Newly refurbished building will help anchor Wilkinsburg revitalization

WILKINSBURG, PA. — A prominent baker, an elite personal chef for NFL athletes, and a neighborhood salon are among the first wave of tenants to mark the revitalization of downtown Wilkinsburg as they open their doors in the newly refurbished, historic storefronts of 1009 Wood St., located in the heart of Wilkinsburg’s business district.

Businesses are starting to open their doors this fall, marking the next chapter in the life of the 10-storefront structure, which is considered — along with the $6M+ Wilkinsburg Train Station and the Lohr Building renovation — a key piece of the borough’s rebirth.

Developed by Pittsburgher Brian Sieffert of Artemis Construction & Design LLC, the renovation was a priority project of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp. (WCDC), which provided a $10,000 façade grant for two of the storefronts, a $10,000 grant aimed at bringing some of the vacant units up to code, a $6,000 rent abatement grant, as well as property listings and one-on-one business counseling sessions with tenants.

Sieffert, who has previously invested in the community, envisions the 1009 Wood St. property as a “little village” that could offer cooperative space for artists on its second level. 

“We have so much beautiful architecture and design in Wilkinsburg,” he says. “Projects like this bring so much energy into the area — it’s like kindling. We want to be sensitive to keeping rents affordable and cultivating emerging businesses, because we love this community and its people. That’s what we’re all working for.”

“We are thrilled to welcome these established businesses to Wilkinsburg, where we know they can thrive and attract additional interest in our community,” says Tracey Evans, executive director of the WCDC. “These public-private partnerships represent a vote of confidence in Wilkinsburg’s viability and potential as a vibrant place to conduct business.”

The building includes storefronts on the first floor, while the second-floor space may ultimately house a cooperative workspace for artists. The project won the first-ever variance for a living roof in the borough that could grow everything from flowers to vegetables.

Among the tenants who will open their doors at the building are:

Jae Co Studio: Owner Jasmine Smith first had the idea of opening a commercial commissary-style kitchen when her own business as a personal chef and caterer — Chef Jae & Co. — grew to the point where it was bursting at the seams. “It initially started as a selfish thing: I need more space. But as I began to look around at the community, I saw that other businesses also needed more space,” says Smith, who has served as the private executive chef for Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier and Javon Hargrave, J.J. Wilcox of the Atlanta Falcons, and Jarvis Jones of the Arizona Cardinals, among others. Inspired by some of the high-end commissary kitchens she saw in California, Smith’s vision is a kitchen that is accessible 24 hours a day, four days a week exclusively for food production by private chefs and caterers who want to grow their businesses in a controlled environment with an aesthetic that supersedes church kitchens and other spaces they currently use for food preparation. On the other three days of the week, the space will serve as a full-service venue where customers can host events with approved caterers and vendors in an elevated décor featuring rose gold, copper, and marble, the keynote elements in Smith’s brand. 

Confections By Casey Renee: The former pastry chef at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City as well as Pittsburgh’s Ace Hotel, Casey Renee branched out on her own in 2018 and now provides wholesale pastries to businesses as well as weddings and other celebrations. Her product lines include gluten-free and vegan pastries, which she plans to expand. At 1009 Wood St., she plans to open a commissary kitchen space where she can create products for her wholesale business, as well as a pickup location for online orders and space for client meetings and wedding consultations. Casey was searching for an affordable space that she could customize that also offered easy access for delivery to Pittsburgh. She learned about the newly available storefront when she catered a high tea for Mother’s Day and met developer Brian Sieffert.  “The timing was perfect,” she says. “There’s so much potential. There’s a lot of vibrancy and community in Wilkinsburg, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Tiffany’s On Wood: Kayla Lee opened this salon three blocks away in July 2016. Since then, the business has grown substantially, prompting her to search for a larger space. Gordon Manker, business development specialist for the WCDC, pointed Lee toward 1009 Wood St., where she hopes to relocate by October and double the size of her staff, offering a full array of beauty services from hair styling to makeup, eyelash extensions, and waxing. Lee, a lifetime Wilkinsburg resident, landed her first paying client when she was 11 years old. After earning college degrees in accounting and business management, she obtained her cosmetology license and applied her skill sets to opening her own salon.

In addition to these tenants, a pop-up business has committed to occupying space at 1009 Wood St. from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31: Green Empress, which specializes in African imports.

Additional space is available within the property, including room for a dining space that takes advantage of a wall of windows facing Wallace Street.