Photo: Brandon Jackson, General Manager of Bistro To Go, with Pittsburgh Public School Intern, Manny.

By Nikki Heckman

I experienced my teen years in the 1970s, a decade that has been very romanticized over the years. I can still remember one of my favorite outfits: a tie-dyed tee shirt paired with purple striped bellbottoms that glittered and a woven leather belt, not to mention the very trendy platform shoes. Every morning I would set up the ironing board not to iron my shirts, but to flat press my hair!

Recounting my appearance, you would have thought I was a complete spectacle, but I was just fitting into my generation. The adults stared in dismay as we gave everyone the peace sign. Today’s teens also have their own individualized attire and a particular outward appearance that aligns with their peers. I am always dazzled when I am introduced to each season’s intern. Manny is no exception.

When I first met Manny, our newest Pittsburgh Public School intern, I was reminded again how each generation identifies with the culture of their time and the influence on a youth’s signature style and outlook.

As I walk through the Café, he is finding his way into Bistro work. He is quickly clearing tables, learning to make sandwiches and interacting with staff. Manny’s smile is contagious. I asked him what he wanted to do after graduation and at 17 years old, he already knows he wants to be a carpenter.

Manny is articulate and full of promise, easily adapting to the busy Bistro environment. I glanced at this young man while he helped lunch customers one afternoon and became very aware that beneath the surface of today’s trends are dreams and promise. We, as adults, can so easily judge from the outside who we ourselves used to be.

Mentoring, apprenticing or interning as a business owner is all about a relationship. One that exposes the students to becoming aware and developing an attitude and skills to make their next successful life transition.

Your business can provide the actual experience to make a difference. Mentoring under the guidance of one of our neighborhood nonprofits or schools is a great way to start.

Having Manny with us at the Bistro has taught me in turn to become aware of what it will take for my business to successfully serve the next generation.

Being exposed to young students facilitates a necessary dialogue that considers the change of generational cultures for growth within business. Who would have guessed that my relationship, meant to help Manny individually, would help the Bistro family at large!

As I like to say, it’s an Old Message revisited: One perceives clearly only with the heart. What’s under the bell bottoms and tie-dyed shirt may be a future business owner that employs 45 people in your neighborhood. Use your resources to benefit others. It just may benefit you.

The Bistro applauds our local Northside mentoring organizations. Thank you for investing in our future relationships.


This article is sponsored by Bistro To Go Cafe & Catering. Bistro To Go Cafe is located on East Ohio Street in the heart of Historic Deutschtown. Since 2007, Bistro To Go has focused on serving good food and bringing people together through the cafe, catering, kitchen mentoring, and community collaborations to improve the neighborhood’s quality of life.

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