When he decided to open a store, Dan Schwarz picked Mount Washington, the neighborhood his family has lived in for four generations. He found a good fit in a former doctor's office on Merrimac Street just eight blocks from his house.
If you stop by and see the "Back in 15 minutes" sign, he's probably picking up his daughter at school.
Mount Washington boasts two new businesses, Becky's One-Stop Shop, a beauty salon on Southern Avenue, and Dan's shop, where you can buy billiards equipment and look at some old pool tables in various stages of disassembly, disrepair and distress.
In the 1980s, Dan was a cabinetmaker whom the billiard company Saunier-Wilhelm hired to do restorations. He started his own business restoring pool tables in his home and, several months ago, decided to open a store because "everybody kept asking me for parts," he said.
The logical location would seem to be Shiloh, the most intensively retail area in the neighborhood, but he chose the vacant doc's office because he can afford the rent.
You can buy cues, cue tips, a rack of balls, replacement racks, chalk, even shuffleboard powder. He will be adding darts and dart supplies. Several companies that sell new pool tables give him a commission when his customers shop from their catalogs, which he has on hand. And, for good measure, he sells a range of Steelers merchandise.
"People always ask, ‘Is this worth fixing up?'" he said. "I tell them that you pay a lot more" for inferior tables than for restoration of finely crafted tables. New tables have thinner frames, screw-in pieces instead of bolt and less of the heft pool players prize.
He has a "before" and "after" display of two table legs, one he restored, the other yet unrestored. It's shocking to realize what beauty can lie beneath neglected wood.
"My biggest advantage is that there's aren't many of me out there," he said. Few enough people restore old tables that he gets referrals from all over the country. One old table will be valued at $35,000 when he is finished restoring it, he said.
Merrimac Street is almost solely residential, but it is directly across Grandview Avenue from the top of McArdle Roadway. "I tell people, just stay straight" at the top of the roadway.
"I looked in the South Hills, but it's far from the north neighborhoods, and I could have moved to Cranberry, which is booming, but it's so far" north. "This is right in the middle of everything."