In a “Morning File” column in 2007 for the Post-Gazette, Henry Lenard bemoaned the changes Pittsburgh had undergone in the past several decades — specifically, the shuttering of beloved landmarks such as West View amusement park and the Sears in Allegheny Center.
But the one place, he wrote, had remained virtually unchanged was the Strip District.
“My son can still go with me to a place that hasn’t evolved all that much from my childhood. We will pick some fresh fruit from a sidewalk display, buy a pair of chocolate bars at Fort Pitt Candy and also drop in Hermanowski’s.”
Of course, there have been some changes to the Strip over the years. Abandoned warehouses, produce terminals and even churches have been repurposed into loft apartments, specialty shops, trendy bars and restaurants, and performance venues.
Still, the area feels most lively on sunny weekend mornings, when people pack the streets in search of fresh fish, meat, produce and other wares at affordable prices. The scenes resemble those of the 1980s, when Pittsburgh Press columnist Phil Musick described the Strip as “18 blocks of fascination along Penn Avenue.”
He wrote of the neighborhood’s many offerings, especially when it comes to food — from longtime staples such as Wholey’s and Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. to newcomers like Anbari’s Eastern Foods.
“Between 22nd and 17th, food of every imaginable type is king. Produce, all greens and reds, snatches at your eyes.”
In the same piece, Musick summed up the Strip’s ability to change without really changing.
“The Strip flourishes, peeling paint and weathered signs never quite dominating because, here and there, a Penn Animal Hospital or a Boulevard Glass & Metal, with its blinking red neon sign, are housed behind tony, multicolored brick.”