Richard Rattner opened William Penn Tavern 17 years ago, but his roots as a Shadyside business owner go deeper than that. His family owned a dress shop on Walnut Street for years. His dedication to his neighborhood also runs deep. He is the president of the Shadyside Chamber of Commerce.
How did the William Penn Tavern come to be?
We are in our 17th year here. I started from scratch. This used to be the old Rollier’s Home and Garden Center. My family had a business, a 100 year old dress business, which I shut down, up here on Walnut Street. I needed something to do, I had three young children, and I wanted to stay in the neighborhood. I went and worked at the Pittsburgh Deli while we built this out.
What makes Shadyside different?
What makes Shadyside unique to Pittsburgh is that it’s almost like a little town unto itself. Everything, you have all your goods and services, you have restaurants, bars, independent owners of stores that are neighborhood people who listen to their customers and adapt accordingly. The chains we have are all the highest end, one-of-a kind stores in the area, such as Patagonia, Apple, Talbot’s. Our landlords have done a very good job of hand-picking national chains to bring to this area to keep it competitive but not kill it with off-price retailers, or banks, or all of the things that can make it harder to do business here on a day to day basis.
Does the Chamber influence that at all?
We meet monthly, weekly, whatever it takes, with the building owners. We have a great relationship with them, so we’re able to explain to them what we’re looking for. These people also realize they have a lot of money invested in this neighborhood, and the value of their property is going up because of the tenants they have chosen. Most of our landlords have owned these buildings for years and years and years, and they’ve updated them accordingly. They’ve kept up with the times. But at the same time, they’re Pittsburgh-based people who are aware of what Shadyside means to the city, And a lot them live here. A perfect example is Walnut Capital’s headquarters is on Walnut Street.
Talk to me about the famous William Penn Tavern Kitchen Sink Sauce.
It came from the close bond we all have, and from staying after-hours and trying new things. Bear has been here 17 years, Rob in the kitchen right now has been here nine years, I have four or five people that are 17 year employees, I have 3 or 4 that are 15 to 10. We’ve really formed a family bond here. We support each other, we pick on each other. We would just try different things. We make all our own sauces, ranch, buffalo, hot, bbq. Once we defined all of our base sauces then we were able to take it to the next level.
Initially folks thought the kitchen sink everyone was like, you have to put everything in there. And we were like, yaaaa….. That’s disgusting. So we omitted a few things. And that is what become the Kitchen Sink, our award-winning sauce. We ship it all over the country.