's our guide to some of the most recent gems.

At the family run Rise Above Bakery you can score all the made from scratch, preservative free, freshly baked bread your heart desires.

If you've never suckled upon the gooey enchantment of a root beer flavored mallow, perhaps your time as come. The Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory's new booth offers a plethora of flavors previously unknown to the mallows puffy interior, such as bananas foster and bacon. The bravest among you shall want to procure a ghost pepper mallow, infused with a pepper so hot that India's Defense Research and Developmental Organization has utilized it as the active ingredient in their non-lethal riot grenades.

Le Crunch is another family owned operation, this time specializing in freshly made potato chips from all natural ingredients.  Treat yourself to a guiltless bag of their experimental chip offerings. Speaking of natural, Espresso Specialty Foods uses only the freshest ingredients to produce its macaroons, biscotti, and anything else you'd want to dip in your coffee.

At the St. Lynn's Press booth you can acquire all the instructional reading materials you'll need to scavenge for wild mushrooms or whip up a cocktail made with edible flowers. All of the publisher's books are printed on recycled paper with environmentally friendly inks.

Gallery G Glass, Pittsburgh's oldest independent art glass studio, has moved into the market, where they'll be selling their hand-blown masterpieces of all shapes and sizes.

Even Steelers have sweet spots, as evidenced by former Steeler Robin Cole's recently opened Unforgettable Sweets, a cheesecakery that Cole humbly suggests offers "the best damn sweets in the world." Test the claim against The Gingerbread Shop, where they'll make you a custom gingerbread house with your family's name on it.

The Pittsburgh Public Market is located at 2100 Smallman Street and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Cindy, Cassell, manager for the Pittsburgh Public Market

Photograph copyright John Farley

Bring your entrepreneurial vision to the Great Allegheny Passage with the new Trail Town website

Ever dreamed of opening a bike shop, taco stand, or perhaps some sort of mad genius amalgamation of cycles and tacos under the same roof?

It is your lucky day Mr. or Mrs. Taco-Cycle, since The Progress Fund has just launched a new Trail Town Program website designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs, and current trail-side small business owners, establish an effective model to successfully serve the 700,000 annual hikers and bikers traveling along the Great Allegheny Passage.

"The intention of the website is to help trail businesses better connect to the trail market. Our site is set up as a resource to both existing and potential businesses," says Amy Camp, program coordinator for the Trail Town Program.

The website, which has been in development for over six months, features a four-step Dream It, Plan It, Find It, and Own It tab system. The various tabs link to statistics and vital resources to help take potential trail investors from a loose personal vision through to a lucrative ownership model. Inside one can find a neatly organized format for what are normally disparate resources, such as sources of financial support, economic planners, and available properties in towns next to the trail all over Pennsylvania, which are conveniently displayed on an interactive map.

"We try to address what the existing gaps in services are. We hope that by reaching out we can help people see the opportunities that exist and fill those gaps," says Camp. In addition to directing potential business owners to other resources through the site, The Progress Fund itself is a resource for business coaching, loans, and market research. Bring about this taco bike shop, daring dreamer!

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Amy Camp, The Trail Town Program

Image courtesy of The Trail Town Program

Unchain yourself and shop locally with Downtown First

"For every $100 you spend at local businesses, $63 goes back into the local economy, whereas if you shop at a chain, only $43 goes back into the local economy," says Mara Dowdy, program director for Town Center Associates.

As part of Town Center Associates' ongoing effort to support the Pittsburgh region's main street communities, Town Center has created a new program called Downtown First, "to build local economies, promote less driving, and encourage a stronger sense of community."

Though the program is organized through a website, Downtown First is the product of extensive street-level collaboration between Town Center Associates and 23 communities. Some of the website features include an online directory of local businesses for each community, where users can search for specific services and goods like hardware stores and restaurants or select filters to locate independent or sustainability-minded businesses.

The directory can also be customized to locate businesses in neighboring communities. Also included is a cool interactive map that displays the walking distance of various downtown loops and routes, and between multiple businesses.

"Because of the recession and the expense of marketing, a lot of businesses can't afford to have or maintain a website, so we're helping them to simply create sites that can be easily found on the Downtown First website," says Dowdy. Business owners can input a variety of information, such as hours of operation, services, phone number, and pictures, as well as updates, upcoming events, and coupons. The website also includes a page where users can pledge to support their local downtown businesses.

"We actually had someone in Bridgeville who was about to go to Lowe's, but then remembered their pledge and decided to go to the local hardware store," recalls Dowdy.

In conjunction with Downtown First, Town Center Associates is promoting America Unchained on November 20, a day when everyone is encouraged to shop their local businesses rather than chains. "It can actually have a huge economic impact," says Dowdy.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Mara Dowdy, Town Center Associates

Image courtesy of Downtown First

East Liberty's BRGR spikes the classic burger and shake combination

We at Pop City are perpetual seekers of new places to get a juicy burger crafted from locally sourced ingredients, especially places where we can wash down said burger with an imaginative cocktail. Mistake not this cornerstone of the journalistic tradition for gluttony. Thankfully, the folks over at Spoon in East Liberty opened a neighboring lounge in October called BRGR (gt t?) that satisfies both desires in a contemporary, yet unpretentious setting.

All of BRGR's ingredients come from within 30 miles, including their specially ground meats and signature Challah buns. "We hand craft the burgers in house with a blend that is a mix of chuck, sirloin, New York strip, and rib eye," says chef and co-owner Brian Pekarcik. "We just try to really have fun with the menu and create a different kind of burger."

It shows with menu items like the Gobble Gobble, a turkey burger dressed with stuffing and cranberry aioli. You can't be sure what surprises await you though, as BRGR's menu rotates based on resources and culinary whimsy. The bar specializes in adults-only milkshakes and floats. That's right, a boozeified twist on the 1950's burger and shake combo hath arrived at 5997 Penn Circle South.

The 3,200-square-foot lounge space contains a dining room with seating for 65 and a separate bar area with seating for 16. The interior, created by Jen Bee Design, features a variety of sleek accents and touches with a great deal of craft iron work courtesy of Millvale's Red Star Ironworks. In addition, BRGR has a rooftop patio that can seat 40 when the climate permits. We patiently hope for one more freak bout of warm weather.

BRGR is open Monday through Thursday from noon to midnight, Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. They, like Anthony Bourdain before them, offer no reservations.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Brian Pekarcik, BRGR

Photograph copyright John Farley

Mt. Washington: Come for the view, stay for all the new businesses

While visitors have long flocked to Mt. Washington for its iconic views, a boom of new businesses will surely have people sticking around after the photos have been snapped.  "Mt. Washington has never been one of the destination neighborhoods for dining and shopping like the South Side, but now that's really starting to change," says Greg Panza, program manager for the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.

Last Wednesday, the owners of Shadyside's Harris Grill opened their second location at 123 Shiloh Street called The Shiloh Grill. The Shiloh Grill features 50% more seating than The Harris, but the menu is similarly filled with a laundry list of cocktails, bar food with silly names and an upscale twist, and obviously lots of bacon. The Shiloh Grill is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day.

One block away at 200 Shiloh Street is Havana, an upscale Cuban influenced tapas and wine bar that was opened last summer by owners Paul Martinez and Leah Surmacz. Enjoy a plate of Papas Rellenas paired with a mojito made the way Hemingway drank em' in this swanky new lounge.

Born out of Mt. Washington's successful Art Marketplace, Art Zebo Creations officially opened its permanent location on September 22 at 26 Southern Avenue. Art Zebo sells a variety of candles, scented oils, soaps, fragrances, and various forms of handmade art created with sustainability in mind. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment by calling 412-726-9804.

Chef Justin Lee plans to have his new farm to table restaurant Crème open by late December at 221 Shiloh. The intimate 1,000-square-foot restaurant space holds 40 people, and is located on the ground floor of a formerly blighted building that was totally redesigned in 2009. Crème will feature a French influenced menu that changes daily based on the freshness of local ingredients. The restaurant will be BYOB, a big bonus for the neighboring craft beer store.

As part of the explosion of recent development on Mt. Washington, the MWCDC has designed the new website Vuplus that provides information about what to eat, drink, and buy after you've seen the view.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: Greg Panza, MWCDC
               Gene Mangrum, operating partner of The Shiloh Grill
               Justin Lee, Creme

Image courtesy of MWCDC

A delectable convergence of North and South at Squirrel Hill's Coriander India Grill

Hungry visitors have long trekked to Squirrel Hill's main commercial district on Murray Avenue for an international smorgasbord of restaurants. Noticing the curious lack of Indian culinary representation amidst the kosher delis and noodle joints, entrepreneur Victor Barboza seized on the opportunity to open Coriander India Grill on October 1 in the former Kazansky's Deli building, and the restaurant has been generating some serious food buzz.

"We're doing Bombay style, so a blend of South Indian and North Indian and a little Chinese," explains Barboza, who has 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, most recently at Oakland's India Garden. With an assortment of vegan-friendly dishes and affordably priced favorites like the $8.99 Paneer Kadai, it's easy to see why Coriander's business has been booming during these tough times. Diners on a budget will be delighted by Coriander's $6.99 all you can eat buffet, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and for dinner on Tuesday and Sunday only.  Be sure to enjoy one of the frothy beverages like Masala Milk, a marvelous farrago of milk, tea, and mystery. 

Barboza worked with his sister-in-law, who owns a restaurant in Tampa, to redesign the restaurant's interior, which boasts ample cozy booths, Bollywood music videos, and hushed lighting.  Coriander India Grill is located at 2201 Murray Avenue and is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. "As soon as I get my liquor license we'll be open on Monday as well," adds Barboza.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Victor Barboza, Coriander India Grill

Photograph copyright John Farley

308 Forbes Avenue update: Penn Avenue Fish Company and two new loft apartments under one roof

Since purchasing the three-story building at 308 Forbes Avenue in 2007, Michael Clements has been transforming the long vacant property into a multi-use complex. Clements' first tenant, Penn Avenue Fish Company, opened their second restaurant location on the ground floor on October 12, and two large loft apartments on the upper floors are scheduled for completion by the end of November.

The building, which is Clements' first foray into development, took some time to complete. "Basically, I picked the worst time possible to start this project with the credit freeze happening just as things were getting underway," explains Clements. Bad timing or not, his project was completed with the help of Fourth River Development and The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership since it is part of the major redevelopment projects happening at and nearby Point Park University's Academic Village and Market Square.

Working with architect Robert Indovina, Clements used a variety of sustainable building techniques to transform the 850 sf and 950 sf lofts, space, from large windows that allow for natural light and high efficiency heating and cooling to water saving features, bamboo floors, and concrete counters. The apartments will lease from about $1,300 to $1,600 per month.

Having maintained a successful operation in The Strip District since opening in 2007, This is the second location for Penn Avenue Fish Company which opened in the Strip in 2001. The new location is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and serves a variety of fresh seafood lunch entrees and sandwiches. In the coming weeks, they plan to become BYOB friendly.  The restaurant's interior is hip, featuring brick walls and rustic redwood counters.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Michael Clements, 308 Forbes Avenue developer

Photograph copyright John Farley

Upper Lawrenceville's MauraMori Cafe keeps breakfast and lunch in the neighborhood

While quaint cafes, lively bars, and avant-garde galleries have steadily popped up all over Lower Lawrenceville in the last decade, the area known as Upper Lawrenceville has yet to experience the same new business boom. While a few bars and restaurants offer those above 50th Street appetizing dinner options, a new eatery called MauraMori Café is possibly the only spot for the first meal of the day.

"There's a lot of the neighborhood you don't see," says David Mori, co-owner of MauraMori. There's still a lot of workforce in the mills and big companies along the river, so I wanted to give them the opportunity to stay local for breakfast and lunch."

Mori, who has owned the pizza shop That's Amore! since 2001, opened the café four weeks ago with friends Steven and Maura Booher. The roughly 1,000-square-foot space located at 5202 Butler Street has been completely rehabbed by Wylie Holdings and features exposed brick walls, vibrant colors, seating for 30, and locally produced artwork for sale. In the near future, both Mori and Booherr hope to support more local artists by offering openings and other art events.

While the interior is that of a classic café, Mori jokingly says that they serve "cafiner" food, a portmanteau of café and diner. The large menu features affordable, freshly prepared favorites like pancakes and waffles for breakfast and club sandwiches and burgers for lunch.

"We've had suits in here today, we've had electricians in here today, and we've had bikers in here today. We've been developing the idea of who is going to eat here. It's pretty much everybody," says Mori.

MauraMori Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

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Writer: John Farley
Sources: David Mori and Maura Booher

Photograph copyright John Farley

Eclipse Lounge brings classy cocktails and organic late night dining to Lawrenceville

Michelle Trumble and her husband still love the nightlife, but they were tired of the sometimes boisterous Lawrenceville bar scene. "On Valentine's Day, we were having dinner at Tamari, and I said to my husband, you know, we need to own a nice little loungey place with dark purple lighting and nice couches. A really cozy place that we'd want to go to," says Trumble. Two weeks later they'd found the perfect spot at what was formerly Bill's Tavern, and transformed it into the recently opened Eclipse Lounge.

The Trumbles performed considerable renovation work on the 1,800-square-foot space themselves, removing drop ceilings to expose the original tin ceiling, turning an upstairs apartment into a mezzanine, giving the exposed brick walls a much needed deep chemical-free cleaning, and completely transforming what was once an old school dive bar into a modern swanky cocktail lounge.

Don't take the candles and plush purple pillows as a sign of pretension, though. At heart, Eclipse Lounge is meant to foster an inviting environment. Everything on the all-organic menu, ranging from Middle Eastern treats to gourmet peanut butter and jelly, is made by Ms. Trumble herself. "I'm Syrian, so I was brought up to cook. Syrian women, all we do is feed people," laughs Trumble. As an added bonus, the Eclipse kitchen stays open until 1 a.m on weekends. Anyone who's ever sought a bite to eat in the neighborhood after 11 p.m. knows that it can become a veritable food desert. A lengthy list of wines, beers, and unique cocktails with names like "orange you so sweet" complement the food.

Eclipse Lounge is located at 3705 Butler Street. It is open from 3 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday through Thursday, and from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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Writer: John Farley
Source: Michelle Trumble

Image courtesy Eclipse Lounge

High style kitchen and bath store Splash opens in Market Square

Cutting edge kitchen and bath product store Splash will open its first showroom in Pittsburgh today, located in the historic Buhl Building at 204 Fifth Avenue in Market Square.

"We want to build a relationship with the city of Pittsburgh," says Brent Hugus, director of design and sales for Splash. "We have two other locations in Cranberry and Murraysville, which are our main showrooms. Nothing like this has been done in our industry in Pittsburgh, and we just want to make a big splash with our products, so that people can make a unique statement with their homes, and have a fun, exciting living space."

The 750 square foot location will showcase a wide variety of high end, design-centric plumbing fixtures for the bathroom, kitchen, bar and home, as well as lighting and cabinetry products from the likes of Phillipe Starck, Phoenix Design, and Jean-Marie Massaud, and others. A new addition will be Mixed Up Mosaics, a New York based company that produces colorful hand-cut glasswork, perfect for the shower or foyer.

Splash also plans to host continuing education classes for designers and architects, and have monthly happy hour mixers in the near future.

"It's the perfect time to move into Pittsburgh," says Hugus. "There are a lot of changes going on, there's a lot of people moving downtown. Pittsburgh's growing, and there's a good vibe that we want to be a part of."

Splash will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

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Source: Bren Hugus, director of design and sales for Splash
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

New Shadyside townhouses building material saves up to 80% on heating and cooling

Two new homes, built with innovative energy efficient materials and design, are nearing completion in Shadyside. The 2,100 square foot townhomes at 5433 Elmer Street feature polysteel insulated concrete forms, an affordable building material that can save up to 60% on heating and cooling costs.

"It's the only way to build. Once you use this product, you love it. Anytime an architect uses it, they're sold," says Jason Lardo, president of Integrity Construction Company, Inc., who are the builders for the project.  Integrity have been building exclusively with the material for ten years, because of its exceptional strength, r-40 insulation value, four hour fire rating, and 50 decibel soundproof wall rating. While geothermal heating and cooling systems can offer similar energy saving benefits, Lardo points out that his method can achieve nearly the same efficiency at a vastly cheaper price, by building with a strong base material, 95% efficient furnaces, ten inch Insulright spray foam in the ceilings, and 1 1/2 ton air conditioning units.  Integrity worked closely with architect Harry Levine and project manager John Frey to maximize the energy efficiency and space of the rectangular design-built homes, which are intended to complement the architectural vocabulary of the neighborhood.  The homes will be ready within thirty days.

The houses each feature three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, with access to a roof that overlooks Shadyside, and two car garages. Interesting features can be found throughout, such as sprawling open first floor layouts, and large retractable windows that open up the wall atop the garage spaces. Lardo estimates the heating costs will top out at around $80 per month, due to the insulated concrete forms.

Integrity Construction Company, Inc. was launched twelve years ago, and has since built many of the houses in and around Pittsburgh that employ insulated concrete forms, and according to Lardo, their focus is on building more energy efficient homes in the city.

"We're big believers in Pittsburgh, and we just want to do our part to make it a better place," says Lardo.

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Source: Jason Lardo, president of Integrity Construction Company, Inc.
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Paramount Pictures Film Exchange hosts first open house on September 22

Next Wednesday, September 22, the Paramount Pictures Film Exchange invites the general public into its building for an open house. The event will include guided tours showcasing the building's rich cinematic history, plans for the future, film screenings, and live music.

"This building represents a forgotten period of film history, in which Pittsburgh was very important," says project manager Rick Schweikert, who purchased the building last January.

Built in 1926, the 8500 square-foot building was first used as a screening room and vault, back when Paramount was more like a distribution center for renegade filmmakers than a major studio. Stars the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Cecille B. DeMille graced the screening room, as they toured with their famous films.

The building hasn't been functional since the 1960's, so there's been a great deal of renovation since it was purchased this year. Schweikert established the building as a corporation, PFEX, which anyone interested in investing in the community can buy into. Architect Jason Roth helped the budding corporation replace the roof, and is helping reinstall utilities, and fix the windows. A lot of work must be done still, and half of the shares are still up for grabs.

Schweikert hopes that by showing off the building, he'll be able to locate the rest of the investors, so that the space can be fully transformed into a café with live music performances, a screening room, and second floor offices. A theater company will eventually have space on the first floor. The open house will begin at 10 a.m and go to 10 p.m. Live music and films will start at 7 p.m., with performances by Bob and Jeff and Rustic Cowboys.

The Paramount Pictures Film Exchange Building is located at 1727 Boulevard of the Allies. Reservations can be made through email at rpschweikert@verizon.net.

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Source: Rick Schweikert, project manager
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy PFEX

Right by Nature launches Hometown Catering for corporate meetings

Right by Nature, Pittsburgh's largest organic and natural market, has expanded into corporate catering. Right by Nature Hometown Catering began about two weeks ago, and serves a healthy, delicious alternative to business meetings ranging in size from six to 5,000 people.

"Customers wanted the same delicious, all natural meats and other foods they eat at home and in our café, available for their office meetings, parties and special events," says Jason Brown, CEO of Right by Nature
Right by Nature merged with its online delivery partner GoodApples.com in March, allowing companies wishing to order for an event to do so simply and efficiently on the Right by Nature website. Customers can review the menu, place an order, pay for their product, and arrange for delivery all from their computer. They also offer the bonus of a free lunch to administrative assistants who book the orders.

"We have a large range of deli and traditional fare, desserts, we do great fruit bowls, and we can do fruit and bagel platters for morning meetings," says Brown.

Hometown Catering's services are quite versatile, since they have hired new employees who can quickly arrange a full service setup with personal service, tray preparation, and cleanup. Quick delivery drop-offs are also an option. A minimum catering order is $35.

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Source: Jason Brown, CEO of Right by Nature
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Osteria 2350 in The Strip offers simple, fresh Italian cooking

The Strip District's newest restaurant, Osteria 2350, opens today across the street from The Cork Factory. Founded by the Executive Chef of the neighboring Cioppino, Greg Alauzen, Osteria 2350 will specialize in unpretentious, yet innovative and affordable takes on Italian classics, prepared with local ingredients.

"I've wanted to do this concept for a while," says Alauzen. "Just simple, clean, straightforward Italian influenced cooking."

Osteria 2350 will serve a wide variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, and pasta, and have a house a bar offering a generous selection of beer and wine. Try the house made Gnocchi baked with Fontina or the Fede pasta with caramelized mushrooms. Pastry Chef Megan Walsh creates fresh desserts daily.

The restaurant is intended as a complement to Cioppino, which is in the same building. Prior to opening Cioppino, Alauzen spent over 20 years in various kitchens in Pittsburgh and New York. After six years at the Steelhead Grill, he helped open Eleven, where he worked for two and a half years.

The 4,000 square foot space was designed by DRS architects, with personalized cosmetic touches complements of Azaulen.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to open Osteria 2350. My vision is to have a cool neighborhood gathering place that has a simple, straightforward feel, with a very affordable, approachable menu," says Alauzen.

Osteria 2350 is located at 2350 Railroad Street, and will be open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can reach them for information at 412-281-6595.

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Source: Greg Alauzen, founder and executive chef of Osteria 2350
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Kevin Sousa's Salt of the Earth opens next week in Garfield

Pittsburgh food lovers know that every kitchen Kevin Sousa touches turns to gold, so there's been great anticipation over the last two years for Sousa to finally open his own eatery, Salt of the Earth, in Garfield. Next week, the product of two years of meticulous planning by Sousa and his architect business partners, Doug and Liza Cruze, will be ready for public consumption.

Sousa says Salt of the Earth will have its grand opening the week of September 13th, but after a somewhat rocky road towards creating his culinary vision, he says he's learned that anything can happen, so he is hesitant to pin down an exact date. Diners can expect the restaurant to encompass the Sousa trademarks of innovative, yet simple American food that he's brought to restaurants like the Red Room, Yo Rita! Taqueria, Kaya, and Soba.

"The idea was to have it be the kind of place that we would want to go to," says Sousa. "I want to strip away all the bs that goes with 'fine dining', but still produce a great product."

By stripping away the bs, Sousa means shedding such pretenses as uniforms, a kitchen hidden away from the dining area, boring music, and linen tables. Instead, Salt of the Earth will focus wholly on affordable food, excellent cocktails, and a seasonally appropriate menu that changes weekly in accordance with the freshest local ingredients that can be found.

If you haven't peeked into the building at 5523 Penn Avenue, the Cruzes have done an excellent job renovating the space. "It's unbelievable! I describe it has museum quality finishes. You have to see it. If you're a design person you'll love it, and if you're not you'll love it and won't understand why you love it," says Sousa of the 3,600 square foot restaurant, which features multiple 14 foot tables that seat 12, as well as bar seating, with a total of 80 seats.

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Source: Kevin Sousa, owner of Salt of the Earth
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

E Properties & Development restore abandoned Lawrenceville houses

E Properties and Development is nearing completion on the transformation of two blighted properties on 38th Street in Lawrenceville, contributing to the major revitalization efforts taking place on the hill between Butler Street and Penn Avenue.

The two connected townhouses at 234 38th Street sat neglected for some time, until E Properties and Development principal Emeka Onwugbenu purchased them last June.

"In terms of challenges, people suggested that the properties be demolished," says Onwugbenu. "Our team of architects and engineers created value-based solutions that would restore the structural stability of each building while building on its architecture."

Onwugbenu and architect Andrew Moss extended the foundations of the houses to create a more open environment with two added rooms, and installed bamboo floors throughout the buildings. They are also raising the second and third floors, and installing clear story windows, which will allow light to pour through the master bedrooms that will open into unique balcony decks overlooking downtown. The exterior, which is currently composed of vinyl siding, will be swapped out for cement board side material. Coldwell Banker has signed on to market the homes, which will start in the low $200,000 range, and are slated for move-in by Thanksgiving.

Onwugbenu, originally from Nigeria, attended Penn State for industrial engineering, and is currently in his final semester of the MBA program at CMU. He started E Properties and Development in 2007, in order to create unique value-added properties, which mix traditional design with a modern feel.

In addition to the homes at 234 38th Street, architect Andrew Moss is currently building his dream home one block away at 221 38th Street. Two other homes, at 236 and 238 38th Street, are currently being renovated by private owners, within steps of the 234 buildings.

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Source: Emeka Onwugbenu, principal of E Properties and Development
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Emeka Onwugbenu

New Center for Women in Business opens at Pitt's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence

The University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence has launched an exciting new program to help female entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

The brand new Center for Women in Business is directed by Lee Anne Munger, who has worked for the non-profit PowerLink Inc., an advisory program for women business owners, for nearly twenty years.  "About nine months ago, I, as the Director of PowerLink, started a conversation with Anne Dugan, the Director of The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, which grew into the development of the Center," says Munger.

The Center encourages any woman who has owned a business for at least two years to apply as a client.  If accepted, the Center will create an advisory board, based on the successful PowerLink Inc. model, comprised of a group of professionals customized to fit the needs of the particular client.

"We work with the company's owner to understand where she is now.   Where is she trying to take the business? What are her growth objectives? What challenges is she facing? Then we use that information to put together a team of advisors that work with her over the course of a year to help get her company to the next level," explains Munger. 

The Center for Women in Business has over 100 volunteer advisers at any given time, but a typical panel consists of a CEO, CFO, a strategic marketer, and a variety of other unique professionals from top firms in the city to fit the needs of the client. 

In addition to the advisory board program, the Center for Women in Business offers a number of other PowerLink programs, including a one day intensive Financial Boot Camp, which covers the basics of financial statements, budgeting, and financial ratios, as well as PowerLink Protege, a program designed for companies in the very early stages of development.

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Source: Lee Anne Munger, Director of The Center for Women in Business
Writer: John Farley

Through efficiency and creativity, Wrecking Crew Media continues to grow

Since opening in 2004 as a boutique two person audio production company, Pittsburgh's Wrecking Crew Media has expanded into print and video production, hired four full time employees, and completed innovative projects for big time clients including the Penguins, Duquesne University, and The Pittsburgh Technology Council. The whirlwind of activity has prompted the Wrecking Crew to expand their operations.

They're getting ready to move into a new 3,200 square foot space on the 8th floor of 209 Ninth Street on August 16th. The new office, three times the size of their former basement studio, will allow Wrecking Crew to beef up the size of the projects they can take on, and will feature a slew of technological additions, such as a 500 square foot sound stage, two video editing studios, and a new audio control room with all the technological bells and whistles.

Although the new space and tools will allow Wrecking Crew to grow and produce most of their projects in-house, President J.C. Carter says the company will stay true to the values, which have made it a success.

"I like to say we're a small group of people who do big things. We kind of pride ourselves in being small, and the reason that we get things done, even though we're only six full time people, is because we're very efficient," says Carter. "The fact that all of our suites are on the same floor is a big deal, because we're all about collaboration. It's very important to have that community in the jobs we do."

While Wrecking Crew Media's full time staff remains a core group of individuals, Carter is always interviewing young talent from the Universities to get their foot in the door with freelance gigs.

"We're trying to move things more into the cinematic world. Not just marketing videos with talking heads and graphics, but we're thinking about how we can make mini-movies for people that will really get their message and story out," adds Carter.

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Source: J.C. Carter, President of Wrecking Crew Media
Writer: John Farley

Lawrenceville's Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar

Rarely do alcohol related entrepreneurial endeavors begin with pregnancy, but that's sort of the case with Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar.  After six years of making beer, wine, and cider as a hobby, Bill Larkin learned that he and his wife Michelle were having twins.  "We were trying to figure out a good way to keep her home from work, and that's what we came up with," laughs Mr. Larkin.

It took two years of renovating the first floor of their house on 39th Street, investing in the proper equipment, and getting permits to turn what was once Bill's hobby into a full-fledged hard cider retail space and tasting room, which opened June 19th.  Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar is named after the old Allegheny Arsenal across the street from their home and business, and the Civil War theme is making its way into the Larkin's branding, as their bottles will soon come artfully decorated with war related imagery.

Currently, the Larkin's have several fermenting tanks in their basement, where they make their cider, fruit wines, and wine coolers.  The beverages, which are certainly unique to Pittsburgh's craft alcohol scene, can be purchased in growlers during their business hours, when guests can sample different concoctions in the tasting room.  "Right now, a new customer can come in and buy a growler, then they can keep the growler and come back in for refills at a lower price," explains Mr. Larkin.

There's something very cozy about the renovated tasting room, with its barrels and antique-looking pine furniture, that somehow go hand in hand with cider.  In the future, the Larkins would like Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar to sponsor charitable events and have wine tastings, but as a parent of three children, "I'm just trying to figure out what I'm going to do tomorrow," jokes Mr. Larkin. 

Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar is located at 300 39th Street.  They are open from Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to eight p.m., and Sundays from noon to four p.m.

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Source: Bill Larkin, Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar,
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Shop n' Save comes to the Hill District

On July 7, the Hill House Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Shop n' Save, announced that it signed a lease agreement with grocer Jeff Ross to run a new Shop n' Save grocery store on Centre Avenue in the Hill District.  The announcement is a reason for many neighborhood residents to celebrate, since the Hill District has not had a full service grocery store in over two decades.

The store will be located at the corner of Centre Avenue and Heldman Street, and will feature an array of amenities, including fresh produce, a deli, bakery, prepared foods, and a Pump Perks Gas Reward program.

"The grocery store will not only benefit the physical health of community residents, but the economic growth of this community," says Victor Roque, President and CEO of HHEDC.

Ground will be broken on the new 29,500 square foot facility in late Fall, and is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving 2011.  The HHEDC will own the building, and lease it to Mr. Ross, who owns four other Shop n' Save businesses in Western Pennsylvania.

"We believe the Hill District is more than just a promising business opportunity," says Mr. Ross.  "It's a storied neighborhood, and we are thrilled to be part of its comeback."

The Hill District community has been an active participant in the process of getting a grocery store in the neighborhood, having taken part in a number of meetings as part of the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement.  The agreement was signed in 2009, between residents, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sports and Exhibition Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Allegheny County. 

The HHEDC notes that the new grocery store is coming at a great time, not only for residents, but for people coming to the neighborhood from other places to enjoy the revival of cultural institutions, like the Kaufman Center, The Crawford Grill, and Granada Theater.

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Sources: Tiffanie Williams, Communications Manager for HHEDC
                Jeff Ross, Independent Grocer
Writer: John Farley

Displaced by Katrina, New Orleans veterinarian brings The Big Easy to Lawrenceville

In 2005, Veterinary Doctor Aileen Ruiz was forced to evacuate from her home in New Orleans. Like many others displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ruiz went to stay with a friend. Her friend happened to live in Lawrenceville.

"Lawrenceville reminds me a lot of the Uptown and Magazine Street areas of New Orleans," says Dr. Ruiz. "It's very artsy, and it really makes me feel like I'm back home."

Fortunately for the animal lovers of Pittsburgh, Dr. Ruiz found the city so appealing that she decided to stay, and will be opening The Big Easy animal hospital in Lawrenceville on July 5.

Located at 5328 Butler Street, the full service animal hospital will feature modern diagnostics and surgical facilities, which offer wellness, prevention, and urgent care for dogs and cats, as well as pocket animals like ferrets and guinea pigs.

While The Big Easy's facilities are state of the art, Dr. Ruiz wants to offer a very personal and compassionate style of service, with a mom and pop flair. She's literally brought her mom here to work as the receptionist!

Dr. Ruiz is a Cuban American, born in Miami. "My mother and I are both bilingual, which will make us the first bilingual English and Spanish veterinary hospital in Pittsburgh," Dr. Ruiz points out.

The Big Easy will host an open house on Saturday, July 10 from 5-8 p.m., with music provided by DJ Zombo.

The Big Easy will accept walk-ins Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Doctor's appointments can be scheduled on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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Source: Dr. Aileen Ruiz, The Big Easy
Writer: John Farley

Photograph copyright John Farley

Power Fit Pittsburgh becomes the city's first power plate acceleration training studio

On July 1, Walnut Street in Shadyside will be home to Power Fit Pittsburgh, the city's first fitness studio to feature Power Plate Acceleration Training.  Wait, Power who?

Power Plate Acceleration Training utilizes a special machine, which vibrates between 25 and 50 times per second.  A person performs an aerobic workout on the machine, which activates muscle contractions at an increased rate. 

"In doing so, by coming to our studio for a 20 to 30 minute workout, you will achieve the same results as spending 60 to 90 minutes at a traditional gym," says owner Martin E. Potoczny.  "Acceleration training workouts have more than 30 years of practical and scientific research in support of them."  In addition to reducing training time, other benefits of the technology include pain reduction during workout, and increased balance.

After years of designing for Lightwave International, a lighting and visual effects company, that allowed Martin to tour with the likes of Madonna, Roger Waters, and KoRn, he decided to open Power Fit Pittsburgh after watching celebrities use the increasingly trendy workout technique.

"I have always been a fitness junkie.  I came across the Power Plate technique a few years ago when I was touring with Madonna on her Sticky and Sweet world tour.  My lifestyle and career don't allow me to spend as much time at the gym as I would like.  I needed something that could give me results in a shorter amount of time," explains Martin.  After he tried it out, he knew he had to bring the workout back to his native Pittsburgh.

As an added benefit, all sessions at Power Fit are conducted one on one with a personal trainer, which can be booked by phone or online.  Power Fit also offers a variety of traditional spa services, including deep tissue massage.  Walk-ins are welcome. 

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Source: Martin E. Potoczny, Power Fit Pittsburgh
Writer: John Farley

Image courtesy Power Fit Pittsburgh.

South Side club, concert venue Diesel undergoes $500K makeover

After nearly four years of changing South Side nightlife, Diesel has undergone a $500,000 renovation project, with more changes still to come.

Diesel opened in 2006 in the former space of Nick's Fat City, 601 E. Carson St.

"At the time the Strip District was where all the clubs were. The South Side was all bars, no clubs," says Adam DeSimone, who owns Diesel with his brother Michael and father Patrick. The Pittsburgh family originally put about $750,000 toward turning the property into a 7,500-square-foot, two-level club and concert venue.

The recent renovations started in February 2010, and took about two months to complete, during which time the club remained opened.

The makeover includes a custom-built ceiling made of more than 32,000 LED pixel lights and a 12-foot LED video sphere, weighing nearly 1,000 pounds, that moves up and down and features a cryogenic jet system that cools down the dance floor to 35 degrees. Diesel also added VIP "skyboxes" on the second level that feature 19-inch LCD televisions and cell phone chargers. Additionally, the private back room (frequented by Pittsburgh Penguins), which was previously sectioned off with drapes, has now been enclosed with glass that switches from clear to frosted at the flip of a switch.

The renovations were a collaborative effort among co-owner Adam DeSimone's Ampd management and development group, Jim Smith's Design 4 Studio, and Drew Meyer, Deisel's entertainment director and lighting designer.

DeSimone says Ampd has another location in the works for the South Side -- a restaurant/bar that will build on Diesel's success, and provide something different than a club and concert experience.

Additionally, Diesel opened a six-pack shop this past weekend in the Fat City Pie Company portion of the building.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Adam DeSimone, Diesel

Photograph courtesy of Diesel

Urban Gypsy: Baubles, flowers, local art and more at Polish Hill boutique

Paulette Still-Khouri and her husband Najeeb Khouri moved to Polish Hill almost a dozen years ago. So when Still-Khouri decided it was time to leave her longtime corporate job and follow her dream -- opening a floral shop that also sells antiques and crafts -- she already knew of the perfect location. Polish Hill.

"I wanted to invest in my own community," says Still-Khouri.

Urban Gypsy opened in April at 3101 Brereton St. in a property built in 1895, owned and recently renovated by Jubilee Soup Kitchen. The storefront, which was a butcher shop many years ago, had been vacant for as long as Still-Khouri can remember.

Beyond staying hyper-local for a location, Still-Khouri is also trying to stay local for art. Though many vintage pieces (handbags, jewelry, household baubles) are picked up during travels, most of the new art is created by Pittsburgh residents, many of them residents of Polish Hill and surrounding communities.

Local finds include pierogi-themed greeting cards by Polish Hill resident Myra Falisz; Pittsburgh landscape blank photo-cards by Polish Hill resident Patrick Singleton; a floral oil painting by lifelong Polish Hill resident Marianne Kupin; needlepoints by Susan Constance, who works for the Polish Hill Civic Association; and walking sticks carved by Polish Hill Civic Association president Terrance Doloughty.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Paulette Still-Khouri, Najeeb Khouri, Urban Gypsy

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Coffee, record and comic book shops to open all in one building in Polish Hill

Coffee? Vegetarian eats? Records? Comic books? All in the same building?

As Sinatra once crooned, "Fairytales can come true."

A group of dedicated dreamers has been hard at work at 3138 Dobson St. in Polish Hill, taking the dilapidated, century-old corner building, and turning it into a mecca.

Polish Hill residents Catherine McConnell (a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker) and Mark Knobil (a cinematographer for PBS, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and more) purchased the building about two years ago, as well as the building next-door for a total of $90,000. They renovated the next-door place and turned it into two modern one-bedroom apartments -- which are currently leased -- and are using that income to help fund the commercial renovations.

The corner property, which was vacant when McConnell and Knobil bought it, had long been used as housing, and was in very poor, structurally unsound condition, so these renovations are significant. Tai + Lee architects, based in Polish Hill, helped with early design, and Matthew Clifford and Eric Ross -- based in Polish Hill, too -- are the prime designers and contractors for the project. Artists Julie Gonzalez and Dana Dolney will be contributing mural work.

Robert Levkulich and Carrie DiFiore, who both come from an architecture/design background, are opening Lili Coffee Shop (named after their young daughter) on the first floor. The cafe will serve regular coffee shop fare and basic vegetarian eats, and will even have an area in the back where locals can work on their bikes. Though the couple has never before run a cafe, DiFiore's family owns the Elbow Room, Bites and Brews, and Buffalo Blues -- so they've got some good guidance.

The second floor is home to Mind Cure Records, a project of Polish Hill resident Michael Seamans and Dan Allen. The vinyl-only shop will sell from a stock of about 8,000 records, including local releases.

And the third floor will host Bill Boichel's Copacetic Comics, which is relocating to Polish Hill from Squirrel Hill, where it's been since 2001.  In addition to his regular stock, Boichel will special order any book a customer wants at 15% off the listed price.

"Everybody goes right through Polish Hill on their way between the East End and Downtown and the Strip. But they never stop," says Boichel. "We're going to give them a reason to stop."

Lili Coffee Shop, Mind Cure Records and Copacetic Comics are shooting for a June opening.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Catherine McConnell, Mark Knobil, Robert Levkulich, Carrie DiFiore, Michael Seamans, Bill Boichel

Photograph courtesy of Mark Knobil

Millvale community library construction to start soon; garden already in bloom

Millvale is now one step closer to having its first-ever community library.

Pfaffmann + Associates, architects for the Millvale library, submitted construction documents in March, and in mid-May, Millvale Library Project received code clearance to begin construction.

The movement to create Millvale's first library started in 2007. It is spearheaded by Millvale resident Brian Wolovich and New Sun Rising, a nonprofit organization Wolovich helped create after Hurricane Katrina that helps launch grassroots projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The library project is supported by the Grable Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, Laurel Foundation, Sprout Fund, Give water, Pittsburgh Cares and a number of local churches, businesses, schools and individuals.

Starting in the summer of 2008, Wolovich -- a sixth grader teacher at Quaker Valley Middle School -- hosted a library summer program for about 300 local children at the Millvale Community Center, using volunteers and donated furnishing, computers and about 3,000 books for children and adults. The community kept the makeshift library running through December 2009, when Wolovich decided to shutter that short-term goal and focus on the ultimate goal: Getting the library up and running in its own independent space.

At the time, Wolovich and a core group of about 20 volunteer focused their efforts on purchasing and renovating a property in Millvale's business district -- 209-213 Grant Ave. The price was right, Wolovitch says, and it has something the organizers were looking for -- outside space for gardening.

Through the property construction was just approved, volunteers have been working on the garden for some time. Fruit trees have been provided by Soergel Orchards; five raised garden beds are currently being tended by community members; and students from Shaler Area High School have been working on creating a wetlands area.

The property also has space for residential (one apartment is already rented out and generating profit), and for a coffee shop down the line, which will provide additional income for the library. The library is also installing the infrastructure now to install solar panels on the roof in the future.

The circa 1870-building has been totally gutted, and is in the process of being reinforced so that the structure can support the weight of the 3,000 books, which are currently in storage. Wolovich says that completion of the project depends entirely on funding, but could happen as soon as the end of 2011.

"We'd like to do creative fundraising and share the partnership between the private and public sectors," says Wolovich. "The future for libraries and nonprofits in general is changing, and libraries need to change to reflect the changing needs of society."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Brian Wolovich

Image courtesy of Millvale Library Project

Is fro-yo the new cupcakes? Sweetlix, Razzy Fresh serve the sweet stuff

Hard hitting question: Are cupcakes passe? Sure, they're still delicious, and always will be, but as far as trendy confections go… Have Pittsburgh's fickle sweet teeth moved onto frozen yogurt?

We're still hooked on bike-sized carb-bombs from Dozen, Vanilla, CoCo's and even Gahnt Iggle, but this city is certainly embracing the healthy, tart fro-yo trend. Karmic in Shadyside and Sweet Berry in Oakland have been doing their thing for about a year, and now Razzy Fresh in Squirrel Hill and Sweetlix, Downtown, join the mix with their own mixes of fat-free yogurts and both decadent and guilt-free toppings.

Razzy Fresh opened about a month ago at 1717 Murray Ave. The shop features multiple yogurt flavors (plain tart, cheesecake, passionfruit), is self-serve, and is priced by weight.

Sweetlix opened at 820 Liberty Ave. last week in a previously vacant storefront owned by the Cultural Trust. The sleek yogurt shop, with a Pinkberry-inspired interior, features a daily plain yogurt and a revolving special flavor. Sweetlix is owned and operated by wife and husband Genalle Passanante and Rob Day -- the same folks who own and operate Pittsburgh Popcorn Company and also, yes, the Bikram Yoga studio in the Strip District, where Passanante teaches.

"My husband and I like to travel, and whenever we see things that Pittsburgh doesn't yet have, we want to bring those things here," says Passanante.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Genalle Passanante, Sweetlix

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Juice Box Cafe: Fresh, healthy, veggie-friendly eats and drinks in Shadyside

Juice Box Cafe is the kind of place at which an omnivore would be hard pressed to find a dilemma.

The new eatery and juice bar features a selection of vegetarian and even vegan and raw salads and wraps, tons of made-to-order fruit and veggie juices and smoothies, and even some ham and turkey options for the meat-eaters in the midst. Ingredients are fresh and whenever possible local, courtesy of Frankferd Farms in Saxonburg, Pa.

Juice Box Cafe opened mid-April at 735 Copeland St. in Shadyside, next to Girasole and Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery. The lower-level location has some outdoor seating -- a treat in the city. And its vibrant interior -- painted pineapple yellow, tangerine orange and kiwi green -- bursts with eye-catching local art, many of the canvases created by cafe employees. There's the permanent collection splashed across one wall -- Warholesque fruit prints by master juice-maker/artist Sarah Wojdylak, whose glass terrarium installation was a hit at the recent GA/GI Festival -- and the other wall hosts a revolving selection of local works. The local wall is booked up to September.

Juice Box is owned Al Polanec, who also owns local tech company Blue Archer, which does web design, development and marketing.

Juice Box has only been open a few weeks, but already has the feel of a neighborhood staple. Polanec's a Shadyside resident, and Juice Box manager Marsa Lowerison worked for years at the Starbucks just across the street. She sees many of the same customers now, plus some new ones, including nearby Apple store employees, who Lowerison says are in Juice Box just about every day for lunch.

Juice Box is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Juice Box's menu features good-for-you staples with good-tasting surprises. The garden salad comes with avocado, cilantro and sunflower seeds; the smoked tofu salad is dressed in a sweet, spicy curry; and the go-to fake meat is mock tuna rather than a customary beef or chicken option. Smoothies and juices get silly-to-say names, such as the Berry Manilow (almond milk, strawberry, banana, chocolate) and the Pretty In Pink (red grape, apple, lemon). The almond milk is made right on the premises (refreshing rather than heavy, sweet). And, for the perfectly sinful antidote to all the wholesome fruits and veggies, chocolate-chip cookies are baked fresh daily.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Marsa Lowerison, Sarah Wojdylak, Juice Box Cafe

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

21st Street Coffee and Tea caffeinates and educates at new Three PNC Plaza spot

It's not that your coffee is bad. It's just that you don't know better. Yet.

21st Street Coffee and Tea wants to help.

The independent coffee bar opened its new Downtown space a couple weeks ago in the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh's newest mixed-use high-rise. And owners Luke and Alexis Shaffer are busy getting Downtown caffeine-seekers up to speed. Everything is made-to-order, including that regular ol' cup of Joe. Customers can order by bean type (all Direct Trade), and by preparation method (pour-over, Chemex, espresso machine or the super hi-tech Clover).

Orders are more like conversations. Noticeably absent from the dialogue are phrases like "sugar-free frozen caramel mocha with extra whipped cream." Instead, the Shaffers discuss filters, temperatures, how long to let black tea steep versus green, the farms from which the beans come, and how coffee, when grown, roasted and served expertly, tastes more like a naturally sweet fruit than the astringent stuff you drip brew in your kitchen before full consciousness.

The Shaffers, who started 21st Street when they returned to Pittsburgh from New York City, are both former engineers. They bring the same precision and seriousness of constructing a bridge to constructing the perfect cup of coffee.

21st Street maintains its flagship location (established 2006) on 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, and before opening the Three PNC spot, served coffee in the Frick Building, Downtown.

Like its Strip location, the Downtown 21st Street serves a selection of baked goods from Priory Fine Pastries on the North Side and Colangelo's in the Strip. The small street-level Downtown storefront -- with light blue walls and polished concrete floors -- faces a concrete courtyard that edges Fifth Avenue and Larrimor's clothing store, which recently relocated to One PNC Plaza. Architect Todd Demangone assisted the Shaffers with their design concept.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Luke and Alexis Shaffer, owners, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Boutique la Passerelle and Doncaster expand chic Downtown boutique options

Two new women's boutiques are making Downtown Pittsburgh an even more fashionable place to shop.

Boutique la Passerelle, which offers clothing and accessories with a vibrant European flair, opened this month at 417 Wood St., just a few storefronts down from Mocha Marianne's coffee shop. And Doncaster, a high-end clothing company that traditionally operates through trunk shows, is opening a 1,000-square-foot boutique in mid-May in the lobby of Piatt Place on Fifth Avenue.

Doncaster on 5th held an opening party an early April in the Piatt Place penthouse. More than 250 attendees, as well as North Carolina-based Doncaster president Laura Kendall, came out to check out the spring and summer collections, designed by Patricia Klyne, formerly of Oscar De La Renta.

Teresa Cavoti with Doncaster says the brand -- with price points between a Talbots and an Anne Klein -- fills a Downtown void for the professional woman. "This is for our women who work Downtown," says Cavoti. "They are so time-deprived and too exhausted to go to our traditional model of a trunk show. Now they can just walk in or make an appointment with our wardrobe consultants during their lunch."

Boutique la Passerelle is the project of Cidalia Duarte, who comes to Pittsburgh from Portugal by way of New York City and Connecticut. The Mt. Lebanon resident had her own boutiques in Portugal, and when she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh in the fall for his job with Mylan, Duarte decided it was time to get back into the fashion game.

The boutique's interior is bright and airy, filled with joyful, straight-from-Europe pieces, such as a short-sleeved hot pink blazer with cheeky black buttons, ruffled floral blouses, chunky multi-strand necklaces and fierce gladiator-style heels. Prices range from $40 dresses to a $400 leather jacket.

Duarte says she considered opening her boutique in Shadyside, Sewickley or the South Side, but chose Downtown for its foot traffic and its beauty -- "It reminds me of parts of Paris with the bridges," says Duarte, who also appreciate Downtown's convenience -- she get into town car-free, via the South Hills T.

Duarte also says she hopes more entrepreneurs will open Downtown boutiques: "From what I've read, Downtown died a little in the past, but now, with Market Square and the new high-end stores, the future of Downtown is to become like the old days again."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Teresa Cavoti, district sales leader, Tanner Companies/Doncaster; Cidalia Duarte, Boutique la Passerelle

Photograph of Boutique la Passerelle copyright Caralyn Green

The kind of bug you wanna catch: Pittsburgh Flea launches in Strip District

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Pittsburgh's massive citywide outdoor flea market is opening this weekend.

The Pittsburgh Flea will run 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday from April 18 through Nov. 14, 2010 at 21st and Railroad Streets in the Strip District.

Pittsburgh Flea founder Janis Surman says the response to the weekly market has been overwhelming.

"Everyone just keeps gushing, 'Thank you, thank you.' You would think I just fed a starving nation," Surman says. "It's flea frenzy. There's been so much interest. We've got more than 230 vendors for opening day! I'm wait-listing vendors."

Surman says many vendors have committed to being anchors for the season, but weekly tables are still available for $40 each Sunday. There are also special package rates available.

Shoppers can expect antiques and crafts, from original art to reconstructed home furnishings, from vintage tees to all-natural cosmetics and beauty products

And, of course, there will be food and drink. Look for La Peri Dolci biscotti and macaroons, Thai food from Highland Park's Smiling Banana Leaf, Fudgelicious, Mercurio's Mulberry Creamery, T Hill's Smokehouse BBQ & Grill, Franktuary hot dogs, Goodie Truck treats, and more. DJ J. Malls from Title Town Soul & Funk Party & Jerry's Records will be spinning tunes on Sunday, too.

The Flea's neighbor in purpose and location, Pittsburgh Public Market, is expected to open this summer in the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street between 18th and 19th Streets. That market will host about 42 vendors of fresh produce, prepared foods and crafts, and will be open Friday through Sunday each week. It will also include space for cooking demonstrations and community events.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Janis Surman, Pittsburgh Flea

Image courtesy Pittsburgh Flea

Pageboy Salon & Boutique: One-of-a-kind, head-to-toe styles for ladies 'n' gents

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Lawrenceville's got a new salon and boutique -- all in the same storefront.

Pageboy Salon & Boutique, 3613 Butler St., promises to meet customers' every style need, from tip to toe. Dana Bannon's got her chic little salon on the back, and in the front, Rachel Vallozzi's got racks and racks of handpicked and reconstructed vintage, as well as stuff by independent and local designers, including all sorts of accessories for women and, yes, men.

Vallozzi had her own Pittsburgh boutique, Kharisma Vintage Fashions, from 2002 to 2006, but has been focusing for the last few years on wardrobe styling and personal shopping, as well as her line Buttercup Blues, which will continue to be available at the nearby Wildcard. Bannon, who's got seven years experience as a hair stylist, lost her job at a Shadyside salon not too long ago, and says, "I allowed myself one day of pity, then I called Rachel."

The longtime friends found the perfect space for Pageboy in the former location of Accezzorize boutique. The 1,200-square-foot property -- leased from A-1 Realty's Lee Gross -- has "good bones," as Vallozzi explains: Brick walls, exposed ductwork and high, tin ceilings set the stage for furnishings from Retro on 8th and custom-designed racks (made from doors salvaged from Construction Junction) that hold everything from macho leather bombers to "upcycled" vintage frocks made modern with a few changes to hemlines, sleeves and buttons. Taking the confusion out of vintage shopping, clothes are labeled by measurements rather than arbitrary sizes, so perfect fits are ensured. Customers' measurements are even kept on file for future visits.

Bannon, who opened the salon by-appointment only before the boutique's official Tuesday opening, says not a single one of her hair customers has left Pageboy without buying something from the boutique -- "They browse while their hair processes." Similarly, many of Vallozzi's clothing shoppers end up booking appointments with Bannon.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Rachel Vallozzi, Dana Bannon, Pageboy Salon & Boutique

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Larry, Larry, how does your garden grow? Blossom Tour celebrates Lawrenceville

CLP receives nearly $500,00 in grants Lawrenceville is hosting its fifth annual Blossom Tour this weekend -- a warm-weather counterpart to the neighborhood's mega-successful Joy of Cookies winter tour. The free event celebrates the arrival of spring, and also the neighborhood's thriving business corridor.

The Blossom Tour runs Fri., April 16 to Sun., April 18 and involves 24 participating businesses along Butler, 43rd, 44th, Hatfield and 50th Streets. Businesses will distribute flower and herb seeds, and offer Blossom Tour specials, sales, raffles, garden tips and demonstrations. This year's tour has five newcomers: Common Thread, Body Shop Tattoo & Apparel, Wildcard and Pageboy Salon & Boutique and Cavacini Garden Center, which offers a wide variety of gardening and landscaping services and products.

"What's fun about many new businesses in Lawrenceville is that they sell unique and alternative apparel," says Maya Haptas Henry from the Lawrenceville Corporation.

Common Thread, as well as the recently opened Ambiance Boutique, benefits charity through resale shopping; Body Shop Tattoo sells body apparel in addition to body art; Wildcard sells creative accessories, tees and garments (including funky Pirates gear) in addition to its cards and crafts; and Pageboy Salon & Boutique sells custom vintage and DIY creations… as well as trendy haircuts.

These new businesses join Lawrenceville shopping mainstays such as Sugar, Pavement, Divertido and Equita.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Maya Haptas Henry, Lawrenceville Corporation

Image courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation

Buena Vista Coffee: A tasty touch of Hollywood in the Mexican War Streets

With its rich chocolate walls, eclectic vintage furniture, sun-dappled window seats and prime corner spot in the North Side's Mexican War Streets--where young families take weekend walks and students contemplate art over iced Americanos--Buena Vista Coffee feels like a silver screen version of a neighborhood cafe.

Squint your eyes and Anne Hathaway is pulling espresso shots in the corner. Wait for the release of Love and Other Drugs, and you won't have to squint.

The Edward Zwick production, also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, filmed all over Pittsburgh last year, including at Buena Vista Coffee (Hathaway's character works at the coffee shop, and a steamy love scene was shot just around the block). Buena Vista's owners liked the space's Hollywood set decoration makeover so much that they kept much of it intact.

The interiors may be Tinseltown, but what Buena Vista serves is homespun goodness. Shallary Boss, who owns the place with husband Brent Boss, makes simply decadent baked goods that crumble when they're meant to crumble, melt when they're meant to melt, and go great with an ice cream-and-espresso affogato in the summer. After seven years at Uptown Coffee in Mt. Lebanon, Shallary--a Dormont native who now lives in Lower Lawrenceville--jumped on the opportunity to open her own cafe in the former space of Beleza. Shallary had never spent much time on the North Side before opening Buena Vista Coffee, but now can't get enough of her adopted neighborhood. She says it's a "unique part of the city" full of more foreign languages and out-of-state license plates than any other part of Pittsburgh.

Beleza closed in spring of 2009, and Shallary opened Buena Vista Coffee around Christmas 2009.

Named for its location (1501 Buena Vista St.), Buena Vista serves Commonplace Coffee from Indiana County, and a limited though ever-changing menu of treats such coffee cake, banana bread, muffins and cookies, including oatmeal ones loaded with sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins and apples. Wi-Fi is free, and WYEP is the soundtrack of choice.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Shallary and Brent Boss, Buena Vista Coffee

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Downtown lunch spot Franktuary gets even greener with help of CORO Fellows

Already a bastion of conscious eating, Franktuary is taking steps to be even more eco-friendly and accessible.

The gourmet hot dog shop already gives 2 percent of all profits to charity; serves the ever-popular grass-finished, organic, all-beef Locavore dog; offers auto-free bike delivery in the Downtown area; and has plenty of vegetarian options, including the tofu frank, salads and soups.

Now, the lunch spot in the basement of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, at 325 Oliver Ave., is taking steps to leave an even smaller carbon footprint. With the help of two CORO Fellows, who worked with Franktuary from January until recently, the eatery has starting planning a composting program that will get under way once the warm weather's here to stay; will be temporarily taking chicken products off the menu until a more sustainable poultry source is established; is transitioning from disposable to permanent flatware; and has vowed to move away from Styrofoam cups and containers once the current supply is exhausted. Also, Franktuary has eliminated all high-fructose corn syrups from the beverage case and--at the recommendation of a Fellow with cerebral palsy--Franktuary has lowered the waste/recycling area so that it's more accessible for customers in wheelchairs.

Frankuatry's mission, co-owner Megan Lindsey says, is to "redeem fast food, one frankfurter at a time."

"We are really concerned about stewardship," Lindsey says. "Franktuary is in a new phase of existence. We've really redefined our vision. We want to be an educating force in the food industry, which sounds pretty insane, given how small we are. I really think, though, that people latch onto good practices when they see them done well, done truthfully, done without guilt hanging over their heads."

Franktuary's biggest green push is yet to come, though. This April, Franktuary will open a second location--on wheels. Unlike the store, which has mixture of "organic and regular products," says Lindsey, Franktuary's roaming food truck will serve only grass-feed beef and locally made vegetarian patties and hot dogs, as well a locally made pirogues and homemade soda. The truck will keep customers informed about its whereabouts via social media, and has plants to team up with nomadic local bakeshop, The Goodie Truck.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Megan Lindsey, Franktuary

Image courtesy of Franktuary

Incentives encourage shopping in under-construction Market Square

Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is making shopping even more fun by offering gift card opportunities to Market Square customers.

The marketing campaign's goal is to thank regular customers of Market Square establishments, and encourage new ones, says Hollie Geitner with the PDP. There are two ways customers can win the $25 gift cards: (1) Make a purchase at any participating Market Square merchant and be entered in a weekly raffle, or (2) take a photo of themselves with a purchase and a Market Square bumper sticker (available at participating merchants), and email it to the PDP to be posted on Facebook and voted on by other PDP Facebook fans.

The campaign runs March 1 through 31.

Local business districts have suffered this winter due to record amounts of snow, and Market Square has been hit especially hard, says Geitner, as it is already in the midst of a major construction project that limits access. Market Square is receiving a $5.1 million makeover to turn it into a pedestrian-friendly European-style piazza. The project, designed by Klavon Design Associates, broke ground in August 2009 and is expected to wrap up by July 2010.

The square's iconic 1902 Landmark Tavern closed in February, but the area has also seen some new businesses open recently (restaurants Las Velas and Bella Sera, and retailers Nettleton Shoe Shop and Larrimor's).

"We want a vibrant Downtown, and to have that we have to support the businesses that are here," says Geitner. "We want people to become engaged through this marketing campaign, to get creative. It definitely draws attention to the businesses. A lot of people don't realize what all is here. Market Square is more than just Starbucks and Primanti Brothers. There's Serendipity for handbags and accessories, and a dry cleaners and a floral shop and more."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Hollie Geitner, Pittsburgh Downtown Parntership

Photograph courtesy of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

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

Cozy, vegetarian Tin Front Cafe part of historic Homestead redevelopment

The Tin Front Cafe is bringing vegetarian cuisine to what owner Daniel Steinitz calls a "meat and potatoes market."

Situated at 216 East Eighth Ave. in Homestead, the cozy cafe on the historic street focuses on foods that are organic and local and, most of all, meat-free. When the place opened in September 2009, the menu started as a strictly coffee shop affair (homemade baked goods, caffeination courtesy of Sacramento-based Java City), but it has since expanded into a full-on onslaught of lacto-ovo breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The menu offers simple, straightforward comfort food, and will change seasonally when more is available locally than just slush for snow cones. Current options include four-cheese macaroni, butternut squash lasagna, a mustardy herbed potato salad and an eggplant parm sandwich. And, yes, the Tin Front's got a liquor license, so beer, wine and cocktails are served, and boozy coffee creations are encouraged.

Also, the cafe will make use of its outdoor courtyard when warmer weather emerges. Steinitz and his wife, co-owner/chef Ellie Gumlock--who helped shape Kiva Han's veggie menu during her tenure there--have plans for al fresco dining and a small food garden out back, as well as a rain barrel and a living wall done by the same company that created PNC's green wall Downtown. They're also talking about doing BBQ--yes, with real, live meat--in the back for the carnivores in the midst.

The Tin Front is connected to the Annex Cookery next door, which Steinitz's mother Judith Tener-Lewis reopened in Homestead in 2004 after closing her iconic Walnut Street location in 1998. Above the cookware shop and cafe sits an impressively restored four-bedroom, two-story, 2,400-square-foot live-work space the family is hoping to rent for $1,990 a month (ideal for a visiting professor at a nearby university, Steinitz points out). The family also owns several other properties along Eighth Avenue in Homestead, including the former 5 & 10 across the street with four loft apartments currently rented at regional market value.

History is important to the community-minded family, which shows up not just in their devotion to revitalizing Homestead on their own dollar, but also in the details in those efforts. The 5 & 10's got a green roof (the first on a nationally registered historic building in the state, says Steinitz), and Tin Front Cafe features folk paintings of Pittsburgh by Peter Contis, a hefty wood bar salvaged from local landmark Chiodo's Tavern, and tables and chairs from the old Moose Lodge. Also, the tin panels--which used to be part of the ceiling where the outdoor courtyard now is--have been shaped into wall sconces and hanging light fixtures, and also wrapped around the front of the Chiodo's bar.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Daniel Steinitz, Ellie Gumlock, Judith Tener-Lewis

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Yoga Flow opens third studio, offers free classes in Shadyside

It may sound melodramatic to say yoga saved your life, but for Yoga Flow founder Dominque Ponko, it's hardly an exaggeration.

"Six years ago I had a seizure out of nowhere. They took me to the hospital and found I had a brain tumor," says Ponko, a former gymnast. "It's alive now, not benign, but my body is getting healthier. I needed yoga desperately in my life at that point, I needed it in the spiritual sense. But I couldn't afford to take classes, so I got certified to teach, and I could take classes for free.

"I was sick and tired of feeling sorry for myself, so I decided to make myself heal. I knew that yoga would lead me on the path to healing. By combining yoga with holistic medicine, I have changed my life."

Ponko started practicing and teaching yoga in 2002, and in 2006 opened her first studio--Yoga Flow--in Murrysville. A second studio followed in Aspinwall in 2007. And now, Ponko is opening her third location, in Shadyside--and more importantly, her tumor has stopped growing and her seizures have stopped as well.

"The brain tumor and seizures were a blessing," says Ponko. "It changed my life. I would never have these three yoga studios and these wonderful teachers in my life had I not gotten sick. In that way yoga is healing me. I am using yoga as a tool. I am empowered by this, and determined to be seizure-free and 100 percent brain tumor-free."

Yoga Flow, which specializes in heated vinyasa, is set to open its Shadyside location in late January or early February (updates can be found on the studio's website). The earthy, green-walled studio, which fits about 50 students, is located at 5433 Walnut St., directly above J. Crew. The entrance on Bellefonte Street.

The studio will offer 16 yoga classes by five different teachers each week, and will offer free classes to the public for its entire first month of business. Even after that first month, all new students get three classes free.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Dominque Ponko, Yoga Flow

Photograph courtesy of Yoga Flow/copyright Laura Petrilla

Zipper Blues brings high-end women's fashion to Squirrel Hill

When Cheryl W accessory boutique left its 12-year Forbes Avenue storefront for a Point Breeze nook in summer 2009, Squirrel Hill lost a chic staple. Zipper Blues, which moved into the 5817 Forbes Ave. spot in late October, is filling neighborhood's need for high-quality fashion.

The store is high-end, but hardly a special-occasion-only boutique. Zipper Blues specializes in everyday luxury-- super soft solid-color tees, girl-cut sports shirts embellished with Swarovski crystals, feminine hoodies and jackets perfect for layering, and of course, the store's namesake, premium denim. Zipper Blues carries five denim brands: Citizens of Humanity, Miss Me, Red Engine, Joe's Jeans and AG Jeans. Alterations are free, and will so closely approximate the original look of the hem, you'll think the pants were made specifically to suit your body.

Zipper Blues comes to Squirrel Hill after five years on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon. Its owners--young married couple Jamie Rohm and Matt Hinde--were ready for a change. The two live in the South Side, and were walking along Forbes one evening after dinner at Aladdin's Eatery when they saw the vacant storefront. "We were surprised to see an available storefront in Squirrel Hill," says Hinde. "Charles Spiegel had been trying to persuade us for years to come into Squirrel Hill. So we did."

Hinde says that Squirrel Hill, though it's perhaps better know for its restaurants, cafes, pizza shops and ice cream parlots, is also a great shopping destination: "There's high-end men's and women's shopping with Charles Spiegel and Zipper Blues on the same street, in addition to Dales Maxima, Occasions and Littles Shoes."

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Hinde, Zipper Blues

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Spa Jema provides organic relaxation in historic Downtown building

City living can be frenzied, exhausting. That where Spa Jema comes in.

The new day spa brings to Downtown Pittsburgh what owner Jennifer Blodgett thought was missing from the mix--a relaxing urban retreat that is a soothing spa first and foremost, rather than a high-energy salon that also happens to offer spa services.

Spa Jema hosted its grand opening party on Light Up Night at the end of November, and officially opened for business last week.

Blodgett, an Upper St. Clair native, spent the majority of her adult life bopping around the world. She lived in San Diego and Hawaii, learned Thai message techniques in Thailand, and aromatherapy and body wraps in England, and worked as a massage therapist on cruises through the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Blodgett returned to Pittsburgh about three years ago with the dream of opening her own high-end spa in the city.

"People told me I should be in the suburbs--Sewickley or the South Hills," Blodgett says, "But I wanted to be Downtown. I love being a part of the revitalization that's going on here with all the condos and hotels and luxury shops."

Blodgett looked for the perfect space for a couple years, and this fall, found and fell in love with a 4,000-square-foot, two-story building at 117 First Ave., across the street from 151 First Side condos.

The building, Blodgett believes, was built after the Great Fire around 1860 as a residential structure. It was converted at some point into a commercial space, and was vacant for about two years before Blodgett leased the building from landlord Dennis Spyra.

The property still maintains its residential vibe. The spa unwinds with grace, each room leading into the next. The two sets of stairs add a grand elegance to the traditional space, which features a private back patio, four treatment rooms and a custom-made cedar sauna. The building's dark wood and abundant fireplaces are given a modern edge with exposed brick, and tangerine and lime green walls, as well as sleek tiling and gleaming black leather furniture with clean lines that mask their supple comfort.

Blodgett currently employs three specialists, including an esthetician and a nail technician. Services include waxing, massage, body scrubs, manis and pedis, and facials. Spa Jema uses a Hungarian organic skin care line called Eminence, as Blodgett--a yoga-practicing vegetarian--believes you shouldn't put on your body what you wouldn't put in your body. All Eminence products are hypoallergenic, clinically tested and free of parabens, mineral oils, petroleum and sodium lauryl sulphate.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jennifer Blodgett, Spa Jema

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

Bella Sera Urban Trattoria: Dining green on Market Square

Owner Jason Capps describes Bella Sera Urban Trattoria as a "white collar watering hole," but that description does the place injustice. Instead of loosened ties and room-temp draft beers, imagine classic cocktails, local microbrews, tables handcrafted from imported volcanic rock, and a commitment to not just good food (tried-and-true Italian pub eats and grab 'n go staples), but also good, sustainable business practices.

Bella Sera, on Market Square, Downtown, opened this November, and is one of just two Pittsburgh spots to be Green Restaurant Association-certified (the other is the café at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens). The restaurant is an extension of Capps' catering business, Greco's, which he started a decade ago, and his 18,000-square-foot banquet hall in Canonsburg, which hosts weddings and events for up to 400 guests.

Capps says a variety of chefs inspired Bella Sera's direction: Mario Batali (all the celebrity chef's restaurants are Green Restaurant Association-certified); Jose Garces (recently named the Food Network's newest Iron Chef, his Philadelphia eateries have elegant, intimate interiors Capps unabashedly emulates at Bella Sera); and all the home-cooks in Capps' Italian family (his Grandma Greco instilled in him the importance of recycling and composting, and his mother's organic farm provides much of the produce, including the ingredients for the house pesto and pickles).

Bella Sera's green initiatives include: energy-efficient appliances, composting, using local products and eco-friendly cleaning products, recycling fryer oil into biodiesel, bottling and bubbling their own water, and, weather-permitting, "zero emissions catering," through delivery by Green Gears Pedicabs.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jason Capps, Bella Sera

Photograph courtesy Bella Sera

Eye Candy optical boutique features one-of-a-kind handmade frames

Lawrenceville's got a new boutique, and it's pretty darn easy on the eyes.

Opening in early November, Eye Candy, at 5126 Butler St., provides full optician services as well as customized fittings and the choice of about 500 handmade glasses frames.

Where most opticians' offices and eyewear retailers resemble medical suites, Eye Candy feels more like a designer boutique. The walls are a rich raspberry and floors a polished wood, Regina Spektor's latest piano-pop album plays softly in the background, and a decadent chandelier illuminates the shop, which is filled not with severe institutional furniture, but with delicate vintage pieces that harbor frames unlike anything you'd find at a chain.

Eye Candy sells what optician Katie Bulger calls "elite" eyewear lines: Lafont from Paris, Grotesque from Germany, Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses from London and Hoffmann natural horn that will hold up over the years far better than anything plastic (can you say "sustainability?"). Eye Candy's frames are hand-cut filigree, colorful layered plastics and heavy plastic cat eyes, and there's even a children's corner, inspired by owner Monica George Krasinsky's young son. Frames start at around $300, and can run well over $1,000 a pair. Eye Candy provides full optician services, and is planning to add an opthamologist (the owner's husband, actually) a couple days a week down the line.

Eye Candy's frames are not lined up for customers to handle at their will. Instead, they're tucked away. Sit, have a cup of something steamy, and tell optician Katie Bulger what you want. She'll pull what you think suits you, and even some surprises. Bulger, a board-certified optician with 10 years experience, has also owned and operated Sugar boutique, at 3703 Butler St., for the last three years. She sees Upper Lawrenceville now as what Lower Lawrenceville was four years ago: On its way up, filled with emerging galleries, bars and boutiques, with room for more.

In part, that's why Monica George Krasinsky opened Eye Candy. The fulltime nurse anesthetist has always loved designer eyewear, so there's that, but also, she wanted to get in on the Lawrenceville action. She bought the building where Eye Candy is located, totally renovated it, and opened Eye Candy. There's still a storefront available next to Eye Candy (though Bulger hints there might be an announcement soon about a retailer moving in), and of the two freshly rehabbed one-bedroom apartments upstairs, one is still available for rent.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Katie Bulger and Monica George Krasinsky, Eye Candy

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Annual Joy of Cookies tour: Shop locally, eat locally in Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville's annual "Joy of Cookies" cookie tour is back on Butler Street, uniting local business with sweet teeth around the city.

"Tour" may be too structured a term for what the event really is, though: It's less of a guided excursion, and more of a four-day long, neighborhood-wide festival that celebrates treats of the culinary and consumer kinds.

The cookie tour is about providing a mall alternative to holiday shoppers. Participating shops, galleries and eateries include established Lawrenceville staples (Piccolo Forno, Arsenal Bowling Lanes, Divertido), as well as newer establishments (Espresso a Mano, Wildcard, Ambiance Boutique). Each of the 21 participating shops will feature a different cookie baked by Bernadette Ogurchak of Heaven's Scent Pastries in Forest Hills.

The tour is also about promoting Lawrenceville's business district as an eating, drinking and shopping destination.

"Many people come to the neighborhood for the cookie tour, and then come back to their favorite places," says Nadia Diboun with the Lawrenceville Corporation. "Over the past 10 years, we've seen an increase of sales during the cookie tour. It promotes the neighborhood regionally."

The tour began in 1997 as a holiday open house at Jay Design Soaps & Gifts, and has grown to a business district-wide event that organizers anticipate will draw more than 3,000 attendees.

The tour occurs Thurs., Dec. 3 through Sun., Dec. 6. Special events on Saturday include a trolley running the expanse of Butler Street from 34th to 55th Streets, as well as the Cookie Mall bake sale 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Augustine's Church, at 37th and Butler Streets. The bake sale, organized by the Lawrenceville Rotary, benefits local community groups, including Friends of the Lawrenceville Library, Lawrenceville United and St. John Neumann School.

The Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour is sponsored by the Lawrenceville Corporation, the Mainstreets Pittsburgh program, PNC Bank, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh City Paper, Lawrenceville Rotary and the Joy of Cookies Cookie Tour Planning Committee.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Nadia Diboun, Lawrenceville Corporation

Photograph courtesy of Nadia Diboun

Work that space: Resources for Penn Avenue building ownership

In the past decade, the vacancy rate along Penn Avenue has gone down from 45 percent to around 20 percent. About $58 million has been invested into the area over that time. And, currently, about 20 percent of the space is occupied by artists or arts-sympathetic users, like the Quiet Storm, that complement the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative's goal of reviving the 10-block business corridor through arts-based economic development.

"There are opportunities for building ownership and for leasing along Penn Avenue," says Matthew Galluzzo, arts district manager with Friendship Development Associates (FDA). "Two and three-story spaces ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet are abundant across the region in little mill towns and urban neighborhoods, but Penn Avenue has additional incentives at our disposal for arts-based users."

FDA's strategy of buying buildings and selling them to artists at discounted prices--and providing additional tools to help them succeed--is "an innovation we started that is now a national model," says Galluzzo. Some of those tools include grants for facade renovations, and inclusion in the monthly Unblurred gallery crawl, which increases public awareness and can offset an individual organization or artist's marketing budget.

Another of those tools is the annual Building Ownership Workshop, which generally attracts about 25 to 35 participants, and has directly resulted in at least one building being renovated each year for the past eight or nine years.

The event "demystifies the process of owning and rehabbing a building on Penn Avenue," says Galluzzo. "It helps artists understand this is a real estate development project, and not just a romantic notion about being an artist, doing cool stuff in a cool space. Though that's part of it."

The workshop presents participants with the chance to sit down and talk with architects, business development specialists, FDA staff and artists who have gone through the process of purchasing and rehabbing buildings along Penn Avenue. Programs that will be reviewed at this year's workshop include Artist Loan and Grant Fund (through Penn Avenue Arts Initiative), Small Business Program (through URA), FDA's Business Assistance, REN-Program (through Community Design Center of Pittsburgh), Small Business Development Assistance (through University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center), Housing Recovery Program (through URA) and various conventional lending products.

This year's Building Ownership Workshop occurs Thurs., Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. at EDGE studio, 5411 Penn Ave.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matthew Galluzzo, arts district manager with Friendship Development Associates

Image courtesy of Friendship Development Associates

Zombo adds vintage, locally designed fashions to visual art offerings

Michael Devine is a busy guy. Better known as DJ Zombo, he has a radio show on WRCT-FM 88.3; he spins at weddings and special events as well as bars and clubs around the city; he originated Arsenal Lanes' Rock 'n' Bowl night; he custom screenprints T-shirts, bumper stickers and business cards in his at-home studio; he plays in a garage rock band with his wife Julie; he runs Zombo Gallery, which is booked up through March 2011; and now, he's going to be running a fashion boutique called Wear It Clothing Co. within the Lawrenceville gallery space.

How does he do it?

"I don't watch TV and my social life is my work," Devine says. "That, and Pittsburgh is a city where you can afford your dreams."

Devine moved from Ohio to Pittsburgh in 2001, then bounced around the country (Seattle, El Paso, Portland) with wife Julie before returning to Pittsburgh in 2006 and opening Zombo Gallery at 4900 Hatfield St. in Lawrenceville's Ninth Ward. He bought the 200-something-year-old building for less than $50,000 ("the price of a mobile home on the West Coast"), worked on renovations with contractor John Popinksi, and now uses it as a true live-work space. The first floor has the gallery as well as massage therapy offices (both Michael and Julie are certified); the basement's where's the screeprinting shop is; and the couple lives on the second and third floors.

The gallery now doubles as a fashion boutique. All current show artwork will remain on display during store hours, and all clothing racks will be wheeled out for art opening and closing receptions. Devine says he was inspired to create Wear It Clothing Co. after being approached by Kendall Bieselt who works at the nearby Remedy Restaurant and Lounge.

Wear It Clothing Co. features affordable, retro and locally designed men's and women's clothing and accessories by a variety of local designers and collectors. There are 10 racks, each rented to a different vendor. Wares include modified vintage by Buttercup Blues, corsets by local seamstress Zoe Collins, newer retro stuff by Amanda Manol (who runs Spookshows at the Thunderbird Cafe) and, of course, screenprinted tees by Devine.

Zombo Gallery will host a grand opening for the Wear It Clothing Co. on Thur., Nov. 12 at 6 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Michael Devine, Zombo Gallery/ Wear It Clothing Co.

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

Etsy in the flesh: Crafts, cards and kitsch create a wild rumpus at WildCard

For the Pittsburgh shopper with a keen eye for unique, handmade goods, sporadic craft fairs like I Made It Market and Handmade Arcade have long been the solution. Now, those craft-hounds have a permanent destination in Lawrenceville's latest boutique, WildCard, which opened in late October.

WildCard, masterminded by Shaler native and Lawrenceville resident Rebecca Morris, specializes in cards, paper and stationary, as well as bags, buttons, jewelry, T-shirts, books, craft supplies and more. Plus, there's original and vintage art on display and for-sale.

Morris, who has a background in city government, left Pittsburgh for a few years ago to learn the retail ropes at Paper Boy in Chicago. She says she and her husband both wanted to "get a new perspective, and bring it back to Pittsburgh."

The look and feel of the shop in-and-of itself is a work of art. Located at 4209 Butler St., half a block down from the freshly re-hatched Istanbul restaurant, WildCard's interior is as dynamic as its merchandise. Designed and constructed by Andrew Moss at mossArchitects and Morris' husband, Brian Mendelssohn, of Botero Development, the space features impossibly high ceilings (original tin, of course), exposed brick walls and distinctive flooring solutions--the back of the ground-level shop is made of wood joists relocated from the upstairs area, and the front floors are essentially wooden beams sliced thin and arranged like tiles. The effect is simultaneously organic and innovative.

Mendelssohn has created two two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments above the shop, which are renting for $1,900 a month. Almost 15 percent of the building materials were reused from the building itself, and the residences contain many other green features, as well as roof-decks with clear views to Downtown.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Rebecca Morris, WildCard; Brian Mendelssohn, Botero Development

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Tazza D'Oro and 21st St. Coffee expand to Carnegie Mellon and 3 PNC

Both Tazza D'Oro and 21st Street Coffee and Tea are expanding by collaborating with high-profile Pittsburgh institutions.

Tazza D'Oro, which has established a deep-rooted coffee culture in Highland Park, is opening its second location at Carnegie Mellon University's new Gates/Hillman Center. The cafe is celebrated for its locally sourced and vegetarian food, and single-origin coffees prepared by highly trained baristas. The spot in CMU's $98.6 million computer science center, which was dedicated in September, will employ 10 new baristas (who were hired and trained over the summer) and seat about 80 people. It is expected to open the middle of next week.

21st Street will open its third location on the ground floor of Three PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh latest high-rise, which will house PNC and Reed Smith law offices, as well as luxury condos and the four-star Fairmont Hotel. The independent coffeehouse, which focuses on no-nonsense, high-quality beverages (direct-trade coffees, organic teas, local milk and more), maintains its flagship location at 21st and Smallman Streets in the Strip District, as well as a coffeebar in the Frick Building, Downtown. Owner Luke Shaffer says he and his wife Alexis submitted a proposal to PNC back in March 2008, and found out in May 2009 their proposal had been accepted over at least a dozen other interested parties, including national names.

The 600-square-foot PNC location will have seating for about a dozen customers. It is still under construction, and Shaffer anticipates opening in December.

Three PNC is such an ideal location for 21st Street, says Shaffer, because it is so accessible to all those who work, live and play Downtown.

"The area is really shaping up," says Shaffer. "The Fairmont Hotel is going to be the nicest hotel in the city, there are so many condos around and high-end retailers like Larrimor's are going in, too. There is a lot of competition in that area in terms of places you can go to purchase something called 'coffee,' but as we've learned in the Strip, each is unique, with its own followers and own niche."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Luke Shaffer, 21st Street Coffee and Tea

Photograph of Tazza D'Oro shaping up on CMU's campus courtesy of Tazza D'Oro

American Eagle Outfitters opens pop-up brick-and-mortar kids shop

American Eagle Outfitters is testing the retail waters by opening its first-ever brick-and-mortar kids store as a temporary pop-up shop. And where is the South Side-based brand debuting this fashionable, fun endeavor? New York? L.A.? Think again. 77kids, which targets kids aged 2 to 10, opened last week at The Mall at Robinson.

The 77kids brand is named after the year 1977, when American Eagle was founded. 77kids was launched a year ago, in October 2008, as an online-only component of American Eagle's offerings, which include the flagship brand that targets teens and young adults (953 stores in the U.S. and Canada), an intimates line called aerie, and Martin + Osa, which targets adult men and women (28 stores, including one at Ross Park Mall, the only in the state of Pennsylvania). The 77kids pop-up shop, which will be open for 77 days throughout the holiday season, is located on The Mall at Robinson's second floor, next to the food court.

The 863,791-square-foot regional shopping center, which includes more than 120 shops, by was a perfect fit for this endeavor, says Betsy Schumacher, senior VP of merchandising for 77kids.

"77kids has found such success online, and this is a chance to interact with customers in a very real, tangible way," Schumacher says. "The Pittsburgh ZIP codes are some of top ZIP codes. We have great local customers."

And because 77kids knows the way to a kid's heart is through whoopee pies and fresh-baked cookies, the brand is working with local roaming bakery the Goodie Truck on promotions, including special discounts and giveaways.

American Eagle is planning to open permanent 77kids locations in 2010. No sites have been named yet, but Schumacher says, "we're obviously part of the fabric of this city, and would love to be able to have a store here."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Betsy Schumacher, senior VP of merchandising for 77kids, and Jani Strand, VP public relations/corporate communications, American Eagle Outfitters

Photograph courtesy of American Eagle Outfitters

Your Inner Vagabond coffeehouse reborn as flavorful Istanbul restaurant

Your Inner Vagabond has been a unique venue for Lawrenceville since it opened at Butler and 42nd Street almost two years ago. The Middle Eastern coffee and tea creations and globe-spanning cuisine have been only part of the appeal; the BYOB "coffeehouse and world lounge" has also maintained an ever-changing roster of community and arts events, from bellydancing performances to board game gatherings to late-night concerts.

So when owners Andrew Watson and AJ Schaeffer made it known they were looking to sell the business, Istanbul Grille owner Coskun "Josh" Gokalp and manager Mindy Adleff knew they stumbled upon the perfect opportunity. Gokalp's been operating his Downtown grab-and-go Istanbul Grille location as his only location since this spring, when he shuttered his Shadyside spot. He was looking to expand to a sit-down space, and Lawrenceville, where manager Adleff lives and the couple spends much of their time, seemed (and still seems, they say) like the best place to do that.

Gokalp took over Your Inner Vagabond mid-October and renamed it Istanbul. Istanbul, much like Your Inner Vagabond before it, operates as a hybrid eatery and performance space, and is still BYOB. Much of the original decor remains, including the back "harem" room with the stage. The front room, which used to be full of sofa seating and low tables, is now an official dining space with tons of comfortable booths. The menu changes daily, and features Turkish delights such as a creamy mushroom and pea salad with dill, a subtle baba ganoush, a whole goat and grilled eggplant with the slightest hint of mint. Coffee comes from Fortunes in the Strip District, and Adleff says she's looking to add more global beverages, such as bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee. The space doesn't have a full kitchen, so Gokalp makes everything fresh Downtown, and the food is finished and served to-order in Lawrenceville.

Gokalp, who's originally from Turkey, moved to Pittsburgh from New York City about four years ago, and says he couldn't be happier here.

"In Pittsburgh, people are still hungry for everything," Gokalp says. "Pittsburgh is growing fast and there are niches to be filled."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Coskun Gokalp and Mindy Adleff, Istanbul

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

Irma Freeman Center brings education, arts to Penn Avenue

By now you've surely noticed the mirrored mosaic adorning the facade at 5006 Penn Ave. The 25-by-20 feet creation, which proclaims, "The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination," took Sheila Ali six months to complete, and stands out--sparkling--amongst the aluminum siding, red brick and glass block windows that make up the majority of Garfield/Friendship's storefronts.

The center opened quietly over the summer with some initial classes and outreach programming, and hosted its grand opening Friday night for its inaugural show--"The Art of Salvation & The Vision Art a Irma Freeman," a group exhibition paired with pieces by Ali's grandmother and the center's namesake, Irma Freeman, who left a legacy of more than 500 paintings before passing away in 1994 at the age of 90.

The center, which has been in the works since Ali bought the building in January 2008, pairs art with education and sustainability. The center's goal, according to its website, is to "enrich and diversify the local community by building positive experiences in a multicultural progressive setting." In other words, as Ali explains, "More than an art gallery, we want to be a community center," along the lines of the Union Project in East Liberty or the Kingsley Center in Larimer.

Ali says she's noticed many of the residents of Garfield feeling alienated from the changes along Penn Avenue, and wants to help residents connect with the arts, the environment and one another. In addition to exhibiting visual art (including a rotating collection of her grandmother's paintings), the Irma Freeman Center offers classes (for now, yoga, mosaic-making and parent-child workshops in green technology), and maintains a strong focus on sustainability. Ali and the center's other staffers--including director of operations Brett Boyle--installed radiant floor heating under the mosaic floor, and sprayed soy-based insulation in the walls and ceiling. Long-term green goals include the construction of an indoor atrium using grey water systems, and a small garden roof.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Sheila Ali and Brett Boyle, Irma Freeman Center for Imagination

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

New restaurants just part of North Side's revitalization

The North Side is more delicious than ever with the opening of two new restaurants: Cassis, at 900 Western Ave., and Serendipity Bistro, at 422 Foreland St. in Historic Deutschtown.

Cassis, which hosted its opening cocktail party on Thursday, occupies a 2,500-square-foot multilevel space formerly filled by 900 Cafe & Lounge in a building owned by Dru Simeone. The restaurant, which seats 50, features a formal dining room, a cozy back patio and an upstairs bar with big-screen TVs and an extensive wine list. The menu, according to proprietor Dianne Porter of Allison Park, "takes familiar comfort food, and presents it in refreshing ways." Standouts include black olive tapenade with sliced radish dippers; an arugula salad with blueberries and cucumbers; steamed dumplings that change daily; and peanut butter and bacon on rye.

Across Allegheny Commons Park, a block back from E. Ohio Street, is Serendipity Bistro, which soft-launched over Labor Day weekend, and hosted its grand opening on Saturday. Located in the former spot of the iconic James Street Tavern, the bistro serves "hip American cuisine," which translates into dishes like truffled mac 'n' cheese with spicy Italian sausage; a pizza with pumpkin, blue cheese and crispy sage; and mussels steamed in a tomato fennel broth. All desserts, breads and pizza crusts are made in-house.

Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, says the area's restaurants--both its established eateries and its new hotspots--"play an important role in the vitality of the community." Fatla says the neighborhood is hoping to attract even more investments like Cassis and Serendipity Bistro, and points to Western Avenue's $1.7 million development as something that's helping to achieve that goal. The street reconstruction project, which includes new sidewalks, curbs, Victorian lighting and trees, is mostly complete. The final component is the removal of wires from the main drag, and relocation of them to the back alleys.

The infrastructure renovation, designed by Pashek & Associates, was headed by the Allegheny West Civic Council and managed by the Northside Leadership Conference.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Dianne Porter, Cassis; Mark Fatla, executive director, Northside Leadership Conference

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Changes in store for upper, lower Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill, like any neighborhood, is changing.

The business corridor along Forbes and Murray Avenues is seeing some longstanding shops go out, and new shops going in; and plans are shaping up for revitalization along the lower portion of Murray Avenue, closer to Forward Avenue and the Parkway exit.

It was announced last week the Barnes & Noble bookseller, which occupies two floors at 1723 Murray Ave., will be closing this winter. The large store was an anchor of sorts for the business district, and had shared that block with Panera Bread, which closed last month and is currently vacant. Some new businesses for the area include: independent denim retailer Zipper Blues in the former spot of Cheryl W boutique (now in Point Breeze), a frozen yogurt shop near the flagship Dozen location, and an art gallery on Forbes Avenue.

Further down Murray Avenue, change is under way in the form of a "Gateway" study commissioned by the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition (SHUC). The $12,000 study completed last year--by Strip District-based architecture/urban design firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative and landscape architecture firm Pashek Associates--highlights the important role this area plays in welcoming people into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and makes recommendations on improving pedestrian safety and wayfinding, incorporating public art, and adding new lighting and greenery. The study was made possible through a grant from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.

"Squirrel Hill is one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city. It's a great example of how neighborhoods should be," says Steven G. Hawkins with SHUC. "The business district is within walking distance of a great number of homes, and there is a variety of housing types, which creates a diverse population. After all these years, it's time to do something to make the entrance better represent the neighborhood."

Currently, a mural is being completed on the side of Alan's Pet Shop at 2229 Murray Ave., and SHUC is looking at adding bike racks and trash cans, and has made a request to Councilman Doug Shields to include new street lights in the 2010 budget. SHUC is also working to plant between 40 and 50 trees along Murray Avenue in the spring as part of the TreeVitalize program.

The "Gateway" study's most significant component is a proposed median with trees and lighting on Forward Avenue between the Parkway and the major Murray Avenue intersection. Plans for that construction project are still in design and funding, and years from completion.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Steven G. Hawkins, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Image courtesy of Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition

Dozen grants South Side wish: Sweet treats along Carson Street

South Side residents will now have a spot to hit up when their sweet teeth ring.

The neighborhood, which has been without a bakery, is the latest area to get a Dozen Bake Shop of its very own.

"We're always asking residents what they'd like to see come to the South Side, and the first thing they always say is a bakery," says Jennifer Strang with South Side Local Development Company. "We have lots of little coffee shops, but no one producing their own treats. Dozen will be a welcome addition."

Dozen, which opened its first shop almost four years ago, also has locations in Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Downtown's Cultural District and in the Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side. It will be opening its fifth location in early November at 1509 E. Carson St., which has been vacant for the last several years.

The cozy South Side storefront is near Amazing Yoga, the Carson Street Deli and E House, which sells natural household products, recycled accessories and gifts, and other eco-friendly items. Dozen's new shop is located directly adjacent to the Beneficial Building, which has been undergoing a $4 million renovation over the last five years. The Beneficial Building won an Historic Preservation Award this year from the City of Pittsburgh and the Historic Review Commission, and will soon be home to the South Side Local Development Company, which is planning a late fall/early winter move.

Dozen's South Side shop will offer similar goodies to its Downtown location (brunch is still a Lawrenceville-only treat), and seating in the 555-square-foot space will be limited.

Dozen now has about 25 employees across the city, says Andew Twigg, who owns Dozen with James Gray

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jennifer Strang, South Side Local Development Company; Andrew Twigg, Dozen

Photograph copyright Brian Cohen

Dean Supply provides products for restaurant pros, home chefs

The Strip District--Pittsburgh's irrefutable "foodie" destination--now has another spot for those who love to cook and eat.

Restaurant supply company Dean Supply opened in June, and hosted its grand opening over the weekend at 3300 Penn Ave., on the Lawrenceville-side of the Strip District, across the street from vintage shop Hollywood Rag, which opened last month.

Dean Supply offers thousands of items, such as closeouts, china, glassware, flatware, party supplies, paper products, janitorial supplies, kitchen utensils, smallwares and new and used equipment. It is open to the food service industry as well as the public, and provides free customer parking--a rarity in the Strip.

"After one visit, you'll never both going to a 'party store' ever again. The low prices and high quality guarantee that your parties will be kicked up a notch," says Cindy Helffrich from Neighbors in the Strip. "It's also a great place to spice up your dinnerware affordably, and to equip your home kitchen in a professional manner."

Dean Supply features a 10,000-square-foot showroom, and has created 21 new jobs. Dean Supply is always accepting applications from qualified individuals, says co-owner Matt Cozza.

Dean Supply is owned and operated by brothers Craig and Matt Cozza, and Dennis Savinda. It is located in a property that previously housed a restaurant supply shop. That business--Lewis Brothers--was founded in 1937 and closed about a year ago. Unlike Dean Supply, Lewis Brothers was not accessible to the public. The Cozza brothers did extensive renovations to make the space more visitor-friendly. Dean Supply still employs many of Lewis Brothers' experienced managers and staff.

Dean Supply has a license through Dean Supply of Cleveland, which enables the store to purchase items at a significant discount over retail prices, and pass the savings onto the customers, says Cozza.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Cindy Helffrich, Neighbors in the Strip; Matt Cozza, Dean Supply

Photography copyright Caralyn Green

Tour explores green, grassroots development in blighted Larimer

Larimer is a neighborhood in transition. It's blighted now, sure, but amidst the decaying houses and empty storefronts, there's change in the air.

Bringing attention to this change, and at the forefront of future change, is USED (Urban Solutions for Ecological Development), a for-profit project launched by the recently formed economic development firm S & G Holdings.

USED hopes to turn vacant properties into tax-generating ones, raise property values, enhance public safety, increase individual investment and promote community engagement in Larimer. USED led a tour on Fri., Sept. 25 (in the midst of the G-20, it managed to attract nearly 40 attendees), highlighting how individuals and organizations are turning the community into a site for sustainable economic development and social entrepreneurship.

"Larimer is a distressed neighborhood, similar to how East Liberty used to be," said Shadow Lounge owner Justin Strong, who's also vice president of S & G Holdings. "Development is now pushing in its direction. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Starbucks in Larimer in five years."

There's evidence of this development: Where vacant corner lots once unfurled, now there are gardens--made possible through GTech, Grow Pittsburgh and the Larimer Green Team--lush with tomatoes and thyme, tended by community members, and fitted with rain barrels, from Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, that capture stormwater and prevent sewer overflow. Vibrant murals, through the MLK Community Mural Project, add color and excitement to the concrete (and increasingly green) landscape. And the former elementary school, which has been vacant for some 30 years, has been bought and is under development for a $14 million eco-friendly, mixed-use renovation.

There's plenty of untapped potential for change, too: The neighborhood's impressive Roman Catholic church, along with its adjacent 18-unit apartment building, is for sale for around $175,000. It exudes promise not unlike that of the Union Project, which has catalyzed revitalization in East Liberty by turning a long-vacant church into a community center.

Larimer development is about leveraging the area's existing assets, too, says Strong. These assets include the Kingsley Community Center, Lincoln K-8 school and LA Grocery, a small market along Larimer Avenue. There's also a Community Conservation and Energy Assistance Center in the works that's using stimulus funds to renovate a once-gas station into a hub of education and outreach, including energy bill assistance. The $300,000 renovation is anticipated to be compete by April 2010, and will see about $800,000 of programming in the next year and a half.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Justin Strong, USED

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Ambiance boutique: Consignment with a cause comes to Lawrenceville

For the fashionista with a conscience comes Ambiance, Lawrenceville's latest unique boutique, which also has locations in Regent Square and Oakmont.

The consignment shop, located at 4735 Butler St., offers high-end labels at affordable prices. It opened late-September in a 2,200-square-foot space--with glossy hardwood floods and classic tin ceilings--formerly occupied by The Framery, which moved within the past year to 3627 Butler St. in Lower Lawrenceville.

Kelly Pezze, Ambiance's director of retail operations, says most goods are priced at 50 to 75 percent off retail, but hints there are even better deals to be found--a $2,500 John Galliano gown for $350, for instance.

And the best part? Ambiance is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bethlehem Haven, a nonprofit organization that supports homeless women through emergency shelter, transitional housing and medical, dental, obstetrics and mental health services; and provides employment services to women in the Pittsburgh area.

Bethlehem Haven purchased the original Ambiance consignment shop in Regent Square in 2004 as a social enterprise. That shop was so successful that in 2006, Bethlehem Haven opened a second location in Oakmont. And about six months ago, Bethlehem Haven made the decision to open a third shop in Lawrenceville, which Pezze says feels like "a secret little place in the city with all the best boutiques and restaurants." Where the Oakmont location features homewares in addition to its extensive women's clothing and accessories offerings, the Lawrenceville location includes a menswear section (standouts: Hermes ties, Gucci boots, cashmere).

After paying consignment costs and overhead fees, all revenue goes directly to Bethlehem Haven. Since opening almost six years ago, Ambiance has provided about $30,000 to the nonprofit.

Cheap and for a good cause? This is guilt-free shopping at its finest.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kelly Pezze, director of retail operations, Ambiance

Photography copyright Caralyn Green

Penhollows expands boutique in Shadyside home design district

Penhollows, a gift and home accessories boutique that opened in October 2007, has added furniture to its offerings. The owners of the Shadyside shop took over the next-door storefront, which was vacant after being occupied for 30 years by a florist, and turned it into what they're branding a "Design Center."

The Design Center, which opened mid-September at 244a S. Highland Ave., has a small but chic selection of sofas, chairs, tables, rugs, lighting and more from vendors including Lee Industries, Duralee Fabrics & Furniture, Dash & Albert, Merida Meridian and Visual Comfort. The shop, which offers individualized consultations, features new merchandise, as well as vintage pieces from estate sales and auctions. Coming soon is a second-floor area with antiquarian books, rare prints and collectable china. The feel of the Design Center and the original Penhollows location next-door is "very New England with a bold stroke of New York," according to its owners.

The Design Center is operated by Anna Klahr, a Pittsburgh native who's back after 12 years of interior design experience in New York City.

"This part of Shadyside is shockingly different than when I left," says Klahr, who now resides in the neighborhood. "If feels more like Brooklyn or Manhattan. You can park your car once, and walk everywhere you'd want or need to be."

Klahr and Penhollows owner Roger Guzik say Highland Avenue could be considered Shadyside's home furnishing district, where Walnut Street's focus is fashion. Penhollows' neighbors include Weisshouse, which has long offered contemporary interiors; River House Antiques for eclectic finds; Arhaus for a variety of classic furniture and accessories; Shaherazad for antique and old oriental rugs and textiles; and, just down the street and around the corner on Penn Circle, Le Tapisseur for designer fabrics and trims.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Anna Klahr and Roger Guzik, Penhollows

Photograph courtesy of Penhollows

The Dog Stop: All-in-one canine care in the East End

When Jesse Coslov moved back to Pittsburgh, he didn't know what to do with his dogs. In Dallas, where he worked in commercial real estate, Coslov would pamper his black Lab and Yorkie with daycare while he was at the office. But when he returned to his hometown, Coslov found no Pittsburgh providers were offering similar services--within city limits--to what he, and his canine friends, were used to.

The solution? Do it himself. With longtime friend and now-business partner Chris Kane, Coslov came up with the idea for The Dog Stop, a total-care, "cage-free" dog facility.

Located in a former warehouse in an industrial area at 1140 Washington Blvd., The Dog Stop features more than 17,000 square-feet of clean, safe, climate-controlled space. The facility, which opened in late August, provides boarding, daycare, grooming, bathing and self-wash services, and a retail area. In the future, The Dog Stop will offer neighborhood pick-up and drop-off points for daycare. There's also a 4,000-square-foot outdoor space, and a 3,000-square-foot indoor dog park with limited evening and weekend hours for when the weather fails to cooperate with your dog's exercise needs.

Coslov, a longtime volunteer with the Animal Rescue League, says the key to a successful experience for the dogs is to let them play the day away rather than confining them to cages.

"We had 75 dogs in the first three week, and not one single accident in the boarding area," says Coslov. "At night the dogs just pass out from exhaustion."

Coslov and Kane chose this particular East End location, they say, because of its proximity to Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Oakmont, Churchill, Highland Park and Fox Chapel, from where the majority of their customer base comes.

The Dog Stop is veterinarian insured and licensed.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Jesse Coslov and Chris Kane, The Dog Stop

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Shaw Galleries: Fine art finds in the Cultural District

Kurt Shaw saw a niche, and is filling it.

"This is a response to what people in the city have been telling me," says Shaw, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's resident art critic since June 2001. "Pittsburgh needs an art venue that caters to traditional tastes."

Shaw Galleries, at 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown, focuses on rare prints, maps and fine art of historical significance. The sunny, 420-square-foot space is one of two street-level retail spots in the Cultural Trust's new 22,000-square-foot Arts Education Center in the James E. Rohr Building. Dozen, which opened earlier this summer, is the other business located in the Thomas Harley Architectural Firm-designed restoration.

Shaw, a certified art appraiser, has amassed thousands of pieces in his personal collection over the years--many of them antique prints and maps, a far cry from the comic books that began his passion for collecting and selling art as a 9-year-old.

Shaw began planning his own gallery back in 2004, and committed to the Cultural District space two years ago--he liked the spot in the city's urban center, plus the building's namesake, PNC CEO James E. Rohr, is one of Shaw's oldest friends.

Pieces at Shaw Galleries range from $20 historic prints to paintings and engravings in the several thousand dollar range. There are also affordable digital reproductions, as well as high-end, Italian-crafted figurines. Shaw offers off-site custom framing for any art purchased from the gallery.

Shaw Galleries is hosting a grand opening event Fri., Sept. 11 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Kurt Shaw, Shaw Galleries

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

Hollywood Rag: Buy, sell and trade in the Strip District

In the last five years, 3232 Penn Ave. in the Strip District has been filled with cubicles, paintings and, now, vintage clothing. All under the same ownership.

Buy-sell-trade shop Hollywood Rag opened, under the tutelage of Josh Freedman, in late August in a 750-square-foot space on the Lawrenceville edge of the Strip District.

When Strip District resident Freedman first got into the Penn Ave. space, he was running Freedman Capital Group, a mortgage brokerage firm that employed 17 and closed between $4 and $6 million a month across the U.S. The economy being what it is, Freedman shut down and let everyone go in August 2008, and decided to convert the office into an art gallery. Freebird Gallery hosted one show in October 2008. The show--by Emmeric James Konrad, who painted all the tables and walls at Lawrenceville's Remedy Restaurant and Lounge--sold out.

After executing the Freebird Gallery concept, Freedman set off on a cross-country trip, hitting all the major cities, and getting ideas for what to do next. The one thing that popped out?

"All major cities have great vintage shops," says Freedman.

Taking inspiration from thrift chain Buffalo Exchange, Freedman converted the once-office, once-gallery into Hollywood Rag, the kind of place where high-quality clothes and accessories are cheap and plentiful, and you can turn a profit on your gently worn wardrobe. Right now, Freedman's giving store credit on goods, but will start to deal in cash in a few months.

Down the line, Freedman sees himself establishing a cool laundromat-café, inspired by San Francisco's BrainWash, in the vacant storefront next door.

"Right now, there's no connection between the Strip and Lawrencville," says Freedman, who's trying to change that.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Josh Freedman, Hollywood Rag

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

The MeterRoom a catalyst for artistic change in the West End

After being nudged out of studio/gallery spaces in both Brooklyn and Uptown, John Ross has dug his heels into the West End.

For the past three years, the visual artist originally from Youngstown, Pa. has been renovating a former paint factory at 2637 Chartiers Ave. Now, the MeterRoom is ready to officially unveil itself in a grand opening event this Sat., Aug. 29 from noon to 1 a.m.

The original MeterRoom was founded in New York, under the Manhattan Bridge in 2000. But after the area got some media attention, the developers moved in and the artists moved out. That's when Ross--an Art Institute grad--came back to Pittsburgh, to Uptown, in particular, to work on his art. And when construction on the new arena got under way, Ross found the 15,000-square-foot warehouse owned by Sandy Stevenson. Without any foundation support--only the donated time, expertise and funds of friends and community members--Ross completely revamped the space. Every nook of the three-level building is now dynamic and engaging, filled with one-of-a-kind recycled art that invites interaction.

The MeterRoom is used as a gallery and a performance space for a wide variety of acts (fashion shows, dance, bands, opera), and as a living space for Ross, sleeps in a nook where the furnace used to be. And across the way, there's another 40,000-square-foot space owned by Sandy Stevenson, which is currently occupied by 40 artists, including Vilux Studios and Toetag Pictures.

"This whole corridor was once a bad area," says Ross, who recounts finding 150 heroin needles in the alley behind the MeterRoom. "There was a stolen car ring, an all-night bar and prostitution. But by bringing in all these artists, those problems slowly went away."

Now, the people loitering around the building are students from the nearby Greenway Middle School. Ross invites them in and shows them around, and when they come back with friends and family in tow, he shows them around, too. It's their community, after all; Ross wants them to be a part of the change.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: John Ross, The MeterRoom

Photograph copyright Caralyn Green

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

Rebellious Nature provides mall alternative on Penn Avenue

The Penn Avenue arts corridor, which saw the opening of its first fashion boutique, Tweek, this summer, now has another shop amidst the galleries and eateries.

Rebellious Nature specializes in items that are recycled, organic, U.S.-made, fair labor, sweatshop-free and fair trade. And, of course, art. This is Penn Avenue, after all.

Half the red-walled space is dedicated to selling tees, totes, skirts, accessories, books and other gifts; the other half is dedicated to showing local art. Right now, paintings by Karen Seapker are on display; in September, the gallery will exhibit photographs focusing on post-industrialism from nearly 20 of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.

Rebellious Nature is located at 104 Graham St., catty-corner from the Quiet Storm, and above Oscars Barber Shop. The entrance is marked by an "Open" flag waving next to a pirate one.

Rebellious Nature held its grand opening during August's Unblurred, and will participate again in the September event.

The shop is owned by Chris and Bill Brocco. The couple, who lives in McKees Rocks with their one-year-old son, has operated the site Anarchtee.com for five years now, and sells their political, hand-screened tees at the store. One dollar from the sale of each T-shirt goes to the Thomas Merton Center, a Garfield-based social justice organization.

"We're really into the idea of offering items you won't find in the mall or easily anywhere else, for that matter," says Bill. "We try to emphasize the concept of shopping locally and rewarding people with items worth discovering at a price that is fair and not inflated."

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Bill Brocco, Rebellious Nature

Photograph courtesy Rebellious Nature

Art crawls further down Penn Ave. with Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Craig Freeman Smith and Joseph Materkowski never intended to open an art gallery. But then, when they were browsing Craigslist for a space to do some painting, they came across 3700 Penn Ave., a preexisting storefront gallery previously used as Penn Gallery, and as a studio by media artist Bill Shannon.

The lighting was in place, the walls were clean and white and the 500-square-foot location was perfectly situated on Penn Avenue between Lawrenceville and the Strip District. It's further down than Penn Avenue's main arts district, which runs along the Garfield/Friendship divide, but Fast>>Fwd Gallery is very much a part of that initiative.

The gallery participates in Unblurred First Friday events, and even hosted its opening through Unblurred on Aug. 7. The first show, a group exhibition called "Debut," features small paintings and drawings by many of Freeman Smith's peers from California University of Pennsylvania (he graduated from Cal U with a BFA in painting in December 2008, and Materkowsky graduated from the New York Academy of Art with an MFA in painting, too). The next show, called "Lots of Pulp," will feature works on paper by artists in Pittsburgh and New York, and opens Sept. 4.

"Having your own gallery helps you in the art world," says Freeman Smith. "It lets people know you exist and helps you promote other artists."

One artist Fast>>Fwd is unexpectedly promoting is Obama "HOPE" poster creator Shepard Fairey, who installed murals throughout the city (including on the 37th Street side of the corner gallery) in anticipation of his October show at the North Side's Andy Warhol Museum, where Freeman Smith also works.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Craig Freeman Smith, Fast>>Fwd Gallery

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Shadyside businesses promote shopping locally

Spend $100 locally, and $68 of it returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. Spend the same amount at a national chain and only $43 stays within the community. Spend that online, and nothing comes home.

The 3/50 Project, a national consumer citizenship initiative that encourages shopping at locally owned independent stores, launched in March 2009 based on these facts. The project now is being adopted and promoted in Pittsburgh by a group of Shadyside business owners led by Jill Rubenstein of Footloose, 736 Bellefont St. Rubenstein, who swears she can tell you by "one whiff of the leather" if a shoe is "good" or not, is a third-generation shoe merchant whose grandfather started an independent shoe store in 1936. She says this level of personalized expertise is what can be lost by shopping in the big box stores and online.

"Pick three independent businesses you'd hate to see disappear, spend $50 per month and save your local economy," explains Rubenstein. "If half the employed U.S. population did this, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue."

The group of 21 Shadyside merchants bought a full-page ad in Whirl Magazine, distributed flyers at the Annual Shadyside Sidewalk Sale earlier this summer and will spread the word at the annual Arts Festival on Walnut Street on Aug. 29-30.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Jill Rubenstein, Footloose

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Rivas Nicaraguan restaurant relocates to South Side

After opening and shuttering two restaurants under the same name and concept in Etna and Carnegie, Rivas is back. This time it's on the South Side, at 601 E. Carson St, in the space previously occupied by Mantini's Wood Fired, which is now at 1209 E. Carson St., in the heart of the business district.

The family-owned Nicaraguan restaurant was flooded out of Etna in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, and the owners realized during their three years in Carnegie that most of customers were driving in from the east. So why not relocate closer to the customers?

"Everything we do, we do for our customers," says Izayana Rivas, who--with her husband and brothers--helps her parents Antonio and Angela Rivas run the restaurant. "It didn't make sense for the customers to travel through two tunnels to get to us, so we came to the South Side. It's such a melting pot here of people and food."

The 10,000-square-foot space, which opened at the end of July, can seat up to 100 people, and includes a bar (Rivas is BYOB for now, though), as well as a small stage for musical performances. The walls are a warm, orangey red, and the decorations simple and tropical in theme.

Rivas serves traditional Nicaraguan food, which Izayana explains as being "tangy" rather than "spicy," with lots of lemon and garlic and plantains. The menu at the South Side spot includes some Mexican staples, but fewer than at the previous locations. Highlights include homemade tortillas, Nicaraguan enchiladas, which are nothing like their Mexican counterpart, and a lunch special where patrons can pick from an assortment of buffet-style dishes.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Izayana and Angela Rivas

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Espresso a Mano: Lawrenceville's new caffeination destination

Lower Lawrenceville's got a new addition to its bustling business district--Espresso a Mano.

The café, which opened mid-July at 3623 Butler St., is truly a labor of love for Dormont resident Matt Gebis, who not only owns the shop, but also operates it almost entirely on his own.

In Italian, Espresso a Mano means "Espresso by Hand"--and that's exactly what you'll find behind its garage-front facade. Gebis, a former University of Pittsburgh Italian instructor, spent five years learning the coffee craft at Strip District staple La Prima before deciding to create his own café in the 1000-square-foot space not far from Tamari and the Round Corner Cantina, both of which also opened this summer along Butler Street.

Gebis' approach is simple: Focus on the coffee. The decor is understated (a vintage bar rescued from a Slovakian social hall in Donora, Pa. takes up the large part of the room), and the eats are basic (a few fresh, highest-quality baked goods from Enrico Biscotti and Colangelo's Bakery, both in the Strip).

"There are four principals to good coffee," says Gebis. "The machine, the blend, the grind, and the hand. Of those four, the hand is perhaps the most important."

Espresso a Mano uses beans from La Prima as well as Counter Culture, a direct trade-certified roaster based in Durham, NC. The espresso is even a special blend Gebis developed while at La Prima.

Other nearby coffeehouses include Crazy Mocha and Your Inner Vagabond, both of which are on the other side of 40th Street.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Matt Gebis, Espresso a Mano

Photo copyright Caralyn Green

Zelienople theater reopens after $1.5 million renovation

After nearly eight years of renovation efforts, Zelionople's Strand Theater has reopened.

The theater, which was constructed in 1914, has been completely revamped, restored and revitalized. When Ron Carter, president and executive director of the Strand Theater Initiative, first discovered the structure in 2001, the building was an "eyesore" and had been out of operation since 1984. Carter spearheaded efforts to undo the years of vacancy and neglect, resulting in a $1.5 million facelift designed by mossArchitects of East Liberty. The theater's seating, which was previously long and narrow, has been rotated 90 degrees so that now no patron is more than 30 feet from the stage.

The theater draws from the suburban areas north of Pittsburgh, as well as the surrounding rural areas, which are often underserved by cultural programming, says Carter.

"We also see the Strand as a potential partner for the Pittsburgh cultural scene," says Carter. "Those organizations need to do some outreach and find new audiences. The Strand is the perfect venue for them to present samples or smaller performances that will attract audiences to the full-scale ones Downtown."

The Strand's recent programming includes sold-out shows by Debbie Reynolds, a jazz set by Joe Negri and a classic film series.

Future construction plans, which are currently in the funding stages, include larger stage area and dressing rooms, an elevator to the mezzanine seating, a two-level parking deck and a multipurpose center for special events.

Writer: Caralyn Green
Source: Ron Carter, Strand Theater

Photo courtesy Strand Theater

Round Corner Cantina: Spicy sips and backyard charm in Lower Lawrenceville

With only word-of-mouth and a few Facebook updates, the Round Corner Cantina has quietly opened on Butler Street in Lower Lawrenceville.

The Cantina opened about two weeks ago at 38th and Butler, catty-corner from Piccolo Forno, in a space long occupied by Sufak's Round Corner Hotel, a dive cherished for its shabby-chic backyard. Under new ownership, the 2,000-square-foot yard's charm remains intact, while the dated, 1,800-square-foot interior got a major overhaul. Now it's all dark wood, original tile flooring from the late 1800s and a pristine tin ceiling brightened by a chandelier from Zerrer's Antiques in the Strip District, which provided many of the Cantina's furnishings.

Owners Derek Burnell, Jesse Zmuda Burnell and Sarah Fitzgerald--all Lawrenceville residents--purchased the property about a month ago (Derek stepped in for a Corona, chatted up the owner, and promptly made an offer).

Right now, the Cantina's just doing drinks, but once the kitchen is done in another four to six weeks, the Cantina will start serving authentic South American street food such as pork cracklins, a ceviche of the day and fish tacos done right with cabbage, crema and lime.

But, as the owners insist, "We are not a restaurant. We're a bar, a gastropub." No one under 21 is allowed, and the drink menu is almost twice the size of food one. There are margaritas, a wide range of tequilas, wines by the glass, a rotating roster of draft beers and masterfully crafted cocktails that play with fresh, surprising ingredients, such as lemon, basil, chili peppers and elderflower.

A grand opening is planned for August, and a website is currently in the works. For hours, call 412.904.2279.

Writer: Caralyn Green

Sources: Derek Burnell, Jesse Zmuda Burnell and Sarah Fitzgerald, Round Corner Cantina

Image courtesy of Caralyn Green

Pop-up shop: Pittsburgh Popcorn Company expands with second location

A year-and-a-half after establishing their gourmet popcorn shop in the Strip District, Genalle and Rob Day have opened a second site--a 1,500-square-foot spot at 822 Liberty Ave., in Downtown's Cultural District, near the new Dozen.

The Downtown location of the Pittsburgh Popcorn Company offers the same products at the original--freshly popped corn by the bag or tin in flavors such as Chunky Chocolate Caramel, Real Wisconsin Cheddar and Movie-Style Butter. There are eight different flavors at any time, and free samples. The popcorn is made in small batches all day long, and never sits longer than 20 minutes before reaching customers.

While the Strip District location has more of a vintage movie theatre feel, the Days went for carnivalesque Downtown. There are vintage toys, blown-up photos of Kennywood rides from the 1950s and a lighted carnival sign from the Strip's Hot Haute Hot.

"We had a lot of customers coming to the Strip from Downtown during their lunch breaks for corporate gifts and office parties, so we decided to bring the popcorn to them," says Genalle Day, an Overbrook native and Duquesne University graduate who met her husband Rob while working at a popcorn shop in New York City.

The couple now lives in the Cork Factory, close to both their Strip District and Downtown locations, which Ganelle says is "key in making this all happen."

Writer: Caralyn Green

Source: Genalle Day, Pittsburgh Popcorn Company

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