Remembering the McGinnis Sisters: Food & Family Stories

Tuesday, December 14, 2021 • 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Free | Please register online.
Virtual Program

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Join us for an evening discussion of food traditions and innovations with one of Pittsburgh’s most renowned food families, the McGinnises. We’ll hear rarely heard stories behind this beloved local chain of specialty food stores straight from the McGinnis family.

What’s more, the conversation will be led by Dr. Ashley Rose Young, Food Historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and daughter of pioneering McGinnis sister Sharon McGinnis Young.

The McGinnis Sisters were recognized as one of Western Pennsylvania’s early leaders in the gourmet and specialty food business, tapping into ideas like organic food and international cuisine long before those became the popular food trends we know today. Awarded locally and beyond for their visionary thinking, these entrepreneurs understood the importance of warmly stoking and sharing family food traditions with their customers. In this way, the McGinnis Sisters became a holiday staple for generations of Pittsburghers.

Dr. Young will be joined by McGinnis sisters Bonnie McGinnis Vello and Noreen McGinnis Campbell as well as Jennifer Daurora, part of the third generation who ran the family business.

Attendees will also catch an early glimpse into the rich collection of original historic items and objects from the McGinnis Sisters stores, which the family donated to the History Center in 2019.


Registration is free, though donations are appreciated. Please register online. You will be emailed information about how to join the program and discussion virtually.

Register now

Accessibility: Open Captioning

Live captioning will be provided at this virtual program.

For more information or to request additional accommodations, please contact Sierra Green at


The McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores

The McGinnis family food stores was started by patriarch Elwood McGinnis in Baldwin in 1946 after he couldn’t find a job following World War II. Beginning with a modest produce cart, the family transformed that first small business into a bustling market and popular deli before the three sisters, Noreen (McGinnis Campbell), Sharon (McGinnis Young), and Bonnie (McGinnis Vello), took over in the 1980s.

Rebranded “The McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores,” the market thrived under their leadership. Tapping into ideas such as fresh locally produced and organic food and international cuisine long before those became popular concepts, the McGinnis Sisters were recognized as one of Western Pennsylvania’s early leaders in the gourmet and special food business, operating longstanding outposts in Brentwood and Monroeville, and opening a Mars branch in 2008.  With their emphasis on fresh seafood, a wide variety of gift baskets, and favorite store offerings such Elwood’s private recipe smoked hams and kielbasa, the McGinnis Sisters became a holiday tradition for generations of Pittsburghers, especially in the South Hills, before closing in 2019.

Dr. Ashley Rose Young

Ashley Rose Young headshot

Dr. Ashley Rose Young is the Historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She is the host of “Cooking Up History,” the museum’s cooking demonstration series. She also co-curated the museum’s main food history exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table along with several other food history team members. She is currently working on two books: an academic manuscript about New Orleans’ street food culture and a biography of Creole chef Lena Richard. Young was born and raised in Pittsburgh and graduated from Upper St. Clair High School. She earned a Ph.D. in History from Duke University, an M.A. in History from Duke University, a B.A. in History from Yale University, and was also a visiting scholar at Oxford University.