Latham St. Commons

We are building a resilient and sustainable ecosystem of people working together to address all of the factors affecting access to good health—social support, health care, education, diet, employment, air and water quality.

Our community circle grows

Over the course of the past week we spent some time getting to know people in our community. These may be people we interact with often, or those we greet in passing. Here are some of their stories. 

One
Making small talk with a local business owner was a learning experience. Se-Kyung, co-owner of "Seoul Mart" on Fifth Ave., talked about her experience of operating a business as an immigrant. She discussed about how difficult it was for her to blend in into the community when she first got to Pittsburgh in the late 1990’s. As a local market owner, Se-Kyung believes maintaining a positive relationship with the neighbors is crucial to her business. Over the years, Seoul Mart has become one of the most popular locations for Koreans in Pittsburgh to purchase food. 

Familiarity and exposure to the community draws people back to Seoul Mart. Seoul Mart has a strong and bold identity amongst the local neighborhood, and people trust the owners of the business. Providing nutritious products and services for the community is a primary objective for this course. Nonetheless, it is also important to strategize on how to become a local brand. 

Two
 

This is Audra. She currently works as a Crew Member at the Trader Joes in the Village of Eastside at 6343 Penn Ave. here in Pittsburgh. She is also a practicing potter, and an experienced art educator. She currently teaches ceramics classes at the Union Project and at the Carnegie Library Braddock, and has taught ceramics at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts School in the past. She initially involved herself at Trader Joe’s due to their policy of offering a starting hourly pay of $9 with $0.60 raise every eight months for employees, until the employee is earning $48,000 a year, as well as offering free dental and vision care to employees who work more than 15 hours a week-excellent opportunities by the standard of any American business industry. Audra maintains connections throughout western PA, as she is originally from Altoona, and is well involved in the Pittsburgh arts and arts education culture, frequenting artist networking events and . She is also a resident of Garfield where she and her husband JP own a house, and she hosts stall at the Garfield Night Market during Unblurred first Fridays. She typically hosts her pottery at this stall exclusively, but has shared her space with other artists before to allow their work a platform to the public. Audra is a very optimistic person, and values hard work and friendliness, but has a realistic view in the lack of opportunities that often face the economically disenfranchised, people of color, and LGBTQ identified persons.

Three
 

Kaylee interviewed an entrepreneur and local business owner named Chris. Chris owns Green Light Juice, a juice bar that uses organic produce to create nutrient-rich juices and smoothies. He uses a cold press process to avoid loosing nutrients as is common in more heat and blade-based processes. Providing nutritious food is important to him. He also uses his store front as a CSA pickup space for local community members so that they can have access to locally grown produce. Chris feels that it is important to be involved in the community. He and his juices participate in about 50 community events per year. 

Four

If you have ever eaten at the cute French crêperie cafe in Oakland, then you have definitely had a treat worth having. The atmosphere is great, for small intimate gatherings, interviews, and quiet reflection. However, the large amounts of people bustling in and out tend to keep the owners and employees fairly busy and flustered. I would like to say I had a great interview experience like my teammates where I found out a lot about the person I interviewed, but that wouldn’t be the reality.

I suppose I could have left and set out to interview someone else, but I think there is value in the experience I got.

The owner’s wife, whose name I will leave out for the purpose of this blog, seemed to have been flustered. Initially she declined having a conversation with me saying that they were too busy. I explained that it wouldn’t be anything extensive and would just like to know when they opened, if they love the community they work in, and how they try to tie in with the community.  I guess I can’t complain about the brief response I received: they opened in 1998, loved their location in Oakland, and try to buy locally when they can; she is not originally from Pittsburgh, but her husband is. Other than a few shifty eyes, that was all I got out of her.

Besides the basic info gained from the interview, there was a lot of valuable informal information gathered from this situation. I think the employees were taken back with the fact that I came in wanting to speak with them. The cafe is so perfectly set up to support intimate gatherings as they serve you, that it must not be common for them to be hosting the conversation as well as serving. In fact, as I type this they are going through the motions of their daily tasks- leaving little room for an out of the ordinary response from those they are serving. If I had to put myself in her shoes I would say that the small staff, and small café setting are all great in appearance but do tend to foster a workaholic, robotic, personality.

Serving the community (delicious and well worth it, healthy, comforting meals) 6 days a week, would put a toll on anyone. I wonder just how much more energy she can possibly foster to put back into the community when she is off? Do her and her husband live near their store, or are they from another part of Pittsburgh? Besides feeling busy and flustered, has anything else led to her curt response? Observing her for some time, I think I have come to the conclusion that she may not have been openly friendly with me, but overall she provides a friendly environment for the community she serves.