TechShop Has Become a Hotbed for Local Businesses

The availability of key resources and support make this East Liberty shop a great place to launch an innovative independent business.



When President Barack Obama visited Bakery Square in June, he spoke of what he called the New American Economy, sparked by innovation and bold ideas. Later, in an article he penned for, Obama had said that TechShop Pittsburgh, one of eight nationwide “maker spaces,” a great example of this new economy at work. TechShop is a space where people with big ideas can look over each other’s shoulder and provide feedback or simply marvel at a cool idea, the exact kind of scenario that often evolves into a business.  Members of the local shop receive informational classes held by industry professionals and gain access to professional equipment, tools and powerful software as well as the space needed to turn their ideas into reality — 16,000 square feet, in fact. All of this roughly costs the same as a monthly gym membership.

With the advanced equipment made available to members, it’s no wonder TechShop has spawned some innovative, divergent businesses. To name them all would be an exercise in futility. However, here’s a trio of standouts that are making a name for themselves in Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

Gio Attisano and Nick Thompson are the creators of Puzzle Pax, which creates infinitely reusable six-packs, sourced from a local plywood suppler. Puzzle Pax started when Attisano, a self-proclaimed “idea guy” without a design background, saw a prototype for a reusable six-pack that Thompson was working on. Attisano was taken by the idea and offered some suggestions — and the rest, as they say, is history. Attisano recently just closed a deal with Whole Foods, putting his Puzzle Pax in 31 locations, with the possibility of going nationwide.

The team of five people who founded Red Ant Lasers — Anthony 'Ollie' Olivieri, Scott Ardisson, Mike Farmer, J. David Whitewolf and Liz Whitewolf — came together to create what they believe is the world’s most-portable laser cutter, the Origami. It all started with a simple problem posed by Olivieri, who wanted to laser etch Pittsburgh’s skyline on a coffee table he had just made. The issue was that most laser cutters weren’t big or versatile enough to do the type of job he wanted. The Origami appears to be the solution, in the group’s opinion. The group has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fully fund the business.

Just in time for Halloween, artist Jordan Patton of Abominable Creations creates hyper-detailed masks, model kits and characters that are as curious to look at as they are to touch and feel. His latest character is Pumpkin Patch Pete, a goblin-like creature with a carved-out pumpkin for a head and candy-corn buck teeth. The amount of detail and effort put into each mask is staggering.

One of TechShop’s strengths, and there are many, is in its community atmosphere. Members want to help one another succeed. You don’t have to be a member to attend classes, so consider stopping by and seeing the action firsthand.

—Jordan Locke


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#Sweet: Soon anyone in the country will be able to have a Primanti’s sandwich

The Primanti Bros. sandwich long has been Pittsburgh’s go-to between two slices of bread. The colossal cheese-, meat-, fry- and coleslaw-topped sandwich has become a cultural institution.

Thanks to a partnership with online retailer goldbely, anyone in the United States can ship a pack of the iconic sandwiches to his or her door. This is fantastic news for expats who are jonesing for the taste of Pittsburgh.

Beginning Nov. 5, the pack will make four sandwiches using capicola, pastrami or both, plus a loaf of Italian bread, cheese, fries, coleslaw, tomatoes and Red Devil hot sauce. Buyers even get a Primanti’s T-shirt. Place an online order here.

—Jordan Locke


#Stats: National Potato Day by the numbers

What’s not to love about potatoes? They’re economical, versatile and nutritious (although we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make them less nutritious). Here are some numbers on spud-tacular potato goodies you can find in the ’Burgh:

22: Vendors that participated in this year’s Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest, presented by Mrs. T’s Pierogies. More than 5,000 attendees sampled traditional pierogies as well as inventive pierogi-inspired treats (vanilla potato cupcake with buttercream frosting and candied onion, anyone?).

16: Races won by Pittsburgh Pirates racing pierogi Potato Pete since returning to the Pirates’ pierogi races in 2014

590,000: Pounds of Idaho potatoes that Kennywood’s Potato Patch sells per year

6+: Different ways Meat & Potatoes serves potatoes on the dinner menu. Think frites, taters, poutine, potato salad.

20: Letters that make one unpronounceable word: Kartoffelpfannkuchen. Otherwise known as a German potato pancakes, Kartoffelpfannkuchen tastes like the combination of a hash brown and a hotcake. Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh serves them with applesauce and sour cream.

—Phoebe Ng


Categories: The 412