Ali Pokorny’s new venture is the perfect fit for Pittsburgh.
In 2020, she launched Puzz, a puzzle company that updates the classic pastime with modern themes.
Like many people, Pokorny rediscovered the simple joys of the puzzle during quarantine.
“I remember going to my grandmother’s house in Washington, Pennsylvania, and she always had a puzzle to solve. This is my earliest memory of puzzles,” she says. “I have such a hyperactive mind. Doing a puzzle allows your brain to focus on the activity at hand and not on other things.
Although Pokorny enjoyed the mental challenge, she was frustrated with the selection. Most of the puzzles she found featured cartoon kittens, abstract art, or basic landscapes; images that moved his mind but did not necessarily stir his soul.
Pokorny, whose day job is in marketing, reached out to artistic acquaintances with ideas she thought were fun and relevant.
Artists Nat Thomas and Courtney Powell delivered whimsical centerpieces. The 1,000-piece puzzles, which retail for $28, feature three themes: Taco Tuesday, Plant Lady and Van Life.
Online sales started just before the holiday season, and Puzz sold out its inventory of 900 boxes in January 2021.
After restocking, she started offering local pickups, so she got to meet some of her fellow pranksters, who encouraged her to do more. Some customers even preserved their finished products by framing them and hanging the puzzles on their walls. Pokorny says that when it comes to puzzles, that’s the biggest compliment.
She is currently working with more artists to create new designs and 500 piece puzzles for people who want to feel a sense of accomplishment faster.
Will people keep looking for puzzles now that Covid restrictions are lifted? Pokorny says there is a huge puzzle subculture that will keep the trend alive.
Throughout the summer, Pokorny will be doing puzzle pop-ups, including one on June 9 at the Lawrenceville Show (3706 Butler Street). You can sip wine while completing 150-piece mini-puzzles. Follow Puzz’s Instagram page for event updates.
Upcoming themes include hiking, coffee shops and an ode to Pittsburgh.
“A lot of the inspiration comes from things that I find interesting; things that other people can relate to as well,” says Pokorny.