Steel City

Pittsburgh sports fans have a new shopping destination with the latest storefront from Steel City.

After years of selling their sporty, vintage-inspired clothing, hats and other accessories online, the company launched its first brick-and-mortar store. Located on Smithfield Street, the new location is now open for business seven days a week.

Founded in 2011 by Brandon Grbach and his wife, Carly, Steel City has become known for its specially-designed graphic tees emblazoned with famous Pittsburgh sayings and throwback logos for area sports teams. They grew the brand by selling at local craft fairs like Handmade Arcade, I Made It! Market, through retailers like ModCloth and Urban Outfitters, and in the gift shops at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Steel City CEO and creative director Brandon Grbach says they wanted to open a store for the past three years but felt that “the numbers didn’t make sense.” Before settling permanently, they decided to test out the Smithfield space over the holidays with a monthlong holiday pop-up shop.

“We didn’t have high expectations and we quadrupled what we thought we were going to do for the month of December,” says Grbach. “We were super slammed.”

He credits the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership with helping them overcome the legal and financial hurdles to make the store possible.

“They were the deciding factor in getting us down there,” says Grbach.

Grbach believes their location puts them in close proximity to souvenir-seeking tourists staying at nearby hotels and fans looking for something to wear to Heinz Field and PNC Park on the North Shore.

“We got a lot of traffic from people walking to the games,” says Grbach.

The store joins a growing list of local retail entrepreneurs expanding into brick-and-mortar stores. Last year, the bag maker Moop also set up a space Downtown, and the specialty bra designer Trusst started operating out of a small storefront in Garfield.

Grbach attributes the resurgence of shops in neighborhoods like Lawrenceville to customers wanting to get an experience they can’t get from ordering something online.

“People want to feel the fabric and try it on,” says Grbach.

He adds that they plan to attract customers by hosting special events with celebrities like Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, who visited the store last December to sign autographs. They also plan to carry limited-edition merchandise that can only be purchased in-store.

“You have to keep it fresh and give them something that’s going to make it worth their while to come down,” says Grbach.

Hours for the Steel City store (625 Smithfield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222) are 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...