Welcome to Pittsburgh! What do you want to do first? Not sure yet? Well what about plans for tomorrow? …Well you still have time to decide… Where are you staying? You haven't booked a hotel yet?!?!
It’s almost time for Pride to enliven this city’s streets once again, and this year’s event marks a Golden Jubilee milestone — celebrating 50 years since the festivities began. From June 2 through 4, Pittsburgh Pride Revolution 2023: NO FEAR boasts a tagline of “Still strong, no fear,” and for the first time, all three Pittsburgh pro sports teams will come out to support the three-day LGBTQIA+ community event, too.
Throughout downtown, the Northside and Bloomfield, gatherings and performances anchored in inclusion and diversity will range from free concerts and vendor-stocked markets to a community march. Among can’t-miss happenings, the Pride on the Shore Festival welcomes dazzling performers like Ava Max, FLETCHER, Betty Who and JORDY to Stage AE on June 3.
Yet beyond Pride weekend, LGBTQIA+ travel is easy to embrace here in any season, and there are plenty of welcoming LGBTQIA+ owned or supporting businesses to frequent all year-long.
As one of the founding owners/operators of ASCEND, Director of Operations and Marketing Paul Guarino explains that the company fosters an equitable, holistic and community-based climbing, fitness and yoga experience.
“We do our best to put our community first and believe that if we do that, everything else will fall into place,” he says. They currently operate three facilities in Pittsburgh and Youngstown, and have another one coming online later this year in Erie (ASCEND South Side first opened in 2017).
They’re proud of the things that make them stand out, like offering global memberships to multiple locations featuring all types of climbing terrain from bouldering to lead climbing.
Not only are they 100% locally (Pittsburgh)-owned and operated, but they also value and prioritize JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and sustainable practices. “We're far from perfect, but we're always trying to do more and stay current,” Guarino says.
ASCEND's owners met as climbing buddies in the mid-aughts. “We're not independently wealthy, and we still love climbing with our friends and family,” Guarino says. “We are truly trying to live the American dream and we genuinely appreciate your support.”
Guarino shares that, when he personally found climbing, it provided profound belonging. “Belonging to a sport, to a group of people that continues to evolve, to a lifestyle and way of life, and now, my livelihood as a business owner,” he says.
“Climbing is everything to me, and I believe that it can and should be everything to everyone else who wants to be a part of it all. It pains me to learn that the climbing community can sometimes feel unwelcoming to some, and so we aim to remedy that and work toward unfettered inclusivity.”
They try to tackle this in several ways, fueled by their Equity + Outreach Department. They host affinity sessions and club meetups, offer supported pricing to anyone who might need it, have a community advisory board, and partner with countless local, regional and national partners and advocacy groups.
“We don't always nail it and sometimes miss the mark,” Guarino says. “But we don't give up and we keep trying to move the needle.”
P&G's Pamela's Diner, a beloved breakfast hub with five locations known for "the world's best hotcakes" and their famous lyonnaise potatoes, has been in business for more than four decades. Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith were young women when their journey began; the former teachers found they had visions of being in charge of their own destiny. "So after 42 years and some hits and misses, here we are," says Klingensmith .
"Our staff has always been as inclusive and diverse as could be," Klingensmith shares. "Our customers are as well. We are thankful for being part of the Pittsburgh Pride community."
They savor countless memories of staff members attending and celebrating Pride events over the years. "We have always supported Pittsburgh Pride, as the pride of Pittsburgh has always supported us," Klingensmith says. "We actually lived our pride by being/supporting anyone through charities employment etc. We lived under the thought that if we wanted health care, all our staff wanted healthcare. We did the same with a 401k retirement plan."
Klingensmith says it’s always so important to be yourself in your working environment as well, adding, "Without inclusiveness and diversity, we would never have been successful."
Another local company — premium dessert destination The MilkShake Factory — sweetens things up at 11 locations in and beyond Pittsburgh. They’re proud to be a part of this city’s rich history; they began as a small soda fountain in 1914 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. To this day, loyal fans return for the handspun milkshakes made with housemade ice cream (vegan, too!) as well as heritage chocolates crafted by generational chocolatiers.
Area Manager Megan Hensley says that they’re a “people first company” who believe that diversity and inclusion lead to a rich culture and outstanding team.
“We hire people from different backgrounds and provide opportunities for training and professional development, mentorship and growth,” she says.
Upon hire, they encourage team members to identify their pronouns and preferred name. They’re also proud to participate in and support initiatives in their community like Pittsburgh Pride and, in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a mental health awareness campaign called Break the Ice.
In the end, we all benefit from supporting spaces in which we’re all valued and warmly welcomed.