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Mount Washington signs up for more customers

Typically, it’s the aroma of freshly baked apple fritters or cinnamon twists that attract people into Grandview Bakery in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Mount Washington.

The launch of the new marketing materials for Mt. Washington at Grandview Bakery.

But on a recent balmy July day, people filed into the bright and cheery baked goods shop to celebrate a renewed breath of life for the bakery and other businesses along Shiloh Street. Residents and business owners who have long been committed to boosting foot traffic along this quaint corridor shared their excitement about the new marketing materials that were unveiled.

The comprehensive marketing plan came to fruition after the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development. Mount Washington was one of six communities nationwide selected through a competitive process for the Corridors of Retail Excellence (CORE) program, funded by the PNC Foundation.

“We’re very excited to have these organizations take an interest in helping us to foster a larger customer base,” said Vickie Pisowicz, owner of Grandview Bakery.

Vickie Pisowicz, who opened Grandview Bakery almost two years ago, is excited about the new help in bringing in customers.

Pisowicz opened her shop almost two years ago and has grown it into a popular gathering place for locals and a destination for visitors looking for an after-dinner dessert and cup of coffee. But the location—on one of the bordering streets to Grandview Avenue, Mt. Washington’s main thoroughfare—means that sometimes it can feel like a hidden gem.

“We have to continually get the message out to people that we, and many other businesses, are here on Shiloh Street,” Pisowicz said.

CORE concentrates on revitalizing commercial corridors that are rich with potential and kept viable by dedicated, hardworking business owners. CORE staff provide community groups like the MWCDC with technical consultants, data reports and market analyses to identify needs and opportunities. Then they create a strategic plan and implement the plan’s actions to drive economic growth in the commercial corridor and surrounding community.

“The package of new and existing business services the LISC grant is funding allows the MWCDC to connect to Mount Washington business owners with resources that might otherwise not be in their budget,” said Jason Kambitsis, executive director of MWCDC.

Entice and thrive

Last spring, LISC launched its CORE effort in Mount Washington by having community revitalization professionals visit and assess Grandview Avenue and Shiloh Street. They took copious notes as they looked at signs, sidewalks and storefronts and spoke with business owners about any challenges they face.

Mt. Washington's marketing materials on display at the launch.

The resounding feedback from merchants was that they would like to lure visitors from Grandview Avenue to their businesses. Approximately 1.5 million commuters and tourists ride the Monongahela Incline each day from Station Square to the top of the hill in Mount Washington to enjoy the city’s skyline.

But once the tourists plateau and spill out onto Grandview Avenue’s overlooks and snap a few photos, they usually return to the incline for a ride back down the hill. 

“We could use any help to let people know that we’re just two blocks away from Grandview,” said Vincent DeAndrea, owner of DeAndrea Designs on Shiloh Street. “There are all these great little restaurants and stores here; it’s a wonderful place for people to enjoy.”

The largest piece of the grant is being used to develop a smart phone app that will provide a mobile Mount Washington business directory with an interactive map with locations and information about every business in Mount Washington and neighboring Duquesne Heights.

In addition, 7,000 printed business directory brochures will be distributed at both the Monongahela and Duquesne inclines to help visitors discover Mount Washington’s many assets.

The grant will also allow the MWCDC to feature the interactive app map on their redesigned and more community-centered Web site (www.mwcdc.org) this summer.

Vincent DeAndrea is one of three storeowners who also received new signage as part of the grant.

A sign is worth a thousand words

DeAndrea is one of three storeowners who received also new signage as part of the grant. LISC officials said the program will open to all businesses later this year.

The big, vibrant signs protrude from the front of each store and can be spotted from far down the street. Rather than displaying the name of the business, the sign has a graphic indicator that’s instantly recognizable to anyone, no matter what language they speak.

For instance, DeAndrea’s jewelry store has a vivid red sign with a ring and reads “Jeweler.” Just nearby, Pisowicz’s pink  “Bakery” sign has a huge cupcake.

Micro Diner’s sign illustrates a place setting and reads “Diner.” Heather Nally, the restaurant’s owner, says that with the tourist season in full swing, the signage will surely be put to the test.

“The signs will have a lot more eyes to catch,” she said. “I think a lot of people will notice the signs and come in our direction.”

“All of this will definitely attract more people to our businesses,” Nally added. “Just with businesses fixing their storefronts has helped our area, but with this opportunity, we’ll be able to keep building on that.”

A business recruitment package is also in development, which will collect and distill pedestrian and other business district data into a marketing piece to provide to potential Mount Washington businesses.

LISC also conducted pedestrian counts to gain a sense of the market’s strength, based on the number of people who travel up the incline. A second count will occur in August to help measure the impact of LISC’s efforts.

“Taken as a whole, the improved signage, the Smartphone business directory, and the marketing material will work to entice visitors down Shiloh,” said CORE technical consultant Larisa Ortiz. “It will all help to ensure a thriving business district while also creating a better quality of life for Mount Washington residents.”

Posted in Implementing, Commercial and Economic Development, Pittsburgh

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