New Businesses

Torch & Dagger owner Jason Simonette is looking to dispel the stereotype of the tattoo shop as a place you stumble into for some inebriated ink. /photo: chris leeper

TATTOO YOU Torch & Dagger is a bit of a misnomer for a tattoo shop that was specifically designed to be “non-scary.” But when it opened in July at 633 Washington Road, below be. Salon, owner Jason Simonette had a very clear idea about the vibe that he wanted at his shop.

“Our atmosphere is what sets us apart. It’s intimate, quiet and clean,” says Simonette. “I’m so sick of the biker tattoo shops, filled with scary-looking guys. We definitely tend to have a more upscale look.”

Simonette, who has been working in the tattoo industry since 1996, decided to re-open his tattoo parlor in Mt. Lebanon after its previous location, in Etna, burned down in May. The incident, which started when a motorcycle caught fire, took out an entire warehouse full of businesses, including a prominent car restoration shop that housed dozens of exotic sports cars.

Before the Etna location, Torch and Dagger spent some time in various neighborhoods around the city—including Bloomfield and Lawrenceville—so Simonette thought the time had come to bring his business to Mt. Lebanon.

“I love Mt. Lebanon. I have owned two homes here,” says Simonette, who currently lives in Peters Township. “There were just never any spaces available. But the time is right now that there are more youthful businesses coming to the main street … It’s cool being on the ground floor of that growth.”

The owners of Commonwealth Press, Dan and Shannon Rugh, who are friends with Simonette, helped connect him with the rest of the Uptown Business district. Another old friend of his, Shawn Marks, is working as an artist at the shop. Marks specializes in black, geometric patterns, while Simonette does bright American traditional style tattoos. “We balance each other out perfectly,” says Simonette.

Torch & Dagger is open Tuesday to Saturday starting at noon. Since it opened, the schedule has been full, but they do accept walk-ins. Tattoos start at $80, with the price going up depending on the size, location and complexity of the image.

Three Mt. Lebanon moms are starting a language immersion program for their kids and for yours. From left, front row: Nora Ly, Emmett McElroy, Brooklyn Hummel. Middle row: Many Ly, Rachel McElroy and Franci Hummel. Back row: Cal and Claira McElroy.

IMMERSE YOUR KIDS Remember your high school Spanish/French/German classes, endless repetition of numbers, colors, days of the week, and how someone was always buying a fish or going with their sister to the library?

A new venture by three Mt. Lebanon women is poised to take language education to another level.

The Children’s Language Immersion Program (CLIP) offers full-immersion Spanish instruction with lessons and activities geared toward children from birth through fifth grade. The three—Many Ly, Franci Hummel and Rachel McElroy—opened for business in August at Bower Hill Community Church.

Immersion language is popular in many other parts of the country, but Hummel believes CLIP is unique to the Pittsburgh area. Born in Brazil and adopted by American parents when she was 10, Hummel and her husband spent three years in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, operating an English language school. The couple moved back to the U.S. in 2018. CLIP came about when Hummel was looking for a language immersion program for her daughter and couldn’t find one here. She, Ly and McElroy began sketching out the details of CLIP in April.

Currently, Spanish is the only language the program offers. With 41 million speakers, Spanish is the second most common language in the United States. The U.S. has the highest population of Spanish speakers in any country except Mexico.

Research shows that immersion language learning can have positive effects on other areas of study. According to a 2015 University of Utah study, published in the International journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, students in a language immersion program had higher math scores.

The instruction focuses on immersion, active learning and context.

One of the activities planned for this semester is a soccer World Cup competition. Instead of learning words and soccer terms by rote, kids will pick up Spanish while they’re playing the games. Also in the works is a unit on Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration.

“We have so many fun, colorful, physical activities planned, because when students are actively involved they tend to be more engaged,” says Ly. “They have fun and they focus on what they’re doing. We want them to go home happy.”

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