Ketchup City's tin ceiling, seen through the logo on their front door. Photo courtesy of Ketchup City.

As an art teacher for 27 years in the Fox Chapel School District, Nanci Goldberg fell in love with the neighboring community of Sharpsburg.

Now she’s helping with its revitalization. Earlier this month, Goldberg and her husband, Christian Kahle, opened Ketchup City Creative (KCC) to bring more art and cultural activities into the neighborhood.

“It’s such a neat little town with a riverfront park and a business district that’s thriving,” says Goldberg. “There’s a lot going on right now.”

Dancing Gnome Brewery and Hitchhiker Brewing recently set up shop in the borough, and local marketing innovator Deeplocal moved its operations there from the Strip District last fall.

Ketchup City is now open for business on Main Street in what had been a vacant storefront for eight years.

Over the course of nine months, the couple transformed this 600-square-foot space by adding new drywall and floors, and building a larger bathroom — complete with a painted mural.

They also installed 54 feet of picture-hanging systems for the gallery space, where they’re currently showing work by local artists Keith Clouse, William Pfahl, Jaime L. Bird and Carol Skinger. The show will be on view for the next month, and visitors will also have a chance to check it out at an open house from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 7.

The newly renovated interior at Ketchup City.

The goal was to “respect and modernize” the space, by bringing it up to code while highlighting the building’s historical features, says Goldberg.

“We wanted to brighten up the storefront to generate excitement and draw people from other communities as well,” she adds.

The pièce de résistance is the original tin ceiling — hidden for years — that Kahle restored and painted a glossy black to complement the gallery’s bright white walls.

“It’s been a labor of love,” says Goldberg. “I think creativity is really important for people and it helps their communities.”

The couple’s revitalization efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Fundamentally, Ketchup City Creative checks almost every box of community development outlined in our comprehensive plan,” says Sharpsburg Mayor Matthew Rudzki, “from reduction of blight [to] beautification of a property, preservation of historical characteristics of the building, strengthening of a sense of place and revitalization of our business district.”

Goldberg and Kahle say they established KCC with an open-ended mission to give local residents a say in the programming they host. This may include lectures, workshops, gallery exhibits, acoustic music performances and space rental for private events.

“We’re investigating what comes next,” says Goldberg. “We need to have people involved to see where this goes.”

Through her participation in the Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization and Triboro EcoDistrict, Goldberg is also helping to coordinate public art projects and promote sustainable community development in Sharpsburg, Etna and Millvale.

She sees KCC as a natural extension of these efforts to capitalize on community engagement.

“There’s a lot of positive energy” in Sharpsburg, says Goldberg. “We want to contribute by being a space where people can do that work.”

Rudzki believes having a cultural hub like KCC will help Sharpsburg cultivate more collaborative relationships with local artists — a priority for the community.

“Ketchup City Creative gives our business district a much-needed multipurpose, arts-related space, and that is a testament to Nanci’s vision and passion,” says Rudzki. “Nanci transformed an underutilized storefront into an amazing community destination that can have a direct economic and social impact in Sharpsburg, while simultaneously attracting and supporting artists and their craft.”

Emily Stimmel

Emily fell in love with the written word as a teenager, when she published zines and wrote for her school paper. Today, she is a freelance writer with a decade and a half of experience in non-profit communications....