A weekend visitor to the Flying Squirrel vintage toy and ice cream shop in Carnegie asked owner Melanie Luke how she describes her quirky business.
“We’re a nostalgia emporium,” Luke says. “We have a little bit of a lot of stuff.”
With ice cream from Leona’s and the Pittsburgh Ice Cream Company, plus classic penny candy that includes items like pickle gumballs and zombie mints, Flying Squirrel has plenty of treats for kids.
And for grownups, there are the toys.
Vintage toys like the original Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, metal lunch boxes featuring Star Wars and other old-school favorites, old-fashioned board games like Sorry, tiny replicas of the Dr. Who phone booth, and atomic metal robots line the shelves at Flying Squrrel because they’re the kinds of toys Luke played with as a kid, she says.
“We were definitely a big game-playing family,” she says. “I had a lot of games from the ’70s, and I loved sci-fi, was a big Dr. Who fan.”
She chose Carnegie after searching for the perfect spot for about two years. Luke and her husband bought the building, a former optometrist’s office, in January, and spent months renovating it. It was a total gut job, she says, but they worked to retain some of the building’s “bones,” including the exposed brick walls, and renovated the punched tin ceiling, to keep it feeling old-timey.
Flying Squirrel opened in July, and has joined the growing number of unique stores in Carnegie’s East Main Street business district. “They’ve been really adamant about having small, local companies in this business district,” she said of the borough . “And I think if you’re going to be small, be really good, so people want to come back.”
She had originally pictured a toy and candy shop, but when Carnegie officials made it clear they really wanted an ice cream shop on Main Street, Luke was more than happy to oblige by reaching out to local ice cream makers to be her suppliers. The flavors always rotate, she says; one day there might be brown butter rosemary, the next day might feature bramble rose chocolate or lemon jalapeno.
The bright red exterior of Flying Squirrel matches well with Luke’s upbeat personality. She greets visitors like an excited kid who wants to share her toys, even those who may be treading unfamiliar waters.
“You can see it on their faces, when kids come in, they’ve never seen some of these toys before,” she says. “When people come in here, it’s meant to be a happy environment, no matter who they are.”
Flying Squirrel is just down the street from the newly opened and wildly popular BKN, another only-in-Carnegie spot.
Read more about Why Carnegie is on a roll in this NEXTpittsburgh article.