Every time we are on Walnut Street my daughter wants to visit The Shadyside Variety Store. It is the same store my husband walked to from his home on Howe Street when he was growing up. That was when children roamed the streets freely and parents were oblivious to the perils that lay in wait for their untended offspring.
The variety store is one of the last vestiges of the quaint shopping district that used to exist. Walnut Street was once a comfortable and humble neighborhood shopping destination that was dotted with shop owners who could all walk to work. One of the anchors was the William Penn Hat and Gown where the best ball wear could be found complete with white gloves and a purse to match. Next door was Rollier’s Hardware which was started in 1922 by the Satterfeld family. It contained everything the home owner could hope for and operated on a friendly first name basis. Around the corner on Copeland Avenue was Will Sell Chocolates. I thought this was just a clever name for a candy store until I met Mr. Will Sell himself.
When I moved to Pittsburgh in 1985 there were still a few of the original shops, bars and restaurants from my husband’s youth. His favorite hangout, The Raspberry Rhinocerous, was long gone but Pasta Piatto was still going strong. To this day it is remembered as one of the best Italian restaurants to ever open.
The retail conglomerates that line Walnut Street now have pushed out most of the family owned businesses. The merchandise is manufactured in mass quantity and marked up to reflect the high cost of being trendy. Quality has suffered dearly during this transformation but you can still find some great pieces at privately owned Pamar and The Dress Circle.
For new residents Shadyside still holds a lot of appeal but the charm of the past will never be replaced.