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Lawrenceville's mini-milestone: Wildcard turns five

When owner Rebecca Morris opened Wildcard at 4209 Butler St. in October 2009, Lawrenceville was a different place. Since then, the neighborhood has transformed into one of the city’s most active communities. And Wildcard has been a key player in the neighborhood's retail revitalization.
 
Morris moved to Lawrenceville from Shaler Township in 2003 and said she wanted to open the shop in her own back yard. When she first opened the stationery, craft and gift shop, she said she had to invest in word of mouth and getting people to come to Lawrenceville. While there was some foot traffic, it was nothing like the bustling weekend shoppers the neighborhood sees today.
 
“So many businesses have opened, even in the last five years,” she said. “I really like that a lot of them are not chains … [they are] a lot of small businesses.”
 
On Saturday, Oct. 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wildcard will host its Fifth Anniversary Fantastic Festival of Fun, which will include free tote bags to the first 200 customers who spend $10 or more. The event will feature coffee from Espresso a Mano in the morning and an in-store scavenger hunt to win a Wildcard gift card or giant prize basket. And the store will also host an Artist & Small Business Owner Happy Hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
 
The happy hour will feature several of Wildcard’s artists and vendors, including Nick Caruso (MakeBelieveIt.com), Allison Glancey (strawberryluna.com), Becki Hollen & Chris Bencivenga (EverydayBalloonsShop.com), Amy Garbark (GarbellaDesign.com) and Matthew Buchholz (AlternateHistories.com).
 
The Fifth Anniversary Fantastic Festival of Fun will also celebrate the grand opening of Wildcard’s online store, set to launch on the same day. Morris said the online shop was created for customers wanting to send gifts outside of Pittsburgh. She noted that it may take some time for Wildcard’s entire collection to be featured online, but Pittsburgh-inspired items will be some of the first to premiere on the website.
 
Wildcard’s fifth anniversary is also part of Full Time Pittsburgh, a city-wide, open-source festival with events that center around art, design, small business, music and creativity. The festival will run at various locations throughout the city from Thursday, Oct. 16, to Sunday, Oct. 19. Learn more at fulltimepgh.com.
 
Morris thanked Lawrenceville and Pittsburgh for the past five years and invites Pittsburghers to come out and enjoy the free event on Saturday.


Source: Wildcard, Rebecca Morris 

Bloomfield welcomes 4121 Main, a mixed-use arts space and espresso bar

4121 Main, a mixed-use space featuring quality handmade items, curated vintage wares, art and an espresso bar, is coming to Bloomfield. The 4121 Main venture is a partnership among Thommy Conroy and Quelcy Kogel, the stylists behind Harvest & Gather, and local coffee expert Kira Hoeg.
 
The 4121 Main brand premiered at the curated Trade Union trunk show, where it provided pour-over coffees, whole-grain baked goods, prints and artisan products. While the shop is not yet open for regular business hours, 4121 Main’s will join with Unblurred for its first public event on Nov. 7. The partners behind 4121 Main invite Pittsburghers to enjoy an evening of art and Conroy’s new series of alphabet prints with a dark, fairy-tale theme, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St.
 
The space is a creative collaboration that will feature curated products with a common theme or style while providing quality coffee and espresso and whole-grain baked goods. 4121 Main will also host events, workshops and local happenings.
 
When 4121 Main does open with daily hours, the partners envision an evolving space influenced by their personal passions, experiences and seasonal baking and coffee products. Sometimes the shop may offer handmade ceramics, on other visits patrons may peruse a selection of vintage finds. The group promises quality products for the customer who shops with intention.
 
The varied influences come from Conroy, Kogel and Hoeg’s backgrounds, travels and interests. Conroy described the partnership as taking their available skills and creating a larger picture.  
 
Hoeg has an anthropology background and sees coffee as a cultural pastime. In addition to her experience with Pittsburgh coffee and espresso bars, she has traveled from Scandinavia to Turkey to California to explore how people are communicating with coffee and what other coffee and espresso retailers are doing in the United States.
 
“Exchanging time and moments has always been my interest in coffee,” Hoeg said about the type of atmosphere she envisions at 4121 Main, adding the she wants to create a coffee culture inviting ideas, dialogue and curiosity. Also important to Hoeg is the transparency of where the coffee was grown and the craft of roasting it. She will be sourcing from Heart Coffee in Portland and will be working on an espresso machine hand-built in Holland.
 
Kogel will provide the baked goods to accompany the espresso bar. She currently chronicles her passion for baking with whole grains and natural ingredients on her blog With the Grains. She said she hopes to offer cakes and breads that are “a wholesome way to satisfy your sweet tooth.”
 
Harvest & Gather’s Conroy and Kogel will rebrand under the 4121 Main moniker and will offer event-design services. Conroy described the group as “natural hosts and entertainers” and said this aspect will be part of 4121’s model.
 
The collaborative setting will also feature workshops and have a DIY-inspired element. The partners said they hope to offer how-to sessions from floral arrangements to entertaining and decorating tips.
 
The first event will be held on Friday, Nov. 7, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St. in Bloomfield between Liberty and Penn avenues.
 

 

Mobile boutique sets up shop in Lawrenceville

When Samantha Lugo was visiting family in New York in 2013, she frequented her first boutique on wheels. She says she was so inspired by the clothes-truck, that she said, “That’s it, I’m bringing this to Pittsburgh!”
 
In July 2013, Lugo did just that and launched Broke Little Rich Girl, Inc. mobile boutique. After one year on the road, Broke Little Rich Girl opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Lawrenceville on Saturday, Sept. 6.
 
Lugo says the 3816 Butler Street store features her signature selection of “urban” and “edgy” designs. She explains that by first launching the mobile shop, she was able to test the Pittsburgh market with styles and see what would sell at a permanent address.
 
“Lawrenceville is just such an up and coming neighborhood,” Lugo says about choosing a site for her store.“I love the vibe.”
 
The Lawrenceville location will offer a wider selection of clothing and sizes. Lugo notes that clothes will be at the same price point as the mobile unit. She said the truck will still roll around Pittsburgh and is available for private parties like “ladies nights,” where cupcakes and wine are included in her rental fee.
 
The store’s opening featured food and drink provided by local businesses, several from Lawrenceville neighbors, including Pittsburgh Winery, La Gourmandine and Coca Café.
 
Source: Samantha Lugo, Broke Little Rich Girl

New brewery opens in Braddock

A new brewery is opening in Braddock, Wednesday. Two Carnegie Mellon grads are the brain children behind The Brew Gentlemen, opening in the former Halco Electric Supply store at 512 Braddock Ave. Matt Katase and Asa Foster created their first beer in the garage of their fraternity house and have been working toward this day ever since.

"We were both kinda unsure about pursuing careers on the tracts we were on," says Katase, originally of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. "Beer seemed like a happy medium that allowed us to wear multiple hats. So far, no two days have been the same."

Since 2010, Katase and Foster have poured all of their time and resources into creating both a brewery and a tap room to brew and sell their beer. They both changed their majors, Katase from math to operations research and entrepreneurship and Foster from art to digital media and fabrication. Katase took an independent study and worked with a mentor to build The Brew Gentlemen business plan.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $32,118, they were off to the races, building their brewery and perfecting their recipes with their own four hands.

They chose to open their brewery in Braddock because they loved the energy of the small city and could see its potential.

"Intially when we were writing the business plan and working on all of that our entrepreneurship professor made us choose three potential locations," Katase says. "Braddock was kind of an afterthought. Asa mentioned it because he had taken a class called Mapping Braddock and spent a lot of time down here and was drawn to the energy. In senior year we spent a morning walking around and after that, it had to be in Braddock."

That first beer, brewed back in 2010 is called White Sky, a wheat beer brewed with chai tea spices. They jokingly call it their "year round seasonal," because it evokes a different seasonal sense memory for everyone who tastes it. They've gone on to produce several beers with clever, regional names such as General Braddock.

In Feb. of this year they hired master brewer Brandon Capps who has chops from working as an Anheuser Busch/InBev
systems and processes engineer.

And what about the name?

"It started as kind of a joke," Katase says. "Both Asa and I were in the same frat, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the frat motto is 'The true gentlemen.' After trying our beer one of our other friends joked and called us 'the brew gentleman.'"

Tomorrow beginning at 4PM The Brew Gentlemen are holding their grand opening, where they'll sell growlers and pints and the mac n' cheese food truck, Mac and Gold, as well as Street Foods will be on hand for grub.

Source: The Brew Gentlemen, Matt Katase.

Pittsburgh Public Market to open shared commercial kitchen this summer

The Market Kitchen at the Pittsburgh Public Market, a shared-use commercial kitchen, is set to open this summer.  Located on the campus of the Public Market in the Strip District, The Market Kitchen will be available to both market vendors and local chefs.
 
Kelly James recently came on as the kitchen manager for The Market Kitchen and addressed a group last week at a Farm to Table lunch and learn focusing on small business development. Many attending the event were interested in learning about the shared, commercial kitchen.
 
“I come here, to this project, as a chef,” James said to the group.
 
She shared her own experience of opening and running the Sugar Café in Dormont. Though the business closed, James says she learned how to help other entrepreneurs navigate the competitive food industry and consider other business models — instead of the traditional, and costly, brick-and-mortar store.
 
“I get to help other people in small businesses avoid the pitfalls,” she says.
 
The Market Kitchen is an economical way for startups to begin their business. James says that by having a space that provides a state-of-the-art kitchen — and is up to code ­­­­— entrepreneurs have the opportunity to start small, get noticed and grow into a shop. 
 
“We’re a nonprofit, so we are here to help people start,” James says.
 
She says a yearly membership of $100 and a $17.50 hourly rate for use of the kitchen — a nominal price compared to most new business costs — will provide Market Kitchen members with the opportunity to utilize the space and have access to Public Market customers. Members can schedule to access the kitchen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
 
This access to the Public Market is flexible. For extra costs, one could become a vendor; or, it could be as simple as providing samples to market patrons for product exposure.
 
James says she began accepting applications for the kitchen last week. Applicants must be businesses with proper food safety certifications. Fledgling and seasoned chefs are both welcome to apply, and those getting in on the ground floor will have priority, first-come, first-serve kitchen scheduling.
 
“Whether you are just starting out on the path or looking to expand and grow your food business, our goal is to provide you a service that is economically superior to building or leasing your own commercial facility. We offer a unique direct line to success with access to a retail space to sell and market your product within Pittsburgh Public Market. Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District is a perfect place to spread your wings,” the Public Market’s website states.

In addition to entrepreneurs, James says caterers, food truck owners, cart vendors, established restaurants seeking more space, bakers and personal chefs may find the kitchen attractive for its professional appliances and secured storage.
After this kitchen is completed, the market may build a second kitchen. James calls this demo-kitchen “phase two.” She says this installation will provide opportunities for cooking classes and events.
 
The Market Kitchen is expected to be open July 1, 2014, or a few weeks earlier in June. She invites those interested to follow construction progress on the Public Market’s website.

Source: Kelly James, the Pittsburgh Public Market

Carnegie Mellon architecture professor and students recognized for Garfield cityLAB efforts

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture recognized cityLABUrban Design Build Studio and Carnegie Mellon University architecture professor John Folan with the 2014 ACSA Collaborative Practice Award for cityLAB's 6% Place project in Garfield.
 
CityLAB is a small nonprofit that produces local economic development projects, its website describes “6 percent” as the magic number for a tipping point.  
 
“If a neighborhood can get that many creative workers, it becomes an attraction in its own right,” the site states. “CityLAB has been testing out this hypothesis in Garfield, an overlooked neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End, since 2011. Our goal is to fill in the neighborhood’s vacancies with creative workers who will be good neighbors, invest in the community and help the neighborhood grow sustainably.”
 
Sara Blumenstein, cityLAB program manager, explains that the initial idea to draw creative neighbors stemmed from  data that showed that after creative types move into a region, development follows. She said the initiative had multiple goals: to improve the community and to put Garfield on the map for prospective residents.
 
During the fall of 2011, Folan’s students worked with Garfield community members to come up with proposals for 16 ideas for Garfield cityLAB, detailed in the 6% Place book.
 
“[It was an] opportunity to get experience that they wouldn’t get in school,” Blumenstein says about Folan’s CMU architecture students. She explains that students worked with neighbors while applying classroom skills to budget costs and develop plans.
 
Two projects have taken flight from the 16 fledgling ideas: the Tiny Houses project and the Garfield Night Market.
 
The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation’s Garfield Night Market is returning Friday May 2, with assistance from cityLAB. Blumenstein says visitors to the market can expect a street fair setting with paper lanterns, food and crafts. She notes that the market does more than draw families and patrons to Garfield for a good time — it is also a business incubator. 
 
Garfield community members who have the goal of running a small business can get the training and skills they need by starting at the Garfield market. About a dozen of the market’s current vendors are Garfield residents, but Blumenstein says it is a goal to eventually have Garfield entrepreneurs host at least half of the market.
 
 
Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: cityLAB, Sara Blumenstein

State considering changing delivery laws for small distilleries

Imagine a world in which local craft distilleries are thriving and you can buy their products online, rather than only at the distillery because the state stores still don’t carry them.

That’s crazy talk!

Where do you think you are? Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission are vetting regulation changes which would allow permit-licensed limited distilleries to deliver their products directly to consumers.
If everything goes smoothly, you’ll be able to order that bottle of Wigle Rye or Maggie’s Farm Rum over the internet and have it delivered straight to your door.

According to PLCB spokesperson Stacy Kriedman, there are three stages left in approving the process. The first step will take place next Thursday, when the PLCB and IRRC will hold a public meeting on the regulatory changes.

“If the regulations are approved, the attorney general’s office will have 30 days to approve them. If the attorney general’s office approves, the regulations would be effective once published in the state bulletin,” Kriedman says.

All told, home delivery from permit-license limited distilleries could be a reality in Pennsylvania by late April.

“We’ve been working on this with them for a couple of years and they very readily saw the potential of cultivating local and state economies around this opportunity,” says Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli. “We’ve built a business on selling directly to consumers, so we see this as a continuation of that, but we’re doing things that you can’t really do if you’re trying to meet volume demands for a big distributor.”

In November of last year, the state relaxed laws on limited distilleries, allowing them to self-distribute to bars and restaurants on a wholesale basis. That makes it easier for restaurants to patronize local liquor makers, but the new regulations would do even more to open up the market.

“Act 113 of 2011 created the limited distillery license and the regulations are really just an update to that, and to make sure that limited distilleries have the same privileges as limited wineries,” Kriedman says.

Craft liquor sales account for .1 percent of Pennsylvania’s alcohol market. That might not sound like much, but availability has always been a mitigating factor.

“It’s an enormous opportunity for growth for us, going from one retail location in Pittsburgh to being available to entire state,” Grelli says. “If we can go from .1 percent of this area to .1 percent of the state, that’s meaningful.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Stacy Kriedman, Meredith Grelli

Eat + Drink: A heavy dose of holiday spirits and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's weekly look at epic local nomz.

Larkin leads the way on Allegheny River Libation Trail
It seems that craft breweries, distilleries and wineries just recently started popping up in Pittsburgh.

Well don’t look now, but there are 15 such independent producers along the Allegheny River corridor alone. That’s why Bill Larkin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns and operates Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville, is leading the charge in establishing the Allegheny River Libation Trail.

“I pulled everybody together from a certain geographical area and we just had a meeting,” Larkin said. “I think it’s remarkable that there are so many producers in such a small area. I think it’s something that should be exploited.”

The coalition’s first order of business will be to produce a brochure, highlighting all of its members and their proximity to one another. Larkin says that since a lot of the producers already support each other— many order their ingredients together in bulk to save on shipping costs — so this kind of cross-promotion makes sense.

Of the 15 breweries, distilleries and wineries in the neighborhoods along both sides of the Allegheny — from Millvale and Lawrenceville, all the way up through the Strip District and the North Side — 13 intend to participate in what Larkin views as a loose confederation of businesses.

“I don’t think anybody wants to make this an official organization,” he says. “We’re all pretty busy, and I don’t think anyone wants that kind of commitment.”
 
Stay Tuned Distillery opens in Munhall
One distillery you won’t find on the libation trail, simply by virtue of its location, is the Stay Tuned Distillery, which opened earlier this month.

Located at 810 Ravine Street in Munhall, Stay Tuned specializes in finishing whisky and gin made from spirits distilled at the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, Virginia. The local operation houses their rectification facilities, a retail shop and a tasting bar.

“We finish their rye and their single malt, and we make our own gin,” says co-owner LeeAnn Sommerfeld.

Though not yet available for sale, Stay Tuned’s PathoGin is made from a barley base and contains more citrus and floral flavors than most mass-market gins. Its rye and single malt whiskys will both be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.

Music at Marty's Market
The folks at Marty's Market are forever finding new ways to make use of their outstanding space. This Friday will mark the first installment of the Music at Marty's series, which will feature local Latin musician Geña. The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and include music, freshly prepared Latin cuisine and a Q&A with the musician. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased on the market's website.
 
Cocktail viewing party
Hey Bartender,” Douglas Tirola’s documentary examining New York City’s craft cocktail culture through the eyes of two skilled mixologists, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Downtown’s Harris Theater as a part of the Three Rivers Film Festival.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Bill Larkin, LeeAnn Sommerfeld

The Brew Gentlemen plant roots in Braddock

In the great tradition of what Braddock once was, Asa Foster and Matt Katase are out to build something.

“Braddock’s not going to be back to what it was, but it will reinvent itself as something else,” Katase says. “We want to be a part of that.”

Foster and Katase, who met during their freshman year at Carnegie Mellon and became fast friends, started brewing their own beer three years ago while college juniors. Last year, they took over the space at 512 Braddock Avenue and set about — quite literally — building The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company.

Katase recalls showing the space to his brother last year around Thanksgiving.

“I unlocked the door and said, ‘this is where it’s going to be!’ and it was, well, not a disaster, but the remains of what was once an electrical supply store.”

Though they’ve taken a break from actually brewing to physically construct their brewery — they’re doing nearly all of the renovations themselves — they’ve already developed and tested a number of recipes, including four flagship beers which they plan to keep on tap year-round.

Foster, a Boston native, and Katase, who hails from Hawaii, envision their space as a large, serene and inviting area, full of exposed brick and wood, and moving at a different pace than most breweries.

“We are definitely looking to bring something to the Pittsburgh beer market that doesn’t already exist,” Foster says. “We want to have a more café kind of vibe in that we want people to feel comfortable with it as a hangout space, not just a tasting space.”

“Come in and read a book. Come in and get some work done. Nobody’s going to rush you out of your seat just because you’re taking up a barstool,” Katase added.

“It’s a manifestation of our brand, and we want that to be reflective of what our beer is,” Foster says. “It’s the place where we have the most control over quality.”

Foster and Katase hope to start brewing again by late December or early January, and have the taproom open to the public early next year. In the meantime, they’ve had plenty of support.

“Almost every day, someone comes up to us and says something thankful or encouraging,” Katase says. “People are psyched to see young people doing things in Braddock.”

You can follow The Brew Gentlemen’s progress on their blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Asa Foster, Matt Katase

Eat + Drink: Blowfish BBQ, Butcher and the Rye and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly roundup of epic local nomz.

Finely. Smoked. Meats. 
Just because the Steelers are terrible doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a great game-day experience, food and all. And when it comes to Sunday barbecue, few do it better than Justin Blakey.

Blakey, who’s in charge of all things beer at D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Regent Square and is better known to Pittsburgh beer drinkers as “Hootie,” played off his longtime nickname in creating his new venture, Blowfish BBQ. Every Sunday, Blakey sets up shop at D’s around 1 p.m., selling pork ribs, chicken and beef brisket, along with a host of savory sides such as smoked mac-and-cheese, red potatoes and a vinegar-dressed slaw.

“This is the perfect outlet to start it out,” says Blakey, adding that  while he's fine working out of the D's kitchen for the time being, he's looking to expand and perhaps open up a commercial space offering restaurant and catering services.

Blowfish BBQ’s meats aren’t grilled, but slow-smoked, requiring Blakey to carefully maintain a steady fire at a specific temperature over several hours. Pork and poultry spend the preceding days in various rubs and brines. The brisket takes a different path.

“I really don’t believe beef needs any special treatment — just salt and pepper, and let the smoke do the work,” he says.

In addition to a Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style ribs and his own special recipe for chicken, Blakey is still developing various sauces to complement his offerings. He’s most adamant about perpetuating vinegar-based sauces.

“It accents the meat more than it covers it up. I think with true barbecue, that’s what you’re really looking to do,” he says.

And while you're in the neighborhood…
Unlike Christmas-themed ads or Halloween parties seeping between weekends, one seasonal pleasure limited to November is D’s Franksgiving dog — a turkey hot dog on a steamed, poppy seed bun, topped with mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing and gravy, served with a side of cranberry sauce.

Trust us on this one.

Butcher and the Rye now open Downtown
After a few small events and a soft opening, Butcher and the Rye, the long-awaited second venture from the team responsible for Meat & Potatoes, opened for business last week.

Located at 212 Sixth Street in the Cultural District, Butcher offers creative small plates and open seating to go with their veritable archive of more than 350 kinds of bourbon. Yes, really. There’s even a ladder, reminiscent of those you’ll find in high-ceilinged library stacks, and giving new meaning to the term, “top shelf.”

Whether you stop in to try one of Chef Richard DeShantz’s new offerings or just to have a drink, the view alone warrants a visit, and the big leather chairs near the second-floor bar are especially comfy.

A new Downtown eatery from the creators of Skybar
Ten Penny, an upscale-casual restaurant with a diverse menu, will open later this month at 960 Penn Avenue in Downtown. The latest from Adam DeSimone’s AMPD Group, Ten Penny will offer dinner seven days a week, lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on weekends and special happy hour and late-night menus.

In addition to a large bar with 24 craft beers on tap, the space will offer a variety of seating options including a private dining room which will seat up to 20 people and café-style outdoor dining starting next spring.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Justin Blakey

After a long, strange trip, Maggie's Farm Rum is open for business

When we checked in with Tim Russell in August, he was a ventilation system away from starting production on Maggie’s Farm Rum out of his distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip District.

With all of his equipment in place, all Russell needed to open for business was federal approval of his label from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF is notoriously nitpicky when it comes to approving alcohol labels, often requiring applicants to make multiple revisions and resubmit to what can be a month-long process.

Russell submitted his third iteration in September. Then, the government shut down.

With his label in limbo, Russell found his entire business on hold. The Washington Post took notice, making Maggie’s Farm the lead item in a feature on how the shutdown impacted people outside the federal workforce. That feature led to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a congresswoman from Texas, telling Russell’s story on the floor of the House.

Last Friday, about two weeks after the 16-day shutdown ended, Russell got word that his label was approved, allowing him to open for business.

“Initially, because of limited quantities, I’m just going to make it available to bars and restaurants,” Russell says, adding that he’ll likely open to the public once the cocktail bar and tasting room areas of his space are ready in the next couple of months.

“I might do a Black Friday thing where I’d open up bottle sales to the public whether the tasting room is done or not,” he says.

Russell will do a tasting of Maggie’s Farm Rum tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bocktown Beer & Grill in Robinson. You can follow the distillery’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Tim Russell

New 'innovation campus' coming to East Liberty

Kit Mueller, co-founder of Rustbuilt and Built In Pittsburgh, plans to buy the building at 6400 Hamilton Avenue in East Liberty and turn it into something he’s calling The Forge — Pittsburgh’s first innovation campus.

“The intent is to provide a framework for all that’s happening in that neck of the woods,” says Mueller.

Each floor in the 98,000 square-foot building is big enough to hold one fairly large company, as well as flexible space for growing companies. The building, which is more than 100 years old and formerly served as a slaughterhouse, will include education and maker space, a rooftop nanotel — living quarters made from recycled shipping containers for use by visiting teachers and innovators — and agritecture, a state-of-the-art operation for sustainable, urban, indoor farming.

The building should be ready for tenants within about 20 months.

“Other rust belt cities are doing this sort of thing, and this will add our own special flavor for what’s going on here in the ‘Burgh,” he says. “This wouldn’t be feasible in some other parts of the city, and we’re glad to be doing it where the rest of the innovation is happening.”

One of the main ideas behind building an innovation campus, Mueller says, is that it would not only provide affordable space for businesses coming out of startup incubators, but that it would have enough space to retain them as they grew and keep them in geographically close like-minded institutions, such as Google, Tech Shop and Thrill Mill.

“You never have to grow out of the building. You come out of the accelerators and grow into a full floor.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Kit Mueller

AlphaLab Gear, new accelerator, signs lease in East Liberty

AlphaLab Gear, a new accelerator from the South Side-based InnovationWorks program, has signed a lease for space in East Liberty.

Colliers International, the leasing agent for the new East Liberty developments at Indigo Square and the nearby space on Broad Street, confirmed that AlphaLab Gear will occupy 10,000 square feet and its lease includes rights to expand. The space, located at 6024 Broad Street, places it right next door to Thrill Mill and its business incubator, HustleDen, and within close proximity to the Tech Shop and Google’s Pittsburgh headquarters.

“It’s great to have these types of business. If we can mash together enough high-tech, like-minded startup groups, that can start a great tech community in that area,” says Mark Anderson, vice president of office and retail brokerage with Colliers.

AlphaLab Gear is a new accelerator for companies creating hardware, robotics and other physical products, says Terri Glueck of Innovation Works. Their AlphaLab, which is on the South Side, runs two sessions per year, each lasting 20 weeks. During sessions, enrolled entrepreneurs receive $25,000 in investment capital, office space, mentoring and educational sessions to help get their fledgling companies off the ground.

“We were interested from the beginning in having tech companies in the area. It’s good for East Liberty and Pittsburgh as a whole to mass these tech companies in one location,” Anderson added.

Anderson added that the building at the corner of Highland Avenue and Broad Street still has some 9,000 square feet available in retail and office space.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Mark Anderson

Meet Hop Farm, Lawrenceville's newest craft brewery

Lawrenceville will get its second craft brewery of the summer within the next two weeks when Hop Farm Brewing Company opens the doors to its 4,700 square-foot space at 5601 Butler Street.

“This is the first time I’ve done this,” says Hop Farm founder Matt Gouwens. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Gouwens, who worked as a web and graphic designer before deciding to start a brewery, has been operating as a home brewer for the last five years, growing different varieties of hops in his yard.

When he decided to go commercial, he knew he couldn’t grow all of his own hops, and wanted to add a local spin to his product.

“I thought, ‘why not get a farmer involved in this?’” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s hops will come from an actual hop farm that’s currently being set up in Cranberry Township.
When he opens for business later this month, Gouwens says he’ll have a selection of three beers — a saison, a nut brown and naturally, an IPA.

“Our plan after that is getting into a Russian Imperial Stout and aging it in some bourbon barrels,” says Gouwens.

Hop Farm’s beers will initially be available only in growlers, but Gouwens says he will begin canning them once the government approves his label.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Matt Gouwens

The Hardware Store brings a new cooperative, entrepreneurial space to South Pittsburgh

For a startup company or freelance media producer, office space can be an unaffordable luxury.

That’s why Josh Lucas, the founder of internet crowd-funding startup Crowdasaurus, had been looking to open a shared office space on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“It’s hard to run your company in a Google Hangout,” Lucas says, referring to Google's free videoconferecing tool.  

With help from with Mount Washington Community Development Corporation and developer RE 360, he found that space at 744 East Warrington Avenue in Allentown.

Dubbed The Hardware Store, the co-working office space is designed for entrepreneurs and freelance media producers to have access to fundamental, day-to-day business needs. Among its facilities, The Hardware Store will feature 30 desks, 20 glass markerboards, a podcasting studio, a full audio production suite and a 20-foot green screen.

Having access to the space and tools to create a product is only part of The Hardware Store’s appeal, says Lucas. “The benefit to a small company occupying this space is that they get to interact with the collaborative network of people coming through the doors. We’re using our network of entrepreneurs to get the space rolling.”

Anyone may apply to rent a desk in the space on a month-to-month basis, which includes access to all of The Hardware Store’s facilities. Day rates are also available for smaller project work.

The Hardware Store will be ready for tenants to begin occupying the shared space by July 1.

For more information on The Hardware Store, contact Crowdasaurus.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Josh Lucas
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