Travel Diaries: Pittsburgh, PA
Store Spotlight: SōL Collective with Kiersten Ferno
Before we jump into Pittsburgh recs, tell us about yourself!
I’m a fashion fanatic and foodie living and working in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I love all things footwear, helping women feel confident, and discovering small brands to share with our customers. In my off time I’m always game to sweat it out in a boxing or spin class, try a NYT Cooking recipe for my fam, or seek out a fun cocktail at one of my favorite bars.
How did your shop, The SōL Collective–a local favorite–come to be? And where does the name come from?
While working for a luxury, Italian women’s shoe brand, a family friend and orthopedic surgeon suggested opening a shoe store of my own. He would send his patients to me for comfort shoes knowing I could be trusted to help his patients–a win for us both! I bootstrapped the biz with help from family and friends and launched a shoe store focused on comfort and fit. My background in luxury goods and previously as an assistant buyer at AEO corporate had me jonesing for fashion and trends, so as time went on, I evolved the business into more of a shoe boutique offering products that LOOKED just as good as they felt! As a 30 year old woman on the go, I have no interest in wearing painful footwear, but I want to wear the trends. My shop is a niche business, and honestly, the best part of what we do is being the solution for so many women who have that same dilemma.
The boutique originated as Soothe the Sole. In 2020, when time stood still, we thought it was perfect to “relaunch” as The Sōl Collective, so we could better represent the evolution of the business, incorporate a broader variety of goods (i.e. clothing, gifts, accessories), and also reach a higher end, fashion-focused clientele. Sōl is the phonetic spelling of “sole” but it also means so many amazing things:
𝗦ō𝗹 like the soles of your feet.
𝗦ō𝗹 like the the sun.
𝗦ō𝗹 like time alone.
𝗦ō𝗹 like unique.
𝗦ōl like the Latin derivative for solution.
𝗦ō𝗹 like the earth.
𝗦ō𝗹 can be feminine or masculine.
𝗦ō𝗹 like peace.
𝗦ō𝗹 like having a bright future, that fire.
𝗦ō𝗹 like having it all.
It just felt like the right term to encompass what we do, positive vibes, and the experience we like to create for our customers.
What can shoppers find at SōL that makes it such a great fit for Aspinwall?
Our footwear offering is unique and almost exclusively European-made. We try to avoid selling basics that you can find anywhere, and love sourcing unique, easy gifting options and apparel for our customers to snag on the go as well. Beyond cool products, we pride ourselves on our in-store experience being joyful and confidence boosting! We also just moved into a larger space, and worked hard to create a NYC-boutique feel so customers would really enjoy spending time with us there.
What is your favorite thing about living in Pittsburgh?
I love bigger cities in general, but when I’m home it’s just so comfortable. People are down to earth here, and over the last ten years it’s been incredible to watch the city blossom - from amazing restaurants opening to multiple boutiques launching to major tech companies moving in around the city. There are so many neighborhoods to explore, each with their own personality, and there’s always something new opening to check out!
Recommendations for a Trip to Pittsburgh:
Most iconic Pittsburgh experiences not to miss:
- Andy Warhol Museum and Carnegie Museum of Art
- The Mattress Factory (installation art)
- A ride on The Incline up Mt Washington
- Point State Park where all 3 rivers meet. And if you're so "inclined", take a sightseeing tour on the Gateway Clipper to see all the locks, dams, bridges and beauty of the city.
- Brunch or dinner downtown and walk across Roberto Clemente Bridge for Pirates game in PNC Park (the view speaks for itself)
- Phipps Conservatory Botanical Gardens
- High tea at the William Penn
- A Steelers game if it's football season, of course
- Hotel Monaco: great rooms, fun rooftop bar, yummy restaurant located downtown
- Tryp Hotel: Vocational school turned boutique hotel located in Lawrenceville, close to some of the latest spots to be in Pittsburgh
- The Maverick: YMCA turned boutique hotel located in the heart of East Liberty, close to nightlife and restaurants
- Or grab an AirBnB at one of the neighborhoods listed later in this article!
- Children’s Museum: Pittsburgh is home to Mister Rogers and Daniel Tiger, and this awesome, hands-on museum celebrates them and so much more of the city's ingenuity
- Carnegie Science Center: This hands-on museum never gets old as a place for kids and grown-ups alike to learn and play. There are always incredible temporary exhibits (at the moment a new Gibson guitar installation)
- Coop de Ville: "Cocktails & comfort food served in a funky restaurant featuring arcade games, bowling & billiards." What could be better for kids and parents alike?!
- Sandcastle Water Park: Featuring a wave pool, lazy river, water play and tons of water slides, plus a boardwalk full of food. This is a perfect summer activity for the whole family
- Kennywood Amusement Park: A throwback in the best way. AdventureLand was filmed here for a reason. Full of all the rides and games for kids of all ages.
- U.S. National Aviary: Explore alongside free-range birds everywhere, across all habitats and climate zones. Walk with the penguins, feed the pelicans and learn about predators like falcons and hawks as they fly above.
Best Grown-Up Entertainment:
- Cinderlands Brewery - Strip District location (and the whole Strip District for that matter!)
- Con Alma Jazz Club: swanky vibe featuring live jazz music, cocktails, and plant-based small plates and mains
- Arsenal Bowl: Lively bowling alley, yummy food, DJs and other entertainment nightly in the Lawrenceville neighborhood
- Five Iron Golf: Indoor driving range
- Any show at The Benedum Center or the Pittsburgh Symphony at Heinz Hall
- Coop De Ville (but at night, sans kids :)
- The Frick: Off the beaten path, home of the Frick family and beautiful art collection
Best Kid-Friendly Spots:
- Pamela’s Diner: Obama's favorite pancakes, he brought Pam and co. to the White House to make their famous hotcakes
- Garbarino's: Delicious high end 4th generation Italian restaurant
- Ali Baba's: Opened in 1972 this Family style Syrian food (think mouth-watering hummus, shish kebab and falafel)
- Klavon’s Homemade Ice Cream (since 1923!)
- Iron Born Pizza - Strip District location: Gooey, delicious "hand-forged" pizza like you've never seen before
- The Porch at Schenley Park: seasonal, fresh food in beautiful outdoor location
Best Grown-Up Spots:
- Butcher & the Rye
- Gi Jin
- The Vandal
- The Speckled Egg
- Poulet Bleu
- Fig & Ash
- Bar Marco (if you have a group, do the wine cellar tasting dinner!)
- Con Alma - Downtown location
- Bar Botanico cocktail bar
- Park Bruges + Point Brugge: cozy European/Belgian bistro
- Pigeon Bagels (takeout only)
- Tram’s Kitchen (hole in the wall)
- Muddy Waters Oyster Bar
- Soju Korean cuisine and cocktails
- Mola Sushi and Japanese
- Farmer x Baker: Delicious, farm-fresh food (Only open during warm weather months right on water in Aspinwall!)
- Margaux: European style cafe and bar
Best Shops (other than The SōL Collective, of course:)
- Kristi Boutique: Looks for women
- Carte Blanche Home & Design
- Hot Haute Hot
- Lawrenceville Market House: 9 Retailers, one roof
- Pavement: super cute styles
- Hazelgrey Boutique
- Vestis: men’s boutique
- Mello & Sons: Badass vintage denim and other vintage
- Rue Boutique
- The Picket Fence: Adorable baby, kids, women and home
Best Neighborhoods to Stay in or Visit:
Speaking of Aspinwall, growing up in Pittsburgh, I didn’t know anything about it, but now it seems to be the place to be. What makes Aspinwall such a special place to be?
Aspinwall is a little gem! It’s just now starting to gain traction. We have customers who drive over an hour to come spend the day shopping, dining, and relaxing at the local spa. Our couple street blocks of boutiques offer gorgeous products from all over the world, and the old-world charm of streets with lamp posts and brick detailing lends itself to feeling a little like a slice of Europe in the middle of Pittsburgh.
And 2 last questions before we go:
We have to ask, since your shop isn’t a maternity or baby gear store, why sell Kibou?
You guys killed it with this product. We sell it to EVERYONE. It’s fashion x function, which is what we do with footwear, but yours is in fanny pack form! It’s a no brainer for yourself or for a gift:
- Moms and dads who are chasing after kids or spending every evening/weekend sitting on wet grass or cold bleachers at games etc. (Use the changing pad as a seat cover, it’s all waterproof)
- Moms and dads-to-be (My fav gift for my girlfriends who are having babies!)
- Dog moms and dads (Kibou bags are so easy to wipe out!)
- Active people (perfect for a hike, long walk or traveling)
- Anyone who wants a super functional fanny or crossbody look in gorgeous vegan leathers
Finally, you just got married and traveled abroad. Congrats!! Where is next on your travel bucket list??
Thanks so much! Many of our customers told me that Costa Rica is amazing, and they were SO right! The perfect blend of relaxation, beautiful views, and a myriad of activities to try! Plus, the zero-humidity heat was a dream.
Ugh, such a long list! BUT planning to head to Oktoberfest in Munich this fall and Paris for a friend’s birthday this winter. Never been, and cannot wait to go!