Conduct a Google inquiry about Oakmont, and you’re met with official statistics about the population and location of the Pittsburgh suburb.
Ask anyone living, working or visiting Oakmont about the borough, and the answer is quite different.
“It’s like Norman Rockwell meets It’s a Wonderful Life,” said Scot Fodi, Oakmont Borough Manager. “We’ve got all the nostalgia here with 21st-century amenities.”
Sharon Carroll, a resident and small business owner in Oakmont, said the borough is unlike any other. “The stores and the entire town are so unique,” she said. “The entire town is so friendly. My favorite thing to do is to work at the store on Thursday night and Saturday. Everybody is so nice. They’re interested in seeing all the businesses and the restaurants here.”
Carroll owns Oakmont Olive Oil Company, situated at 640 Allegheny River Boulevard on the historic main street of the borough. The space where her business is located along the main street in the borough is very popular among business owners because of its prime location and walkability factor.
When she and her husband were exploring where to set up shop, Oakmont topped their list. Not only did her husband grow up there, but they both knew Oakmont had a reputation as a destination where people could shop, eat and even take in a show.
Carroll said people who live outside the borough often don’t understand its charms until they experience them firsthand.
“They don’t understand what Oakmont is all about,” she said. “They hear about the Oakmont Bakery, and they go there, but they may not visit the shops and restaurants and get the full experience.”
The variety of shops and eateries is amazing for such a small place, said Carroll. “It’s really a place where you can come and spend all day and shop and browse and eat.”
One of the most popular events that attracts crowds from far and wide is Oakmont’s annual Hometown Christmas Festival. This year’s event is from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 18 along Allegheny River Boulevard. Visitors can enjoy entertainment starting at 4 p.m., followed by a parade at 5 p.m. Santa lights the borough Christmas tree later in the evening.
Tony Serrao, co-owner of the Oakmont Bakery, said Oakmont as a destination is something all of the business owners strive to achieve.
His parents started Oakmont Bakery in 1988 in a small storefront along the main street of the borough that now houses Castle Toys. As the bakery grew, a bigger location became necessary. So, in 2001, the family bought an old auto parts store and relocated.
Eventually, the bakery outgrew its new location. “We pondered leaving Oakmont briefly, but decided it wasn’t even an option,” Serrao said. “The borough is so supportive. We know this is where we belong.”
In 2019, the business ended up in its current location at 1 Sweet Street. Serrao said his family based their expanded offerings on similar businesses they visited in California and New York in 2015.
“One of my dad’s goals was to make the bakery a destination in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I think we have that here. Our claim to fame is our 180-foot-long showcases and the fact that we bake all day long. You never have to worry about us running out of one of our popular products.”
The Serrao family also co-owns The Oaks Theater with Meg Burkardt, who also serves on the Oakmont Chamber of Commerce. This iconic piece of local history was on the brink of closing when they teamed up in the hopes of saving it.
They transformed the one-screen cinema into a vibrant destination for enjoying family movies, cult classics and independent films. Patrons can enjoy a specialty drink, beer and light snacks at a table or the 360° bar while enjoying a movie.
Serrao said the venue hosts live acts as well. “It’s about 50-50 between movies and live acts right now,” he said. “We can even take a movie or an act and turn it into an event by pairing it with food from the bakery. The possibilities are endless.”
That kind of creativity is what makes Oakmont a true destination, said Fodi. Whether it’s a couple looking for a day out or a young family interested in the sustainable amenities, “You literally can walk, play and live here,” he said.
According to statistics from a 2020 planning report, Fodi said 60 percent of Oakmont’s population is in the age range of 18 to 64. He attributes those figures to the town’s sustainable practices that are more attractive to that age demographic. Oakmont has been designated as a Certified Silver Community by Sustainable Pennsylvania for many years.
“There’s a generation of people coming in, buying places and fixing them up,” Fodi said. “We’re always looking at ways to make it an even better place to work, live and play.”
One of those ways included the installation of EV chargers in public locations throughout town. Fodi credited Assistant Borough Manager, Phyllis Anderson, with bringing the popular amenity to Oakmont.
Not only are the stations appreciated by the community and visitors, but they also generate increased revenue. “It’s that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that has helped Oakmont stay innovative,” said Fodi.
Anderson has spearheaded many other sustainable initiatives, including a permanent glass recycling facility at Riverside Park and using goats for vegetation clearing along the river and in the neighborhoods to avoid using pesticides.
“Government here isn’t reactionary,” said Anderson. “It’s proactive.”
First-time and returning visitors to Oakmont can check out upcoming events and other sustainability practices on the borough’s website at https://oakmontborough.com.