Article by Ennis Davis, AICP
Once Pittsburgh’s center of industry, the Strip emerged during the 19th century as a district populated by mills and factories along the Allegheny River. Anchored by names such as US Steel, Westinghouse, Pittsburgh Reduction Company (ALCOA) and the H.J. Heinz Company, by the early 20th century its infrastructure had attracted a vibrant network of fresh produce, meat, poultry wholesalers and auction houses, with small businesses catering to shift workers nearby, making it the economic center of the city. The district fell into decline when the Pittsburgh was hit hard with the closing of several steel mills and other aging manufacturing facilities during the mid-to-late 20th century. In addition, nearly 80 percent of its produce industry abandoned the area.
With the need to change with the rest of the city, the neighborhood, which had become littered with abandoned buildings and empty factories, stayed alive by re-branding itself as a notable market district. Today, its known as a place where industry, nightlife, dining and wholesaling seamlessly blend together. Bursting with local flavor, gritty and authentic, the Strip is considered a slice of pure Pittsburgh. A haven for citizens of the city and tourists alike and centered around parallel corridors, Smallman Street and Penn Avenue, the district is packed full of meat, produce and seafood markets, ethnic grocers, sidewalk vendors and local eateries known for their diverse selections and wholesale prices.
While auction houses and major wholesalers lined Smallman Street near the produce terminal, smaller businesses opened up shop along Penn Avenue in existing buildings during the early 20th century. Following the produce terminal falling into decline after the end of World War II, many produce dealers expanded their operations by opening retail stores a block away on Penn Avenue. Today, Penn Avenue remains a vibrant and authentic pedestrian scale wholesale district filled with local businesses.
7. Looking down 19th Street.
Longtime Local Businesses
8. Dating back to 1912, the Robert Wholey & Company is a prominent fish market and grocery store in the Strip District.
10. Parma Sausage Products, Inc. is a small family business that has produced Italian pork products since 1954. In addition to the factory, the company operates a store on Penn Avenue.
11. Roland’s Seafood Grill has been located at 1904 Penn Avenue since 1959.
12. Reyna Foods is a Mexican grocery wholesaler and retailer on Penn Avenue.
13. The original Primanti Brothers Restaurant & Bar on 18th Street between Smallman Street and Penn Avenue. Known for its signature sandwiches, Primanti Brothers is a chain of sandwich shops that originated in the Strip District in 1933.
14. The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company is an Italian import store that stocks more than 5,000 hard-to-find imported Italian and specialty food products. The company began as a pasta business in 1902.