Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Jill Greenwood

On Sept.  17, 2004, Jim Riley and his employees watched helplessly from the roof of his All Pro Painting business on West Main Street as Hurricane Ivan pounded the community of Carnegie and the rising waters of the Chartiers Creek swamped his business. Dozens of stores and homes and even the fire department were severely flooded. The damage was swift and devastating and some businesses never recovered.

Riley, now 56, was rescued along with his employees that day and he rebuilt his company in the years that followed. By 2012 not only had other businesses ruined by Ivan been revamped and reopened, but many new ones cropped up. The turnaround was so impressive that Riley decided to invest again in the future of Carnegie, and he and his wife bought the longstanding Paddy’s Pour House and remodeled and launched it as Riley’s Pour House.

Then they sold their house in Mt. Lebanon and moved in above the pub.

“On one hand you think that it shouldn’t have taken so long for all of these empty storefronts to become thriving businesses again, but it took time,” Riley says. “Now, so much is happening in Carnegie. We’re excited to see what is coming next.”

Ten years after the flood left many in the town of nearly 8,000 looking for opportunities elsewhere, Carnegie is seeing a revitalization in the form of much-needed commerce and foot traffic. The charming and walkable Main St. is lined with a variety of independent businesses, from antique stores to the new Apis Mead & Winery, offering six varieties of the honey-based wine and One Thirty One East, a world fusion restaurant.  In the heart of the borough is the historic and beautiful Carnegie Library, lovingly restored years ago. The 1.6 square mile neighborhood has what you would call good bones.

Hans Gruener at Off the Wall Theater. Photo by Rob Larson.
Hans Gruenert at Off the Wall Theater. Photo by Rob Larson.

“Carnegie is now a destination. It’s no longer a dead end,” says Hans Gruenert, who renovated a building with his wife, Virginia Wall, and launched Off The Wall Performing Arts Center in Carnegie two years ago. “The community has taken so many strides forward and we now have a huge variety of restaurants from high-end Italian to Japanese and Indian. There is nothing but good things in the future for Carnegie.”

Gruenert originally owned a theater in the city of Washington 30 miles to the south, but started looking for a new location in 2012.

“When we saw that community was not taking strides forward, we started looking around and we loved what we were seeing in Carnegie,” Gruenert says.

Apparently it was a good decision. The theater, which offers cabaret, modern dance, theater performances and special events including comedy acts, is booked solid until June 2015, he adds.

“When I talk to our audience members who come here for a performance and aren’t familiar with Carnegie, they all say they are shocked to see how progressive it has become. When you come here, you don’t deal with tunnel traffic, there is free parking after 6 p.m. and we have so many great places to visit. It’s an attractive option for dinner and a show, not a dying mill town.”

Destination restaurants such as Papa J’s, a stylish and popular mainstay which was forced to renovate after the flood, came back better than ever. And new businesses came in, such as a much needed coffee shop.

Ashley Comer and her husband, Greg Romeo, already owned a pharmacy in Carnegie when the Shadyside couple decided to renovate the former town Post Office on Main Street and open the Carnegie Coffee Company in June 2013.

The Comers at their Carnegie Coffee Company. Photo by Rob Larson.
Ashley Comer and Greg Romeo at their Carnegie Coffee Company. Photo by Rob Lars

Hurricane Ivan destroyed the only other pharmacy in Carnegie, Comer says, and Romeo’s business grew exponentially. When the couple decided to renovate the former Post Office, they opted to locate both their businesses there. The historic and now charming building features a mezzanine level and the original windows and antique mailboxes.

In just over a year, the coffee house has expanded its offerings to include breakfast sandwiches and lunch items and the parents of three are eager to see their business continue to grow.

They juggle the businesses with raising three children, ages 3 to 14, and Comer says most weeks they spend more time in Carnegie than Shadyside.

“There was a void in Carnegie for a coffee shop and we were so excited to be the ones to fill it. This keeps us busy but it’s a labor of love,” Comer says. “We are really getting to know the people of Carnegie. Being a part of this community is so special.”

When Jeff Krakoff decided to relaunch his public relations and marketing/communications firm, he looked at several locations before settling on Carnegie, located 5 miles from downtown Pittsburgh and less than 20 minutes from the airport.

“I was looking for a central business district with good accessibility to Downtown, the airport and clients,” Krakoff says of establishing Krakoff Communications on Carnegie’s Main Street. “What I love most is the strong business community here. We have monthly meetings and lots of interaction. The area is really booming—in the 10 months I’ve been here, we’ve added new restaurants, shops and even a wine company. It’s a safe, attractive community that’s conveniently located and fun to be part of.”

Main Street, Carnegie. Photo by Rob Larson
Main Street, Carnegie. Photo by Rob Larson

After purchasing the former Paddy’s Pour House in late 2011, Jim Riley and his wife spent months cleaning, painting and remodeling the building that had been a drinking establishment of some sort since 1936. In 1979, a man named Dennis Murphy purchased it and turned it into an Irish pub, which it remained for the next three decades.

Riley revamped the menu with fresh offerings from local vendors, brought in live music during the lunch hour and evenings and turned a back wall of the pub into a “Legacy Wall,” featuring the names of the previous owners of the building and the dates they owned it.

“I made myself a deal that I would do this for 10 more years, and I would give it hell,” Riley says. “And then I’m going to get out and enjoy retirement. Carnegie only has good things going for it, and it will be interesting to see where it is a decade from now.”

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From Maker Faire Pittsburgh organizers, Monday Oct. 12: Makers from around the region shared their projects with curious and engaged attendees of all ages for Maker Faire Pittsburgh 2015.  Drones flew, robots activated, dances were improvised, food was cooked by the sun, books bound, electric cars zoomed about, dinosaurs walked and chocolate robots were molded.  Glass, iron, concrete and aluminum was cast and molded – and that’s just a short list of the unique and fun experiences had at the Faire.  Not to mention, a wedding proposal made (and accepted!) and a kitten adopted. Thank you to all of the makers, attendees, partners, collaborators, volunteers, staff, crew and sponsors for being a part of the Faire!

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Deb Smit

When Maker Faire Pittsburgh unfurls its colorful banners and unpacks the bots and balloons on the North Side this Saturday and Sunday,  Oct 10-11, it will be official (as if it wasn’t already): Pittsburgh will be a fully-fledged American Maker City.

Never mind that our love affair with making predates the rest of the country as forgers of glass, steel and industrial products. Advances in technology are creating new opportunities in places like Pittsburgh, President Obama said during his visit to TechShop in Bakery Square last year, and putting manufacturing power “in the hands of anybody who’s got a good idea.”

Maker Faire Pittsburgh will be a celebration of good ideas, a high-energy carnival packed with entrepreneurial, can-do spirit. More than 200 tech tinkerers, craftspeople, designers and inventors of all ages will come together for a two-day, family-friendly festival of making. Exhibitions, hands-on workshops and performances will spread out on the grounds of the Buhl Community Park and Nova Place, an urban redevelopment project in the midst of its own remaking.

“It will be one big celebration,” says Chad Elish of Hack Pittsburgh. Elish was the force behind the first three three mini-maker faires that were held in Pittsburgh over the last five years. Those venues were smaller and quieter by comparison, he says.


“We never thought in our wildest dreams that this would grow to this size when we created it five years ago,” he says. “This is a game-changer. Pittsburgh is becoming a tech hub, a Silicon Valley of the east coast.”

Maker Faire began in the Bay Area in 2006 as a showcase of makers exploring new forms and technologies on the cutting-edge; it attracted a crowd of more than 22,000. Since then, the movement has spread across the country and around the world with events in New York City, Detroit, Rome and Paris.

This will be the first large-scale, national maker Faire to be held in Pennsylvania, says Donna Goyak who is organizing the event on behalf of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. (The Children’s Museum is producing the event under a license agreement with Maker Media, Inc., in partnership with Faros Properties, Innovation Works, the City of Pittsburgh and other partners.)

Billed as the “greatest show (and tell) on Earth,” the weekend promises an interactive mix of exhibits, workshops and performances. “We expect the audience will be a highly curious lot,” says Goyak. “The making will be highly participatory, fun and informative.”

On a late summer day in September, Goyak was out surveying the event space with Jeremy Leventhal, managing partner of Faros. “Imagine this area completely filled with makers,” she said gesturing wildly to the area around her the size of two football fields. “It will be the largest showcase of making, building and creating that Pittsburgh has ever seen.”

The faire will take place between Buhl Community Park and Nova Place, an urban redevelopment project by Faros Properties adjacent to the former Allegheny Mall. Faros is infusing new life into the vacant office building, an eyesore for 10 years, and turning it into a 33-acre global campus for high tech companies.

Over the next year, Faros plans to turn the ugly sea of asphalt into a public green space with landscaping and benches. The two office buildings will provide space for companies, a workspace for entrepreneurs, called Alloy 26 and a wellness and fitness center. Radiant Hall has opened a 7,000-square-foot art studio and exhibition space, which will be open on Maker Faire day.

This is the first of many large events at the innovation complex, says Leventhal. “We’re trying to build our own microcosm of a community into an existing community and have it become a resource for the whole area.”

The Pittsburgh Maker Faire will have a distinctly different flavor than other faires in the country, says Goyak. It will reflect the people and initiatives underway in the region. Robotics, naturally, will take center stage. There will be opportunities to try driverless vehicle technologies and STEAM learning activities.

Expect lots of university research, activities that feature educational initiatives and groundbreaking local startups.

Want to operate a Ferrari Italia toy car using hand gestures and voice control? Meet pet creatures at a robot petting zoo? Learn about drones and make and buy 3D jewelry? Join tech shop teachers and build dinosaur puppets or design a giant Spirograph? Opportunities abound through make-and-take activities that use recycled materials, vinyl cutters, electronics and more.

ore than 60 indie crafters and makers will sell their wares in an open air market located near the misting fountain in Buhl Plaza. Assemble director Nina Barbuto is organizing the market and operating an exhibit that will teach youngsters how to make LED pins in the education area, she says.

“Maker Faire Pittsburgh is about making the difference, not just about making things,” says Barbuto. “People here are empowered to change the existing, create the new and showcase and share it.”

Les Gies of TechShop has watched the maker movement gain momentum and take off through the last decade. “Our history goes hand-in-hand with the technology revolution we’re seeing in the maker movement,” he says. “The pulse of the city is powerful.”

The inaugural Maker Faire Pittsburgh happens Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10-11 from 10 am to 5 pm. on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The event is sponsored by Chevron and Make with major support from The Grable Foundation. The event is produced by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in partnership with Faros Properties, the City of Pittsburgh, Innovation Works, Hack Pittsburgh, Assemble, Tech Shop Pittsburgh and Urban Innovation 21. To buy tickets or volunteer, click here.

This article is part of the Remake Learning initiative, a multimedia partnership between NEXTpittsburgh and WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh Magazine and WESA.  Check out their stories on Learning Innovation in Pittsburgh.

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Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

Written by Drew Cranisky

Recently, it seems everyone in the country has discovered that Pittsburgh has food. From The New York Times’ dining-heavy 36 Hours in Pittsburgh to The Washington Post  to  Eater published a feature that asked if Pittsburgh was a “destination food town.” For whatever reason (some sort of journalistic groupthink?), three major media outlets gave Pittsburgh’s food some rapid-fire love.

Admittedly, these sorts of articles tend to stick to a template: open with a tossed-off reference to Primanti’s, then heap praise on Cure or a trendy Downtown restaurant (but usually Cure). Make a few good-natured jabs at Pittsburgh’s sooty reputation, then give examples of how far it has come (you won’t even know you’re in Pittsburgh!). Liberally sprinkle with words like “surprisingly” and “unexpected.”

The formula can be tiring, but the sentiment is a good one. There are a lot of wonderful reasons to visit Pittsburgh, more and more of which are food and drink related. Though Eater’s Bill Addison concludes that Pittsburgh is not yet a food destination, he writes that “the dynamism among its strongest players is tangible.” And his final sentences are sure to elicit cheers: “Beyond national talk, proud Pittsburgh doesn’t strike me as a city of people clamoring for validation. Its character will keep developing on its own time, in its own way.”

In her Washington Post piece “The little Burgh that’s catching food critics by surprise,” Maura Judkis concludes with a similar thought. She quotes Conflict Kitchen’s John Sayre, who says, “I would hear people come in and say, ‘Oh, this is really good, and I’m from New York’ … We don’t need the approval of someone from New York. It’s exciting to get broader notice, but it’s also I think within the scene, there’s a feeling of ‘thanks for noticing, but we got here on our own.’ ”

Though the articles namecheck many of the same upscale restaurants, there are a few surprises as well. Addison heaps praise upon Squirrel Hill’s Chengdu Gourmet, which he says “rivaled the numbing ma-la mojo of Sichuan cooking I’ve tried anywhere in the country.” Judkis mentions the excellent pierogi at Szmidt’s Old World Deli, which recently opened a Downtown location. For his favorite meal of the trip, The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach selects Chicken Latina, an inexpensive Peruvian joint in the Strip. Though these are small deviations from a food culture that mostly celebrates high-end restaurants run by white men, it’s encouraging to see a few new names pop up in national press.

These pieces also reflect how quickly Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene is changing. In an unfortunate bit of timing, The New York Times selected Salt of the Earth, which is closing in less than two weeks, as their ideal Friday night dinner stop. Judkis recommend waffles and hash browns at Second Breakfast, which has moved out of the Public Market to focus on a food truck. If they were to come back in a few months, these writers would surely find a spate of new restaurants to include in their roundups. Pittsburgh dining is very much in flux.

There will always be room to quibble with articles like this. Personally, I would have liked to see E2 and Dish Osteria & Bar held up as examples of what Pittsburgh does so well: humble, comforting food that showcases great ingredients prepared with care. But love them or hate them, food writers around the country have realized that Pittsburgh has some serious culinary chops. We may not need their validation, but the attention sure is nice.

In other news…

Chef Dennis Marron has left The Commoner, which he helped start earlier this year, to pursue his own venture. Six Penn Kitchen, however, has gained a chef in Brian Little, the former executive chef at Tender Bar and Kitchen.

The Gateway Clipper is offering a Sunday Brunch Cruise on select Sundays from now through October.

Marty’s Market, a market and café in the Strip, is now offering dinner service Wednesday through Saturday. The menu features sustainable meats, seafood and produce that will change seasonally.

Picklesburgh better find itself a bigger bridge next year. Last weekend, the Rachel Carson Bridge was positively packed with people eating dill pickle ice cream, watching local bands and taking selfies with the giant flying pickle.

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Café Con Leche, an innovative nonprofit startup that celebrates and promotes Latino culture in Pittsburgh, is running at full tilt this month with un montón of events at Assemble Gallery on Penn Avenue in Garfield.

Free and open to the public Mondays through Saturdays is Aqui (“Here”) an exhibition of paintings, photographs, collages, screen prints and drawings curated by artist and educator Maritza Mosquera, an Ecuadorian native who has lived and worked in Pennsylvania since 1988.

Other highlights include classes in Afro-Caribbean dance, music and drawing, a Brazilian dance party, and several musical performances, including by Machete Kisumontao, a popular 10-year-old “salsa riot band” fronted by Geña Nieves, originally of Quebaradillas, Puerto Rico.

Various related community events continue through the summer in Garfield and beyond, including Dance Africa July 17-18 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theatre, the Latin American Cultural Union’s annual picnic at Schenley Park on Aug. 1 and a benefit for Café Con Leche itself on Aug. 16. 

Café Con Leche was founded by Tara Sherry-Torres, a Brooklyn native of Polish and Puerto Rican descent who fell in love with the region and decided to put down roots after earning a master’s degree here in 2010. Early last year she launched Café Con Leche to create a space in Pittsburgh where Latinos can connect with each other and their culture, share that culture with others and nurture dialogue and creative problem solving. Since then (with support from The Sprout Fund), the organization has hosted a dozen pop-up events around Pittsburgh attended by more than 1,000 people. The Pittsburgh Community Redevelopment Group recognized the organization with its 2015 Community Development Award, and Sherry-Torres has been recognized as one of Pittsburgh Magazine‘s 40-Under-40 and one of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ten People to Meet in 2015.

Learn more about the organization and sign up for email updates at July’s events are at Assemble, which connects artists, technologists and makers with curious adults and kids of all ages through interactive gallery shows, community talkbacks, learning parties, and workshops focused on teaching STEAM principles (science, technology, engineering, art and math). 

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Watch videos, explore the history, and learn more at

It’s that time again — time to recognize the extraordinary women in the Pittsburgh region who go above and beyond in their work and mentorship of other women. Nominations are accepted through June 30 for the 2015 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards.

ATHENA Young Professional Recipients Christy Uffelman and Amelia Papapetropoulos -- and newborn Penelope -- at the April 7 launch panel.
ATHENA Young Professional Recipients Christy Uffelman and Amelia Papapetropoulos — and newborn Penelope — at the May 7 launch panel.

Taking its name from the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the traditional ATHENA Award recognizes a woman who demonstrates excellence in her profession, contributes to her community and helps other women to succeed. Last year’s recipient was UPMC Health Plan President and CEO Diane Holder. Amelia Papapetropoulos, founder of Young Women in Energy and a catering business that serves workers at remote shale rig locations, received the ATHENA Young Professional Award, geared toward emerging leaders age 35 or younger.

Wondering how to craft a nomination? Check out this tip sheet put together by Pittsburgh Magazine Publisher Betsy Benson.

There are hundreds of ATHENA International-affiliated events presented around the world each year, but Pittsburgh’s gathering is one of the largest. More than 900 women and men are expected to attend this year’s luncheon on Friday, Oct. 9 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Tickets go fast: buy early here.

Go to learn more about the ATHENA Awards program, watch the speeches of past winners and submit nominations by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 30. (Nominations will only be accepted online.)

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development — of which is an initiative — organizes the annual ATHENA awards ceremony. The Conference and its affiliates – the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh – work with public and private sector partners to stimulate economic growth and enhance the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Conference is a private sector leadership organization with more than 300 Regional Investors, employers who provide the time, talent and resources to advance this agenda.

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Powered by NEXTpittsburgh

Written by Laura Bailey

After several years of advancing workforce development programs to help veterans, young people aging out of foster care and many others facing difficult transitions, Neighbor Kenya Boswell recently moved into the role of president of BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. 

A big part of that new is UpPrize, an innovation competition by the foundation and The Forbes Funds that will award $1 million to a Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur or innovator to create solutions that will help nonprofits and the people they serve. The competition is free to enter and the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Learn more at

It may seem like a daunting mission, but Boswell is up to the task and excited to see the impact of “purpose-driven innovation” – the ability to apply the technological expertise in our region to the nonprofit sector.

“It sort of ripples down to my other interests with youth workforce development, with women’s issues and things of that nature as well,” she says.

What was the inspiration for UpPrize?

It was a collaborative idea between us and The Forbes Funds. BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern PA and The Forbes Funds were looking for ways to identify some common pain points that we have witnessed though our respective philanthropy programs in the nonprofit sector that could be addressed through the use of technology. Codefest (an app-building contest to improve city living) was just one example. And because of the success of Codefest it was really an opportunity to bring it to scale. It’s what we’re calling catalytic philanthropy.

What do you hope for the future of UpPrize?

Our intention is to launch this pilot and really be able to tweak the model to demonstrate the greatest impact and bring it to scale. Success for us would be having the winning solution adopted and implemented at Pittsburgh nonprofits – that’s number one.

What does innovation mean to you?

Typically I think a lot of people look at innovation as needing a radical new idea or change. We look at it really as an opportunity to pivot some sort of existing product or idea to be able to actually create greater impact, particularly for the people it is intended to reach.

What’s the best thing going on in the city right now—besides UpPrize?

We’re looking at the energy and ability to crowdsource solutions in a community. We’re seeing this in a lot of different ways, whether it’s in a technology start-up or funders coming together to collaborate or it’s nonprofits coming together to collaborate. It’s this joint phenomenon of being able to crowdsource new solutions to some of our problems. It’s become more evident in the last three to five years.

Favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh and favorite restaurant?

My favorite thing is actually exploring our great city with my four-year-old, five-pound Yorkie, Bentley.

What I love about living in the East End: I do not have to travel far for good quality food, great customer service. And I love the environment. I always have the opportunity to meet cool, interesting people.

My all-time favorite is Park Bruges in Highland Park.

Kenya Boswell is an Neighbor — friendly people from around the corner and around the world who choose Pittsburgh as the place to advance their career, live, play and learn. Take our quiz to find out which Neighbors have most in common with you!