Best of the 'Burgh 2018: Business and Education

From a pierogi you can't eat to a hidden toy chest to the rehab of a dying mall –– discover what our editors chose for the Best of the 'Burgh in business and education.

photo by anthony musmanno

Garfield’s past, present and future collide at mossArchitects’ new home on Penn Avenue, located smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood’s growing arts district. The architecture firm, led by Andrew Moss, designed the facade of the century-old building, which also houses software company NetBeez, Opportunity Fund and urban clothing shop Senseless, and moved there from Lawrenceville in April. The building is three structures that were merged into one in the 1980s. To make the space more cohesive and beautiful, mossArchitects added perforated steel panels to the facade that, on a sunny day, show a literal reflection of the neighborhood. In another thoughtful touch, the perforations mimic a map of Garfield streets and beyond. (5122 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412/441-6400, —JS

photo by chuck beard

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, and you’re struck with an idea that won’t leave you until you act on it. That’s how, about eight years ago, Dan and Shannon Rugh came up with the Pierogi Pillow. The decorative pillow shaped like everyone’s favorite potato dumpling is sold at the couple’s print shop, Commonwealth Press, and is stitched by hand in-house; Dan’s mother used to make all of them herself until production numbers became too high. And we know you’re wondering — the pillows are the classic cheese and potato variety. (Commonwealth Press, 691 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, 4707 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/431-4207, —JM

photo by renee rosensteel

Real talk: Being a new mom is hard. Your hormones are on overdrive, you’re sleep deprived and there’s a new little life depending on you. CDC research shows that about 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression, but those numbers are likely higher since so many women do not seek help or are not diagnosed. Yet, until recently, it was not something that was talked about. The Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation is helping to open that conversation. Six weeks after her daughter’s birth in 2013, Gibsonia resident Alexis Joy D’Achille took her own life. After her death, her husband, Steven D’Achille, started the foundation in the hopes of bringing more attention to postpartum depression and expanding access to treatment. In 2017, the foundation partnered with Allegheny Health Network to open The Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Women’s Behavioral Health at West Penn Hospital, which includes intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs. In all cases, the programs are family-focused, allowing women to bring their babies with them for treatment. ( —JS

photo by chuck beard

Tucked behind cases of I.C. Light in a corner of Bellevue Beer is The Collector’s Cave, two rooms brimming with the largest retail collection of Funko vinyl figures in the area. Since opening two years ago, the Collector’s Cave has been more successful than anyone anticipated, says Josh Brubaker, store manager and a collector since 2012. From pro athletes to television characters to comic book heroes to the British royal family, Funko’s figures encompass everything in pop culture. “You can collect them yourself or give them for gifts, they just cover so much stuff,” Brubaker says. (4489 Ohio River Blvd., Bellevue; 412/415-3997, —JFC

photo courtesy Workshop PGH

It’s Saturday morning, and you’re looking for a different kind of bootcamp. Workshop PGH offers fitness for your creative side, such as the Sewing Bootcamp intensive. This small class combines skills taught in beginner and intermediate sewing classes into one six-hour class, taking students from threading a bobbin to installing a zipper into a quality, lined tote bag with leather handles in the course of a day. Fabric, expert instruction and slow jams to help you find your sewing groove are all included. Workshop PGH also offers classes in contemporary embroidery, woodworking, soap making and more. (5135 Penn Ave., Garfield; 415/852-2402, —ET

photo by richard cook

Best Local Historian with a Different Day Job
John Schalcosky

“You can predict the future of Pittsburgh by learning from its past,” says John Schalcosky, founder of The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh Facebook page. More than 100,000 fans follow the page Schalcosky started simply out of a love for history fueled by endless curiosity, and it’s filled with rarely seen newspaper clippings, photos and videos. Schalcosky works full time in a life insurance job that offers him the flexibility to explore the parts of Pittsburgh’s past not necessarily recorded in history books, such as the origins of the asteroid “Pittsburghia,” named by Pittsburgh native John Brashear, whose company built telescopes. In addition to the page, he shares his discoveries at classes, speaking engagements and on KDKA Radio. ( —RC


photo by richard cook

Fifty years after its opening as the first enclosed mall in the state, Northway Mall in Ross Township was following a nationwide trend and floundering; tenants and shoppers were sparse. Enter Ohio-based developer LRC Realty, which renamed the mall The Block Northway and landed first-in-the-market tenants such as The Container Store and Nordstrom Rack. Food options include CoreLife Eatery and Wahlburgers, and other restaurants, as well as entertainment venue Dave & Buster’s, are set to open by the end of the year. Seating areas include smartphone re-charging ports. Drive a Tesla? Plug in at the new garage. LRC President Frank Licata is optimistic of the Block’s future. “Hopefully you’ll find a unique tenant mix and an atmosphere where you want to hang out,” he says. ( —RC

photo by garrett bower

Set sail for “Easel Island” and go, go, Van Gogh to Artist & Craftsman Supply, an employee-owned emporium, currently expanding, packed with a myriad of resources and other cool stuff. Sure, there’s all the usual materials: easels, canvases, paints, pastels and more. But also served are crafters’ needs with tools for jewelry-making, leatherworking, candle- and soap-making, book-making, quilling and more. In addition, look for gift options, quirky items (how about miniature easels and itty-bitty pencils?), school supplies and hardware, as well as in-store demos and workshops. (5603 Hobart St., Squirrel Hill; 412/421-3002, —MM

Nicole Battle, President USBG Pittsburgh | Photo by Laura Petrilla

Fourteen service industry professionals founded the Pittsburgh Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild in 2011. Now, with nearly 200 members, it’s the seventh largest chapter of the 50-year-old professional development organization, which has more than 70 branches throughout the country. While camaraderie, competitions and networking is part of the fun, Pittsburgh’s USBG members take ongoing professional development seriously, too. Last year, the guild’s board organized 70-plus educational events, including monthly Workshop Wednesdays, during which bartenders learn about history, flavor and mixology of wine and spirits in master classes with visiting brand ambassadors; all-day, national-level workshops such as BarSmarts and Academy Day; and field trips to historical sites such as the West Overton Distillery Museum. ( —HBK

photo courtesy planethemp

When Pittsburgh native Samuel Graeb was going to school in Montana, he attended a festival where he bought a pair of jeans made from hemp. “They were as comfortable as pajamas,” he said. Fascinated, the now-21-year-old researched the material more and found that hemp uses half the water that cotton does. Also, while cotton is responsible for 15 to 25 percent of world pesticide use, hemp requires none. Graeb was hooked on the idea and material and decided to open his own hemp clothing business in 2016. Based out of Carnegie, planetHEMP is a family-run business that sells sustainable, stylish clothing — and all clothes from small batch orders are hand-sewn by Graeb’s mother and grandmother. ( —JM

photo courtesy stuart day guitars

It takes an extremely skilled hand to build high-end bespoke guitars, and local craftsmen Stuart Day happens to have a knack for it. Day, who repairs all types of stringed instruments, has built acoustic guitars for clients all over the world, dedicating hundreds of hours to perfecting each piece and tailoring it specifically to the client. After beginning his craft in California and honing it in Pittsburgh, Day recently relocated to a family farm in New Galilee, Pa., where he will allow his new bucolic surroundings to breathe some sweet fresh country air into his work. ( —CG

photo by chuck beard

The first autograph Don Spagnolo ever received was from comic book legend Stan Lee. It hangs, matted and framed, above his desk in the former Belle Vernon municipal building that now serves as home base for his company, Steel City Galleries. Today, the business is one of the world’s largest clearinghouses for autographed memorabilia and collectible advertisements. He currently has around 60,000 pieces available for sale, ranging from autographed items such as guitars, jerseys and footballs to historic artifacts. Even with a plethora of inventory, he’s always working to grow his collection. (114 Main St., Belle Vernon; 724/243-3546, —JFC

photo courtesy americat COMPANY

When Diane Danforth was shopping for Christmas presents for her cats, she was surprised to find there weren’t many options of items made in the United States. As a consumer, she was frustrated, but as a businesswoman, she saw a niche she could fill. “I looked at the competition and saw there was no brand out there who specialized in Made in the USA cat products,” she says. “There were some, but they focus on single products.” Currently, Americat Company offers stainless-steel food and water bowls (plastic or ceramic can crack or scratch and bacteria can grow), scratchers made from nontoxic materials, and light-weight polymer identification tags with imaging that won’t wear off. Danforth, who has a MBA from Duke University and whose experience includes a stint at Johnson & Johnson, used the Chatham’s Center for Women Entrepreneurship as a resource in starting her business last October. “The reason [starting the company] was important to me was that my cats are very important to me,” she says, “and I want to know what the products are and where they’re made and that they’re safe. I want [my cats] to live long healthy lives.” (412/397-9000, —LD

Categories: Best of the ‘Burgh