Northside about to experience caffeine high



The coffee shop craze seems to have come late to the Northside, but come it has.

The Magnolia Café opened mid-November in Troy Hill, and two more shops are on their way in December.

Buena Vista Coffee, which will replace the closed Beleza in the Mexican War Streets, should open by early December, and the Crazy Mocha on the corner of Federal Street and North Avenue should open mid-month.

These three will join Amani in Deutschtown, Hoi Polloi in Allegheny West and the Café ‘n’ Creamery in Brightwood. The Vault, a cafe in Brighton Heights, recently closed.

Naomi and Ilona Auth, sisters who grew up in the South Hills, opened Magnolia Café after Naomi moved back to Pittsburgh from Portland, Ore., where she ran a coffee shop called The Grapevine.

“We thought the neighborhood needed a coffee shop,” Naomi said. She looked around the East End for a building, but many of them were too run down or too expensive. Her Lowrie Street building was the right price, and in decent condition.

Naomi decided to move back to Pittsburgh so that she could be close to her family when her new baby was born.

In addition to coffee and “fancy coffee drinks,” Magnolia stocks fresh, homemade soups, baked goods, Panini sandwiches and rice pudding on the weekends.

The only things the Auth sisters do not make in-house are the bread, which comes from Breadworks in Brightwood, and the bagels, which come from the Bagel Factory.

“We keep [the menu] changing so people who come in every day have something new,” Naomi said.

Magnolia Café also offers party trays and cookie trays.

In the future, the sisters would like to offer fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.

“We’re really passionate about fermenting foods because they’re really good for you,” Naomi said. “We’re really busy right now learning how to run this business and figuring out exactly what people here in Troy Hill want.”

Auth lives in the building, in an apartment above the coffee shop. “I just really like living in Troy Hill,” she said. “It really is like a little village, everyone seems to know everybody, and I really like that. I’m thankful for the warm reception we got.”

While Magnolia focuses more on offering good food, Buena Vista will focus more on having the best coffee and espresso possible.

Brent and Shallary Boss, who live in Lawrenceville, purchased all of the equipment from Beleza’s owners. Shallary has always wanted to own a coffee shop, and Beleza presented her with the perfect opportunity.

“It’s a really cool opportunity because it’s not a blank slate,” Brent said. “It’s a great set of circumstances.” And there was already a coffee shop with a customer base there.

Shallary had worked in a coffee shop in Mt. Lebanon for seven years when her father stumbled across Beleza earlier this year and suggested she look into purchasing it.

Although the couple co-owns the business, Brent will keep his day job at the Rivers Casino and leave most of the daily grind of coffee up to his wife. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have to do his time.

“She’s told me that I need to expect to be taught everything. I’m completely ignorant of coffee, I don’t even drink coffee … I’m going to be like a sober bar tender,” Brent said, laughing.

Shallary will get her coffee from Commonplace Coffee House and Roastery in Indiana, Pa.

“It’s delicious coffee,” Shallary said, “and I know one of the previous owners of the place loves it too.”

Buena Vista’s focus may be on coffee, but the Bosses also want to offer sandwiches, soups and something to appeal to children, though they haven’t decided yet what that will be.

Each morning Shallary plans on baking muffins, coffee cake and cookies. “The smell is delicious in the morning with your coffee.’

The first step is opening the business, Brent said. He doesn’t foresee any major problems, and the only things left to do are clean, rearrange some of the furniture and paint.

“I know the community really misses the place,” Shallary said, and she wants to open as soon as possible.

Crazy Mocha is also poised to open. The paper that covered the windows during the building renovation came off before Thanksgiving.

Owner Ken Zeff said all the equipment and furniture is set up and the interior finished. The only things that remain are putting up all the signs and decorations and the final health inspection.

Zeff has yet to hire anyone for the new store, but said he has an employee currently working Downtown who originally wanted to work at the Northside location and will probably transfer.

Zeff expects to open for business in the middle of December, once his new employees are hired and trained.

Brent said that he and Shallary aren’t worried about competition from the Crazy Mocha, also located in the Central Northside, because the two coffee shops will offer different products and styles.

Plus, Brent added, “The more businesses you have in an area, the more customers you have.”


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