CP Photo: Amanda Waltz
Kelly Sanders and Monica Yope of love, Pittsburgh at their Strip District location
There’s a demand for locally made gifts in Pittsburgh. This becomes more than apparent as I sit with Kelly Sanders and Monica Yope of love, Pittsburgh in their new Strip District location at 1728 Penn Ave. In the short time I spent with them in the then unopened store, several passersby yanked at the front locked door, then eyed the hand-poured candles and other enticing items displayed in the window.
“This is all day,” Sanders said at the time.
The shop officially opens on Thu., Oct. 21 in the older section of the Strip, where long-standing, no-frills businesses like Wholey’s fish market stand close by to the trendier Smallman Street side of the historic neighborhood. The new love, Pittsburgh shop will open a block away from the shiny new Terminal building, but not in the new development.
To Sanders and Yope, the Penn Avenue side feels perfect. They have already started getting to know their neighbors, having beers at the nearby Helltown Brewing taproom and buying hummus from Labad's Mediterranean Cafe and Grocery across the street.
In terms of selection, love, Pittsburgh has more than anyone looking for locally made gifts could want. Besides candles, there are art prints, clothing, tea and coffee, and other goodies, all made and sold right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Strip District location has also given the women — who also operate locations in Downtown and Mount Washington — the chance to expand into some new territory: meat, namely from next door neighbor Parma Sausage. The women say they created a new gift box called Pittsburgh Loves Parma, which pairs items from love, Pittsburgh with Italian meats from Parma.
The shop occupies a former Parma storefront, and Sanders explains that the family-owned and operated business decided to lease it out and relocate next door after turning its focus more on wholesale instead of retail.
The women say it was serendipity that the space became available just as they started looking for a Strip District location around two years ago.
“They welcomed us like family from the beginning,” Sanders says of Parma, who still owns the property and now serves as their landlord. “They have been so kind to us.”
There are also love, Pittsburgh stores in Downtown and Mount Washington. While they say they will feature the same mix of products in all three of their stores, they plan on using the Strip District location to test some “more elevated” home goods. They point to delicate colored glassware by first-time vendors Penn/Fairmount. They also plan on selling Strip District branded T-shirts, stickers, and other fun items.
Kelly and Yope say the relationship with Parma emphasizes love, Pittsburgh’s focus on working with and supporting women-owned businesses. Parma, which has operated for over 40 years, is touted as being women-owned, and Sanders says around 80% of the over 100 small businesses they work with are owned by women.
Yope adds that this mission extends beyond their inventory and into services related to the store, such as hiring women photographers, or the painter they have doing sign work on their windows.
Sanders and Yope look forward to integrating into the neighborhood and honoring what makes it distinct. The owners say the new location will try to reflect the Strip District’s reputation as a food-centric hub for groceries and restaurants, as well as wholesale, by centering edible goods and kitchen items, while also staying true to their brand and aesthetic.
“We’re just super excited to be here, and being on Penn Avenue just feels really right to us,” says Yope.
love, Pittsburgh. Multiple locations. lovepittsburghshop.com