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Local Coffee Shops Offer More than Just a Cup of Joe

My first job out of college was at a coffee shop, where I fell in love with the atmosphere of these small, locally owned cafés. Going to a local coffee shop is an experience: the sound of steam wands, soft music, the scent of espresso—sharp and acidic, warm and earthy—the baristas like guardians of the space, frothing and tamping and pulling shots.

More often than not, a smaller shop means not only a comfortable co-working space, but also a community hub offering its customers the heartbeat of the neighborhood. Luckily enough, Pittsburgh has a great selection of community-focused coffee shops to share!

Hallowed Grounds Coffee in New Brighton is a small, locally owned roaster and coffee shop. Started by Kathy and David Chabala after David brought a roaster as a hobby, it quickly escalated into a business that served friends and family before expanding to serving the Beaver County area. The Chabalas’ first priority is ethically and responsibly sourced coffee, ensuring that the farms and families growing their coffee beans are paid fair wages that allow their communities to build schools, homes, medical facilities, and gain improved access to water. At Hallowed Grounds, you know that your money is helping to build communities across the world.

Black Forge Coffee House, a long-standing Pittsburgh metal-themed coffee shop, expanded into a new shop in McKees Rocks where it now hosts all manner of interesting programming for coffee and alternative fans alike: concerts, yoga classes, drag shows, and a monthly Goth Night. Black Forge also hosts an all-ages open mic the second Wednesday of every month and provides space for youth to engage with the arts. This coming year, Black Forge is hosting a farmers’ market indoors to increase the community’s access to fresh, quality produce. The original Allentown location for Black Forge is still operational, under the ownership of Kelly Braden (aka Ms. Macabre Noir), who also owns The Weeping Glass in Allentown.

“You just don’t know what will happen next!” said Christine Rauktis, owner of Ruckus Coffee Gallery Cafe of her space on Babcock Blvd. in Shaler. Ruckus hosts all manner of events, including Sunday evening music (with musicians like Brad Yoder and Mirabelle Skipworth), monthly visual artist features, Tai Chi, yoga, and a trivia night. It also offers events paired with experiences such as ballroom dancing classes, paint-and-sip events, and paint-and-decorate-cookie events. For Valentine’s Day, Ruckus is offering a Valentine’s Breakfast on Feb. 14, as well as Valentine’s themed events including a Paint-and-Sip on Feb. 10 and a Decorate-and-Sip on Feb. 23. Additionally, this February and March Ruckus will welcome the AP Art classes from Shaler and North Hills high schools as featured artists, allowing students to gain practical gallery experiences as well as opportunities to network and showcase their talents.

The Garden Cafe, a new hot spot in Deutschtown/North Side, is a place for locals to stop by and visit with each other. Hosting a free library, a free plant corner, and a free fridge, The Garden Cafe is a hub of activity for the community. People can stop by and connect, and maybe grab something from the delicious pastry selections. Its active Instagram features an unusual selection of Victorian-era oddities. If you stop by with your pup, you can also snag a treat for your dog and join the wall of the Garden’s most loyal (and canine) patrons.

Lemon Tree PGH is a coffee shop and record company currently hosting pop-ups in Harold’s Haunt—a bar in Millvale. During the daytime, you can catch owner Bobby slinging drinks. But, if you miss their pop-up hours, you can find them online where you can order beans and brews with specialty flavors like Vanilla Cream and Vegan Maple cold brews. Lemon Tree also supports the Millvale Youth Group, a nonprofit that hosts activities and events benefiting Millvale’s youth. n

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