Ali Pokorny’s new business is the perfect fit for Pittsburgh.
In 2020 she launched Puzz, a jigsaw puzzle company that updates the classic pastime with modern themes.
Like a lot of people, Pokorny rediscovered the simple joys of puzzling during quarantine.
“I remember going to my grandmother’s house in Washington, PA, and she would always have a puzzle out. That’s my earliest memory of puzzles,” she says. “I have such a hyperactive mind. Doing a puzzle allows your brain to focus on the activity at hand and not on other things.”
Although Pokorny enjoyed the mental challenge, she was frustrated by the selection. Most puzzles she found featured cartoonish kittens, abstract art or basic landscapes; images that got her mind moving but didn’t necessarily stir her soul.
Pokorny, whose day job is in marketing, reached out to some artistic acquaintances with ideas she felt were fun and relatable.
Online sales started right before the holiday season and Puzz sold out of its 900-box inventory by January 2021.
After restocking, she started offering local pickups, so she got to meet some of her fellow puzzlers, who encouraged her to make more. Some customers even preserved their finished products by framing them and hanging the puzzles on their walls. Pokorny says in the puzzling business, that’s the highest compliment.
She’s currently working with more artists to create new designs and 500-piece puzzles for folks who want to feel a sense of accomplishment faster.
Will people continue to pursue puzzling now that Covid restrictions are being lifted? Pokorny says there’s a huge subculture of puzzlers that will keep the trend alive.
Throughout the summer, Pokorny will be doing puzzle pop-ups, including one on June 9 at The Salon in Lawrenceville (3706 Butler Street). Guests can sip wine while completing 150-piece mini puzzles. Follow Puzz’s Instagram page for event updates.
Upcoming themes include hiking, cafes and an ode to Pittsburgh.
“A lot of the inspiration comes from the stuff I find interesting; things other people can relate to as well,” Pokorny says.