No Pizza in the Valley

“That’s sad, isn’t it?” a woman says, watching me peer through the window of an abandoned storefront on Braddock Avenue. The doors, wreathed in gold, are partially open with an old chain holding them together. The smell of dust and mildew is strong in the air, wafting from the crack in the door as if the building let out a sigh. Inside there are thousands of items strewn across shelves and left in haphazard piles on the floor. A metal bedpan rests against the glass of a display window; trinkets languish in the darkness just out of view. It appears to have been a junk shop, one that I recall having stepped foot in at some point in recent years. Now it sits among dozens of other storefronts in Braddock that exist between near-death and obsolescence, a reality shared by countless mom and pop shops throughout the Monongahela River Valley. Change is taking place in Braddock, but it’s hard to ignore such examples of business dreams derailed by unknown circumstances. As I turn to walk away, the woman shakes her head. “Not a slice of pizza or nothin’ on this dead-ass street.”

(Photograph: Matthew Newton. Caption: Storefront on Braddock Avenue, November 2016.)