Steal City Vintage brings curated, sustainable fashion to Pittsburgh


Image courtesy of Steal City Vintage

The inside of Steal City Vintage on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

By Sarah Pine, Staff Writer

When walking down Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, it’s difficult to miss the graffitied sign and purple LED lights that lead down to Steal City Vintage. Upon descending the fern-lined staircase, customers enter a store filled with racks of vintage clothing. 

Steal City Vintage features clothing from all decades, as well as vintage toys, vinyl records and posters. After years of sourcing vintage clothes part-time, owners Rob Schwoegl and DJ Lander finally decided to open a business in November of last year. The store’s prices range from $15 to $40 for t-shirts and sweatshirts to $60 to $90 for jeans, jackets and specialty pieces. Apart from selling clothes, Schwoegl and Lander said their mission is to provide people with an outlet to participate in sustainable fashion.

Schwoegl said opening a physical store allowed him to take inspiration from shops he frequented growing up. 

“The inspiration was growing up having other stores to go to that were community-oriented, that were kinda like a hub that you could go to, not just for clothing,” Schwoegl said. “You could get everything there — you could get music, you could find out what’s going on, gossip, fashion, what was up and coming in Pittsburgh — everything street culture, graffiti and I always wanted something like that, as far back as I could remember.” 

Lander, who has a background in graphic design, saw vintage fashion as a fitting transition from the heavily populated graphic design industry. 

“Graphic design became saturated because of how many people got into that industry, so thrifting became my outlet because graphic design is in vintage,” Lander said. “I had an obsession with it because it was quality stuff that was already made.”

Schwoegl and Lander met in 2020 through sourcing and thrifting, which they both described as a close yet competitive community of people who unite over their passion for vintage fashion. 

When deciding on a location for the store, the pair chose Squirrel Hill because of its diversity and popularity, Schwoegl said.

“Squirrel Hill is one of those communities that has everything. Everyone’s here. Everyone’s well represented, and there’s fashion,” Schwoegl said. “People aren’t afraid to be themselves here at all. I feel like it’s a community that people feel safe in, so that was important. Obviously, it’s great foot traffic, but there was already a sense of fashion and a want and need for a vintage shop.”

Schwoegl and Lander wanted Steal City Vintage to provide clothes of all decades. Lander said by having clothes from all eras, the store could appeal to people with varying fashion senses.

“The mission with this was to provide all eras of clothing because most places you go to, they only pick one niche to sell, and we wanted this to be a one-stop-shop,” Lander said. “We wanted to provide a niche for anyone who walked in the building, where every friend group could find something.” 

Tierney Cioppa, the only other employee at Steal City Vintage, said she learned a lot about sustainability and vintage clothing from Schwoegl and Lander after she started working for them.

“I would say that my knowledge of vintage clothes has really evolved while being here,” Cioppa said. “[Schwoegl and Lander] have so much extensive knowledge on everything that I feel like I didn’t even touch the realm of vintage clothes until I got here.”

Schwoegl and Lander said the most rewarding part of owning a vintage shop is promoting sustainable fashion and providing people with clothing that is not mass-produced. Schwoegl said rare vintage clothing allows people to express their individuality.

“People are more appreciative of what they have now when they pick a piece for themselves from a curated spot,” Schwoegl said. “The older pieces carry with them some sort of uniqueness as well. People obviously love to have something that someone else doesn’t have, and a lot of times, with vintage pieces, you’re not going to see someone out at the bar or wherever with the same shirt as you.” 

Lander said for him, the most rewarding part of owning Steal City Vintage is working with Schwoegl and seeing people find clothes that excite them.

“Seeing the facial reaction of somebody being amazed with what they’re picking up is the best reward,” Lander said “You see the full circle of you finding it, and then the person buying it and being ecstatic about what they have in their hands.”