Caring for newborn twins is tough. Opening a new business is also tough. Doing them both at the same time? Though it might seem next to impossible, that’s exactly what Alexis Tragos and Bobby Stockard did. Last month, the husband and wife team opened Pear and the Pickle, a market and café in Troy Hill, just days after welcoming a pair of baby boys into their family. Despite the tricky timing, Pear and the Pickle is off and running, bringing an old-fashioned corner store and community space to the up-and-coming North Side neighborhood.
After years in Brooklyn, Tragos and Stockard realized they didn’t want to raise a family in New York—and would struggle to afford to open a business there. So in 2011, the couple packed up and moved to Pittsburgh, bouncing from neighborhood to neighborhood before eventually buying a house in Troy Hill. When a space (one with roots as a grocery store stretching back to the early 20th century) became available just blocks away, they set to work dreaming up exactly what their new neighborhood needed.
Pear and the Pickle is the result of those dreams—and a whole lot of hard work. “It’s that traditional corner market that every neighborhood had, but with some modern upgrades,” explains Tragos. The shelves are stocked with basic pantry items and a small selection of meats, cheeses and produce. Pear and the Pickle is not meant to be a supermarket, but rather a place to grab that one more thing you need to finish dinner. And with its vintage wooden counter and bright, cheery atmosphere, Pear and the Pickle is a whole lot more stylish than the gas station minimart.
With a decade of experience in the kitchen at Brooklyn’s Superfine, Stockard brings serious culinary chops to Pear and the Pickle’s menu. “I’m really just making the food I like to eat,” he explains. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.” To that end, Stockard whips up a handful of breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads, along with homemade cookies and breakfast pastries. And Tragos and Stockard added a few Brooklyn touches to the menu, including killer bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches (ubiquitous in New York yet surprisingly hard to find here) and Stumptown coffee, which has a strong NYC presence but is fairly new to Pittsburgh.
More important than the brands on the shelves or the beans in your mug, Tragos and Stockard want Pear and the Pickle to be a cornerstone of the community. They aim to recreate the feel of the local market, where people of all stripes feel welcome to gather and gab about the neighborhood news. “To see that mix of people coming through the door…that’s really important for us,” says Tragos.
Tragos and Stockard started small but are ramping up. They’re expanding the menu (based on what their customers request, of course) and plan to add a rooftop deck this summer. Soon they will launch a Saturday supper, a weekly family-style dinner that will let Stockard cook more than just eggs.
Pear and the Pickle is a throwback to a bygone era, when general stores were, by necessity, the centers of the community. But it also looks to the future, responding to a growing demand for local economies and food that’s independent from faceless corporations. The name nods to that complexity, referencing both the pear orchards that once covered Troy Hill and the neighborhood’s industrial heyday, when many residents worked as pickle packers at the nearby Heinz plant. Explains Tragos: “We want to capture the spirit of what the neighborhood once was, and what the neighborhood can be.”
Pear and the Pickle is located at 1800 Rialto Street. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5, with expanded hours coming for summer. Head to their website for more information.