Ben Kamber

From costume parties to haunted hayrides to trick-or-treating, if Halloween is your favorite time of year then Specter Studios in Pittsburgh might have just what you’re looking for. The Sharpsburg-based studio designs, manufactures and distributes an entire line of custom costumes, masks, props and more to serve the needs of even the most discriminating customer.

Mark Marsen, owner of Specter Studios, models his favorite mask on “Our Region’s Business.”

If you’re in need of a Krampus full mask, polar bear rug, satyr pants or a flying monkey costume (and really, who isn’t), Specter has you covered. The company, which employs just seven people, cranks out more than 10,000 items a year – all of which are handmade and shipped from the Pittsburgh headquarters.

And it’s not just Halloween aficionados that have taken a liking to Specter Studios’ creative designs. A slew of Hollywood film and television productions have featured Specter products, including AMC’s Breaking Bad, which featured a foam axe prop in its season four finale.

Most recently (and quite unexpectedly), heightened demand has caused wolf half masks to fly off the shelves, with dozens of orders being made every day. It’s all thanks to the popularity of a viral music video out of Norway called “What Does the Fox Say.” According to company owner Mark Marsen, the increased sales of the fox mask came pretty much out of nowhere, which illustrates the challenges in anticipating the popularity of any particular design.

Marsen and Specter Studios’ Business & Operations Manager Eanna Holten were recently featured on WPXI’s Our Region’s Business. Check out the interview below to learn more about the company and the unusual Pittsburgh connection that one of Marsen’s favorite masks has.

Bonnie Pfister
Megan Worbs still loves Lawrenceville, but she recently moved to Shadyside.
Megan Worbs still loves Lawrenceville, but she recently moved to Shadyside.

Michigan native Megan Worbs has made helping individuals with disabilities her focus, both on the job and in the community. As equal opportunity services projects coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University, she works on compliance issues for faculty, staff and students, and coordinates resources for students. She’s also a board member of Life Transitions Plus and its subsidiary, the Alberts Foundation, which help individuals with mental or intellectual disabilities transition into living in the community.

But it’s not all work and no play. Worbs enjoys relaxing with friends over good food and drinks at places like the Round Corner Cantina and Picolo Forno. A recent relocation from Lawrenceville to Shadyside has her exploring the tastes and sights of her new neighborhood.

Worbs will be talking about that and more on Oct. 17 on WRCT 88.3 FM’s La Rumba Live, the bilingual radio program hosted by fellow Neighbor Cindy Fernandez. The show airs from 7-9 p.m. Thursdays.

You can check out Worbs’ profile and those of all the Neighbors at, a virtual concierge that highlights work, play and live options in the 10-county region. On the site you can look for a job among the nearly 30,000 gathered by our powerful job aggregator, sign up for updates about the region through our social media channels or RRS feeds and take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to be matched up with Neighbors who may share your interests and have tips on what’s fun and engaging to do in the region.

Bill Flanagan

1385027_1419535931597934_1486915443_n-1Kudos to Don Carter of CMU and Joel Mills of the AIA Center for Communities by Design for convening the 25th anniversary Remaking Cities Congress, which got underway yesterday in Pittsburgh. About 300 thought leaders on “post-industrial” cities are in town from across the U.S., Canada and Europe. As a reporter, I covered the first and only previous conference in March of 1988, when Prince Charles visited Pittsburgh on a very snowy day. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently wrote about it.) I enjoyed seeing the pre-recorded remarks by Prince Charles last night. He agreed to serve as Honorary Chair of the 25th anniversary event, although he was unable to be here in person.

Remaking Cities is a capstone of a global month in Pittsburgh, with the Carnegie Museum of Art bringing cutting edge art from around the world to Pittsburgh as part of the Carnegie International and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust providing U.S. and world premieres through the International Festival of First, which, of course, featured The Rubber Duck, now spending its final few days at Point State Park. Fortunately, the Carnegie International will continue to add a global flavor to the region’s cultural scene through March 16.

Bill Vidonic
Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck in Pittsburgh, October 2013 / Photo by Bill Vidonic

Buctober may have come and gone, but at least the city still has Ducktober!

I’ve been truly amazed at the steady stream of people in and out of Point State Park just to see a 40-foot inflatable duck. Had to be thousands on Saturday alone.

It’s the simple things in life that bring the most pleasure sometimes. It’s been great to see families hanging out along the Allegheny River, taking silly pictures with the duck.

While that’s been the newest part of Pittsburgh, I’ve discovered plenty of the old (and fascinating) while I’ve been living Downtown.

And that’s been the difference — living Downtown. I’ve worked here for more than three years, and grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, so I’ve spent a great deal of time Downtown.

But when you work here, you are rushing from place to place, concentrating on the duties at hand for the day, and you never really get the chance to just look up and look around, poke your head in buildings to see what you’re missing. Since I was on vacation last week, I did just that.

I marveled at the ornate architecture inside the Union Trust Building. I’ve never been in S.W. Randall Toyes & Gifts on Smithfield Street until last week, and what a fun place! It’s a model train builder’s dream.

Who knew there was a cell phone-activated light display tucked into an alley (Tito Way) along Liberty Avenue? I didn’t, until now. I’ve never been along the Mon Wharf, until now. (Yes, it’s a good place to jog at night, quiet and flat.)

I never knew you could walk out onto an observation deck at Station Square along the Monongahela River. I know it now.

Market Square arguably has become a focal point for Downtown, with many good restaurants and an inviting atmosphere to just sit and watch people go by. You would not have done that just a few years ago. The transformation has been amazing. (Same goes for Point State Park. Incredible job making it a first-class park.)

Want a different perspective on the city? Hit the top floor of a parking garage Downtown and look around. Or see if you can get onto a top floor of one of the high rises and take in the view.

Try to take a few moments of your day to do something you haven’t done in Downtown Pittsburgh before. It’s worth it.

I can’t forget to say thanks to the folks at the River Vue apartment building for the accommodations as well. Spectacular views of the city from my living room windows, including sunsets that are unforgettable. This apartment building has been great, good location, quiet. Other residents are friendly, many have dogs, and that makes for some fun trips in the elevators until we hit the lobby.

Plus, I had a front-row seat for fireworks following a cancer walk along the North Shore. (Yes, I know. Fireworks? In Pittsburgh? Who would have thought?)

I’m glad I have a couple more weeks for more education myself.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the duck. He and I are on a first-name basis.


Phil Cynar
A technician designs a 3D printing project.
A technician designs a 3D printing project.

Pittsburgh was – for more than a century – a foremost center of manufacturing in America, especially in metals production. But today, many don’t realize that manufacturing remains a critical component of our regional economy, employing nearly 100,000 people in the region and contributing about 11 percent of our region’s gross domestic product.

Home to a tradition of world-leading innovation and manufacturing excellence, Pittsburgh is named one of “America’s hottest cities” to locate a manufacturing business (Expansion Management). Top manufacturers like Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, Bayer, Bombardier, Eaton, H.J. Heinz, Koppers, LANXESS, NOVA Chemicals, PPG Industries, U.S. Steel and Westinghouse Electric Co. thrive here, while smaller precision tooling and machining companies meet global demands for the components that keep the world’s machines running.

Manufacturing generated the wealth that funded our great foundations and helped to create our region’s rich arts and cultural assets. And it was the wealth created by our traditional industries – manufacturing, finance and energy – that made it possible to build entirely new industries here in life sciences, healthcare and IT – creating the diverse and resilient economy our region enjoys today.

But manufacturing is not just part of our past. Rather, it’s very much a part of our present and it’s going to be a big driver of our future, especially now since the discovery of the rich Marcellus Shale gas reserves beneath this region, which have returned Pittsburgh to the epicenter of a new oil and gas boom – one that is making an even better business case for making things in southwestern Pennsylvania and in America.

This sector, however, is not one to be taken for granted. We have to reach out around the world for the capital to grow this sector here, and we’ve got to convince young people that it offers bright career opportunities. Learn more about the business investment and career opportunities presented by advanced manufacturing in the Pittsburgh region.

Bonnie Pfister
Amiena Mahsoob shares a joke with Zoe, a coonhound lab mix.
Amiena Mahsoob and her coonhound lab mix Zoe enjoy the cherry blossoms in Frick Park.

Amiena Mahsoob was raised in Franklin Park, lives in Swissvale but has a wide global perspective.

An avid traveler who has taught in high schools as close as Baldwin and as a far as Fukui, Japan, she now designs and implements educational programs for the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, reaching thousands of international and regional middle and high school students and educators each year.

Fresh from receiving the 2013 ATHENA Young Professional Award for her support and mentorship of other women, Mahsoob is this week’s featured Imagine Pittsburgh Neighbor. She’ll be talking about that and more Oct. 3 on WRCT 88.3 FM’s La Rumba Live, the bilingual radio program hosted by fellow Neighbor Cindy Fernandez.

You can check out Mahsoob’s profile and those of all the Neighbors at, a virtual concierge that highlights live, work and play options in the 10-county region. Find a job or advance your career by checking out our job aggregator, sign up for updates about the region through our social media channels or RRS feed and take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to be matched up with Neighbors who may share your interests and have tips on cool things to do, eat and see in the region.