A new play center coming to Squirrel Hill will give parents a break — a coffee break.
Todd Schachter, 28, with the help of his fiancée and partner, Erin Levine, came up with the idea for My Little Outback, an Australian-themed café and play center that will open this spring at 1936 Murray Ave., right in the heart of Squirrel Hill.
The 6,400-square-foot space has been vacant since Eckert Drugs closed.
My Little Outback will have a coffee shop in the storefront for adults to hang out while the children play. The play center targets 0 to 6-year-olds, and will have limited activities for 7- to 9-year-olds. Kids will play on jungle gyms, a bounce house and other play equipment. Private rooms will be available for parties.
Schachter, the son of Barton and Linda Schachter, has lived in Squirrel Hill for most of his life, except for seven years in Atlanta, where he studied film at Georgia State University and lived after graduation. He returned to Pittsburgh to get his master’s degree in social work.
Levine, who is from Monroeville, attended the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and has worked as a counselor and preschool teacher.
Site demolition has been completed, and Schachter now waits for the building permit so that construction can begin. The play center will be American Disability Association compliant.
Atomic Themeworks, professionals on play spaces, out of Vancouver, designed the play equipment and the local Design Alliance will provide architectural services. David Nadoff will complete the construction. Schachter expects to hire a staff of 10.
Schachter and Levine came up with every detail, “mimicking some of the stuff that’s out there,” he said, “but realizing that there’s a lot of room for improvement and ideas.”
The facility will be “kosher-friendly,” Schachter said. They are still working out the details so that the entire community will be comfortable using the play center.
“We want to make it fun and promote happy lifestyles, try not to have any junk food,” Schachter said. They are planning to offer “low sugar snacks, more fruit, vegetables,” he added.
Schachter stressed that My Little Outback is not a day care center. A parent or guardian must remain, and if they choose to hang out in the café, the integrated security system will allow them to see their children on camera.
Banking on the success of My Little Outback, Schachter already has plans to open a second store in Atlanta, where his older brother lives. Pittsburgh will serve as the model.
Schachter has observed the changes in Pittsburgh and the Squirrel Hill neighborhood and likes what he sees.
“I’ve grown up in this area and seen this area grow so dramatically, from the first coffee shop,” he said.
(Angela Leibowicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1000 Ext. 303.)