Pittsburgh Spice buying Schaeffer School; more public schools for sale

Pittsburgh Spice & Seasoning Company is nearing the end of a process to buy a shuttered Pittsburgh Public school.

In November 2014, Greg Mancini visited Schaeffer School in Crafton Heights as a possible new locale for his sausage-making supply company, Pittsburgh Spice & Seasoning (PSC). This family-owned company founded in 1967 has outgrown their 10,000-square-foot building in the Strip, and the 26,780-square-foot Schaeffer school appealed to Mancini on his first visit. If all goes as planned, it will become one more example of adaptive reuse with more to follow as closed public schools are still available.

Schaeffer School

Schaeffer School, image Fourth River Development

Three years ago, Schaeffer School closed when Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) consolidated three schools into Langley K-8. PPS listed the school for sale through Fourth River Development which was retained to assist with the management of more than 1.5 million square feet of city schools on more than 60 acres of District property, according to Janet Burkart, partner at Weiss Burkardt Kramer.

Community Design Center of Pittsburgh was brought on to “develop a community engagement process for residents to vet potential projects and have a say in the reuse of the schools,” says Chris Koch, CEO of the Design Center, a nonprofit that provides grants, technical assistance, education and design services to help individuals and organizations purchase properties.

“We also funded building assessments to better understand the physical realities and costs associated with each structure. This framework provided a transparent and easy process for potential buyers,” says Koch.

At just 26,780 square feet, Schaeffer is the second smallest school for sale. Mancini is buying the property for $225,000.

Truck full of sausage-making supplies.

Truck full of sausage-making supplies.

One more hurdle remains before the final sale: the school needs to be rezoned as commercial. “I hope this doesn’t set us back,” says Mancini. “I wanted to be in by Easter—my new goal is August.” The zoning meeting is June 16.

Besides some necessary asbestos remediation, PSC plans to add a loading dock, a warehouse and space for manufacturing and packaging. They will also overhaul offices and add a fresh coat of paint.

PSC now has 10 employees but expects to have 15 to 20 employees by next year.

Just as people are keeping chickens, pickling beets from their garden and canning homemade pumpkin butter slow-cooked from homegrown pumpkins, Pittsburghers have also taken to making their own sausage—so the market has grown.

To meet demand, Mancini’s team plans to overhaul one of the larger classrooms into a retail store.

“We’ll have sausage grinders, smokers, casings, sausage making spices and seasonings and a whole line of sauces—hot sauce, soy sauce, liquid smoke and Worchestire sauce—by the jar or the gallon,” says Mancini.

“People know what they’re getting when they make their own product—it’s got no preservatives, it’s all natural and they can put what they want into it. They’re getting a better quality product when they make their own.”