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Sharpsburg Helps Businesses Thrive

Dancing Gnome
Dancing Gnome

Hunter Johnston isn’t sure why D and E Collectibles chose Sharpsburg as the location for its brick-and-mortar storefront. He just knows it’s a great community, and he loves coming to work there every day.

Specializing in collectible and pop culture toys, D and E opened its doors in February 2013, when owners Bob Eisel and Matt Dugan decided the vintage toy collections business that they’d launched in their basements needed room to grow.

It’s thrived at its 700 Main Street location ever since, buying and selling vintage toys from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Star Wars action figures from the 1970s are the store’s bestsellers, followed by wrestling memorabilia. “It’s a passion handed down over the generations,” said Johnston, an employee at the store.

Roughly 50 “regulars” frequent the collectible shop. However, D and E has earned a name among out-of-town collectors. “We have people who stop in here who are visiting Pittsburgh and have looked us up,” Johnston said. This lists includes some famous folks. “Seth Rogen comes here any time he’s in town filming something or performing somewhere. He collects toys from TV shows and movies that you wouldn’t think had toys associated with them.” Rogen also has an affinity for memorabilia associated with Dune, the Pittsburgh Steelers and vintage lunchboxes, Johnston said.

Before he started working at D and E, Johnston said he was a customer. “Before I came in here, I’d never seen a place that had this much stuff. But we pride ourselves on being very organized, so you won’t have trouble finding what you’re looking for if we have it.”

D and E Collectibles isn’t the only business in the borough that deals in vintage collectibles. At the other end of town is Fort Pitt Classic Cars.

Formerly located in the old Fort Pitt Brewery Building, the classic car restoration and maintenance service now calls 1865 Main Street its home. The business provides vehicle inspections, service repairs, mechanical upgrades, detailing, complete restoration and storage services. “Our reputation in the industry is that we work on cars that nobody else wants to,” said Managing Director and Owner, Ron Libengood.

He started the business out of his love for classic cars when he retired from his 25-year career as a homeland security consultant. Libengood said he could have started his business anywhere but landed in Sharpsburg for two reasons. First was the availability of his ideal location, the former Fort Pitt Brewing Company. “It was an ideal location for us. It had all the space we needed for working on cars and storing them for our customers,” he said. The second reason was he was smitten with the borough’s charms. “People who don’t know Sharpsburg don’t know it has many great qualities,” he said. “It’s a friendly community, and they have everything you need here. We have good restaurants and great government support from the borough, police, volunteer fire company and EMS. From a business standpoint, what more could you ask for?”

One of the ways Sharpsburg Borough supports local businesses is through innovative programs. The borough has launched a First Friday event for 2024 to showcase businesses within the community. From 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, the borough will turn Main Street into a community gathering spot. Guests can explore open businesses while enjoying live music, food trucks and other vendors. Shuttle rides are included.

It’s not just a great place for business owners, Libengood said. People move to the borough for its walkability factor and is popular among bicyclists because it’s flat and easily connects with other nearby places.

Now in its 15th year, Fort Pitt Classic Cars’ reputation extends beyond the Pittsburgh region. Not only do the locals trust Libengood to maintain and restore their classic cars, but he has gained a reputation internationally as the place to go for quality restoration and assistance in buying or selling a classic vehicle. “It was the right move to place our business here and to grow here.”

Another local business thriving in Sharpsburg is Dancing Gnome Brewery, which Libengood said is one of the favorite places in the borough. The brewery’s original taproom opened on October 1, 2016. In 2021, the brewery relocated to 1025 Main Street with a brand-new production facility and spacious taproom.

Andrew Witchey, Dancing Gnome Brewer founder and brewer, said he chose Sharpsburg for his brewery’s location, because it had a great little main street and a solid community. “It’s also easily accessible from 28, Route 8, and the Lawrenceville/Morningside/Stanton Heights/Highland Park/East End neighborhoods,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of greater growth somewhere that wasn’t changing the core of the community. It really was a perfect space in a perfect neighborhood at the perfect time.”

Known for its flavor-forward mindset, the brewery’s house pale ale, Lustra, remains a favorite among patrons. In addition to its original creations, Dancing Gnome offers traditional styles from around the world.

Witchey said his brewery and taproom are focused on the quality of the product and the level of service they provide to patrons. “The whole team puts their all into making things what they are, and I’m obviously biased, but I think we have a top-tier product with a top-tier taproom experience,” he said. “We invite folks in for our beer, to make friends and share with friends. We make great beer and just want to share it with you.”

Sharpsburg has been a welcoming place, Witchey said, with great neighbors who support him. In return, he said he does his best to be a great neighbor and give back to the community. “On the beer side of things, the community has been able to visit and experience a location and community outside of theirs that they may not have otherwise. So, it’s somewhat cyclical. Sharpsburg supports and promotes us, and in return, we get to support and promote Sharpsburg.”

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