Welcome!  I'm glad that you're here.  I'm a documentary family photographer located in Pittsburgh, PA and this is where I share some of my favorite stories and other occasional ramblings. 

'Twas (Almost) The Night Before Christmas

December 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Dear Friends,

With Christmas only days away, you might be feeling a bit stressed because you haven't yet found the perfect toy or gift for that special little person (or little people) on your list.  Fear not!  I have been featuring some of my favorite local small businesses during this holiday season and no list would be complete without Fun Buy The Pound. This magical toy store located at 406 Beaver Street in Sewickley, PA is truly one of a kind.

Meet owner Brenda Fisk and store manager, who is also Brenda's daughter, Emily.

Fun Buy The Pound opened in 2005.  "We always wanted to do this," Brenda told me.  Her husband gave her a rental lease as a Christmas gift 15 years ago and they opened the toy store the following May.  Since then they have been delighting the young and the young-at-heart with a magical array of toys and their unique brand of customer service. 

I asked Emily how long she's been working at the store and she smiled and said, "Since I was 10 years old!"  She started by sorting Legos in the back room and has worked her way up to store manager.  In fact, all of Brenda's five children have at one time or another worked at the store.  "They all learned great customer service here," said Brenda.

It's almost impossible to walk into the store and not smile!  From ceiling to floor and in every nook and cranny, you are surrounded by toys, games, plush animals, and even a beautiful collection of infant and children's clothing.

I asked Brenda and Emily why they have been so successful for so many years.  "It's the personal touch that we provide," Brenda said.  Customers know that they can stop at the store on their way to a birthday party and leave with not only a great gift, but also with the gift beautifully wrapped for free.  "We also know our toys!" added Brenda.  "We handpick everything.  I think about my five kids and what they would have liked when they were younger.  And I now have seven grandchildren who are all my toy testers!"

Brenda and Emily also shared that Fun Buy The Pound is very much part of the Sewickley community.  Customers who have since moved away stop by when they're home visiting family or friends.  Many customers return to the store year after year with their children and now their grandchildren.  Emily shared some of the great testimonials from their youngest guests including, "I want to live here!"  "Adults should buy toys instead of insurance.  They'd be happier!" And, "How many years until I can work here?"

With such a feeling of joy and happiness in the store I asked Brenda and Emily what the best thing is about working at the toy store.  "The magic of it.  And working with Emily," said Brenda.  "It's a nice place to go every day," said Emily.

Doesn't get any better than that, friends.

Happy holidays!


Treat Your Furry Family Members to Healthy Pet Products

December 20, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Dear Friends,

While we're only days away from the Big Day, there's still plenty of time to support small businesses and shop local.  Today I'm featuring one of my favorites here in Pittsburgh, Healthy Pet Products.  I've been a customer at their North Hills location in McCandless Township for many years because I value the knowledgeable and friendly staff and their quality products, not to mention the fun toys and stocking stuffers featured in the store this time of year!

Meet owner Toni Shelaske.

Toni opened the North Hills store in 2008 when she purchased the business from a couple who was as passionate as she is about feeding her dogs all-natural and organic pet food.  In 2011 she opened a store in the South Hills in McMurray, PA when she realized that customers were driving from as far as West Virginia and Ohio to not only purchase quality pet food but also to seek her advice and expertise about how to best care for their pets with allergies and other ailments.  To meet further customer demand, Toni opened a Cranberry Township location in 2019 and will open a store in Port Charlotte, Florida in 2022.

While she is quick to say that she and her staff are not vets, they have seen and experienced firsthand the benefits of feeding pets all-natural and organic pet food.  "My soul's purpose is to educate as many people as I can.  We need to be our pet's advocates," Toni said.  She and her staff are proud to be part of a movement that is reluctant to choose to medicate their pets as the first step but rather to look at their diet as a starting point.  

On a fun note, just last month Toni launched her very own label of dog toys, Toni Unleashed Toys.  

So far, the Pittsburgh Pierogi is the best seller!  Your dog can also have their very own plush version of the famous Pittsburgh incline, a Pittsburgh bridge (Pittsburgh has 446 of them, more than any other city in the world!) or 412 Pittsburgh.  And according to Toni, more fun Pittsburgh-themed designs are in the works.

During my visit, it was so apparent to me that the people who visited the store, many with their dogs, were truly family.  The staff knew many, owners and dogs alike, on a first-name basis and gushed over their furry friends.

Finally, I asked Toni what she would like her current and new customers to know about her and her business.  "I'm here so pets can live their best and healthiest lives.  This is a mission-based business.  I have to keep going."

On behalf of all of your happy and trusting clients, we hope that you do, Toni!

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