Biddle's Escape in Wilkinsburg is obviously a coffee shop. A large menu, written on a chalkboard against a red wall, lists everything from coffee and lattes to organic tea and chai. Patrons sit at tables on a tree-shaded deck, reading or quietly tapping away on laptops.
But once your eyes wander past the menu and the customers, it's clear that Biddle's Escape is much more than a coffee shop.
Strands of beads hang on a back wall, masks from all over the world adorn the walls and sculptures made from driftwood pulled from the Chesapeake Bay line the deck.
Corrin McManus, the manager and event planner at Biddle's Escape, pointed out the dinosaur femur perched on top of the coffee pots.
"Kids come in, I show them the dinosaur bone, they can pick a little piece off and keep it," said Joe Davis, the store's owner. He's traveled "all over the world" and collected everything from random dinosaur bits to Tibetan artifacts to masks from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
"It just seemed to start accumulating," he said.
Some of the art in the store is for sale, some of it isn't. He used to own History, a bead shop on South Craig Street in Oakland. He also owned the Biddle Avenue building that now houses the coffee shop, using it as an office and storage space.
He was looking for someone to put a restaurant or cafe in the building, but nothing ever panned out, so he decided to do it himself by merging the bead store with a brand-new coffee shop.
"It seemed like the right fit," he said. Plus, he lives right across the street from the shop, "so it's a much more enjoyable commute."
Biddle's Escape had a steady stream of customers on a recent weekday morning, and Ms. McManus said it's been "kind of a whirlwind" since the shop opened May 9.
There's a drum circle every Thursday at 5 p.m., and a group of 20 or so ukulele players stop by Biddle's on Wednesdays, Mr. Davis said. He and Ms. McManus are planning to hold everything from live concerts to yoga classes in the future. Mr. Davis said local musicians stop by and play occasionally.
"They just show up and put their hat out ... and play their violin or their cello or their guitar," he said. "It's a nice experience. People just stop and hang out."
And that's the vibe they're hoping to cultivate.
"Joe is open to anything," Ms. McManus said. "He's probably the most versatile person I've ever met."
Toni Elk, who has lived in Wilkinsburg for 35 years, stopped by the shop Tuesday morning with her granddaughters, Allie, 7, and Katie, 5. She said it's always been a nice, eclectic neighborhood, and Biddle's Escape "continues the diversity."
She said she always brings out-of-town visitors to Biddle's and hopes the shop will draw more people to the area.
Sabina Deitrick and her son, George Begler, walk to Biddle's a few times a week from their home in nearby Park Place and said the shop is a great addition to the neighborhood. George, 10, had a strawberry banana smoothie and a chocolate croissant, while Ms. Deitrick enjoyed a macchiato. Lucky, the family dog, seemed pretty content to lounge on the deck.
"He likes it here, too," George said.
For information about upcoming events, visit the Biddle's Escape Facebook page at www.facebook.com/biddlesescape.neigh_east
Annie Siebert: email@example.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert. First Published July 6, 2012 4:00 AM