Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From Downtown to The Strip..

By Meg Dellas

                  The Strip District is a one-half square mile area northeast of downtown Pittsburgh. Commonly referred to as “The Strip”, it is just what the name states, a narrow strip of land in a flood plain confined by natural boundaries, The Allegheny River to the north and the extension of Grant’s Hill to the south. The Strip starts at 11th street and works it’s way down to 33rd street. At the end of the 18th century, James O’Hara purchased this area along the south bank of the Allegheny River, (which is much of the present day Strip District) as a location for his country home. However, this land was ideal for the development of industrial and commercial enterprises. Throughout the 19th century the Strip began to be the foundation of  iron mills, foundries, glass factories, and many other industries to serve the development and many of the names that have been associated with Pittsburgh. The Strip’s location and access to transportation made it ideal for industrial development. Andrew Carnegie started in the iron and steel industries with the Upper and Lower Union Mills on Smallman and 33rd streets.

                  In the late 19th century wholesale produce merchants were located downtown in the 600 to 900 blocks along Liberty Avenue. During this time railroad tracks ran down Liberty Avenue, this was convenient for the merchants because the trains stopped on the street and produce was unloaded directly into the warehouses. In 1906 the tracks were removed from Liberty Avenue and so the produce merchants relocated to the Strip District near the Pennsylvania Railroad yards. The produce station was relocated at 21st street near Smallman Street, and this intersection became the new hub of the wholesale produce business in Pittsburgh. Through the turn of the century up until the 1920s industrial buildings and shops were torn down and room was made for the construction of produce warehouses and offices. The 1920s was prosperous for Pittsburgh; grocery store chains developed along the Strip District and helped bring business there. 

                  The 1930s was a rough patch for Pittsburgh, the Depression and flood that hit caused tremendous damage and losses throughout businesses. Just as people were about to pull through from the Depression World War II caused a short supply for food and other problems to the city. Railroads were soon replaced with trucks for transporting the produce. Today, the Strip District is best known for its retail produce and ethnic food stores, restaurants and coffee shops.  The Strip offers so much, a view of the river to the right and downtown in the background is just one of the treats while walking towards downtown along the Allegheny River. It’s pretty incredible once you find out the background history of the Strip and you see what it has become now. 

The photograph above was taken on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, it shows downtown in the background. Today downtown is known as the business district, it features offices for major corporations like PNC Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, Heinz... and many more. While downtown has chain restaurants, the Strip District has an old industrial market type atmosphere with live music and bands playing after dark. In my opinion the Strip surpasses downtown any day! 

It's a Half-Moon Kind of Day..

By Meg Dellas

During the day, the Strip District is a bustling market district where you can find the freshest of fresh of virtually any type of food that you could imagine! Each local store offers a variety of different ethnic foods, all for a very affordable prices, not to mention you are stimulating a local economy, so why wouldn’t you shop here? Many famous Pittsburgh restaurants that are located at the Strip have been shown on nationwide television programs; Primanti Brothers Inc, and DeLuca’s are two hot spots. Along with popular restaurants and local grocery stores are street the local street vendors. You can find the yummiest deserts, pastries, brownies, or cookies located on some of the street corners. We couldn’t help but buy a half-moon cookie while browsing the local shops…I can almost taste the sugary morsel as I type this, (should have gotten more!). We chatted with some of the locals and the sellers about what their favorite treat was to buy, we came to the conclusion that no matter what you bought it was a win-win.

                  Another local vendor had a hot-dog stand set up called, “It’s A Dog Day”. We decided to pass on grabbing a dog since it was still pretty early in the morning, but locals described that stand as being very popular especially in the summer time. Looks like we will have to venture back when the weather is warm to find out! 

Earmuffs for a Dollar?!

By Meg Dellas

Dollar Earmuffs!? That are even cute? What more could a college student want for the winter, something to keep them warm for the late nights out and something that is within their budget, (five dollars or less? J). While walking along the Strip we ran into multiple small shops that sold Pittsburgh memorabilia, whether it be the Penguins, Steelers, or Pirates, they had anything you could possibly want! You can tell walking up and down the Strip that it is a community based area, there aren’t large malls, or super stores surrounding the area, every vendor has a very neighborly vibe and there is a very friendly atmosphere. Walking up and down Penn Avenue you come across all different types of shops, the outside vendors have set up homemade clothing and artifacts that one can buy. For the most part everything that I picked up or purchased was very affordable, I even picked up a Sponge Bob finger puppet for my friend for only a dollar! This particular neighborhood has a story of its own; the Strip is one of the oldest neighborhoods that combines its industrial past, but also its trendy image that has welcomed it into the modern era. 

Stopping by Stamoolis Bros. Co.!

By Meg Dellas

Walking along the Strip there are all sorts of goodies that can perk a meanderers attention. For our group, Saturday morning at 9 am (prime time for the farmers market) found us upon the doorstep of a place called Stamoolis Brothers. Outside of the store there were samples of chips and at least twelve different homemade breeds of salsa to try. Each was labeled with a description of spicy level and/or sweetness. While we were tempted to try them all personally, we limited ourselves to a few samples, (boy were they good!). Stamoolis Brothers Company was established in 1909, the five Stamoolis brothers came to the United States from Greece with a passion for food, ever since it has become a tradition in the Stamoolis family to bring the freshest Mediterranean style cuisine to the states. In 1929 the brothers came to Pittsburgh and joined their brother-in-law who had a similar store on Market Street; they eventually opened the store and warehouse at the Penn Avenue location.

                  When you walk in the store today, it still has an old-fashion feel to it, inside there is exposed brick, antique wide-plank wood floor that has been marked up by the thousands of customers shoes, the aroma of spices, cheeses and meats fill the store inside and outside. Located at 2020 Penn Avenue, it’s a sure stop for anyone who goes down to the Strip.  

The RIGHT place to go is LEFTY's!

 By Meg Dellas

The Strip District is quite commonly known for its nightclubs and bars, many establishments offer a lounge style DJ and techno based experience. However, one of the newest bars in the area provides a friendly neighborhood tavern atmosphere, right across the street from Déjà Vu. Lefty’s is the perfect place to stumble upon while walking the Strip. Whether you need a drink, want to catch the latest Pittsburgh sports score, or just need to rest your feet, the laid back atmosphere allows for many types of people to enjoy the same locale. This bar has quickly become known as a place dedicated to making everyone feel comfortable and welcome; it is affordable and has a friendly staff. It is no secret that many people that try Lefty’s do not leave disappointed, most become regulars!

 The Strip is best known for its refurbished collection of clubs where you can listen to live music and dance the night away. There are many popular bars in the Strip, it’s come to be known as the club district by night and the farmer’s market by day, what more could a group of young adults ask for? Good food, good drink, and plenty of experience and comradely to be had at every turn. You can get the freshest fruits, vegetables, pastries, within a minutes walk of the freshest beats, clubs and leather sofas in the greater Pittsburgh area, walking up and down the Strip district is a lesson in duality. The old brick buildings leave a feeling of history and nostalgia while the people, food and stores bring you into a modern landscape dedicated to providing a fresh outlook.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Our Trip to Penn Mac!

by Anna Small

here are a few images of us getting the real Penn Mac experience:

showing off our purchases
Taylor examining the coffee choices
racks of fresh bread
so much merchandise!
buckets of olives

Penn Mac

by Anna Small
Opened in 1902 by the Sunseri brothers, Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. sells over 5,000 specialty products across the country. They boast the sale of upwards of 200,000 lbs of cheese per week!

They are known for their cheese but they have a very diverse inventory. They sell fresh bread, seasonings, pasta, specialty coffees as well as a variety of cooking products.

It is also another family operated company, run by the third generation of the Sunseri family.

Wholey's Seafood Market

by Anna Small
Wholey's is a major Pittsburgh family run establishment. Opened in 1912, Wholey's is run by Dan Wholey, son of founder Robert C. Wholey.

Like many of the other food retailers in the strip, Wholey's supplies to many local restaurants and even ships product nation wide. They have a variety of seafood, poultry and meats as well as a full restaurant.

On top of it all, it's facade is fairly recognizable:

St. Stanislaus Kostka

by Anna Small

This iconic church was completed on July 31st, 1892, and is a prime example of old world architecture here in Pittsburgh. The architect, Frederick C. Sauer, also designed several other churches in the area.

The church contains seven different bells located in the bell towers, Munich style stained glass windows, extensive wall paintings, and three latin inscriptions on the interior.

On September 20th, 1969, the church was blessed by Polish icon and religious leader, Pope John Paul II. The church, named after St. Stanislaus Kostka of Poland, continues to recognize Polish culture today.

It's the Culture of the City

by Taylor Reynolds
This sign shows the quick whit that is found in the Strip District. The culture of the Strip is different from the rest of the city, and because of this, it makes for a nice escape every once and a while. The friendliness of store owners and patrons is unlike any place else in Pittsburgh. You find people stopping to look at places and things instead of just walking quickly with heads down. Coming from a small town, this is a type of feeling I miss because I live in the city. The humor found in this sign can only be appreciated if one stops to read it and ponder it.

A market world is suspect in a city. However, going to the Strip District, you do not feel like you are in Pittsburgh anymore. This part of the city offers a wide aray of ethnically specific stores and fun ways to pass the time. It brings and otherwise segregated city together over culture and food. If you haven't already, I suggest taking a trip to the Strip to just have a look around. Be sure to have some cash handy, as the street vendors and some of the shops do not take plastic. Who knew that such a commercial city like Pittsburgh had s much character to offer its residence.

It's not ALL about Food in the Strip

by Taylor Reynolds

Pictured here is a photo of Roxanne's Dried Flowers shop. What is a dried flower shop you may ask? Well it is just what it says it is. Roxanne sells beautifully dried flower arrangements and other home decorating tools. While the prices may be a little higher than I had anticipated, this store is still better alternative than Wal-Mart. Like mentioned in an earlier post, the Strip is a perfect location to find anything you need without going to the mega-stores like Target and Wal-Mart. There isn't an object you can't find down here either. While the Strip is famous for its restaurants and nightlife, these small stores are a great part about the neighborhood as well. A few blocks away from Roxanne's is a shop that sells nothing but decorations for holidays. Other stores sell clothing, and even more popular items sold are works of art made by local artists. Jewelry makers, painters, and sculptures feature their artwork in outdoor and indoor galleries. Supporting the local businesses is essential in our economy today, and the Strip is the perfect place to do that.

That Small Town Feel

by Taylor Reynolds

The Strip is the location of many small businesses. This is the location in the city that many entrepreneurs choose to open up their first restaurant or shop. This community feeling is one of the things the Strip District is most famous for. Owners know the names of their regular customers, and these owners know the true meaning of inviting someone into their home (or in this case business). There is no room for chain monopolies in the Strip. The only one that can be found there that is not native to Pittsburgh (like Primanti's or Pamela's) is a McDonalds. Many people on the street, however, will tell you that they would never go to the McDonalds with so many other local businesses to support there.

Featured here is a local coffee shop located in the Strip. On a brisk Saturday morning, this place was full of customers in there to warm up for a bit with a hot chocolate or a soy latte. There are no Starbucks here to rival this coffee shop, so this place is able to thrive. This is one example that adds to the community vibe that can be found in the Strip.

Let's do Brunch

by Taylor Reynolds

Pamela's is one of Pittsburgh's best diners. Established in 1980, this diner serves the region's best crepe style hot-cakes, and their breakfasts are to die for. This diner is a great place to meet for coffee and a meal, and people certainly take advantage of this in the Strip. Large windows offer a great view of the hustle and bustle on the street outside, and they also let in the warmth of the sunny day. However, this isn't the only famous diner located in the Strip. DeLuca's is just a few blocks away, and its brunch rivals that of Pamela's.

DeLuca's is famous for their Hotcake Sundaes which are said to rival Pamela's. This diner is located in the Strip next to Woley's wholesale meat market. While this diner does not offer the view that Pamela's does, it is sure to offer friendly service and delicious food. 

So with two famous options only blocks apart, why wouldn't you make the Strip the location for your next morning meeting? Or a great place to head after church on a Sunday morning or break from your Saturday morning market shopping for a little revitalization. Pamela's and DeLuca's, a little competition might be a great this for these diners.

When the Night Dwellers Emerge

by Taylor Reynolds

The Strip district has a very happening night life. From night clubs to bars to lounges, the Strip has it all. Wet your wistle with an Iron City beer, or sip a trendy martini, but no matter what you chose to do, be sure to make the Strip the destination for your next date or night out with your pals.

Located to the left is a picture of the Firehouse Lounge. This old firehouse was turned into a trendy lounge located in the heart of the Strip. This lounge is not your typical Pittsburgh sports bar. There are no televisions or top-40 music. Instead, under ground music and comfy seating fill the area. Owner Spencer Warren says his ultimate goal for his bar was to make it the comfiest living room in Pittsburgh. This night club has gotten rave reviews from both critics and patrons alike.

This is just one of the trendy night life spots the Strip has to offer. Places like Thirty First Street Pub and Dejavu Lounge are also happening places to go in the Strip. So remember, don't just let the Strip be your place for Saturday morning shopping, be sure to include the Strip on your evening outings as well.