First jobs

Way back in the early ‘90s, I didn’t think Mt. Lebanon was exactly a hotbed for youth employment. You had the Galleria, the Lebo-adjacent South Hills Village Mall/Village Square, babysitting, and … well, that was pretty much it.

You can smell the fresh popcorn, even through a photo

With no experience and absolutely no usable skills (in terms of being paid to work,) my job-hunting prospects were limited. But alas, the powers that be at Galleria Cinemas added me to their roster of teen concessionaires. Just like that, I became the proud owner of a maroon polyester vest and matching clip-on bow tie. I joined my working friends who baked up the sweet, sweet icing-covered treats I still dream about from Cinnamon Jim’s (and as the kids say now, IYKYK) and sold your child’s first earrings at Piercing Pagoda, making minimum wage — which at that time was a meager $4.25 per hour.

As a first job, the Galleria Cinemas was a prime prospect. Free movies. All the soda you could drink. And of course the best perk, plenty of other kids to hang out with. Like me, my son also decided that a close-by job in Lebo was the way to go for his first foray into employment. I more than gently coaxed him to follow in my footsteps and score us all free movie passes by working at the Galleria Cinemas, but he decided he’d rather apply at Bado’s on Beverly Road.

First uniform from a first job

After spending two years working after school and weekends as a dishwasher, my then-college-aged son moved up to a server position during winter breaks and summers. I pretty much believe that everything my son does is perfect. But I do have to admit that he may not have been the best server Bado’s had ever seen. He would come home at night and say things like, “Mom, this group of women your age asked what type of chardonnay we have. How am I supposed to know what that is? I just told them- it’s Bado’s, you should get a beer.” He decided to transition from server to delivery driver on his next college break.

Sadly Bado’s is no longer an option for teens today, yet the employment opportunities for high schoolers have certainly grown since my first days in the workforce. Budding baristas can build the basics at Coffee Tree on Beverly Road or Uptown Coffee in (as the name would imply) Uptown, and the number of eateries that hire teens has grown exponentially since my first job days decades ago.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to work at a local restaurant, your options were limited to a meager few choices. You had the Pub and Pizza, Mineo’s, the revolving lineup of restaurants at the Galleria (Armstrongs, the Good Earth, Ruby Tuesdays, Hotlicks,) Max and Ermas, and not much else. First-time job seekers today have much more than just Galleria-based employment options to choose from. Not to say there aren’t plenty of places at the Galleria for your kiddo to earn their first few paychecks. But, if they prefer somewhere else, Mt. Lebanon is now home to dozens of restaurants, specialty shops and more.

My son’s former stomping grounds

Even though whipping up vanilla almond milk lattes and serving the fine food our local eateries offer are top choices for today’s teens, these aren’t the only in-Mt. Lebanon options — especially if your child has that entrepreneurial spirit. Gone are the days when babysitting on Saturday nights was the only choice for kids who wanted to work but didn’t want to work in a restaurant or retailer. There is a quietly growing number of teens starting their own Lebo-based businesses. From landscaping and snow removal to party setup/cleanup services, it seems like our kids are branching out and tackling the work world in a way that I didn’t even think about back in my concessionaire days.

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