Opinion

A Call from Campus

Diligent MBA students mine their schools’ alumni databases for possible internships and jobs. The value of networking and information gathering is a given. I’m sure they frequently contact alumni from investment banks, management consultancies and Fortune 500 companies, but as the owner of a retail bakery in Pittsburgh, I am blissfully unencumbered by such requests. …

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A Maze of Milestones

I‘ve been accumulating milestones lately. Within a year, I’ll have had my 35th high school reunion, the 30th anniversary of my arrival in Pittsburgh, my 25th wedding anniversary, the 10th anniversary of the founding of this magazine, and finally, the signing and sending of the final check for my three children’s college tuitions. During a …

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The Two Sides of a Sale

I can’t decide which is more awkward, selling to someone or being sold to. I’ve been on both sides, and when the sale is right, there’s nothing better. An opportunity is identified, a plan is hatched, and both parties benefit. But as a small business owner, I spend a lot of time trying to extricate …

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Trees and Time

There is nothing quite like working among trees in the dead of winter. We walk, my sons and I, through the dense forest of white pine. The only sounds are the muted swoosh of the wind and the occasional snap of a twig underfoot on the soft, pine- needle floor. The boys are home for …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Winter 2015

In mid October, the Carnegie Science Center unveiled an extensive survey of local parents, educators and businesses on their attitudes about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.Funded by Chevron and Nova Chemicals, the survey revealed that business leaders and educators are well aware of STEM’s importance in meeting Pittsburgh’s future workforce needs and improving …

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Sticks & bones

I walk along the green grated fence at Frick Park scavenging for tennis balls that found their way to the soft slopes of clay and into the dew covered grass and clover. I smile as I spot each ball, then capture it in the ball shagger. Breathing in the morning’s cool breeze, I delight in …

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Pass the adrenaline, please

You might be tempted to call 911. It’s 2 a.m. and a 40-something woman sitting in her Prius in a public parking lot is pounding her fists on the steering wheel and bellowing to an invisible companion. I confess to being that woman, co-owner of a bakery on one of the biggest days of the …

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Sudden Goodbye

In 1967, we arrived at our island cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and of course, the first thing we kids did was explore our distantly familiar summer home. On that particular day, we found a bat inert on the dining room floor. “Pick it up, and we’ll show Dad,” said my 14-year-old sister. I was …

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The sweet trouble of success

The hazards of good fortune in business are many: the physical toll of the added work, the mental toll of rethinking everything you’ve come to know, the psychic toll of raised expectations. They combine for a perfect storm that one feels guilty begrudging because the upsides of fame and fortune, while perhaps fleeting, seem so …

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Welcoming Midsummer’s Eve

At the end of may last year, my son and I drove into Groningen—the Netherlands’ northernmost city. By chance, we arrived on the first warm, sunny day they’d had after an unusually long, cold and dark winter. By early afternoon, business stopped, and everywhere, jubilant people of all ages poured into the parks and outdoor …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Summer 2014

When the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians started seeing an increasing number of empty seats in Heinz Hall during their concerts for students, a group of them started making inquiries. They learned that, because of funding cuts, a number of schools could no longer afford to hire the buses to bring youngsters Downtown for the concert. …

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The Equilibrium Illusion

Balance, n., a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. What an elusive state. Just the constant weighing and evaluating required to attempt balance is exhausting. My mind races: I should be working on improving the bakery’s website… no, I should be at my kids’ soccer game… wait, I really …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Spring 2014

For most of us, the phrase “one-party rule in Pittsburgh” conjures the Democratic Party. But for 70 years after the Civil War, the Republican Party had a lock on Pennsylvania and, largely, Pittsburgh. Only the Great Depression and the sweeping victories of the New Deal could break that lock. And since the mid-1930s, Pittsburgh has …

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Angry customers

I am yelling at you because it is so rare that I can ever speak to anyone in charge!” the customer bellowed before ultimately chuckling. So, I’m the whipping boy for every bad customer service experience that corporate America has ever delivered? That’s a heavy burden, and I’m not ideally suited to shoulder it. I …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Winter 2014

In the stocks: Fox Chapel Area High School When Fox Chapel High junior David Schaffner arrived at a Friday night home football game on Sept. 13, he realized he still had the hunting knife in his pocket that he’d been using in a wooded area near his home. As he approached the gate, he turned …

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The D.I.Y. dilemma

I am intrigued by my customers and their behavior. I watch as they choose between the red velvet and the tiramisu, their faces betraying them as they try to resist temptation. Their eyes scan the cases, and I wonder how much the display itself influences their decisions. One of my favorite things about being a …

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Big Things for Pittsburgh

This fall is an exciting time at Pittsburgh Quarterly and in Pittsburgh. In its Golden Quill Awards in May, the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania judged PQ to be the region’s best magazine for the seventh straight year. And I believe that this issue contains the strongest combination of stories we’ve ever produced—stories that reflect …

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Credit card fraud

“Lara, I’m at the checkout at Restaurant Depot and my credit card has been declined,” says our delivery driver on the other end of the phone. Ugh. I know what this means. It’s not that the bakery is short on funds. It’s that one of our credit cards has been compromised. Again. Of the four …

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Gettysburg: The 150th Anniversary

On a beautiful April Sunday, I got up early and drove to Gettysburg. July marks the battle’s 150th anniversary, and I had signed up for a two-hour horseback battlefield tour. I’m not a history buff, but I am an American, and Gettysburg has always held a unique gravity. We had a relative who disappeared during …

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Shale Agreement, Pittsburgh Dataworks, Air Quality, Mayor Ravenstahl

We all want abundant domestic energy, and we all want a healthy environment. For years, though, a reasonable middle ground has been absent from the Marcellus Shale debate. Finally, change is at hand, and Pittsburgh can be proud that it started here. For two years, natural gas companies and environmental groups have put aside their …

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Choosing our city

We all have a unique personal introduction, the thing a friend always says to get the ball rolling. It’s the arms around the shoulders at the cocktail party followed by “Have you met Andy? He’s from Argentina.” Mine is “This is Lara. She’s one of the owners of Prantl’s Bakery.” This elicits a short gasp …

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Keep the Home Fires Burning?

In our yard, there’s no shortage of trees that old age or wind bring crashing back to earth. I cut and split this wood the old-fashioned way—with a wedge and a sledge. And as the old adage goes, “He who chops his own wood warms himself twice.” I work at home, and on winter mornings, …

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