Observatory Hill bakery a hidden ‘Gem’


Photo by Neil Strebig

A portrait of sweets adorns the wall of Schorr’s Bakery in Observatory Hill. 


By Neil Strebig

As soon as you walk into Schorr’s Bakery on Perrsyville Avenue in Observatory Hill, the door chime rings and your senses are saluted by the overwhelming sight and smell of fresh pastries, donuts, sweets, cakes, and of course the infamous ‘Gem’ pastries.

“(The Gems) are typically gone in an hour,” employee Debbie Horlich said.
While her personal favorite is chocolate she admits, “(Everything) is good here. It is all made from scratch.”

The emphasis on fresh ingredients and product are something current owner, Jim Schorr, 58, learned from his father who opened the business over 40 years ago before handing it down to his son in 1995. Schorr’s father still works at the bakery part-time helping prep, fry donuts and decorate the numerous cakes and dolces. While the younger Schorr has entertained the possibility of handing down the business to his daughters, it is a thought he has shied away from unless it is what they want.

“If they want to take over, I’d definitely stay and help.”

For now he is very proud of a business he described as “challenging at times” and is very adamant about their ability to continually produce the highest level of product for their customers. Buying frozen products is something “we stay away from,” he said.

“Good quality. We make a good cake from scratch with good ingredients. We make a good cake with buttercream, real buttercream, we don’t skip on that. Everything is from scratch.”

Schorr, gets up at 4 a.m. every day in order to make the stores supply for that particular business day. While he fancies his locations’ ability to sell everything he and his staff are able to make in a single day he is also very keen on giving back to the community. Any extra pastries they have he gives to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Brighton Heights.

Although they are past the holiday season push, Mardi Gras and Faschnaut Day are right around the corner. The Fat Tuesday crowd is expected to bring in upwards of 300 customers to both of the Schorr family’s locations.

“People like our donuts because you can tell they’re fried here,” Schorr said. He plans on having a “good variety” of faschnauts on hand for Fat Tuesday including glazed, crawlers, fritters, Persians, and his personal favorite, coconut crawlers.

“I love donuts and I like coconut. It is just a good combination. I usually have one Saturday morning when I’m done (working).”

Nearly half of Schorr’s staff is local residents of the Northside community including, Krista Elway, who grew up on the Northside, but currently resides in Ellsworth. She has been working at the Observatory Hill location for nearly ten years and admits that a number of local residents stop in on a daily basis, especially students on their way to school.

“(Sometimes) we should have a revolving door because it is constant,” she said.

The original Observatory Hill location on 3912 Perrsyville Ave. is open Monday-Saturday from 6 a.m.-4 p.m.

Schorr’s Bakery other location is in West View.

The city-renowned ‘Gem’ pastries were featured in Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2012 ‘Creme de la Crème: 20 Best Bakeries in Pittsburgh.’

DSC_2754Photo by Neil Strebig

A look at Schorr Bakery’s famous ‘Gem’ pastry.

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