Sense of Community, Small-town Feel Contribute to Bellevue’s Charm



Though Bellevue Borough borders the city of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River, it still maintains a small-town feel that emphasizes a sense of community. With a rich history—Bellevue was established in 1867—the borough of approximately 8,300 residents encompasses 1.1 square miles, but packs a lot into that small area.


“Bellevue exists in that sweet spot—bordering the city, but still having a distinctive smaller town feel,” said Susan Stabnau, Bona Fide Bellevue board chair and longtime resident. “We have an active one-of-a-kind business district. We’re a diverse community. Our housing is still affordable, and it’s easy to get to know your neighbors and feel like you belong.”


Bona Fide Bellevue is a community development corporation dedicated to highlighting the unique attributes of Bellevue and to encourage new growth and revitalization. Its primary goals are to support the local business district, attract and encourage new businesses, feature the diverse housing stock to attract residents, enhance the quality of life in the area, and encourage diversity and inclusion.


“The organization started in 2008 as Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Revitalization when a group of community members came together with the idea of helping to invigorate the community,” said Stabnau. The group has since rebranded to focus on what she describes as the “authenticity” of Bellevue and its heritage and aspirations for the future.


Bellevue is a mix of the old and new. Lincoln Bakery is well-known not only in the region, but it has fans all over the country. For 45 years, the bakery has been a mainstay. It was founded by current owner Joe Porco’s father-in-law, Andy Slezak.


“Bellevue is a great community. We have several generations of families who come in who are like family,” Porco said.


And not all customers are local. “We’ve shipped strudel, cupcakes and cookies to Oregon, California—everywhere,” he added.


While Porco has seen ebbs and tides in the growth of the community, he is excited about new growth coming to the area.


“Sure, we have seen some businesses close, but we also have younger folks opening new places—we have a new coffee shop, a new brewery and others moving in,” he said.

The bakery has been able to remain open during the pandemic and has felt the support of the local community. “Folks come in to buy baked goods, asking how we are, how we are managing. We will survive thanks to our customers,” he added.


Located close to the bakery, Lincoln Avenue Brewery opened in July 2019. Co-owners Grant and Lisa Saylor knew Bellevue well. “Lisa and I grew up here. We love the area. Our partners live nearby, and we all knew this is where we wanted to be,” explained Grant Saylor.


Pre-COVID, the brewery quickly became a meeting spot.


“It was a great place to hang out with a beer, good food and connect with friends. We pride ourselves on our food and beer and loved creating a local spot,” Saylor said.


With the changing landscape of business guidelines over the past year during the pandemic, Saylor said that local support has been a lifeline. “Our community has been amazingly supportive. They have been not only buying food and beer to go, but they drop off little notes telling us to ‘hang in there’ and other words of support,” said Saylor.

Not only is Bellevue a good place to have a business and live, but Stabnau urges folks to come for a visit.


“Bellevue is a great place to spend time, especially if you like to walk. Visitors can appreciate inspiring homes with incredible architecture; meet friends for a snack, drinks or a delicious meal; get a haircut; pick up a gift; buy a car; find a church, and so much more,” she said.


Stabnau also looks at the new businesses as a sign of growth for the area.

“Bellevue has always been evolving. Over the past few years, we’ve had new restaurants, shops, and a brewery open, and the growth continues,” she said. “Even in the middle of COVID-19, we had several new restaurants, salons, studios, and shops open.


“We have several new restaurants and other shops making plans to open new establishments soon,” she added.


During the pandemic, community support has only grown.


“One of the things we’re most proud of is our recent Feeding Neighbors Program,” Stabnau said. “The Farmer’s Market of Bellevue wanted to support those in their community facing food insecurity or who were in quarantine, so they pulled together volunteers, got funding from the community and significant Pittsburgh foundations, and developed the Feeding Neighbors Program, which supplied and delivered over 30,000 meals in our area.”


For more information about Bellevue and Bona Fide Bellevue, visit

www.bonafidebellevue.org.

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