Jul 07, 2023
How An Old Car Dealership Is Being Transformed Into A Massive Food Hall
PHOTO COURTESY OF LAWRENCE HALL Capt. James Lawrence, Lawrenceville’s namesake,
PHOTO COURTESY OF LAWRENCE HALL
Capt. James Lawrence, Lawrenceville's namesake, is remembered for his War of 1812 heroics and for his dying words "Don't give up the ship!"
Two-hundred years after the captain's death aboard the USS Chesapeake, the owners of Lawrence Hall at 4609 Butler St. are heeding his advice and refusing to give up their (former car dealer)ship.
Married couple Brett and Phoebe Minarik and their business partner Adam Harvey are transforming the structure — which was built in the 1890s — into a 170-seat food hall with five independent restaurants, an ice cream scoop shop (they’ve made a handshake deal with a local fav), two outdoor power stations for food trucks and a communal bar called Dear, James.
The name, of course, is a nod to the ol’ skipper.
These young entrepreneurs, who, in addition to having backgrounds in marketing, finance and hospitality, are history nerds and foodies, plan to open their business in early 2024.
PHOTO BY KRISTY LOCKLIN
Right now, the enormous space looks like an archeological dig. Construction crews demolished the old, slanting concrete slab and are slowly building from the ground up. The basement will house offices, storage and coolers while the ground floor will operate as a full-service restaurant, with 27-foot ceilings and a mezzanine level.
Applications for kitchen concepts, as well as general employment, are being accepted online.
Chefs who lease a 220-square-foot space for a 3-year term will get basic kitchen equipment, including refrigerators, three-compartment sinks and point-of-sale systems. They will have their own branding and social media accounts and can stay put for another three years if all parties involved are happy.
It's a trend we’re seeing more of in Pittsburgh, with Botero Development-run Lawrenceville Market House and Fulton Commons, Galley Group and Velum Fermentation.
Lawrence Hall partnered with the Estelle S. Campbell Boys & Girls Club of Western PA, located across the street, to offer a career-training program for local youth interested in the culinary industry.
It will also feature technology that allows customers to order from all vendors, including the bar, food trucks and ice cream stand (it’ll have a service window facing Butler Street, too!) and have the order delivered to their table.
"Don't give up the seat!" is what I like to say.
The Minariks and Harvey, who met at a networking event in 2018, have weathered stormy seas to get where they are now.
When I first interviewed the trio in January 2020, they were anticipating a spring 2021 opening but the pandemic and legal issues over parking spaces (they have 7) forced them to overhaul their plans. The courtroom woes are so complex I’d need to pass the bar exam before explaining them. Bottomline, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: they won.
Because parking is notoriously limited in Lawrenceville and the owners want to promote responsible alcohol consumption, customers who use ride-sharing programs will get a discount. There will also be incentives for employees who use Port Authority Transit to commute.
Lawrence Hall, specifically Dear James, is their love letter to the neighborhood they call home. They hope to make it a community hub and have already received an outpouring from fellow residents.
"The thought of seeing Pittsburghers coming together in a place we created is our dream," Phoebe Miniark says. "A rising tide raises all ships."