Town Topics

Priya Amin pictured with Ronin, one of her sons, is co-owner of Flexable, a pop-up childcare company that brings childcare to workplaces and events. /Photo: Corey Grau

DAY CARE COMES TO YOU It wasn’t all that tough for Priya Amin to transition from corporate executive in marketing to stay-at-home mom when her first child was born. What was tougher was her foray into consulting a few years later. It was nearly impossible to navigate childcare for the meetings, presentations, networking and conferences she scheduled, especially since her husband, Shan, traveled for work at DVSport Inc., a software company that makes high definition instant replay for for pro and college sports teams.

It was then that Amin met Jessica Strong, and two years ago, the pair had an idea for creating an app platform, like Uber, for parents to get babysitting when they needed it. The service, called Flexable, was much needed, but the pair found parents had a hard time trusting non-vetted babysitters they hadn’t met. So in August 2017, Amin and Strong changed their business model from a platform to a service with vetted caregivers on staff who take pop-up childcare into workspaces.

Caregivers bring kits containing everything from baby rattles to crafts to strategic games for older children (they care for ages 2-18). They also bring safety equipment, including items to babyproof rooms (outlet covers, antibacterial wipes and gel), first aid kits and gloves. Flexable uses any type of room available to them: cafeterias, outdoor spaces, hotel rooms and conference rooms.

In the last year, Flexable provided childcare for 250 events, including conferences and networking events. They have a contract with the City of Pittsburgh to care for employees’ children during the 15 scheduled days during the year when the Pittsburgh schools are closed. Flexable provides the care on-site—in the case of Pittsburgh, they work in Mayor Bill Peduto’s breakroom in the City-County Building. The arrangement allows city workers to stay on the job rather than having to take a vacation day just because school is off.

Other companies working with Flexable include Innovation Works, the Carnegie Library system and the Veterans Leadership Association, which uses the care for parents who are in its workforce development training program. The businesses contract for the service and pay for it. Cost is $500 for three or fewer hours of childcare for up to 12 children.

Flexable is expanding to national conferences and has contracted to provide care during the upcoming year at Las Vegas and Boston conferences. They also handle weddings, fundraisers and expos.

The company carries full liability insurance and employs 25 fully vetted caregivers, who are able to bring their own children to work if there is space available for the day. Among them are stay-at-home moms, college students getting early childhood degrees, a Ph.D. candidate, an early childhood program coordinator and retired teachers.

The program works much like the Eagle’s Nest at Giant Eagle, or the child care rooms at local gyms. Parents must be in the building during care time and not offsite for any reason. The pop-up centers are not traditional daycares, but they do follow state-mandated ratios of one caregiver for every five children.

Amin, who grew up in New Jersey, moved to Vermont Avenue from St, Louis in 2012, where she lives with her husband and sons Ronin, 8, and Kirin, 4.

Eventually, she and her partner hope to expand Flexable to other situations, such as elder care and pet care, all in the name of helping people achieve balance.

“There’s an opportunity to fit life and work together, and we’re trying to foster that,” Amin says. 


When Michael May tried dry-cured bacon for the first time, it was a life-changing experience. He now owns Beverly Heights Bacon, which delivers cured, smoked, spiced bacon to your door. / Photo: George Mendel

PIGGING OUT You’ve heard about craft beer. But how about craft bacon? Yes! Now you can get locally sourced, locally cured and smoked bacon delivered to your front door.

Seneca Drive resident Michael May started Beverly Heights Bacon in the spring of 2018. May had always liked smoking meats, and he experimented a lot. At some point, he ate dry-cured bacon and was smitten. “That threw me for a loop,” he says.

BHB starts with top quality pork from Berkshire hogs, purchased from Medium Rare Meats (the guys who own Smoke restaurant in Lawrenceville). Berkshire meat is often compared to Kobe beef in its quality and cachet. May takes the pork to a commercial kitchen he shares in Carnegie with Samantha Sloan, who owns Hungry For Time catering.

There, he cures the bacon. Unlike store bacon, which is injected with water and chemicals (read the package), and then slathered in smoke flavor in a factory, BHB is dry cured with salt, sugar, a small bit of sodium nitrite (.25 percent) and spices. He washes off the curing mixture and dries the meat on hooks to prepare it for smoking.

May then smokes the bacon with applewood or hickory in a commercial smoker, for 6 to 8 hours. He will then reapply spices, cut it, package it and freeze it. Customers order it online and May delivers the bacon to their door within 24 to 48 hours (with a picture texted to confirm).

It can go into the freezer at that point, be cooked right away or stored in the refrigerator for a few days. He will deliver to other southern suburbs but he focuses most of his attention on Mt. Lebanon. “I’m small. There’s more than enough market in Mt. Lebanon,” May says.

Three flavors are available: Cowboy, with garlic and pepper; honey bourbon; and maple black pepper.

With this much attention to food, one might think May is a chef. Nope. His day job is in process engineering for Zimmer Biomet, where he works with orthopedic surgeons in ensuring high quality medical devices.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, we tried the bacon. You know, to make sure we could properly write about it.

The first thing you notice about BHB is that it doesn’t pop when you cook it. That’s because there is no injected water to explode into the grease in the pan. It also doesn’t shrink as much. Most store-bought bacon yields a third of a pound of cooked bacon for every pound you buy, May says. BHB gives you half a pound.

May says people tell him “‘That seems like a lot of work to do for bacon.’ I know. It’s worth it.”

Beverly Heights Bacon is $9.99 for 12 ounces. 


Axe throwing is trending big this year. Lumber-jaxes, on McFarland Road, is a place to test your woodcraft skills. /Photo: Jacqueline Radin

RELAX WITH AN AXE We’re sure this has happened to you: It’s a Friday night, you’re in the mood to knock back a few brewskis and start flinging axes at stuff, but your pain-in-the-butt neighbors keep harping on that one time with Fluffy the hamster, who, by the way, is getting along just fine with the prosthetic.

Now you don’t have to worry anymore. There’s a place in town where you can sip some adult beverages and practice the art of axe-throwing in a safe, well-regulated space.

According to Forbes, axe-throwing bars, like poutine, another could-be-great, could-go-horribly-wrong thing, originated in Canada. Debuting in 2011 in a Toronto bar, the sport (yeah, we’re calling it a sport) quickly caught on and spread south and west.

Lumberjaxes opened its second location at 1689 McFarland Road this fall. Walk-ins are welcome, and groups of six or more can compete in tournaments that typically last a couple of hours.

Lumberjaxes supplies the axes, targets and instruction, including safety tips. All axe throwers must be 18 or older. It’s BYOB, and they are pretty strict about enforcing their one drink per hour rule, because, you know, sharp objects.

In addition to one-time events, you can also join a league. Matches are held once a week for eight weeks.