Interview #98: Kelsey Halling

Introducing Kelsey Halling. 

Smart. Confident. Curious. Determined. Classy. Stylish. Disciplined. 

And so type A. (In the BEST sort of way!) 

A few years ago my husband and I were eating al fresco at Verde when we spotted Kelsey walking by. We asked her if she'd like to join and we ended up chillin' for the next two hours over guacamole and margaritas. (Don't you just love impromptu happy hours?!) 

At the time, Kelsey was telling us all about starting her new job at a small startup, Thread. It's fun to reflect on now as I'm pretty sure at the time she had no idea how much the company would evolve and that her work would lead her to running across the entire country of Haiti.

It was the equivalent to just under 8 marathons in 8 days. 

That's 230 miles, yinz! 

Kelsey's superpower is making the most difficult tasks appear to be effortless. I don't know many other people who'd be up for the challenge. 

Fun fact: I started out this project by interviewing Kelsey's bestie, Kelly. So it was only fitting that Kelsey be featured as I wrap up these 100 interviews. (We're almost there, team. ) 

Enjoy Kelsey's Q&A! 

Kelsey Halling

Job title: Director of impact at Thread

Twitter: @hallingpreis

Blog: So Type A  though I write more regularly for Thread’s blog now.

Neighborhood you live in: Bloomfield

Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Dark roast, black, with a little cinnamon. Unless it’s a treat-yo-self kind of day, then it’s a latte.

Current Shampoo Preference: I forget the name - it’s French and it’s for blondes, so I was a sucker for that branding strategy.

Why do you choose Pittsburgh as your home?
Simply put, I love coming home to Pittsburgh. When I come in from the airport or on the train and see downtown there’s an overwhelming sense of home and belonging. I didn’t spend my childhood here, but Pittsburgh is where I grew up. This town and its people have influenced the person I am for the better. I don’t think Pittsburgh is done with me yet, so I stay. Also, my business is here, and living in Pittsburgh is fun.

Who do you spend your time with?
The other Threadheads (Ian Rosenberger, Frank Macinsky, Jenna Knapp, and Lee Kimball.) We’re family at this point - our relationship could probably best be described as high-functioning co-dependency, but I love them, and they’re hilarious, and they challenge me to be a better person so I guess they’re alright.

Otherwise, Alyssa and Michael Studebaker put up with me a lot, and I probably wouldn’t get through the day without the baristas at Zeke’s.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?
I’m constantly learning. I get to travel. I get to see first hand where Thread is having the greatest impact as well as figure out how we make that better. I’ve got to watch this thing that started as an idea talked about in coffee shops grow to be a real business supporting real jobs and making real fabric out of trash. It’s thrilling.

Do you have a soul food?

What are some of your recent personal goals?
I ran across Haiti in February with the most amazing group of runners and support crew to raise money for Team Tassy. We ran from the northern part of the island to the south covering 230 miles in 8 days and 2 mountain ranges. It was an incredible adventure. But - it’s kind of awesome to not be in hardcore training-mode right now. I run because I love it, and I’ll get some races on my calendar soon, but for now I just run for fun.

I want to throw more dinner parties.

What are your favorite Pittsburgh restaurants?
I recently left my moonlighting gig as a server at Franktuary to focus full-time on Thread, so in addition to great food and a solid draft list, I’ll always be grateful to Tim and Megan (Franktuary’s owners) for giving me a job that allowed me to do the start-up thing. I spent a lot of time at that bar on my laptop before and after shifts working on Thread stuff - and I’ll still be there a lot as a customer.

Meat and Potatoes for brunch.
Point or Park Brugge if it’s a month with an r for moules et frites.
Pusadee’s Garden for outdoor seating.
Noodlehead for a lunch meeting.
Bar Marco for celebrating.
Spak Brothers for takeout.
Union Pig and Chicken on Wednesdays for Adventure Bingo with the incomparable Alexi Morrissey. Get the brisket.
Kelly’s for a first date.

Describe your ideal day.
Wake up - not too early, have coffee and read on my front porch, then meet up with some friends for a good hard run - maybe Frick park or Allegheny Cemetery, followed by pancakes and more coffee. Spend the afternoon getting lost in a museum, library, vintage shops or some combination of all 3. Late afternoon walk to get fro-yo while listening to a podcast. Evening would include an outdoor concert with good friends and a picnic basket full of decent cheese, berries, and prosecco. Stay up late with a small group of favorites swapping stories or playing a heated game of would you rather.

What is the most memorable live show you have seen in Pittsburgh?
A few summers ago (maybe 2011?) the WYEP festival in Schenley Plaza. It was one of the first social outings the Thread team was at all together. My BFF’s band, Big Hurry, opened so that was super fun. Then the lineup included Jukebox the Ghost and ended with Fitz and the Tantrums. During Jukebox the Ghost’s set it started raining, but no one left. Instead everyone on the lawn just popped open umbrellas and waited for it to pass. There was something so quintessentially Pittsburgh about sitting under umbrellas for an outdoor concert. The rain stopped soon after and held off again until towards the end of the night when Fitz and the Tantrums were playing. It was dark by this point and we danced in the rain on the grass while they played. It was a great night.

What do you think Pittsburgh will be like in ten years? What do you love most about the city?
Oh boy, I assume Uber and Google will have figured out this self-driving car thing, so that will be pretty cool. Thread will have expanded into several more countries and Threadquarters here will have grown to include an entire R&D department run by hooligans devoted to figuring out what cool stuff we can make out of all kinds of trash. Kelly Tobias and Christopher Preis will have moved back. (If I write it down it will come true, right?)

I hope we’ll have more dedicated bike lanes. I hope there will be fewer white men running things. I hope we figure out how to revitalize neighborhoods while actually remaining inclusive. I hope there are more direct flights from our airport.

I love Pittsburgh because you can start things here. You can take a risk and try something new and people here will support you and celebrate with you if it’s successful. Pittsburghers take care of our own. And if you fail? You won’t feel run out of town. This is a place where you can pick yourself up and try again.