Palm trees in Pittsburgh

Every reporter at the Trib had to come up with a few holiday brights — or stories that entertain while they educate. Here’s one of mine. I had seen this Strip District body shop in the summer and noted that it looked like it belonged in Florida, with palm trees planted in front. I wondered how the owner keeps them alive during the harsh Pittsburgh winters. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t.

Keith Hodan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Keith Hodan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steve Schaffer dreams of the day he buys a second home in Key West, Fla.

Until then, the native Pittsburgher makes his own tropical paradise for as long as it lasts — planting palm trees in the spring and then, at this time of year, watching them wither and die.

By Keith Hodan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

By Keith Hodan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“It creates the illusion that we’re somewhere we’re not,” said Schaffer, the owner of City Collision II auto body shop in the Strip District. “I call it a cheap vacation, every time I look out.”

A few hardy Pittsburghers are willing to do what it takes to bring a little bit of the tropics north of the Mason-Dixon line — even if that means keeping up the Sisyphean task of buying tropical plants each spring.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Whirl finds fashion to go

I enjoy taking my students into the community to meet with local, working journalists. Christine and Jack Tumpson have been gracious to talk several times about how they have built a publishing powerhouse around Whirl and Edible Allegheny magazines. Starting this month, they are running some of the students’ best stories on their newly redesigned website. Reporter Emily Bastaroli found this gem on four wheels…

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. Photograph from Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

The Broke Little Rich Girl fashion truck parked in the South Side. By Sarah Cunningham, Point Park News Service.

A blue blouse with glimmering gold buttons hangs on a rack of colorful, unique clothing outside the Style Truck, enticing shopper Brittany Bauer to take a closer look. Inside, the truck holds even more fashion treasures, from patterned dresses and sweaters, to workout gear, handmade jewelry, and handbags. A “cat dress” catches Bauer’s eye.

“It’s just so cute and unique,” says Bauer. “There’s a big variety — something I could wear, something my mother could wear. The prices are good. I know I’m getting good quality. I know I’ll get a good wear out of [the clothes].”

The Style Truck, typically parked near 23rd Street and Penn Avenue in the Strip District, is one of four “fashion mobiles” launched in Pittsburgh. Owner Jackee Ging of Scott Township was one of the first to stake a claim on this trend. After seeing a New York City fashion truck in InStyle Magazine a year ago, Ging decided to start one in her city. She “pimped out” her truck to resemble a boutique with cabinets built into both sidewalls, shelves for jewelry displays, a fitting room, and hardwood floors. “It seems to be a trend popping up in different cities,” says Ging. “I thought the idea was brilliant.”

To read more of the story, click here. It also appears on the Point Park News Service.