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Alterations by Rina is just one of many unique businesses that Brookline Boulevard offers. Photo by Carrie Garrison.

Alterations by Rina is just one of many unique businesses that Brookline Boulevard offers. Photo by Carrie Garrison.

By: Katie Lipko and Carrie Garrison

Brookline’s diverse neighborhood is reflected in the colorful shops that flank the Boulevard. 

Each store showcases its own facet of the community and contributes to the friendly and unique nature of Brookline. And there’s also its diversity; while only a small percentage of Brookline is comprised of immigrants, businesses like Jolina’s show the welcoming nature of the neighborhood. Their conjoined efforts and spirits to maintain their cultural identity have helped the Boulevard become what it is today.

Alterations By Rina

Halfway down the Boulevard hangs a white sign with blue letters: “Alterations By Rina.” Rina Constantine, a native of Melbourne, Australia, is inside between piles of dresses, fabric and thread. Her warm personality and friendly nature bring many customers to her shop for alterations, or just to chat.

“I get a lot of people that come here; that’s why those two chairs are there,” Constantine said, motioning to two chairs in front of her sewing machine. “We’ll just chat and have lunch together.”

Constantine enjoys pursuing her passion of sewing and having a shop on the Boulevard. She said the community is the best part about her shop.

“The community is beautiful. I love it!”

Jolina’s Mediterranean Cuisine

Across from Brookline’s famous Cannon Statue is a new quaint restaurant, Jolina’s Mediterranean Cuisine. Owners Randa and Antoine Ghassa moved to Pittsburgh from Syria five years ago. Their shop opened in October 2015 and features dishes including shish taouk, chicken shawarma and the ever popular gyro.

“My husband and I have been working with restaurants all of our life; this is all we know how to do,” Randa Ghassa said. “We had our own restaurant back home in Syria, and so whenever we had the chance to open our own restaurant [here], we did so.”

The restaurant, named after their daughter, is one of the only Mediterranean restaurants on the Boulevard. Ghassa said she enjoys being part of the Brookline community, even though they reside in Brentwood.

“I love the Brookline community,” she said. “They are so friendly, very supportive and very nice.”

Looking For Group Pittsburgh

A little further down the Boulevard is another business that opened in October 2015, Looking For Group Pittsburgh. This unique shop incorporates 10 desktop computers, four PlayStations and Xbox consoles, board games, many red gaming chairs and a space in the back for co-working. Five high school friends came up with the idea for this business, which they like to think of as a modern arcade. They also incorporated the co-working space to broaden appeal in the market. Co-working space has become a trending business venture in recent years.

“The concept behind it is that if you’re in a working environment with people also trying to get work done, then you can network better,” John Lange, owner, said.

Lange said the Brookline community has responded well to Looking For Group Pittsburgh.

“Everyone that’s around here is super excited about our shop,” Lange said. “That there’s something new here because they’ve been here forever.”

Violet Bouquet Flower Shop

Walk into Violet Bouquet Flower Shop, and the smell of fresh flowers instantly surrounds you. Floral arrangements of all shapes, sizes and colors decorate the shop and provide a warm welcoming to anyone who walks through the door.

Kathy Saldutte, owner of Violet Bouquet Flower Shop, explains that this business was established 30 years ago. Saldutte decided to buy the place around 20 years ago.

Why did she make this decision? Simply because, “it was for sale.”

Saldutte knows Brookline’s floral needs inside and out. She explains that while flower arrangements are available for any occasion, flowers for weddings seem to be her most popular service.

In recent years, Saldutte’s floral shop has gained popularity and received positive reviews online on The Knot, a well-known wedding publication. Brookline residents frequently seek Salduette’s help for their wedding floral arrangements.

Saldutte says that location at 931 Brookline Blvd. has helped the business. “The majority of our customers are from Brookline,” she says but explains the shop will also deliver to the surrounding areas.


SMOQ Pitt lives by this motto: “Rub. Smoke. Love.”

This barbecue restaurant that opened on April 11, 2015, is located at 600 Brookline Blvd. and will have you craving their flavorful food before you even step inside the door. From the street you can smell the smoked delicacies.

A “farm-to-table BBQ restaurant,” all of their meats come from local farms and are smoked in-house. In addition to their BBQ offerings, SMOQ Pitt is proud to say all of their sauces, sides and desserts are made from scratch daily.

Mitch Liebovich, the manager, says he looked all over Pittsburgh for a place to open a BBQ restaurant and Brookline fit his criteria.

“It’s a close-knit community,” he says, “and there is a lot of walking traffic and activity from the street.”

While they are located in Brookline, Liebovich says SMOQ Pitt will deliver to neighboring communities and was sure to mention that SMOQ Pitt is social media friendly, with accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and GrubHub.

A sense of community is apparent in all the businesses in Brookline. Owners have kind and supportive words for each other, reflecting their tight-knit and communal nature. Instead of competition, an ethos of common cause is seen in the trendy businesses that have found a home in Brookline.