Businesses welcome OpenStreetsPGH event with open arms, doors
Owner Gary Gigliotti kept Deli on Butler closed during OpenStreetsPGH last May, just like he does every Sunday.
Then an employee who lives near the sandwich shop in Lawrenceville called him at home.
“He called at 9 a.m. and said, ‘You’ve got to get here. There are so many people,’ ” Gigliotti, 52, of Verona said. “By the time I … got down here, the place was packed.”
Business boomed that day, and Gigliotti since then has embraced OpenStreetsPGH, opening his deli each time the venture clears Pittsburgh roads of Sunday-morning traffic to the benefit of walkers, runners and bicyclists.
He’ll be one of many business owners hoping to tap into the event’s popularity again this year when the 2016 schedule kicks off Sunday.
Thousands traveled along the 3½-mile, traffic-free route from Market Square to Lawrence‑ville last summer and enjoyed free fitness programs offered at staging areas, said Ngani Ndimbie, a spokeswoman for OpenStreetsPGH’s presenting organization Bike Pittsburgh.
Gigliotti plans to sell breakfast sandwiches from the sidewalk outside his deli this year.
Employees at Iron City Bikes, a few blocks south of Gigliotti’s deli, have even bigger plans. Lawton Tellin, 22, and Shane Montgomery, 26, said the shop will open early and hold its annual summer party in conjunction with OpenStreetsPGH. Beer kegs, food trucks and entertainment will be on hand, as will a station where bicyclists can inflate their tires or get a quick tune-up for free.
“It’s kind of like a utopian sort of day,” Tellin said. “There are no cars. Everybody can bike in the streets.”
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup said the street closings spawned some anxiety in the run up to OpenStreetsPGH last year. Business owners, some of whom are among the partnership’s members, aren’t shy when it comes to complaining about street closures, Waldrup said. He heard little negative feedback once the pedestrian-friendly venture started.
“It opened the eyes of businesses along the corridor,” he said. “Folks who maybe would never think of coming Downtown on a Sunday are down here. It’s a great way for them to get folks through their door.”
But some shopkeepers, such as Roxanne Hahn, 49, harbor complicated feelings about OpenStreetsPGH.
Hahn, who owns Roxanne’s Dried Flowers on Penn Avenue in the Strip District, said she supports getting people outside walking or biking, but she doesn’t think OpenStreetsPGH helps her business.
“It was so chaotic,” she said. “No one came into the store.”
This year, Hahn said she will hold off opening until 11 a.m., two hours after the event starts. Doing that, she said, should allow her to serve the customers who walk the OpenStreetsPGH route in the morning before returning to shop later in the day.
OpenStreetsPGH events also are scheduled for June 26 and July 31.
Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5627 or [email protected].