By Kamana Mathur
When I moved to Pittsburgh six years ago, I was surprised to see that Pittsburgh’s ethnic communities seemed to “live, work, and play” in distinct neighborhoods. I found it fascinating to walk around areas such as “Polish Hill”, the “Mexican War Streets,” and “Deutschtown.”
While not quite a “melting pot” of diverse cultures and nationalities akin to cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh did have distinct ethnic neighborhoods. But why didn’t these diverse groups come together in one place? True, in areas such as Oakland, with a diverse student population, one can walk the streets and hear conversations in a multitude of languages and see faces reflective of the world’s population. But in the suburbs, the landscape appeared distinctly homogenous.
Then I discovered Carnegie. A small town with a historic “Main Street” that boasts small family owned restaurants and shops, I learned that the owners often reside upstairs, and every one of them has a story to tell. I discovered that in Carnegie, you can walk to almost everything.
This neighborhood, devastated by floods in the wake of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, has seen a recent revitalization, in part due to incentives offered by the borough to new business owners. A current focus on revitalizing and beautifying the district has resulted in tree plantings, the purchase and renovation of deteriorating properties by the Carnegie Community Development Association, and provision of grants to new businesses moving to Carnegie.
Tucked amongst the large banks and drug stores are unique and interesting stores. There is a small Kielbasa and cheese shop, owned by a Ukrainian couple – they have the kielbasa best in Pittsburgh. The Italian Papa J’s has been a Carnegie mainstay, and so has Riley’s Pour House, a small Irish pub that still has live music during lunch on most days. But what I find interesting is the recent influx of immigrant populations and restaurants and stores that cater to them. Café Delhi, an Indian eatery, opened in 2012 and has become quite popular among the locals. A Turkish family owns a small pizza shop – three brothers and their families run the place. Recently opened Suzie’s Sandwiches & Deli offers light Lebanese fare and authentic baklava.
In addition to several law firms, antique shops, financial and consulting services, and other businesses have moved into Carnegie. Newly opened Excelante Tutoring & Training Center (412-276-2399) provides tutoring and test prep to area youth from grades 1-12 as well as college students. Run by a former teacher, the Center aims to improve the math and science skills of its students and prepare them for a competitive work environment. Excelante is running SAT preparation classes over the summer at special rates.
I fell in love with Carnegie the moment I laid eyes on it. People were friendly and unpretentious. I decided to buy a piece of history and moved my law office there in April. My new office, located at 6 East Main Street (www.MathurLaw.us), is situated close to the Chartier’s Creek. I can take a walk and hear the bubbling creek on a nice afternoon. Very occasionally, I see a train go by. My neighbors wave and call me by name as I walk past them. It’s so different from my previous location in a large impersonal office complex.
When I purchased the building, its age was listed as “unknown.” I was delighted to see a model of it in the Carnegie Historical Society – it used to house a doctor’s and a dentist’s office. My clients are always impressed. They are able to experience history just by coming to see me.