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Sewickley Oozes Charm

Robin Kifer with Sewickley Yarn
Robin Kifer with Sewickley Yarn

If Sewickley was an ice cream flavor, it would be Norman Rockwell.

It’s an apt description considering one of the most popular businesses in the borough is Sewickley Confectionery.

Gordon Ovenshine visiting Mediterra Cafe
Gordon Ovenshine visiting Mediterra Cafe

The sentiment was one shared by Gordon Ovenshine as he strolled Beaver Street in the borough one weekday afternoon in late November.

Ovenshine isn’t a stranger to Sewickley Borough. Although he neither lives nor works in this suburban Pittsburgh community, he finds himself drawn to it.

“There has always been a buzz about Sewickley,” he said. “I go there basically for its fun factor.”

Enthralled with the village concept, shopping, restaurants, and many encounters with friendly dogs and their human companions, the Seven Fields resident said he enjoys a day out in Sewickley roughly 10 to 15 times a year. “I like the Victorian houses and stylish people,” he said. “In Sewickley, the culture embraces fine dining, fine entertainment and fine clothes.”

One of his favorite spots is Mediterra Cafe, a bakery and artisan café on Beaver Street. He and his wife, Kris, have a routine for lunch. “Find a table in the back and split a Breakfast Sammie, an egg and bacon sandwich with tomato and avocado,” he said. “It’s very Sewickley.”

Visitors can spend an entire day strolling up and down Beaver Street, the main drag in Sewickley that houses most of the businesses. From iconic dining establishments like The Hotel & Rosa’s Cantina to chic clothing stores like Diana Kauffman Designs, there is plenty to see and do in the borough.

One of the most recognizable businesses is the Sewickley Spa. It was founded by Dorothy Andreas in 1997 as one of the first day spas in the Pittsburgh region. The business is now owned by Jonelle McMahan, who bought it in November 2020 after serving as its director for more than a decade.

Spa guests travel from the tri-state area to enjoy the benefits of the spa, exposing them to the hidden treasure of downtown Sewickley. “Before or after their spa services, guests often shop at the beautiful boutiques in the village and get lunch or dinner at one of our amazing restaurants,” said McMahan.

She gives Dorothy Andreas absolute credit for choosing the location, the Victorian home and creating this successful spa formula. “The Sewickley Spa offers a beautiful ambiance with warm, talented therapists who specialize in massages, facials, nail services, waxing, body wraps, lash lifts and brow lamination.”

Born and raised in Ambridge, McMahan first visited Sewickley during drives with her family to look at the beautiful homes. “There was and still remains such a quaint charm to the area,” she said. As a teenager, she and a friend would take the bus there and enjoy a treat from Starbucks while window shopping. “Sewickley truly is a gem. I love to see the evolution of the different retailers and restaurants that open, but also am thankful to see the staples that have been here for decades, including the Sewickley Spa!”

Sewickley Yarns is another one of the longstanding storefronts in the borough. The quaint yarn shop has occupied the space at 435 Beaver St. for the last three decades. The current owner, Robin Kifer, bought it in 2016 from the original owner.

Kifer said she believes the store’s staying power is attributed to the fact that it’s truly a destination. It’s one of roughly 11 yarn stores in the Greater Pittsburgh area where knitters and other fiber artists can get the materials they need to indulge in their craft. “Most of the people who come in know we’re here and come in for help with projects.”

Every year, the store participates in a yarn crawl. Guests can visit every yarn store in the region during the event. “One big plus about our yarn store is we carry a lot of lines of yarn that are not available online,” said Kifer. “We carry ‘sweater quantities’ – enough of a particular yarn in a variety of colors to make a sweater – and we keep a large inventory just for that reason.”

Other ways the store makes itself a true destination in Sewickley are monthly happy hours, walk-in beginner knitting classes and Thursday afternoon “knit-alongs,” where everyone works on the same project.

Not only does Kifer own a shop in Sewickley, but she’s also lived in the borough for 30 years. She and her family previously lived in the East End of Pittsburgh and Bradford Woods. “Once we saw the town, we loved it, and we decided to move here. It’s walkable and has everything you need.”

Kifer said one of the other attractions of the borough was its great public school district, Quaker Valley. “My kids just loved it there,” she said. “They’re small and high-quality and an overall very supportive school district.”

Quaker Valley Middle School
Quaker Valley Middle School

Quaker Valley School District covers approximately 21 square miles and serves 11 municipalities, including Sewickley Borough. Total enrollment is 1,823 students in grades K-12.

“Quaker Valley School District stands out as an example of educational excellence, fostering a nurturing environment that not only imparts knowledge, but also cultivates character,” said Superintendent Tammy Andreyko. “Our commitment to innovative teaching, diverse opportunities and a close-knit community ensures that every student succeeds in his or her own way, making Quaker Valley an exceptional place to live and receive an unparalleled education.”

Daniela Helkowski lives in the borough and serves on the school board. She and her three children are proud Quaker Valley graduates. “Quaker Valley has always played a significant role in making Sewickley a great place to live and raise a family,” she said. “Quaker Valley provides a high-quality education and attracts families who prioritize their children’s education.”

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