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Pittsburgh’s Strip District showcases diversity of people–and markets

A mural welcomes to visitors to the Strip District.
Photo by: Humayoon Babur

The neighborhood of small shops and wholesale distributors is the place to go for ‘anything you want’

By: Humayoon Babur

The Strip District of Pittsburgh, near Downtown on the banks of the Allegheny River, is quiet on Mondays, in contrast with the bustle of the weekends.

The narrow streets are lined with small retailers, vendors and wholesalers. The neighborhood is a food hub, known for restaurants and markets representing cultural diversity and the cuisines of many countries.  

Jean Frye, 64, works as a taxi driver and used to work at a place called Costume World in the Strip District before it closed. 

“It was fun to do,” she recalled. “It was nice being a part of the Strip District.” 

The first time Ms. Frye came to Pittsburgh, she thought that the Strip District meant “red light district.” 

In fact, the Strip District is a family-friendly place to go. When you want something specific or you want a wide variety of things to choose from, go to the Strip District. 

Ms. Frye said that one of the core reasons people visit the Strip is because it has “anything you want …  from vegetables, food, items of clothing and everything in between.”

“You know, the big candy shops and distributors and stuff are here,” Ms. Frye said. “The people who sell sports paraphernalia are here.”

Randy Altman, 72, lives in Ohio, hours away. He comes to the Strip District to shop and see all the different things. He said that “we don’t have anything like this in Ohio. It’s a very unique, nice, community.

“I feel safe here. And it’s just a great place to come up and visit.” 

Seafood hub in the Strip District

Inside Wholey Seafood Co. in the Strip District.
Photo by:Humayoon Babur

Sam Wholey, the vice president of the Wholey Seafood Co., runs the family business started by his grandfather. 

“My job is to create happy customers by selling the freshest products at the best prices in a friendly, fun atmosphere,” he said.

Wholey’s, which has been in the Strip since 1912, has all varieties of both fresh and frozen fish, harvested from around the world. Primarily, Wholey’s features fresh whole fish from the Eastern Seaboard, which includes Canada all the way to the Carolinas.

“We sell black sea bass, flounder, Virginia spots, fresh cod,” Mr. Wholey said.

The red salmon fillets are from Alaska, Norway, Scotland and British Columbia, just to name a few. The frozen fish comes from around the world, from South America, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

“It includes frozen squid, octopus, cuttlefish,” Mr. Wholey said. “We offer a nice variety of different fish from around the world.” 

Sam Wholey, the vice president of the Wholey Seafood Co. Strip District.
Video by: Humayoon Babur

At Wholey, the workers include almost 100 people of different nationalities, such as Indians, Chinese, African Americans and so on. 

Mr. Wholey said that holidays are the busiest times for him, particularly December, when many Italian Catholics celebrate Christmas by serving fresh fish and seafood. 

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