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Metropolitan Mavericks: Pittsburgh’s best-kept secrets

By The Pioneer

When strolling along Butler Street in Lawrenceville at 3 a.m., the last thing an individual would expect to find is a welcoming woman in a large, shop-front window creating beautiful artwork. However, if you are lucky, you might just see Bernadette Gerbe doing just this at any given time of the day in her glass-blowing shop. Gerbe Glass, along with the other Pittsburgh businesses featured in this section, are taking risks by adding a little twist to their businesses — thus, claiming our title of “Metropolitan Maverick.”

The Cultural’s Elite Salon and Barber Shop

Location: 954 Penn Ave., Cultural District, Downtown

Hours: 10 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays

Description of Business: The Cultural’s Elite is a new, young and fun salon and barber shop that prides itself in catering to a professional and stylish crowd, offering quality hair and beauty services in the process.

What makes Elite a Maverick? Two of The Cultural’s Elite “regular residents” – as the pets of husband and wife owners, Brandon and Sanoma Johnson – are tiny Yorkshire terrier dogs, called Alice and Charlie, who roam free around the shop and greet every customer at the door – tails wagging. The salon occasionally doubles as an art gallery, providing local artists with the opportunity to showcase their works. As a result of the two, the salon creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for its customers.

— By Jack Pilkinton 


The Milkshake Factory

Location: 1705 E. Carson St., South Side

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Sundays

Description of Business: “The Milkshake Factory is a dessert euphoria. We have something to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. We try to make sure we appeal to the masses so that anyone and everyone feels comfortable here,”said Megan Adams, manager of the shop.

What makes the Milkshake Factory a Maverick? When you walk in the door, you see what looks like mounds and mounds of chocolate rather than a row of milkshake machines as the name of the cafe suggests. This may come as a surprise, but the origins of this Pittsburgh milkshake shop began in chocolate confectionery.  The fourth generation of the Edwards family to own the shop decided to honor their roots and offer sweet-tooth satisfaction. “Our goal is to make sure people enjoy coming here and enjoy a quality experience,” Adams said.

— By Amanda Bytzura


720 Music, Clothing and Cafe

Location: 4405 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays

Description of Business: 720 is a cafe-turned-thrift shop offering a variety of cakes, pastries and breakfast bagels. There are a variety of coffee and tea choices, and an assortment of Italian soda flavors. The shop also serves as a live-performance venue.

What makes 720 a Maverick? The low-fi lounge: After ordering one of the dozens of beverages they offer, venture to the back of 720 where you will find funky thrift-shop clothes and shoes. The walls are lined with a mix of hip-hop and indie vinyl and all kinds of odds and ends are scattered throughout the shop. From pizza slicers that look like records to paisley bow-ties, you never know what you might find.

— By Caroline Walker


Arsenal Cider House
Michelle Larkin, co-owner of Arsenal Cider House, pours their homemade cider from the tap. Photo by Christopher Squier | The Pioneer
Michelle Larkin, co-owner of Arsenal Cider House, pours their homemade cider from the tap. Photo by Christopher Squier | The Pioneer

Location: 300 39th St., Lawrenceville

Hours: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Description of Business: The Arsenal Cider House is a Pittsburgh family-owned business that specializes in creating crafted ciders and wines.

What makes Arsenal a Maverick?: The Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville was once the site of the Allegheny Arsenal, a supply and manufacturing center for the Union during the Civil War. Today, the area surrounding the Arsenal Park takes pride in the area’s history. The Arsenal Cider House is one business that strives to highlight the Civil War background.  The owners, Bill and Michelle Larkin, turned the first floor of their home into the cider- and wine-tasting room three years ago when they gutted out the bottom half of their duplex and filled it with rustic Civil War-themed decor, hardwood floors and a warm, homey look. Here, visitors find a cozy, historic environment, and better yet, a growler to be filled with mouth-watering hard cider.

— By Abby Mathieu 


Urban Tree LLC

Location: 6905 Susquehanna St., Homewood/ Point Breeze

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. most days and by appointment

Description of Business: Urban Tree is a furniture store located seven miles outside of Downtown. The owner, Jason Boone, is a trained architect and has been in the woodworking business for over 20 years.

What makes Urban Tree a Maverick? Urban Tree works with wood from local trees that would otherwise be burned or die from disease. They make dining room tables, coffee tables, benches, and a variety of sculptural pieces. Homeowners and local arborists provide Urban Tree with wood. Several local bars, like Butcher and the Rye, purchased bar tops from Urban Tree. They also work with other businesses, like Phipps Conservatory, to construct conference tables. Customers have the option of purchasing an already made piece or consult with one of the craftspeople to design their own.  They utilize a variety of types of wood like beech, ash, oak, silver maple, sycamore and the occasional cherry.

— By Caroline Walker 



Location: Two PPG Place — First Floor, Market Square, Downtown

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays

Description of Business: Their tag line “accessories to express yourself” says it all. This boutique has been Downtown for six years and continues to dedicate itself to staying up-to-date on the hottest fashions from New York and LA.

What makes Serendipity a Maverick? With high-heeled wine-bottle holders, purses and other accessories, it’s the perfect place to find a unique gift for any fashion lover that’s hard to find elsewhere in the city.

— By Kathryn Jones


Tana Ethiopian Cuisine

Location: 5929 Baum Blvd., East Liberty

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Description of Business: The family-owned restaurant offers authentic Ethiopian fare.

What makes Tana a Maverick?: At Tana there are “jazz jam sessions” every Wednesday for patrons to listen to as they eat. But the real quirk is in the menu, it offers Ethiopian coffee brewed fresh at the counter and a wide selection of Ethiopian beers and wines to choose from to go along with the authentic cuisine.

— By Kathryn Jones


Gerbe Glass
In her storefront window, Bernadette Gerbe uses a torch to blow glass. Photo: Christopher Squier | The Pioneer
In her storefront window, Bernadette Gerbe uses a torch to blow glass. Photo: Christopher Squier | The Pioneer

Location: 4119 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and by appointment

Description of Business: Gerbe Glass is a one-of-a kind glass shop featuring the work of Bernadette Gerbe. In her store you will find everything from jewelry to trinkets to a life-size guitar to giant pinwheels.

What makes Gerbe a Maverick?: When you walk past the shop, you can see Bernadette at work, blowing glass at her station in the window. “I want people to watch, and become enlightened,” she said. With only three years of experience, Gerbe creates beautiful pieces of art with an unmistakable passion to get others intrigued.

 — By Alex Perry


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