Spotlight surrounding East Liberty is flawed

kelsie bianco


The adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover or you may miss out on an amazing story,” explains the journey I took with East Liberty.

Having grown up in Pittsburgh, I am familiar with East Liberty and the somewhat seedy reputation that goes with it.

When I found out that East Liberty was the new location for Off The Bluff, I was anxious and excited, but doubts instantly ran through my mind.

When I told my parents, their concerns were through the roof, and for a second, I thought that they might not let me go. But being a 21-year-old adult, it was a decision that I had to make on my own.

So I got in my car, buckled up, and prepared myself for the worst. Thoughts of uncertainty ran through my mind. Will I be safe? Is it okay for me to be alone? Should I have gone at an earlier time? Little did I know, I was in fact judging this book by its cover.

My vision of East Liberty was far from accurate. Bakery Square was the first thing I set sight on. It’s new, innovative and refreshing.

But even though the bold colors, trendy shops, and emerging businesses of Bakery Square were intriguing; the rich culture within the actual neighborhoods is what made me fall in love with the East Liberty and the people who call it home.

I strolled down the wide streets lined with stores both old and new. The first store that I stumbled upon was Sam’s Shoes.

I met Sam and his brother, who now run one of the oldest family businesses in East Liberty. Their passion for their shop and the community instantly put me at ease and inspired me to look deeper.

Visiting establishments like the Global Food Market and Casta Rasta made me realize that people from all over the globe make East Liberty a diverse and vibrant community.

Dana Harris Yates is one of the most special people that I met. I walked into her little shop off of Penn Avenue in hopes of meeting someone interesting. Mission accomplished.

She told me how she has grew up in this community, and how it haped who she is and what she does.

The Cultural Oasis provides health remedies through the use of nature. Darla calls it “Natritional Healing.” Her gentle voice and caring personality are what draw people to her and her store.

“She has become a mother figure for me out here,” says 23-year-old Ashley Cox, who moved from Washington D.C. to East Liberty.

That is just one sign of the genuine warmth that characterizes East Liberty.

So yes, I did judge a book by its cover. But no, I do not regret it, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to truly appreciate the amazing stories that came out of it.