A Pittsburgh parking chair, pierogi pillows and yinzer cards line the large front window at the new Commonwealth Press storefront at 4707 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield.
Of course, they had to add an ItalYINZ T-shirt and mug to pay homage to the neighborhood’s Little Italy section.
And that’s just the start.
“Right now I’m just bringing Commonwealth Press into Bloomfield,” says owner Dan Rugh, 45, of Mt. Lebanon. “My goal is to bring Bloomfield into Commonwealth Press.”
Commonwealth Press, a custom screen printing shop, will celebrate the grand opening of its second commercial-based retail store tonight starting at 6 p.m. The event will include print demos and a happy hour with food and drinks, and will run until the neighbors tell them to quiet down.
Rugh says he has long talked about opening a retail space in Bloomfield and is excited to see it finally happen.
“It’s just cool,” he said of the neighborhood, which includes a mix of artsy and creative businesses that Commonwealth Press “vibes with.”
Rugh started Commonwealth Press in 2002 in his South Side basement. A native of Punxsutawney, he was in Pittsburgh getting his Master’s degree in multimedia design and technology from Duquesne University when the Virginia-based company that he worked for went under.
In what he calls “the most Pittsburgh story ever,” Rugh began screen printing in his basement and web designing from the attic.
“All my friends were in bands; I was doing it for them,” he says. Slowly, the screen printing business began to take off.
Commonwealth Press initially opened up shop in the South Side, just 168 steps from Rugh’s front door. At that retail shop, he says, people stopped in and bought whatever was hanging in the window.
Commonwealth Press now has a retail shop in Mt. Lebanon that has been open for four years, as well as a new 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Allentown.
They make custom shirts for everyone from “the smallest of bands” to UPMC.
They even operated a pop-up shop at Pittsburgh International Airport for nearly a year until Hudson Group bought out their space and now sells their products.
A lot of the items in their retail spaces are yinzer-based, including a popular T-shirt that says “Pittsburgh versus All Yinz” on it and “pretty much anything with a bridge.” They even have a “Little Yinzer” line of baby onesies. You’ll find all of these items inside the new 1,600-square-foot Bloomfield shop.
Customers can also make custom made T-shirt orders (a minimum of 12), as well as check out the already-made selection of Pittsburgh-themed shirts, baby items, home goods and cards all screen printed by Commonwealth.
A space like this is a first for Commonwealth Press and will give Rugh a chance to bring in the original screen printer he once used in his South Side basement for teaching screen printing classes at the shop. A seamstress will also teach sewing techniques. About a quarter of the store will be dedicated to these classes.
Since the shop began opening its doors earlier this month, people have been popping their heads in to talk about the shirts Commonwealth Press has made for their families in the past. Some have just been nebby, stopping in to ask what this business is all about. The retail space had previously been vacant.
“It’s a great side of town,” says Mike King, store manager with Commonwealth. “There’s so many great people here.”
The community aspect is what excited Rugh most about Bloomfield. In each neighborhood where Commonwealth Press has set up space, Rugh gets to know the neighbors and even their dogs’ names.
In Bloomfield, he hopes to find out what the needs of the community are and adapt.
“I’m not just trying to come in and make money off of somebody’s nostalgia,” he says. “I want to be a part of a neighborhood.”