How To Shop With Pride in Pittsburgh This Month
These five small businesses are filling gaps in their industries by creating welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Pride Month is celebrated each year in June to build welcoming communities, allow everyone to express their identity and recognize the impact that LGBTQ+ people have had on the country.
Pittsburgh Pride Revolution kicked off the month with performances, vendors and a march on June 2-4. Now that the confetti has settled, celebrate Pride Month by visiting these five small businesses that are strengthening Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ+ community by filling gaps traditionally left in their industries.
Sanctuary Pittsburgh is a LGBTQ+ and woman-owned vintage shop and tattoo parlor in Lower Lawrenceville. The store, founded in 2020, carries a wide selection of curated antiques, including everything from clothes and accessories to dishware to old books and magazines.
Studio Manager Cheyanne Swaney says Sanctuary Pittsburgh’s tattoo studio was created to provide a safe alternative to the male-dominated tattoo industry that she says has a long history of misogyny, sexual harassment and lack of compassion.
“It’s not a secret that in the tattoo industry, people get intimidated. There’s a lot of exclusionary practices against women, queer people and people of color,” Swaney said in a phone interview. “So I hope that every person that walks in here feels welcome.”
Sanctuary Pittsburgh hosts multiple community events throughout the year, inviting queer vendors to participate in a vendor market and opening the studio for tattoo flash sales. The proceeds from events like these are donated to local LGBTQ+ organizations or community members in need for various services. April’s event raised $8,000 for one of the studio’s artists to get top surgery, a gender-affirming procedure for trans men.
The Bearded Iris is a LGBTQ-owned floral design studio in Swissvale that specializes in everyday arrangements, special occasions, weddings, workshops and more.
Owner Jeffrey Krsul said in a recent phone interview that he opened his storefront about a year ago to address some of the problems he witnessed when working for other florists in the area. He said that although some may think that an industry like floral design would be “artsy and accepting,” there was barely any diversity in the weddings that he was creating arrangements for before he opened his own business.
“There are a lot of couples that don’t fit into that heterosexual, cisgender, thin, white, young mold of how weddings are represented,” he says. “Not everybody has that storybook prince and princess wedding. A wedding can look like anything you want.”
So Krsul opened The Bearded Iris, named after his favorite flower, to create a “safe, intentional” space for all to choose flowers that help them express themselves.
Maude’s Paperwing Gallery is a queer and woman-owned metaphysical and LGBTQ+ gift shop that opened in Millvale about 2½ years ago.
“There aren’t very many places you can go that are specifically oriented towards the queer community or accepting of the queer community that are also metaphysical,” shop owner Athena Flint said in a recent Zoom interview. “My goal was to create a safe space where we can build community and encourage people to continue their growth of personal healing from trauma.”
The gallery sells a collection of crystals, jewelry, decor and supplies and books for various spiritual paths.
Last year, Flint opened Harold’s Haunt, an inclusive bar and gathering space, in conjunction with the gallery to act as a “catalyst for community building.” Flint refers to Harold’s Haunt as a “they bar,” which she says is the first of its kind to cater to people who are non-binary or transgender.
She recalls numerous times when the bar allowed customers to express their identity and feel seen and accepted for the first time.
“It’s all of those little moments that validate what we are doing and what we’re building and that it was needed,” Flint says.
Eli Shumaker opened Body Euphoria Inclusive Massage Therapy in Lawrenceville in 2019. After working in the massage industry for years and hearing inappropriate comments and uncomfortable stories from other massage therapists, he knew he needed to create a space where transgender people could feel safe.
“Trans people have a lot of body safety issues,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve met so many trans people who see me for their first massage because they’ve never felt safe going somewhere else and having to explain their bodies to a cisgender person who may not get it. They want to get a massage, they don’t want to have to educate somebody on their body.”
Although Shumaker couldn’t see clients over the pandemic and had to close his storefront due to the lack of business, he is now providing massage services in a home office in Homestead. He says that massage therapy can be critical to the health of trans people, especially trans males who may get severe pain from chest binding.
“Anything that we can do to make people feel at home in their bodies and make people feel at home in the world is a big deal,” Shumaker says about his business’ mission of body positivity.
Amanda Blair became the owner of Kards Unlimited in Shadyside, a store originally opened in 1968, in 2021 and has upheld LGBTQ+ inclusive values in the store’s wide array of cards, pins, apparel and gifts ever since.
“Having access to the things that help you express who you are is important,” Blair said during a Zoom interview.
Blair says that because she can communicate directly with the creators who make the store’s cards, unlike larger chain stores that aren’t in touch with the artists behind the process, she can ensure that products are respectful and inclusive to LGBTQ+ audiences. That means if you’re in search of a card for an upcoming lesbian wedding or your friend’s gender transition, Blair has an array of thoughtful items to fit the occasion.
This month, displays in the store are packed with items for Pride Month, and proceeds from certain T-shirt sales will be donated to national LGBTQ+ resource centers and SisTers PGH, an organization that supports people of color and trans and nonbinary people in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Blair says Kards Unlimited’s staff of kind, queer young adults inspire her everyday as they chat with customers and help them find products that match their style and identity. She thinks that now more than ever, it’s important to have a store that fosters a queer community.
“In the face of all the harm that’s being done, all the violence, all the legislation, which is a kind of violence in itself, it’s feeling a little more somber this Pride Month, but also more meaningful because of that,” Blair says. “You have to surround yourself with people who have pride.”