Business Success Stories
Browse some of the latest success stories in the borough of Wilkinsburg.
Neighbor Brings Wellness to Wilkinsburg: Vision Towards Peace
Erica Givner founded Vision Towards Peace Counseling Services (VTP) in 2012, headquartered in Wilkinsburg, with the goal of providing generational wellness, one person at a time. VTP strives to foster a community where people can take care of themselves and their families – all while having a productive and meaningful life with peace of mind, independence and strength.
As a recipient of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation’s (WCDC) Facade Renovation and Business Image Improvement Programs grants, Erica was able to invest in her business, which is committed to supporting members of the Wilkinsburg community. “I get my strength from the people of Wilkinsburg. They give me the momentum to keep going every day.”
When VTP first opened its doors, Erica was the sole employee. Almost eight years later, VTP employs six clinicians and two office staff members who help thousands of clients every year. Erica is constantly looking for ways to expand her business’ reach in order to help her community.
A Good Fit for the Community: Laptop ETC
Alain Tamo sees a corridor of opportunity on Swissvale Avenue in Wilkinsburg. The owner of Laptop ETC, a computer sales and repair store, and Tamo Designs, a web consulting company, recently moved his ventures to 713 Penn Ave. Laptop ETC sells new computers and offers repairs for laptops, desktops, and printers. The business also buys, repairs, and recycles cell phones. Computer repairs made up a majority of the company’s business in its former location in East Liberty, and Tamo expects the same to hold true in Wilkinsburg. “[Our location] offered convenience and the opportunity to buy and fix up my own building. It’s a good location, with the busway and other public transportation nearby.”
Tamo, a native of the Central African nation of Cameroon, came to the United States in 1999 to continue his education. In 2006, he acquired a master’s degree in legal studies. Within two years he had opened his computer repair business in East Liberty, and in two more years expanded it and moved to a second storefront there. Laptop ETC combines Tamo’s interests in repairing electronics and providing services that reach individuals, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses. Tamo Designs, a subsidiary of Laptop ETC, offers website design, logo design and computer consulting services. Tamo says he is happy he found the Swissvale Avenue property to buy and renovate. “Wilkinsburg is a great community.”
A Legacy Business Continues to Grow: James Floral and Gift Shoppe
“When you sell high-quality flowers, create great designs at affordable prices, and deliver in a timely manner, you build a nice clientele. People know they can trust us,” says Yvonne James, third-generation owner of James Floral and Gift Shoppe. James Floral has been selling flowers and plants for more than 100 years. James’ grandparents began with greenhouses in Penn Hills. They opened their first store in Homewood, then moved to Wilkinsburg in the 1940s.
The James family operated the business at several Wilkinsburg locations before moving to 712 Wood St. in 1984. “We have served generations of families at all stages of their lives.” The owner says she stores seasonal props on the second floor of the shop. “I take great pride in my collection of treasures because they transform into wonderful window and store displays,” she says. Creating displays and designing bouquets doesn’t allow for much down time for the owner, but James says she wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s all part of growing a legacy business in Wilkinsburg.
Wilkinsburg Jeweler Known for Restoration and New Designs: Kenyon Jewlers
Step inside 711 Penn Ave. and it’s clear why Kenyon Jewelers appeals to jewelry buyers who enjoy vintage designs or those who appreciate contemporary pieces. From classic men’s watches and strings of pearls to distinctive earrings to one-of-a-kind pendants, the store has something for everyone. The Wilkinsburg store also offers in-house custom design and restoration work. Owner Doug Duffus says the custom part of the business includes requests to remount diamonds and other family jewels to create new wedding and heirloom items. “Kenyon Jewelers has a rich history in Wilkinsburg.” After opening in East Liberty in the 1920s, the Kenyon family moved the business to Wilkinsburg and took over the trade of the Herman Lindeman Company. Kenyon’s first location was across the street and one block down from the current store. Then customers brought not only jewelry for repairs, but umbrellas, radios and cameras, too. By 1964, son Leonard Kenyon Jr. had renovated a former bank building to house the store and an apartment upstairs. “Mr. Kenyon raised his family here,” the current co-owner notes. Duffus and business partner, David Virostek, have led Kenyon since 1996.
Bright Lights, Small City: Stanton Industrial Electric Supply
“For all of us here at Stanton Industrial Electric Supply, what is most important is that our relationships with our customers are long lasting,” says John Stanton, III. “That has always been more important to us than moving merchandise.” One of Wilkinsburg’s most enduring businesses, Stanton Electric has been providing electrical products to customers for more than six decades. Founded in 1954 by John Stanton Jr. to supply local industry, the company is now run by his son, John Stanton III, and grandson, John Stanton IV. “Wilkinsburg is just full of good people, and we enjoy meeting everyone who walks in our front door. In fact, one of the reasons we have stayed here so long is the local community.” Stanton Electric has been located at 521 Penn Ave., at the corner of Hay Street, since 1972.
Although the company’s primary customers are industrial and commercial clients, such as construction firms, Stanton Electric has also long taken pride in meeting residential needs, says Stanton. For example, walk-in customers often stop by with an antique lamp that needs to be rewired or a query about an obscure electrical component. They’ve come to the right place, he says. “For 52 years now, this has been my only job. And our employees are also long-timers,” says Stanton. “We recognize old equipment and can help with obsolete items. Every so often a customer will walk in and say, ‘we’ve looked all over and just can’t find the part we need.’ If we don’t have it, we know where to get it,” he says. “In return we often hear, ‘you saved the day!’ That’s very gratifying, it really is.”
The Stanton name is well known in Wilkinsburg for more than quality electrical supplies and service. For generations, members of the Stanton family have contributed time and resources toward such community and civic organizations as the Wilkinsburg Rotary Club, the Boys and Girls Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Wilkinsburg School Board, Wilkinsburg Community Ministry, Wilkinsburg Baseball Association, Hosanna House, and the WCDC. According to Stanton, his company has called Wilkinsburg home for the past few decades because of the small town atmosphere and “great people,” he says. “We intend to maintain our business here in Wilkinsburg, and we plan to remain a customer-centered business.”