Gus and Yia Yia’s

Finn’s first Gus and Yia Yia iceball

One of my favorite things in this world is Gus and Yia Yia’s, an iceball cart in Pittsburgh, PA that I’ve been going to for as long as I can remember.

Some about Gus and Yia Yia’s can be found here but I’ll quickly recap: they’ve been around since 1934  or as they say “since your Dad was a lad” and they make all their own syrups.  Now I know you can’t really go wrong with an iceball, but let me tell you, these are not like any other iceball you’ve ever had.  They are one of the greatest tasting things this world has to offer.

Like I said above, I’ve been visiting Gus and Yia Yia’s with my family since I can remember.  My father, an optician, had always made glasses for Gus and Stella (the Gus and Yia Yia who own and operate the cart).  There were always “oh, this iceball is on us since your Dad makes us great glasses” kind of talk coming from Gus and Stella and looking back I’ve realized that those moments have really had an impact on me.  I realized that life had nothing to do with money/making a profit/whatever.  It was about friendship, community, and connection.  I still take this idea into the teen library today.  If we can work together, we can do awesome things and have an awesome connection.

Pure Gus and Yia Yia iceball syrup. Made by Gus, bottled, and sent to us in Maine.

The next thing that I love about Gus and Yia Yia’s is their iceball syrup.  It’s from a recipe perfected by Gus’ dad in the 1930’s.  Amazing.  Like I said above, it’s not like anything you’ve ever had before.  My favorite flavor is cherry.  One taste of it takes me back to my many childhood trips to the iceball cart.  I instantly remember all of the wonderful times.  I think about that a lot when it comes to the library.  Simple little things matter.  Saying hello to someone that passes by, or telling someone that you dig the Batman shirt they’re wearing goes a long way.  People tend to remember these tiny but important moments.

This could be the first Gus and Yia Yia iceball ever made in Maine.

One of my dreams is to propose this idea to Gus and Stella someday.  When they want to retire, I’d love to buy their business.  I wouldn’t change a thing….sort of.  My brother Brandon could run the iceball cart just where it is in Pittsburgh.  I’d do the same thing with my family here in Portland, ME.  Iceballs, popcorn, and peanuts (these are the three items they sell and yes it’s an odd combo but you have to experience it to see how it all works together).  Cheap, delicious, and for the community.  I think that would be an awesome chapter in my life.

One of the cruelest things my mother (pictured with our son Finn) is text me when she visits Gus and Yia Yia’s, knowing full well that we’re 500 miles away. 🙂

My life wouldn’t be the same without these iceballs.  Thank you to Gus and Stella for making life a bit more awesome.  And thanks for teaching me a thing or two.

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