Charming and hidden gems to visit in Shadyside

Josie Barton

Just north of Chatham’s Shadyside Campus, the neighborhood of Shadyside offers a plethora of hidden gems overlooked by residents. Here are a few of the best secret spots for students to go and explore.

Starred Map of Shadyside.


1. Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum


Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum Alleyway off Walnut Street. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

Tattoo history expert Nick Ackman, who has been tattooing since 1999, and his partner Jill Krznaric, who has been tattooing since 2001, opened the Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum in March after moving to Pittsburgh. The museum displays flash tattoo sheets, stencils, biographies, antique machinery, and tattoo pigment.


Ackman began his extensive collection in 2005 after buying memorabilia from Fred Marquan, a famous tattoo artist from the 1900s. Marquan is known for his development of flash tattoo sheets you might see covering the walls of most tattoo parlors. 

With Ackman’s knowledge of tattoo history, and memorabilia collected from Marquan’s reserve, he published the Blue Letter Books to spread the history and art he gathered from tattoo artists around the world. Unlike many other tattoo books, which display mostly flash tattoo art and descriptions, Ackman’s collection of biographies resembles the history behind those flash tattoo sheets and the talented artists who designed them.

The museum’s website and Ackman’s tattoo section inside the parlor display the famous biblical painting of the Pharaohs’ horses from the 1860s. According to Ackman, the art became a representation of the tattoo community, catching artists’ attention and causing a majority of tattoo artists and exhibitors to recreate the design through their work and onto their own skin. Ackman explained that he and other tattoo artists appreciate the message behind the captivating painting.

Vintage tattoo display in Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

“It became a kind of romanticized image of the intensity of look in the horses’ faces,” Ackman said. “Almost every exhibitor has a version of the tattoo on them somewhere.”

Ackman encourages people to come by to check out the museum and learn about the great history of tattooing. Those interested can reach out to Ackman or Krznaric through their website  and bring one of their own designs, choose from Ackman and Krznarics’ flash tattoo sheets, or a design from the museum work itself.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Location: 5413 A Walnut St. 

Instagram: @pittsburghtattooartmuseum @blueletterbooks


2. Eons Fashion Antique

Since 1986, old-school Richard Parsakian has aimed to spread social justice and acceptance through his vintage clothing store, Eons, by creating a safe space for visitors and encouraging store-goers to explore their gender. 

Inside the storefront of Eons. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

“The store is a springboard for social awareness through fashion,” Parsakian said. “I’m very involved with elevating marginalized voices, especially in the black and queer communities.”

Parsakian’s love and appreciation for the planet is represented through his aim to create a low carbon footprint. Parsakian purchases all the clothes himself, buying only locally sourced items. According to Parsakian, he sells durable clothes that last longer than commercial brands. 

“It’s important to reuse what we have, especially clothing that lasts longer than a minute,” Parsakian said.” Many commercial stores don’t understand that it’s nice to have clothing that lasts for decades or eons.”

Richard Parsakian working in Eons. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

With an emphasis on theater and dance productions, Parsakian works with Pittsburgh film and TV productions as a resource for local designers. Whether you’re looking for a trendy costume this Halloween or you appreciate a unique and long-lasting fashion style, Eons Fashion Antique can provide you with 110 years of fashion from the 1880s through the 1990s.

Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Mondays through Sundays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays

Location: 5850 Ellsworth Ave.

Instagram: @Eonsfashion


3. Synthesis

Synthesis Owner Amber Halliman and her dog. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

Despite its small interior and discreet location, Synthesis, a colorful, rustic plant store, carries an overflow of succulents, tropical house plants, and handmade pots. After moving to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles California in 2017, now Synthesis business owner Amber Halliman realized the film industry was not for her. She began the search for a location for her business and in 2018 found the unique storefront.

“We get

a ton of students and local residents at the store,” said Halliman. “I like to find specialized plants that are harder to find, like Hoyas and cacti, but I also sell common house plants to keep the store accessible to everyone.” 

Halliman began her botanical store through her business ambition, California influence and love for all things green.

Outside of Synthesis Nursery on Copeland Avenue off Walnut Street. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

“Everything I know is self-taught through trial and error situations,” Halliman said.

This small business holds events and sales throughout the season to promote locally owned business endeavors. In past seasons, the business took part in markets and pop-up locations around Pittsburgh. Halliman will be promoting her business and selling her products at the farmers market at Carnegie Mellon University on Oct. 6.

Hours: 11 a.m to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays

Location: 813 Copeland Way.

Instagram: @synthesispgh 


4. Shadyside Books

Desperate for success, Shadyside books opened its doors in the last week of 2018 with little to no advertising. After the development of their app called Caboodle fell flat, the company decided the physical business could help encourage foot traffic for the opportunity to spread the word about the app to customers.

Upstairs inside Shadyside Books. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

The operations manager of the store, who referred to himself as Mike K., explained that after an abrupt shut down of non-essential businesses during the pandemic, the storefront decreased in clients while the company’s app flourished.

Although the store includes only one person’s book collection, it exceeded expectations, especially through student interest.

“We didn’t expect so many students to take an interest in antiquarian books,” the operations manager said.

The store provides study tables on the second floor to encourage students to take involvement in visiting the outlet without the requirement to buy any books.

“We aren’t a high-pressure sales environment,” the operations manager said. “The books sell themselves.”

Housing over 10,000 books between the storefront, warehouse and online inventory, the antique book store gained traction through interest from out-of-town antique book buyers and students.

While the bottom floor provides visitors with book displays and advertising signage, the upstairs section houses thousands of rare collective books.

“We set the bar low and then once you get upstairs you have your aha moment,” the operations manager said.

The store also allows customers to “pay what they want” for some older and less popular books. According to the operations manager, half of the proceeds are donated to Literacy Pittsburgh, a local reading charity.

Lining the windows and tables, the business displays posters promoting recent events held by the arts community to show their appreciation for local support. The operations manager encourages students to stop by to study or read.

Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Sundays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.

Location: On the second floor of the Caboodle Trading Post at 5900 Ellsworth Ave.

Instagram: @shadysidebooks


5. Hermit the Working Cat

Hermit the working cat on Kentucky Avenue. Photo Credit: Josie Barton

Hermit, an orange and white striped tabby cat, lives along Kentucky Avenue. Despite his name, old Hermit is a very friendly and charming Shadyside resident. His red collar displays his name and title: Hermit the Working Cat. Although his collar begs the question: what is his job? Hermit walks along Kentucky Avenue, gaining passerby’s attention by standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Hermit will gladly roll on his back, an open invitation for scratches, until he gets bored of you and walks off to another street goer. Will you catch a glimpse of Hermit?