Mt Lebanon Magazine

710 Washington Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

Mt Lebanon Magazine

The official magazine of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

South Hills Used-To-Be’s

We all know that Pittsburghers like to give directions based on landmarks. We especially enjoy using old references to places that no longer exist. For example:

Typical direction giver: “To get to Primanti’s by The Galleria, you go down 19 towards town. Pass the bowling alley on the right. And you remember where the Ground Round was? They had good popcorn! It used to be on your left … go past that through the light. After the light you’ll be passing by the old BP.”

Typical direction recipient: “The BP? Are you talking about where Dunkin Donuts is now?”

Typical direction giver: “Yes. Right across from where the Roth Carpet used to be. There’s a Fresh Market there now.”

And the directions continue …

Thinking of this takes me back to all of the South Hills “Used-to-Be’s.” Time is a professional ninja … slipping by like phantom sand in a fine crystal hourglass. We don’t even realize how much has changed until we look back.

Let’s rewind to my high school years … 25 years ago. The time I’m mentally lodged in, pretending I’m not a middle aged-woman. (My daughter may disagree but I still think I’m pretty cool cruising the mall in my flannel shirt and ripped-up jeans.)

I spent my weekends going to Village Square Mall. One weekend, I scored a brilliant blue tie-dye shirt at that mall. (Is it bad that I still have that shirt?) Now I drive by and see Kohl’s, Burlington and Home Depot there. Back then, there was no need for a Home Depot. Busy Beaver was across from Sears at South Hills Village Mall; ready to sell whatever lumber someone needed for their weekend project.

Four teenagers stand outside Phar-Mor pharmacy.
My friend group outside Phar-Mor.

Walgreens wasn’t a destination at the time. Instead, people flocked to Phar-Mor and would shop around for random stuff regardless if they had a prescription to fill. That Phar-Mor was adjacent to what we now know as the Market District Giant Eagle.

I remember going there homecoming night with my party. We perused Phar-Mor’s aisles, giggling at the random trinkets displayed on the end caps. I scored a black-haired troll doll sporting a Penguins T-shirt there once. I haven’t seen that little troll guy since 1998. His plastic potbelly protruding from the shrunken tee always cracked me up.

That same night we ate at Houlihan’s for our fancy homecoming dinner. This was before the restaurant settled in at The Galleria. It was located where the Walgreens now resides on Fort Couch Road. I recall that we upgraded from Friday’s that night because Houlihan’s staff wore dark clothing instead of oversized pins tacked to red suspenders.

Bringing all these memories to the surface paints a smile on my face. To me, it’s as clear as when I was 16. These memories summon up vivid recollections of the sights, smells and feelings of those not-forgotten places.

I bet I’ve barely scratched the surface of what was vs. what is around here. I wonder what memories everyone has of when they’d frequent places in the South Hills. Did you buy a critter at the Woolworth’s in the mall? Was it following a quick meal in their diner? Who scored a fancy fur coat at the Gimbels back in the day? I’d love to hear of the other ‘once were’s’ you’ve experienced the South Hills, so please comment below!


  1. Author’s gravatar

    We got our first dog at Animal Crackers in Village Square. Every time I tell the story I have to preface it with “Do you remember when that was an indoor mall?” Some of your memories I’d forgotten (Houlihans, Roth Carpet), but I still miss the Ground Round! And do you remember when Olive Garden was Grisante’s? Time marches on and the only thing that stays the same is change.

  2. Author’s gravatar

    Great story that should continue.

    I recall having a nice lunch at the Kaufmann’s South Hills Tic-Toc (where the Galleria is).

    And the ultimate in childhood entertainment – Bimbo’s for pizza and a pie in the face if it was your birthday. It was located where Primanti’s now is.

  3. Author’s gravatar

    Horne’s uptown Mt. Lebanon, papa GoGo’s in the mall, Spencer’s, NRM

  4. Author’s gravatar

    Dudt’s bakery where cvs now exists on Cochran Road .they had a terrific “Ice Box Cake “.that probably was mid 1970’s or Isaly’s on Beverly or uptown on Washington Rd across from Jos Horne department store which is now an optical business and A Pizza shop .

  5. Author’s gravatar

    Before Houlihan’s was the Joshua Tree at one corner of Washington and Fort Couch and, long ago, was the MOO Shoppe where the CVS is now. Gammon’s was across the street where the banks are now (which was before they moved to the “lowlands” on McMurray Road, Gammon’s became The Shenandoah before it became Outback Steak House.) There used to be a Par 3, 9-hole golf course where the hotel is now; St. Thomas More was a small metal-clad church and, of course, across the street was the sheep grazing pasture of Gilfillan’s farm. The world as we knew it used to end at Fort Couch and Washington Roads.

  6. Author’s gravatar

    Hills! Who could forget the smell of popcorn and hot dogs on the roller rack as you entered Hills Dept Store on the lower level of Village Square Mall (now Home Depot). Or Toys R Us. The ponds inside South Hills Village that homed ducks. Foodland where PetCo now resides on Ft Couch Road. The Potato Patch inside the mall….Telaropa inside the mall. So many “once were’s” with great memories to coincide. Great article, Cathy!

  7. Author’s gravatar

    Buying candy at KK’s in Castle Shannon!

  8. Author’s gravatar

    Some things that are not there anymore:
    I remember having a milk shake at the Moo Shop at the corner of Fort Couch and Rt 19. They had a sign with a cow who had huge googly eyes.
    I also had dinner many times at the Joshua Tree where Walgreen’s is located today.
    My parents shopped at Foodland where the sport card store is today on Highland Rd.

  9. Author’s gravatar

    I remember driving all the way out Route 19 towards Washington PA to have a special dinner at Red Bull Inn. I seemed so far away. It is not there anymore and traveling out to shop in Washington, PA, doesn’t seem that far anymore, either.

  10. Author’s gravatar

    I moved into my house a stones throw away from all of these above mentioned places many years ago 1966. Yes I remember them well. South Hills Village was just finished being built. My kids would cut through the woods near the nursing home now to go to the village passing where Giant Eagle is now and coming up behind what what the old hotel. There was no Village Square as it is today. Oh what memories this article brought back and also made me realize how old I’m getting.

  11. Author’s gravatar

    There used to be a restaurant off of 19 before the Galleria, it was an old house I believe. Very fancy, does anyone remember the name?

    1. Author’s gravatar

      The Living Room?

  12. Author’s gravatar

    I think I know the tall guy on the right in the phar/more photo. I graduated st clair in ‘96. I think he was in my class. I used to get comix , video games nags and nudie mags at the news stand at station square. I also got a tie blue dyed shirt with a mushroom on it, from the hippie stand upstairs:) anyone remember the Rueben and pickle from Ernies at the mall?

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    Was there a baked potato spot to eat at in the food court ever & if so what was the name of it?

  14. Author’s gravatar

    Does anyone remember name of restaurant/bar that was in South Hills Village. People threw their peanut shells on floor. Back in 70s. On a corner near entrance to mall.
    Thanks in advance

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