Why Boheme Pittsburgh is a Haven for Local Artisans
Whether you’re in search of art, home goods or vintageware, the new Lawrenceville store offers a collective shopping experience.
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Those on the hunt for locally made, sustainable art, home decor and vintage goods can now find it all in one Lawrenceville spot.
A collective shopping experience, Boheme Pittsburgh opened in July along Butler Street. The shop brings the area’s up-and-coming artists, designers and vintage vendors together for shoppers to discover.
“We want to just have a really exciting shopping experience where you come and shop from all of these local and small businesses,” says owner Sara Ponsoll. “Everything is so unique and we have a very diverse group of individuals.”
Ponsoll says she came up with the idea for Boheme Pittsburgh after holding a series of pop-up shops around the city where she forged connections with local artists. She then began to look for a brick-and-mortar shop for a permanent business opportunity.
Although she found a property she liked shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to postpone signing a lease as the pandemic worsened.
“We were just about to sign a lease when everything shut down,” she says. “Now we view it as a blessing almost because this past year was horrific for so many businesses.”
Once vaccine rates began to rise and stay-at-home restrictions relaxed, Ponsoll says she picked up her search again. Looking for a place with decent foot traffic, she stumbled upon a storefront that used to house vintage furniture. She immediately knew it was the one.
“I am so excited about our space,” she says. “It has these high ceilings and there’s plenty of space for our vendors. It was already known as a place to get vintage products, so that really helps us attract customers.”
To fill the space, Ponsoll began reaching out to her local creator contacts. Items for sale today include everything from vintage clothing, home decor, artwork, soaps and body products to upcycled, hand-painted clothing and jewelry. Each vendor has a focus on sustainability, as well as a commitment to diversity and inclusion, Ponsoll says.
The collective is set up so that vendors pay a monthly flat rate for a spot, with a percentage of sales going toward the store’s overhead costs. Vendors receive discounted rates when they sign up for longer periods, and they also are required to work in the store two days a month, or to find an employee to staff their spot and pay them at least $15 an hour.
The artisan behind Lost and Opinionated, Rell says Boheme Pittsburgh has helped introduce her work to a new audience.
“The opportunity to show all of my work in one large space is amazing,” she says. “It has given new people a chance to see my work.”
Rell, who previously sold her oil, acrylic and fiber creations online or through pop-up shops, adds she loves having a more permanent home for her work. The store also gives her an opportunity to introduce new products, such as sticker packs and buttons, she says.
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Hip Modern Soap founders Carrie Robertson and John Elliff say the store has helped their sales as well. They previously debated opening their own store but decided that becoming vendors at Boheme was a lower-risk test run for in-person sales. The couple adds it also has been a great place to test their products before making them available on their website.
“[Soap] is a very sensory friendly product, very tactile and people want to pick it up. They want to smell and hold it,” says Robertson. “Having all of our products out will give shoppers an option to check everything out.”
There are 10 long-term vendors currently in the store, with extra space reserved for guest vendors. Ponsoll says she plans to start holding events at the store to boost exposure. Already, Boheme Pittsburgh has hosted multiple small monthly events, such as yoga and a live painting event.
She adds her hope is that Boheme Pittsburgh will build the community, uplift local businesses and support up-and-coming artists.
“We basically wanted to create a space dedicated to sustainability and diversity,” she says. “We want to give artists their own space to create and thrive.”