Within Pittsburgh‘s Detective Building, blocks from the Ace Hotel, design agency Schoolhouse (who counts the aforementioned hotel as a client) has set up a new retail space—their first in over a decade. Brian Faherty, the brand’s founder, started the business with a bit of good fortune; he discovered a hoard of cast-iron glass shade molds in an abandoned factory and subsequently refurbished them to working condition. The style stuck and the brand has grown substantially since the chance discovery. In fact, their operation is now nationwide and they’ve amassed over 100 employees.
Although their brand is anchored by a preservationist aesthetic, their new Pittsburgh store presents itself as more of a concept than a traditional brick and mortar destination. The ground floor is occupied by Schoolhouse’s retail endeavor and a coffee shop called The Bureau—run by Joey Hilty and Emily Slagel. They’re the minds behind two of Pittsburgh’s most exciting eateries: The Vandal and Joey’s Snack Bar (inside Smallman Galley). The second, third and fourth floors of the Detective Building are now occupied by Pittsburgh’s co-working empire Beauty Shoppe.
“Our inspiration is simplistic—high-quality products and service are timeless. I spent several years splitting my time between Pittsburgh and Denmark and have been really inspired by Danish home-cooking and the way that we ate breakfast and lunch,” Slagel says. “The Bureau will have a seasonal menu of smørrebrød (little Danish open-faced sandwiches) and coffee shop classics like fresh cinnamon rolls and doughnuts made daily by our pastry chef [at the Vandal]. I’m a very ritualistic person and this translates so well to coffee; we want our espresso drink menu to reflect that. And, we’re working with Portland-based roasters, like Coava, to keep on brand with Schoolhouse’s PNW roots.”
Visitors (and those renting space upstairs) are encouraged to grab a coffee upon entry. You can then take your coffee (and pastry or smørrebrød) wherever you please—be that seated behind a desk, at the library-style table or at the inviting checkout counter (that’s more of a conversation space than just a place for transactions). A couple of shelves worth of local products (like Reiko Yamamoto bowls and Francis DeFabo cocktail plates) serve as further proof of the company’s investment into the surrounding community.
The three floors comprising the newest outpost of Pittsburgh-based Beauty Shoppe are accessible via a ’70s-styled office elevator. The 21,000-square-foot space is their seventh in the city, and it offers the same array of accommodations for desk-seeking freelancers and budding companies. The company, founded in 2011, felt that Schoolhouse’s focus on timeless design aligned well with their emphasis on thoughtful and functional design—so, they sought out the opportunity to occupy a portion of the Detective Building and wanted Schoolhouse to build it out.
“The Detective Building is an icon and landmark, but it had been vacant for many years and on the city’s chopping block before being purchased by Schoolhouse,” Slagel says. “Schoolhouse has really focused on getting the details right with responsible development and creating job opportunities and local commerce in a changing neighborhood where much of the recent development has come at a cost to the residents and existing businesses.”
Staying true to the neighborhood—one cluttered with one-way streets and blossoming businesses—is the keystone of the trio’s ethos. But, the three occupants boast a big-player attitude in a town that’s ever-evolving—Amazon didn’t choose the city for HQ2, but companies like Facebook, Google and Uber have, while the local restaurant and art scenes are making waves nationwide.
“We aim to embrace that sense of community. There are three floors of co-working space in the building and a fire station next door. We already have regulars that make us a part of their daily routine,” Slagel concludes, “Our products are different, but the value is the same. We’re working together to produce a holistic customer experience that is rooted in utility and joy.”
Images by Evan Malachosky