Curtain Up! on Coal Hill Nook PGH

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Coal Hill Nook PGH is a new retail business that affirms the old showbiz motto The Show Must Go On — even if it happens in a hand-crafted salt bowl or is being modeled by an alien.

When sisters Katie and Ali Keirs — self-described “herb nerds and cottage core enthusiasts” — were pandemically displaced from their local theatre jobs last year, they passed the time with creative projects involving candlemaking, painting and artisanal seed-growing. Their vision for opening a craft store came while visiting a farmers market in Ohio.

Says Katie, “We looked at the food and the farmers and then looked at each other and asked, ‘Why not bring what we’re growing to ‘market’?”

The chance discovery of an available storefront at 10 Boggs Avenue in Mount Washington led to Coal Hill Nook PGH’s October, 2020 opening … and a realization they didn’t have to look beyond their own circle of theatre colleagues for an initial inventory of eco-conscious and natural products.

Featured are crochet items by Heidi Nagle, an Equity stage manager and co-founder of the Harvey Wallbangers comedy troupe; all-natural soaps from actress/singer Drew Leigh Williams and her Sudsy Shoppe line; vintage clothing by playwright and Savannah College of Art & Design graduate Laura Young; wooden salt bowls by drummer/producer Jacob Krasicki of A Night In The Attic; jewelry, masks and acrylic works by veteran stage costume assistant Betta.

Regarding business business — marketing and registering and licensing, etc. — the sisters received invaluable startup assistance from Workhorse Collaborative’s Jackie Baker (an associate from her days as Bricolage Productions company manager) and Revive Marketing Group’s Brittany Spinelli (former stage manager with barebones productions and Kinetic Theatre Company).

Coal Hill Nook PGH is a literal hands-on business, says Ali. “We pour every candle. We make every label. We even check the quality of each bath bomb — talk about a tough job!”

Customers will also meet the shop’s “silent partner”, a welcoming Roswell-style alien mannequin introduced as “Deb from HR”. Inevitably attired in the latest featured wearable, it’s a vivid representation of Coal Hill Nook PGH’s core business ethos — “an out-of-this world reminder to be silly, have fun, embrace uniqueness and allow yourself to be surprised from time to time,” says Katie.

Ali credits the fabled Mount Washington community spirit for playing a large role “in making us believe things were going to work out.”

A lot of neighbors make the shop a regular stop on their daily walks, she notes. “So many folks want to see a sign of something new, something hopeful, something hometown, something for Mount Washington residents, and here we are.”

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Coal Hill Nook PGH, 10 Boggs Avenue, Mount Washington, Pittsburgh PA 15211. Check website for store hours. www.CoalHillNookPGH.com / social media @CoalHillNookPGH

(l-r) Ali Keirs, Katie Keirs, engaged customer, Deb from HR conversing on a recent sunny Saturday afternoon at Coal Hill Nook PGH