Condo developer working to bring The James Cafe to Strip District

By Tim Schooley – Pittsburgh Business Times

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With all but two of the 26 units sold and the condos mostly occupied, Breanna Tyson and Brett Walsh are moving on to the next task at hand for their 2554 Smallman Street development, getting a new restaurant and coffee shop open in the building’s first floor.

Their Hullett Properties began moving to do that, recently putting out a job listing to hire a general manager to run what they’re calling The James Cafe and Delicatessen, what the couple expects will carve out a unique draw on an increasingly busy stretch of Smallman Street while being an amenity for residents.

“We’re finalizing everything right now,” said Tyson, who originally moved to Pittsburgh from Vancouver about four years ago and soon began pursuing the now completed project on what was previously a granite-fabricating operation.

Tyson described The James as a coffee shop and restaurant targeting a weekend brunch menu as well as serving as a market with a selection of dry groceries and produce in a location with room for 24 seats as well as 16 outside.

Walsh said Hullett has recruited Brooklyn roaster Variety Coffee to provide the coffee for the new venture as they work to help to build up the city’s coffee culture.

“We think it fits into the offerings that are currently in the Strip quite well,” said Walsh, who added to expect the new cafe “to synthesize all the wonderful things we like so much in other cafes” in the couple’s various travels.

The project has largely gone as planned for Hullett, with the units selling at list price with two remaining units available with open houses for potential buyers in the works.

Walsh acknowledged their original plan to recruit a tenant to the project, seeking to draw in a new-to-the-market operator has proven a less viable option due to the pandemic.

“With Covid, that became problematic,” he said.

After construction on 2554 Smallman was completed last year, Hullett has been actively working to line up its next projects in Pittsburgh as well, getting approval for a renovation plan for the Triangle Building on Liberty Avenue downtown from the Pittsburgh Planning Commission late last year.

The Hullett website hints at three other projects in the works as well. Tyson expects to have more to talk about in the next couple of months, given the strength of the demand for Hullett’s first project and some others.

“We’re looking at a couple of other condo buildings and apartment buildings,” she said. Hullett hopes to open The James Cafe and Delicatessen by the end of summer.

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