Charm runs rampant among Pittsburgh’s brick and mortars. Some shops up the ante with the addition of a friendly face in the form of a shop dog. These well-trained, virtuous dogs welcome customers with unpretentious affection. They provide an intimate connection between the customer and the business.
“I always wanted to have a shop dog. I think it does say a lot about the personality of your business,” said Amanda Cianella, owner of Framezilla where you can find Zetta, a Siberian husky hanging out. “I want people to connect with me on a personal level and I think that knowing my dog helps to make that connection. It makes the shop seem a little smaller and a little more familiar.”
It is important to note, local business owners with shop dogs understand not every person likes dogs. Pittsburgh shop dogs are well-trained and are not put in situations to make customers or children uncomfortable or unsafe. Mostly, these lovable dogs make shops homey and give us, the customers permission to take a much-needed breath and smile.
Meet the shop dogs of Pittsburgh.
Shop: Who New? Retro Mod Décor
Any song by Prince would be Honus’ theme song according to Jeff Gordon and Roger Levine, long-time partners and owners of Who New? Retro Mod Décor in Lawrenceville.
Honus is a three-and-a-half-year-old bundle of tenacious joy. Gordon and Levine adopted Honus from TracysDogs.com and believe him to be some sort of West Highland White Terrier. He is named after Honus Wagner, a Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame shortstop who Gordon’s great grandfather, “Cooney” Schaum, played sandlot ball with in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s in Carnegie, PA.
When the door to Who New? Retro Mod Décor opens, bells chime loudly. This is Honus’ signal. He dances his way to the front of the store to greet whomever is entering. Customers are instantly comforted, often picking up the gregarious pup. Honus wouldn’t have it any other way. And when he has had enough, he returns to his chair near the register or to a pile of blankets stacked high, “his perch” as Gordon refers to it, to take view of the shop. “He’s pretty bold,” said Levine, “that’s why we love him.”
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Navajo Von Thunder
Amber Halliman, owner of Synthesis in Shadyside, was camping in Arizona a little over four years ago and stopped at a gas station on a Navajo Reservation. This is where she spotted a silver and black dog wandering the grounds. Over the next four months, Halliman investigated whether the dog belonged to anyone and eventually drove nine hours through the night from Los Angeles to adopt him.
In May 2018, Halliman and Navajo Von Thunder made the trek to Pittsburgh.
Navajo Von Thunder is about six years old and is some sort of Australian Cattle Dog or Australian Shepherd. His favorite activities in life are basking in the sunlight of the shop, playing in the snow (though rain is not his friend) and cuddling with Hillman or anyone who visits Synthesis. Warning: you can easily spend an hour rubbing Navajo’s belly.
Navajo’s theme song is Wild Thing by The Troggs. When you visit Synthesis and first see Navajo Von Thunder chilling on the floor soaking in the sun among the beautiful cacti, your heart will indeed sing.
The day of Zetta’s adoption from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, she was directly transported to her new home away from home, the Framezilla in the Strip District. Zetta was four years old and Amanda Cianella, owner of Framezilla, recently opened the shop. Zetta, a calm and friendly Siberian husky is now twelve years old and is in full command.
“I would say that her personality is very bossy and that the business and employees have molded to her and her needs instead of the other way around,” said Cianella. Framezilla has two locations, one in the Strip District and a second location in Point Breeze. Zetta typically hangs out in the Strip District location where she loves to lounge under the table near the front of the shop. This separates her from back-of-house framing noise and allows her to keep an eye on the front door for new people to meet.
Zetta isn’t just a pretty face, she pulls her weight in the business as well. One day, the team at the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation were searching for a framer. When they saw Zetta on Framezilla’s website, they could not resist. The Foundation requested Zetta attend the introductory meeting. She did, and The Foundation is a loyal customer to this day.
Shop: Jewelry by Alicia and Scott
In the photo above, Maya Blair, a five-year-old Chiweenie, sports an 18-karat white gold, 1-karat total weight, diamond pendant with pearls. It is the necklace her mother, Alicia Blair wore on her wedding day to her father, Scott Blair.
The Blairs own a delightful jewelry shop, Jewelry by Alicia and Scott, in Wexford which they opened a little over a year ago. But, make no mistake, Maya runs the place.
As much as Maya welcomes those into the shop, especially the first and last customers, she also enjoys her own space. Maya normally hangs in the back with Scott. There is a chair just for her where she can be the princess she is destined to be, rested on her throne snuggled with a cozy blanket. There is even a portraiture of Maya (by Becky Frasier) upon first entering the shop. In it, she is regal and a bit extra, adorned with a diamond tiara and necklace. Alicia and Scott love it, and I couldn’t help but love it too.
Alicia saw one photo of Maya when she was about two months old and it was love at first sight. She purchased the small Chihuahua, Dachshund mix unbeknownst to Scott. Maya completed their family, and now she enhances their business. “I work hard so my dog can live the dream,” is a meme posted to the shops Instagram, and the Blairs ethos. It’s all for Maya.
According to Rebecca Morris, the owner of WildCard, ten-year-old Otis is the official shop dog of the decade-old Lawrenceville business. Otis is a Schnauzer, Poodle mix and owned by Matthew Buchholz, a former employee yet still very much a member of the WildCard family.
Buchholz adopted Otis in July of 2009 (shortly before he began working at WildCard) from Animal Friends in the North Hills. Otis staked his territory in the shop quickly becoming known and loved by customers and employees alike. His paws are a light, familiar touch and his smile is wide. His first order of business when he enters WildCard, prance upstairs to the office to ensure all is in place. Though he may not be in the shop every day now, when he is there, it is a treat for everyone.
Otis’ theme song, Everything is Awesome by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island, really says it all. This pup is endlessly happy, and to prove it, he wags his tail to the beat, as if the song plays on repeat in his head. Otis loves bananas, tennis balls and being petted under the chin. From my short time at the shop, it was clear, Otis is a cool part of the Wildcard team.
Peter Madox and Archer Shark
Shop: Eleventh Hour Brewing Co.
Peter Madox, a four-year-old Border Collie, and Archer “Archie” Shark, a nine-month old Golden Retriever, are the dynamic pup duo behind Eleventh Hour Brewing Company in Lawrenceville.
Madox is a selective pup when it comes to the giving of his attention. Named after Peter Madox of the movie, The English Patient, Madox’s beautiful face adorns the Brewery’s first birthday t-shirts. Madox is Keana McMahon’s shadow. McMahon is the COO and co-owner along with husband and head brewer, Matt McMahon.
Archie is Matt’s buddy. He is named after Archer Kolsch, a classic Kolsch-style lager Eleventh Hour recently re-released at the beginning of October. Archie is a bit freer with his affection than Madox. He will sit on your feet, throw his head back against your lap and take all the love you will give him. Archie was a rescue from Ohio and sports half a tail with fervor.
In addition to both dogs being incredibly friendly, Madox and Archie are impeccably well-behaved. They were trained by Elissa Weimer-Sentner owner of Paws & Order Dog Training. This was important to the McMahon’s as 11th Hour provides a pet station outside the Taproom. During the warmer months, Madox and Archie enjoy meeting other dogs at the various picnic tables set up outside.
Stroll between 20th and 19th block of Carson Street in the South Side, and you will most likely pass by Frank “Frankie” White chilling in the window of Zeds.
Zeds is a streetwear shop owned by Zak Edgar. It’s doors opened in April of 2018. Back then, Zeds was a one-man operation and the daily stress of running the shop as well as the occasional loneliness got to Edgar. A shop dog was the answer.
Edgar found Frankie through Adopt-A-Pet.com. When Edgar traveled to Ohio to pick up Frankie, the Fawn Pug, French Bulldog mix was shy and scared. This didn’t deter Edgar; he liked the fact that Frankie was an underdog. Edgar was just starting his business; he was an underdog too.
Frankie, named from Edgar’s love of Notorious B.I.G., slowly warmed to the shop. Now Zeds is his territory with beds in almost every corner. Frankie’s presence alone brings in customers and gives the vibrant space a comfortable feel. “When Frankie is in the shop, I always say ‘He is on the clock,’” said Edgar. “Rent just went up because he’s working.”
Follow Zeds on Instagram.
Shop: Hey Betty! Vintage Clothing
If you aren’t careful, you might miss the shop dog of Hey Betty! Vintage Clothing in Shadyside. Paolo can be found looking stoic in the window or behind the counter covered with a small fleece blanket. “He wants to meet everyone, but at a distance,” said Michael Ferrucci, Paolo’s father and co-owner of Hey Betty! with Sandra Lauton.
Paolo is a 12-year-old Italian Greyhound who clocks in at 8 lbs. and has been coming to Hey Betty! since he was five months old. Ferrucci and Paolo’s meeting was a serendipitous one. Before Paolo, Ferruncci had Filbert, a loveable Chihuahua, who came to the shop six days a week. Unfortunately, Filbert passed and six months after his passing, a friend bought Paolo to Ferrucci’s attention after scooping him up in a pet store.
Paolo is Ferruncci’s ultimate companion in the shop. “He’s [Paolo] got his own mind; he knows what he wants,” said Ferruncci. When Paolo takes place in the window, he draws customer’s attention, often luring them into the shop. With his innate vintage look, Paolo was meant for Hey Betty!. You might even mistake him for a prop.
Follow Hey Betty! on Instagram.
Shop: The Humble Barber Co.
A low wooden gate greets you when entering The Humble Barber Co., a single chair barber shop in Brighton Heights. Beyond the gate the lovely Kitty Wells, a 12-ish-year-old Pitbull, is waiting for you with big brown eyes and sometimes a tutu. She only needs a short invitation to roll onto her back for a belly rub. “She is 45 lbs. of love and muscle,” said Bradly Richards, owner and “late-in-life-barber” of The Humble Barber Co.
Kitty’s story is one of community solidarity. One evening, Kitty was thrown over a fence, discarded in Brighton Heights. The neighborhood rallied around Kitty to care for her until the Humane Society could take her. Turns out, the Humane Society was never needed. Richards, and his wife Carrie Richards, welcomed Kitty into their family.
Kitty is named after Kitty Wells, the performance name of Ellen Muriel Deason, a pioneering female country singer who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976. Kitty lives up to the gravitas of the performer. She is known to be on-guard in the window of the corner shop or nestled at the feet of a customer in the barber chair. Her presence is never unnoticed.
Kitty’s theme song is Happy Trails by Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Dusty Rogers. “Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts, so here is a happy one for you.” Kitty may have been unwanted at one time in her life, but she doesn’t let life’s clouds keep her in the shadows. When you leave The Humble Barber Co., Kitty will be lovingly waiting until you both meet again.
Follow The Humble Barber on Instagram.