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Lawrenceville: A Mecca for Local Businesses

Photo courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation
Photo courtesy Lawrenceville Corporation

Lawrenceville has experienced a renaissance in recent years. Once a pass-through community, many would argue that it’s now one of Pittsburgh’s most popular neighborhoods. Lawrenceville is one of the city’s largest neighborhoods, composed of three distinct areas, Lower, Central and Upper Lawrenceville. It was founded in 1814, by William B. Foster, father of composer Stephen Foster, and annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1868. The neighborhood is named for Captain James Lawrence, hero of the War of 1812, famous for his dying words, ”Don’t give up the ship!” The neighborhood has experienced many changes in the last 210 years.

The neighborhood started seeing significant changes after the Lawrenceville Corporation was formed in the year 2000, which was a merger of the Lawrenceville Development Corporation (LDC) and the Lawrenceville Business Association (LBA). The organization’s mission is “to build a more inclusive, equitable, accessible, and sustainable community.”

Sarah Trbovic, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corporation, said that Lawrenceville has grown over the last 20 years thanks to the coordinated efforts of many different groups, including the Lawrenceville Corporation. “Lawrenceville Corporation has not only worked to attract businesses to the area, but also worked on affordable housing. With its proximity to the hospitals, growing tech industry and downtown, along with its diverse housing stock, many are attracted to live in the neighborhood,” said Trbovic.

Trbovic noted that another reason for Lawrenceville’s popularity is its walkability and access to a variety of amenities and businesses, including Arsenal Park, a Boys and Girls Club, a senior center, a Carnegie Library branch and more. There’s also a thriving weekly farmers market at Bay 41 on Tuesdays that begins May 21st.

While Lawrenceville is a large residential area with around 10,000 residents, it’s most well-known for its business corridor along Butler Street, which stretches from 33rd Street to the 62nd Street Bridge, which connects to Route 28 and Route 8. There is a large variety of businesses, such as restaurants, bars, salons, boutiques, galleries, fitness studios and more. The businesses are a mix of new and old. A few of Lawrenceville’s oldest businesses include: Wagner’s Shoes (1854), Arsenal Bowling (1938), Frankie’s Extra Long (1980s) and Round Corner Cantina (1860s).

You can find many of Pittsburgh’s hottest restaurants in the area. Pusadee’s Garden, The Parlor Dim Sum, Morcilla, The Vandal and Umami are just a few of the fantastic, diverse spots the neighborhood houses.

Mediterra, which opened their 3rd café in Lawrenceville last year, was thrilled to join the ranks of these other restaurants. Mediterra is a fast casual café providing high end pastries, coffee, cheese and charcuterie, along with a full-service breakfast and lunch menu. Their other locations are in Sewickley and Mount Lebanon, so this is their first city location. “We wanted to establish a footprint in the city limits and felt that the walkability and niche location of Lawrenceville was perfect for us,” said Nicole Ambeliotis McLean, general manager and part-owner of Mediterra. She added that the neighborhood has embraced them, and locals are very supportive of small, Pittsburgh-born businesses.

Located just a few blocks from Mediterra in Upper Lawrenceville is Kure, a modern day spa, offering body waxing, facials, lash and brow services. ”We really pride ourselves on being a cool eclectic space, where you can feel like you’re hanging out with friends, while enhancing your natural looks,” said Brittany Bertolino, co-owner of Kure. Kate Zarvis, the other co-owner, also owns Manikure, located in Lower Lawrenceville.

One of the unique aspects of Lawrenceville is that it’s home to around 250 locally owned businesses. This is one reason Bertolino loves the area. “I’ve always been so intrigued by the uniqueness of [small businesses], and Lawrenceville is a mecca for them. It sounds funny, but they’re all like little treasure chests—you never know who you’re going to network with, or what unique handmade items you’re going to find. Additionally, the support that everyone shows, whether you live here or work here, is unmatched.”

Bertolino said she loves seeing Upper Lawrenceville continue to grow. This area of the neighborhood is filled with countless vintage stores. A few of her favorites include Boheme, Storehouse Neutral and Five & Dime.

Boheme isn’t simply a vintage mall, it is “a collective space for local, small creative businesses to operate independently,” according to Owner Sara Ponsoll. They currently house over 30 vintage curators, creators, makers and artists in their space.

“I started Boheme to fill a niche. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for creative micro businesses to have retail store space in our economy,” said Ponsoll. “With our model, these businesses are able to rent affordably and grow their businesses. Many of our businesses have gone on to open their own brick and mortar shops in our region.”

Ponsoll said Lawrenceville’s walkability is a reason small-businesses can thrive there. “It’s one of the last places in Pittsburgh that is cool, garners high foot traffic and is still affordable to local small businesses. This makes Lawrenceville a haven for cool, indie retail businesses that can’t afford the operating costs in other similar regions.”

Field Day is newer to Lawrenceville’s small business scene, having opened in 2021. Field Day is unique, because the first floor is a café, serving coffee, other beverages and light fare, while the other floors house a members-only co-working space. “A major tenet of Field Day’s values is work-life balance. As a business, we aim to encourage a more holistic approach to one’s routine. With onsite amenities like our rooftop terrace and public café, our aspiration is that Field Day visitors will do more than just work here,” said Haley Ingersoll, community manager for Field Day.

Lawrenceville is the perfect location for Field Day, because the neighborhood is filled with young professionals, which is their target demographic. It also has one of the most supportive communities said Ingersoll. “Residents of Lawrenceville are strong supporters of local businesses, and having repeat customers means the world to us. We genuinely enjoy seeing our regulars and hearing how things are going in their lives. They often have great input and ideas for events, too,” she said.

Another reason Field Day loves Lawrenceville is the plethora of small businesses to collaborate with on events. They’ve worked with the Lawrenceville Corporation to host community cleanups and small business seminars. In recent months, the café has hosted vintage fairs and a holiday market. They’re always looking for organizations to partner with on events.

“There is a spirit of reciprocity among many of the small businesses, which makes the neighborhood feel welcoming for visitors, residents and business owners alike,” said Ingersoll.

Another indie business in the neighborhood is Una Biologicals, a botanical beauty and wellness store. They produce a full line of organic, fair-trade and sustainable bath and body care for the whole family.

Jessica Graves, owner of Una Biologicals, echoed other business owners’ sentiments about walkability and the supportive community. “Community is important to our ‘Una-verse,’ and we love being in a neighborhood where we can connect with locals, visitors and other businesses.”

Lawrenceville Market House
Lawrenceville Market House

Graves has so many favorite businesses in the area that she said it was difficult to name them all. A few of her favorites include Bahn Mi & Ti, Piccolo Forno, Wildcard, Lawrenceville Pet Supply and Lawrenceville Market House.

Graves said she has loved seeing Lawrenceville blossom. “I’ve been lucky enough to have a business on Butler Street for eight years. We’ve watched real growth happen here in a pretty thoughtful way. We are uniquely served by two neighborhood organizations that truly advocate for the quality of life for both businesses and residents. It’s unusual to see so much cooperation, and it’s truly a blessing to be a part of such a great local community.”

More Lawrenceville businesses to check out:

Driftwood Oven

No. 14

La Gourmandine

Row House Cinema

Mix Candle Co.

Walter’s BBQ Southern Kitchen

Dragonfly Castle Toys


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