Tip Type Revives Linotype and Letterpress Art in Wilkinsburg: The late Rudolph (Rudy) Lehman loved Wilkinsburg and the small typesetting shop that he had operated on South Avenue since 1957. Even after the need for his services nearly disappeared with the rise of digital technology, the retired typesetter still went to his shop and maintained the machinery and occasionally supplied Linotype to local printers. He was a regular at nearby Nancy’s Restaurant until shortly before his death at age 78 in 2013.
Artist Brandon Boan met Lehman after moving to Wilkinsburg four years ago. “I was very curious about the Linotype, which is rarely found anymore, so I stopped in to meet him,” recalls Boan. It was the beginning of a friendship “created over printmaking and a shared likeness of process,” he says. After Lehman passed away, Boan and his partner, Manya Mankiewicz, decided to buy the building and machinery just days before it was scheduled to be dismantled. Shortly thereafter, Tip Type was born.
“Wilkinsburg has been a great place to start a business… people are excited about the changes that are underway here.” Today, Tip Type operates as a home for artists’ projects as well as
production of small commercial projects such as letterpress invitations, posters, and art books.
Maintaining Sustainable Growth: A former vacuum cleaner warehouse might not seem to be an ideal home for a business focused on helping plants to flourish, but it’s proved to be the perfect environment to grow a new company that produces organic fertilizers. Based at 919 Penn Avenue, the former home of Steel City Vacuums, Organic Rescue produces easy-to-use foliar sprays that boost plant health and nutrient intake. The sprays are WSDA certified organic products that utilize USDA certified organic humates to improve the vitality of any plant.
Founders Nick Ulintz and Luke Stamper, both University of Pittsburgh graduates and gardening experts, started the company in 2012. To accommodate the company’s own rapid growth, Organic Rescue needed a convenient, secure and affordable location, and the 4,000 square-foot building on Penn Avenue fit the bill. “The space was bigger than what we needed, but it was a good price. We like that the building has lots of windows and natural light. It’s a great work environment.”
Ulintz’s own Wilkinsburg garden serves as the pilot project in the young company’s Grow Your City program. Through the program, Organic Rescue donates fertilizers to community gardens, including the Hill Avenue Memorial Garden in Wilkinsburg.
Good Fit for the Community: 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 710 Swissvale Avenue. 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.
“Swissvale Avenue 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.”
Starting Up on South Trenton: Bryan Ghingold was a University of Pittsburgh filmmaking student when, in 2008, he founded a company that provides house packing and truck loading services to a steadily growing clientele in the Pittsburgh region. By 2013, his small company, now known as Steel City Movers LLC, had outgrown the digital office he was running out of his apartment.
“More and more people were booking us for moves and the business had grown to the point where I had staff coming to work in my apartment for eight hours a day,” he recalls. “I was also storing a massive amount of moving boxes in my living space, and it was clear that things had to change. We needed an office!”
He says he found the perfect space in a growing business corridor on South Trenton Avenue in Wilkinsburg. “Wilkinsburg is changing and evolving, and we are proud to be part of that.” The black and gold storefront of Steel City Movers is situated next to an art gallery and two small convenience stores, just down the street from the popular neighborhood coffee shop Biddle’s Escape.
“We’re very pleased that people are responding so positively to us and to the services that we offer,” he says. Steel City Movers is especially happy to be in Wilkinsburg. “This property is not only affordable, but it’s a phenomenal location.”