Let's say you’re 34, single, movie star handsome and living in New York City. You work for one of world’s largest consulting firms, run triathlons in your spare time and on weekends hang out with your friends in Gramercy Park or Tribeca. Then your dream job comes along. In Pittsburgh.
What to do?
If you’re Craig Foos and the job is Senior Director of corporate strategy for American Eagle Outfitters
, you go for it.
“I’m a big fan of first-hand experiences,” says Foos, “I was excited to mix it up a little bit.”
As it turns out, Foos feels he got the best of both worlds. The job requires him to split his time between American Eagle’s Pittsburgh headquarters and its Design Center in New York. As a result, he maintains apartments in both cities and hops between the two on a weekly basis.
How's that working out for him?
As a social setting, New York is a “tough place to beat,” says Foos who has an apartment in Union Square. “There’s a never-ending menu of options.” But after awhile, the frenetic pace of New York makes people crazy. You need a respite. “For me, it’s being in Pittsburgh.”
So far, Foos is a fan of the Burgh’s social scene. “Pittsburgh has a lot of elements of New York, but in smaller doses,” he says. On weekend mornings he’ll grab a cup of Intelligentsia Coffee at 21st
Street Coffee in the Strip. After hours, you might find him in Shadyside or Southside.
And although Pittsburgh’s choices are more limited, he says, it has restaurants that compete with New York’s. Kaya, Piccolo Forno and Tamari are three of his favorites. “New York is good, but expensive,” he notes.
Overall, Foos has found his new city to be warm and welcoming. NYC is tough, he says, there’s an interest in social ranking. In contrast, Pittsburgh is “proud, embracing…more real.”
Although some people say Pittsburgh is hard to break into, Foos doesn’t see it. If you’re outgoing here, people talk to you, he says.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Foos works at Southside’s American Eagle campus, filled with energetic twenty-and-thirty-somethings. “Working here gives you a foot in the door,” he says. The brand is youthful and optimistic and so are the people.
The biggest similarity Foos finds between the two cities are the great sports teams—and their fanatics. But he notes, Big Apple sports fans are more fickle—they only adore their teams when they’re winning. So he’s impressed at Pittsburghers’ deep love of their sports franchises—win or lose. He thinks a Pirates’ game is a great way to spend a summer evening. And who can resist a Steeler game?
Pittsburgh wasn't new to Foos when he got the job offer. Years ago, Foos visited Pittsburgh, and was struck by the topography and the greenness. “It was not what I was expecting,” he says.
These days, that abundant outdoor space makes it easy to for him to do his triathlon training runs on the trails adjacent to his Strip apartment—plus he likes the hills for intervals. Hills are hard to come by in New York City. He looks forward to checking out Pittsburgh’s urban bike trails.
One big difference between the two cities' lifestyles? The newest addition to Foos’ Burgh life is a set of wheels. “No one owns a car in New York,” he says. But it’s easy to do here, and that unlocks a lot of things.
In New York, says Foos, outdoor activities such as his triathlons present a “transportation hurdle”—the need to rent a car and then find a spot to park it. In contrast, transportation is readily available for any activity in Pittsburgh.
His most recent road trip was to Fallingwater when his mom visited for the weekend. Foos was blown away by Frank Lloyd Wright’s design simplicity and architectural complexity. The changing leaves didn’t hurt either.
That same weekend they visited a museum of another Pittsburgher/New Yorker, Andy Warhol, along with a stop at Grandview Saloon for Sunday lunch which provided a stunning view despite the rain.
Bottom line, says Foos, there’s an openness in Pittsburgh that you don’t find in New York. “You can have access to nice things without being a celebrity. It’s an East Coast city with Midwest values.”
That said, Foos still loves getting back to the Big Apple. Most of his friends live there and the city’s many perks--world-class theater, arts, and shopping—are a big draw.
But, he adds Pittsburghers need to appreciate their town, “This city’s pretty great.”
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen