Best of the 'Burgh 2016: Business & Education

Our editors' FRESH TAKES on our favorite Pittsburgh things, including the best old-school shoe repair shop and a bar with a burgeoning bobblehead collection.


Best Old-School Shoe Repair

Northway Shoe Repair
After nearly 40 years in the business, Tony DeMarco of Northway Shoes & Repair can repair anything made out of leather. Shoes most often land on his well-worn workbench in Ross Township, but he also has mended purses, ball gloves, suitcases, jackets, clown shoes and even Britney Spears’ dancing boots when the singer performed in Pittsburgh. At Tony’s side is his son, Danny, who added a retail component to the business several years ago. The shop eventually moved from the former Northway Mall to its own building to accommodate a growing line of high-quality work clothes, boots and men’s and women’s casual shoes. —RC

[Northway Shoes & Repair, 6200 Babcock Blvd., Ross Township; 412/367-7977,; photo by Richard Cook]


Best Place to Shop for Antiques & Flowers

West View Floral
Beth Schellhaas rarely sits still. In the cluttered back room of West View Floral Shoppe, the owner prepares flower arrangements, takes phone orders, discusses local business development (she’s a member of the Ross Township Zoning Hearing Board and the head of the West View Community Connection) and explains the history behind hundreds of family heirlooms for sale in the front of the store. Before Schellhaas’ mother Marilou, who started the full-service floral business 40 years ago, passed away, Beth began adding antiques to the shop’s inventory; some of the items date back to her great-grandmother. —RC

[West View Floral Shoppe, 452 Perry Highway, West View; 412/931-1258,; photo by Richard Cook]


Best Garden Gurus

Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program
Penn State Extension trains garden enthusiasts on a broad range of horticultural expertise. The all-volunteer program — graduates are expected to volunteer for at least 50 hours in the year following their training — began training garden gurus in 1982 and now has more than 3,200 alumni. Their knowledge ranges from vegetable gardening to woody ornamental plants, from plant diseases to composting. Novice gardeners can call the Garden Question hotline, take classes taught by master gardeners or visit them in demonstration gardens. The Allegheny County extension office offers master gardener training once a year. —HBK



Best Place to Find a (Gentle) Giant

Gentle Ben's Giant Breed Rescue
If your idea of heaven is a fenced-in acre of happy, slobbering, giant dogs, then Gentle Ben’s in New Sewickley is the place for you. Helmed (and mostly funded) by Rich and Noreen Kohl, the nonprofit large-breed rescue operation is a comprehensive sanctuary, providing health care, housing, and food (upwards of 50 pounds of it a day). There are no closed-off kennels; all of the pups sleep and hang out in the house with the couple, who have been running the rescue for 15 years. Every dog comes to Gentle Ben’s for a different reason, but the goal is always the same: a safe, loving place to stay until he or she finds a forever home. —CG

[412/841-2590,; photo courtesy of Gentle Ben's]


Best Local Bobblehead Collection

The William Penn Tavern in Shadyside
When he opened the William Penn Tavern 15 years ago, Richard Rattner received a bobblehead as a gift. At the time, he had no idea the simple present would turn into a collection of more than 700 dolls. They line the walls and windows of the tavern, ranging in celebrity from Roberto Clemente to Fidel Castro to Cheech and Chong. Some are gifts, including the doll done in his own likeness that is now kept in the bar office (after, he says, years of attempted theft by the bar’s student regulars). —CG

[739 Bellefonte St., Shadyside; 412/621-1000,; photo by Anna Dukovich]

Join us as we tip our hats to this year’s winners at our annual ‘Best of the ‘Burgh Party’ Friday, July 8, at Stage AE. Try food and drink samples, live performances and entertainment,  Discounted tickets available now.


Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh