Shadyside children's store Tots and Tweeds to close

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In the early years of the post-World War II baby boom, a woman named Katherine Grosscup noticed increasing numbers of women in strollers walking along Walnut Street in Shadyside, where she lived.

Sensing an opportunity, she opened a children's clothing store there: Tots and Tweeds, which would go on to become a Shadyside institution, known for its exquisite selection of children's apparel -- from christening gowns to flower girl dresses -- and high-quality women's wear.

On July 31, Tots and Tweeds (the tweed in the name came from the wool fabric Miss Grosscup sold to women in her knitting classes) is closing after 62 years, its owner, Jane Runnette Byrnes, said Thursday.

The store, which moved to Ivy Street just off Walnut 10 years ago, was doing fine, said Ms. Byrnes of Point Breeze, who was hired by Miss Grosscup to work there when she was 19 and ended up buying the store in 1967. Ms. Byrnes, who is retiring, says she wants to spend more time with her own grandchildren.

"I have made a lot of friends through this store, I've had five generations of customers, but I'm happy with the decision," she said.

To be sure, Tots and Tweeds, one of the last independently owned stores in Shadyside, was affected by the 2008 recession, "and 9/11 wasn't any picnic," Ms. Byrnes said. And the Gap store "certainly had an impact. We sold great khakis, and they came in with a cheaper version."

Indeed, the Shadyside business district of the 1950s and 1960s was a far different place than it is today, with private homes still on that stretch of Walnut Street that today is home to national chain stores. "There was a post office, a little Italian family grocery store, and Lutz's, which is now Prantl's," Ms. Byrnes said. "There were houses on the street with people sitting on their porches."

When Miss Grosscup decided to retire in 1967, Ms. Byrnes bought the store. "She'd taken me to New York with her, and introduced me to the buyers," Ms. Byrnes said. "She was very generous. We had a lot of fun in the store, which did enormous business."

Tots and Tweeds didn't only carry clothing for little boys and girls, but apparel for their mothers or older sisters, too -- from ladylike McMullen blouses to brightly colored Lilly Pulitzer shifts to Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses.

Despite the store's demise, there was, and still is, a market for beautifully made children's clothing from such classic labels as Florence Eiseman and Petit Bateau, Ms. Byrnes said.

"We catered to a person who wanted their child to look like a child, for babies to look like babies and not grown men. These people who put blue jeans and Steelers jerseys on from the day they're born? How comfortable is that for the baby? They should be in a Petit Bateau 'onesie,' " she said.

neigh_city - lifestyle

Mackenzie Carpenter: or 412-263-1949.


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