MINING FOR BUSINESS Lots of businesses start as a hobby. You enjoy brewing? Open a brewery. Baking? Open a bakery. Tal & Bert, opening this month in the former Moonstones location on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont, is no different, but the hobby it grew from is uncommon.
“We’re recreational miners,” says Val Talbert, who owns the business with her husband, Ray. “There are tons of public mines operated by families who have owned them for years, or companies, who open up their land to the general public and allow you to mine on their property for the different minerals that they have.”
Val and Ray met in college here in Pittsburgh. Val is from Bucks County, and remembers rock hunting with her parents when she was a kid. She introduced Ray, a Pittsburgh native, to recreational mining when they were dating, and now they dig and excavate crystal pockets in quarries and underground mines all around the country. They most recently excavated Herkimer diamonds at a mine in New York. “They are technically quartz, but the properties mimic diamonds,” says Val.
“We wanted to create modern homewares that incorporated rare stones … and display them in a functional design piece,” says Val. “As we were playing around with different designs, I dropped a planter and it cracked … that’s how our iconic craft look happened.”
Their bejeweled concrete planters, which they only just started making in February, are going to be featured in Real Simple magazine in December—the latest in a series of national media mentions from CNN to Pop Sugar. Until now, the business operated online out of the Tal & Bert studio space on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, in addition to a growing distribution network, which includes more than 200 stores nationwide.
Now the Talberts have big plans for their new brick-and-mortar storefront in Dormont. With a focus on handmade and minority-owned brands, they will sell their planters alongside various kitchen and bath items, throw rugs and blankets, jewelry, wall hangings, soaps and baskets.
Inside the shop, they have created a chic, minimalistic vibe. When the pandemic begins to subside, they intend to set up a “Plant It” bar, which allows customers to build their own terrariums using air plants, succulents, cactuses and crystals inside a Tal & Bert planter, or any of the other makers’ pots that will be available in the shop.
Until the store opens, you can check them out online at www.talandbert.com, on Etsy or on their Facebook page, where they’re using the tagline, “Move over Anthropologie. Tal & Bert is coming through!”
WELCOME, MEDITERRA CAFE! Fairlane, at 292 Beverly Road, closed at the end of August, but that space will not be vacant for long. Mediterra Café, which is known for its handmade pastries, artisan breads and gourmet pantry items, has signed the lease and expects to be open by November.
“Once we opened our [first] café in Sewickley, we instantly knew Mt. Lebanon would be a perfect fit for our second,” says Nicole Ambeliotis McLean, Mayfair Drive, accounting and office manager for Mediterra. “We visited a lot of locations, but nothing fit as perfectly as this one. It’s actually the same architect that we had for our Sewickley location. It already has a little of our vibe, now we just have to change it to fit European café style.”
They plan to update the wood flooring and tiling in the 4,300-square-foot space, plus change the seating, to achieve their signature look.
Mediterra’s parent company, Mediterra Bakehouse, opened in Robinson in 2001, when Nicole’s father, Nicholas, stepped away from his job at a Cleveland-based food import company to start the wholesale bakery. He travelled all over the world to learn how to create Old World European style breads—using less yeast, more time, cold water and heritage wheat, which the family grows and mills on its farm in Arizona.
“A lot of people would have our breads at different restaurants and stores, and not even know they were eating our bread,” says Nicole, about why they decided to open their first café in Sewickley. “We wanted to start a brand. Plus, we’re all passionate about food. We wanted to create somewhere to eat and have an entire experience.”
After Nicholas started the company, each of his children wound up joining the team. Nicole started in 2011 after graduating from college, where she studied psychology. Her oldest brother, Michael, is the general manager of the wholesale bakery, and his wife, Andrea, is head of the pastry department. Her second-oldest brother, Anthony, is the production manager—he studied with a Roman pizza maker to create a pizza program at the cafés—and her youngest brother, Nicholas, is the head baker.
“We all went to school not thinking we would be part of the bakery, and we all wound up being part of the bakery,” says Nicole with a laugh.
Nicole’s mother, Maribeth, is not directly involved in the company, but she lives in Mt. Lebanon and helps out by watching her grandchildren. Nicole and her husband, Garrett, have two young children who will go to Markham School, and they are expecting their third.
The main difference between their original location in Sewickley and their new restaurant in Mt. Lebanon is the fact that this location comes with a liquor license. They intend to serve craft cocktails, curated wines and a tapas-style menu after 5 p.m. each day.
They also intend to bring over some of the changes that they instituted at the Sewickley location to help adapt to the pandemic. For example, they will sell essentials in their market, including eggs and milk, so that people can cut down on trips to the grocery store. They will also offer curbside pickup, delivery and DIY activities—like cookie-making kits—for parents who are home with their kids.
“Because we are a family business and we all work here, we have a lot of passion to make the bakery and the café succeed. It’s our livelihood,” says Nicole. “And it’s very rewarding. We work very hard, and it’s awesome to see how much people really appreciate it. Sewickley loves us, and it’s amazing to see how excited and happy people are that we’re coming to Mt. Lebanon.”
Mediterra Café in Mt. Lebanon will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. To learn more about Mediterra Café visit the website www.mediterracafe.com, or look for them on social media.