Photo courtesy of Lemon Tree PGH.

While walking through Millvale, you’re sure to see Lemon Tree PGH stickers and T-shirts. But what is Lemon Tree PGH?

It’s an indie record label founded by three friends who are looking for the right property to house their dream of opening a coffee shop and performance space. In June 2022, they launched a GoFundMe page for the project.

For now, the husband-and-wife team of Bobby Smith and Sam McCoy Smith, along with their pal Jason Hosterman, are building relationships in the borough to serve as a foundation for their business.

Every Monday, they stock the Millvale Library Community free fridge with branded, 8-ounce bottles of cold brew … because everybody needs a free caffeine boost every now and then. Want one? Send Lemon Tree a Facebook message. The team makes weekly product drops (which will soon include homemade lemonade and pastries!) throughout the borough, as well as the North Side, Wilkinsburg, Highland Park, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park.

Photo courtesy of Lemon Tree PGH.

The Smiths, who live in Wilkinsburg, and Hosterman, a Millvale resident, have volunteered their time (and coffee) to various events, including cleanups and fundraisers for Girty’s Run. The trio also pop ups outside of Millvale businesses to sell drip coffee and cold brew on a pay-what-you-can basis. The Smiths’ young son, Seamus, is one heck of a salesman.

On Sunday, Nov. 28, from 2 to 7 p.m., they’ll be slinging cups of joe at 524 Grant Ave. (the former Baby Loves Tacos space). Other vendors at the event include Boulevard Vintage, The NxT Dimension, Saging Space, Alva’s Apothecary, LilliPanini Designs, Caraway Crafts and Feel the Rain Studio. All participating small businesses will donate $1 from each sale made that day to benefit Millvale Youth, an organization run by Jenny Jo Mendak, a piercer at Hometown Tattoo who personifies kindness.

Photo courtesy of Lemon Tree PGH.

So, what makes Millvale the perfect place for Lemon Tree to lay down roots?

“Millvale reminds us of home,” Bobby Smith says. “It’s just a special place.”

The three owners grew up in Lewistown, a small town that sits along the Juniata River in Mifflin County.

As a 14-year-old, Bobby Smith began booking punk shows at local fire halls and empty storefronts to combat boredom. He lowered his voice to sound more mature while making the arrangements. Later, while working toward his associate’s degree at a local college, he drew up a business plan that, with McCoy Smith’s art background and Hosterman’s business acumen, grew into Lemon Tree Records.

The name is a reference to the “Lemon of Troy” episode of “The Simpsons.” And Millvale’s spirit gels with their company motto: “Don’t just do it yourself, do it together.”

Since 2017, Lemon Tree has been helping local bands make tapes and book shows at places such as The Government Center on the North Side and Garfield’s The Mr. Roboto Project.

Photo courtesy of Lemon Tree PGH.

Their first coffee pop-up event was held during Millvale’s inaugural Pride event in June. The business partnered with New Kensington-based Steel Cup Coffee Roasters. Owners Doug and Daria Pinto donated all of the beans Lemon Tree used that day and the couple continues to be a resource for business advice. There’s even Lemon Tree Signature Blend coffee beans roasted by Steel Cup. The medium blend is sold in 12-ounce bags.

Coffee is a conduit for the creation of another Millvale community hub, a safe space where kids can hang out, listen to and play music, look at and display art, and forge IRL friendships.

“If you take care of Millvale,” McCoy Smith says, “Millvale will take care of you.”

This post was originally published November 21, 2021. It was updated June 21, 2022. 

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.