Above: Gus at Stella at their Iceball Cart.
On Wednesday morning in City Council chambers, 80-year-old Gus Kalaris recognized more than a few faces.
According to Kalaris, in the 78 years his bright orange cart in West Park has been open, numerous city councilmen, politicians and every single mayor since the ’40s when David L. Lawrence was in office has stopped by his cart for a colorful, fruity and hand-shaved iceball.
It’s because of his wide range of customers from the Northside and all over the city that span multiple generations that Gus and Yia Yia’s ice ball cart has served, Pittsburgh City Council issued a proclamation congratulating them on their years of service and declared April 25 to be Gus and Yia Yia day.
That night, the Allegheny City Society presented Gus and Yia Yia with the William Rimmel award, which recognizes and honors outstanding achievement in preserving the history of Allegheny City
“It’s hard to believe we’ve been there this many years,” said Kalaris, who said his family was honored by the proclamation.
His wife Stella Kalaris, better known as Yia Yia, was unable to make it to City Council Chambers due to health issues.
City Council President Darlene Harris delivered the proclamation, and recalled getting her favorite rainbow iceball when she was growing up on the Northside, though confessed that her favorite is now banana.
Gus and Stella’s cart has become iconic, not just to Northsiders, but to visitors from all over the City. Harris called it an “unofficial landmark” of the Pittsburgh.
Gus and Stella’s cart has been in the Northside since Kalaris’ father opened it in 1934. Gus took over the family business when he was 18 years old and has run with his father, mother and now his wife for 61 years. Both of Kalaris’ two daughters and his four grandchildren have all worked at the iceball cart.
In the ’60s, Gus said an acquaintance encouraged him to modernize with a stainless steel cart, but Kalaris kept the original design of the cart because he felt it was a novelty that accompanied their slogan “Since your dad was a lad.”
“It’s more like ‘Since your grandfather was a lad’ now,” said Kalaris’ daughter Christina Avlon.
Even at 80 years old and against the encouragement of his two daughters, Kalaris does not plan to retire.
“My dad just won’t give it up. He loves it, and he wants to be there,” said Avon.
Kalaris summed up his passion for iceballs and the family business with a simple sentiment.