Fa-La-La-La-Local Gift Guide
by Natalie Bencivenga
December 8, 2021
Did you know that shopping small isn’t just great for your local economy and community, but also much better for the environment?
When we shop locally, companies use less transportation and fuel and there is less habitat loss and pollution, all of which reduces negative impacts on the environment and us. Plus, supporting our local friends and neighbors is good for the collective spirit, as well!
In this season of giving, check out some of my favorite shops across the town that embrace that eco-chic lifestyle.
CAESAR’S DESIGNS: Looking for something “stunning” this year? Look no further than Caesar’s Designs. For the past seventeen years, Caesar Azzam has been sharing his jewelry knowledge and experience in a casual, relaxed setting in his Shadyside store. His high-end, knock-your-socks-off pieces are perfect for any special occasion. But his new “Stunner” collection takes things to a new level -- both in design but also with less environmental impact.
“The ‘Stunner’ collection was born out of my desire to break out of my day-to-day work and into a fantasy world with rings that generate ‘wows’ when someone sees them,” he said. “I chose to make seven rings jokingly one for every day of the week and because seven is my favorite number,” added Azzam.
The diamonds used in the new pieces are lab-grown, which is the biggest technological advancement that the gemstone world has seen in this generation. “I wanted to be part of that "what's new and exciting" sphere that I have been promoting since I started my business in Pittsburgh in 1998,” Azzam said. His other reason for using them is that you can use much bigger gems with the same budget as compared to mined diamonds of the same quality. Talk about stunning and sustainable! Check them out and his other beautiful pieces HERE. Follow along on instagram@caesarsdesigns for more inspo.
EONS: Why embrace vintage? Ask the master, himself, Richard Parsakian, owner of Eons Fashion Antique in Shadyside. “I call this the ‘Eons social experiment experience’,” he said. “When you come to my store, many creative worlds come together. I have conversations about art, politics, fashion and much more with artists, designers, actors and customers teaching others how to understand our histories. I am the concierge for supporting the local arts scene for those interested in exploring Pittsburgh. Vintage is the best way to express who I am as I create a unique ensemble from centuries of fashion,” he added.
Parsakian believes that we can reduce the carbon footprint of shipping and elevate the vitality of Pittsburgh or any city with a fabric of unique shops where the public’s support can diversify businesses and make our cities a destination for all to enjoy.
Check it out: 5850 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232. Follow along on social media: Eons Fashion Antique
URBANA: Shopping locally is a passion for my sister-in-law and fashionista, Anna Bencivenga, owner of Urbana Boutique in Oakmont. “When you shop locally, you’re cutting out the shipping middleman. No extra packaging, no trucks guzzling gas. It directly supports the micro-economy that you live in and helps Mother Earth. Whether that be a suburb of a bigger city or small town USA, those dollars go a long way to supporting your local community and neighbors,” she said.
Check out her chic shop along the charming boulevard in Oakmont where you can find lots of local goods like non-toxic bath bombs and handcrafted accessories. Her clothing prices keep things affordable (most items are well under $100) as she believes that “style can be found at every price point. Mix and match old and new. “Take that funky one-dollar Goodwill t-shirt and pair it with your fave new blazer from Urbana or vintage bomber,” she said.
BURGHWOOD:I love to follow upwith local artists and craftsmen to see what they have been working on recently. Keith Loughrey, owner and designer of Burghwood, a handcrafted heirloom furniture shop located in the North Hills, shared with me a piece he recently completed and was very proud of:
“My favorite pieces are generally my most recent -- the ones I've just spent time with and still have on the brain. One of these is a "No-Waste Desk," which is a unique piece built from salvaged wood. On the surface, it's a contemporary desk design, but not only is the lumber rescued kiln samples that were destined to be burned, but the collage of woodgrains and patterning was created by assembling offcuts from other pieces. Sometimes, letting the available materials lead the design process creates fun solutions,” he said.
Working with reclaimed wood is important to him as it lessens the impact on our planet. “There are more than enough trees already felled to last for many years if we used responsibly and reused and repurposed them,” said Loughrey. “We could live more minimalist lives, which is reflected in my work. A piece should be built to be passed down for many generations or for ‘ten lifetimes.’ The disposable mindset must go.”
MID THE PINES: Owner Amy Hartzell wants everyone to feel connected to the items they buy and things they love while keeping an eye on the environmental impact. “At our Mid The Pines Vintage Etsy shop, we feature vintage and antique collectibles. Every item we source is recycled and beautifully repurposed. We chose to salvage beautifully hand-crafted items to extend the restoration and sustainability of these treasures,” she said.
Hartzell started her vintage shop to connect people with memories. “We hope these memories can recapture special, nostalgic moments from past times. Oftentimes, we receive lovely heartfelt notes from our buyers sharing their personal stories of their reconnection with one of our items. These touching stories are the backbone of our business. It is why we do what we do!” Check out @midthepinesvintage on Instagram.
RENEE PIATT: Looking for one-of-a-kind statement pieces at an affordable price to give as unforgettable gifts this holiday season? Look no further than Pittsburgh-based jewelry designer, Renee Piatt.
“I love to up-cycle and find hidden treasures that can be reimagined,” said Ms. Piatt. Having started in the world of floral design, she quickly realized that jewelry was her passion. Eight years later, her recognizable pieces are coveted by Pittsburgh’s fashionistas of all ages.
“I started making things that I thought were elegant and had a refined feel to them,” said Ms. Piatt. “My pieces are made for nature lovers and those who appreciate the beauty that comes straight out of the earth. I wanted my pieces to be something that you won’t find anywhere else,” she added. Shop the looks HERE and follow along on Facebook.
PIP & LOLA's SOAPS & SUNDRIES “Think of us while you’re wet and naked” may be the cheeky slogan for this fun family-owned soap company based in Homestead, PA, but owner Samantha Story-Camp is all business when it comes to lessening her impact on the environment. “We reuse everything. Every bottle gets reused for something. Even the fragrance oil bottles that I have which generally are either glass or plastic get reused in my art. Any boxes that can be reused for shipping get reused. Any packing materials that possibly can be reused, get reused. Even the yogurt containers get reused in candle making,” she said.
With her vegan and vegetarian “barely scented” soap collections that have a cult-following (and now available in multiple locations) it is easy to see why people fall in love with these handcrafted soaps. Perfect for kids and grownups alike with sensitive skin, these soaps are made with love and gentle enough for the whole family. A perfect stocking stuffer! Follow the fun on Instagram @pipandlola
THE GOOD HOME OF OAKMONT: “Antiquing might be the original recycling and so there is some symmetry in selling antiques next to goods made from recycled material. Using gently-used and vintage items helps us to gently protect the planet,” said owner Lisa McShea.“We try to look for wonderful and useful products that are produced with the environment in mind.”
From locally made soy candles to stationery to chandeliers and vintage sofas, there is something for everyone at this delightful new shop. Pop into The Good Home of Oakmont located at 634 Allegheny River Boulevard in Oakmont and follow them on Instagram: @thegoodhomeofoakmont