A brick, an auction, Twitter and Pittsburgh's South Side


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Dan Rugh was asleep on the floor of his South Side printing shop Tuesday night as the final bids came in.

Sometime the night before, someone threw a brick through the window of Commonwealth Press's East Carson Street storefront, and this night, he was a sentry keeping watch on his shop and on Facebook as the bids poured in -- for the brick.

Earlier Tuesday, he launched a day-long auction on Facebook to raise money to replace the window, planning to give whatever was leftover to charity. The "Brick Auction" was the real deal: the highest bidder would get the wretched thing and some cool Commonwealth Press stuff -- T-shirts and the like -- to go with it.

And then others, businesses and people, started chipping in: tickets to a sold-out concert, Penguins tickets, a photo shoot.

"You can take something from a smashed out window and be so frustrated, and you can turn it around," Mr. Rugh said Wednesday afternoon.

When Mr. Rugh woke up, he saw the winning bid had come through at 11:59 p.m. -- at $1,150.

Mr. Rugh arrived at work Tuesday morning and found a basketball-sized hole in the 7-foot plate-glass window. Making an unexpected $500 repair, he said, is no tiny feat for a small business.

He and another employee, Dan Rock, started trying to get the shop clean enough to open.

"As we were sweeping up, I was holding that brick and just cursing it," Mr. Rugh said. "I was just joking, and I told Dan, 'I'm going to auction this brick off.'"

Then it seemed like it could actually work. Mr. Rugh and Mr. Rock crack jokes on Twitter and Facebook from time to time, so the post had to be clear that this was for real.

"Dan said, 'Make sure you write, 'Seriously,'" Mr. Rugh said.

They posted some photos on their social media accounts and offered store merchandise, a ticket to an upcoming craft brew event, and hugs -- of course -- to sweeten the deal. They even offered to paint the brick gold.

The virtual event would close at midnight.

Bids followed, but so did something Mr. Rugh didn't expect: people and businesses pledging to donate items that would go to the winning bidder.

Stage AE donated four tickets to the sold-out A Day To Remember concert. A woman offered coveted lower-bowl Pens tickets to a game against the Montreal Canadiens. East End Brewery threw in a free tour. Laser Lab studio promised a laser-cut birch plywood lamp.

Not to mention restaurant gift certificates, an hour-long photo shoot by a local photographer and more.

Mr. Rugh and Mr. Rock just did the math today: $2,200 worth of stuff was donated in the one-day auction.

So, who's the lucky winner?

Derrick Brashear, a South Side software programmer, who saw a picture of the brick Tuesday morning on Twitter.

He bid $400 for the brick mid-afternoon and chimed in again at 11:59 p.m. Even though the offers climbed higher after midnight, Mr. Rugh honored Tuesday's final bid, and Mr. Brashear stopped by late morning today to pay, via credit card.

"The guy showed up with money and beer," Mr. Rugh said. "You really can't complain too much about that."

Mr. Brashear said he was happy to donate to a good cause and help, in some small way, improve the image of Pittsburgh's South Side.

"The South Side sort of gets crapped upon by a lot of people, and it really shouldn't be," Mr. Brashear said. "It's a wonderful, livable neighborhood, and more people need see to that. And if I can do a small part in that, well, great."

The window cost only $425 to fix, so Commonwealth Press will donate the rest to local charities. Mr. Brashear plans to donate whatever items he can't use to charity, as well.

Thrilled and thankful, Mr. Rugh said he can't believe the outpouring of bids and donations in such a short period of time, for something he called so trivial.

"I can't imagine if something major happened in Pittsburgh," he said. "It would be a major show of force. I got this kind of support from the community for a window."

And what's Mr. Brashear going to do with that hour-long photo session?

"That's kind of awesome," he said. "I actually had no idea. Perhaps I'll get my wife to dress up and go along and we'll have some fun."

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.


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