Gus & Yiayia’s Joins Miniature Railroad and Village® at Carnegie Science Center


Like many Pittsburghers, I was first introduced to Gus & Yiayia’s ice ball cart on the North Shore while on a first date. And while that romance didn’t last, my relationship with this Pittsburgh institution holds strong to this day.


Gus & Yiayia’s is as much a part of the city as its three rivers, iconic bridges and residents’ almost pathological love of its sports teams. So to see it become part of another Pittsburgh tradition—the Miniature Railroad & Village® at the Carnegie Science Center—thrills me to my black-and-gold roots.


On Nov. 17, a model of Gus & Yiayia’s ice ball cart was added to the display, which has been a Pittsburgh institution for the past 102 years. “This beautiful orange cart holds a mighty big place in our hearts,” said Curator of Historic Exhibits Patty Everly, of this year’s addition. “The choice to include the cart was inspired by loyal Gus & Yiayia’s fans, who year after year advocated for its addition.”


In order to be included in the train display, a piece must have historical and cultural significance and fit within its pre-1940s time period.


“Guy & Yiayia’s cart is known all across western Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Carnegie Science Center Henry Buhl, Jr., Director Jason C. Brown. “People return to it every year, and for the past 70 years, Gus has been there.”


The iconic cart has been a part of August ‘Gus’ Kalaris’ life since the day he was born. His father and mother—the original ‘yiayia,’ (which means grandmother in Greek)—started the business in 1934 selling popcorn, peanuts and shaved ice treats. Kalaris took over in 1951 and worked with his wife, Stella—who was also known as yiayia, until she passed away in 2016. He continues to work at the cart seven days a week, 12 hours a day from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ opening day until Halloween.


“I wouldn’t even try to figure out how many people have been served by our little stand,” Kalaris laughed. “It’s like on the McDonald’s sign; the numbers have gotten too high to count.

“A lot of the politicians who were raised on the Northside have visited us, as well as mayors, state legislators, firemen, police—everyone in the neighborhood knows where we are,” he added. “Just ask for Gus & Yiayia’s.”


Kalaris prides himself on keeping prices low so that families can enjoy a special treat. “We charged 3 cents during the Depression because an ice cream cone was a nickel over at Isaly’s, so if you had five kids, you couldn’t afford it,” he explained. “For 15 cents, you could buy five ice balls—in those days, our daily profit was more pennies than anything.”


Now a Pittsburgh institution immortalized in the museum as well as in people’s hearts, Kalaris said he was overwhelmed by the cart’s addition to the railroad display.


“I couldn’t believe it—I used to come here all the time with my daughters,” he said. “And now our cart is there, with my wife standing on the end and me in the middle.


“They really did a hell of a job,” he added. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl and getting the Lombardi trophy.”


To find out more about the Miniature Railroad and Village® and times to visit, go to www.carnegiesciencecenter.org.

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