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Monthly Archives: August 2016

An Oley Valley rediscovery

(A/N: This story ran in the April 15th issue of the Reading Eagle)

By: Rosalba Ugliuzza, Reading Eagle Correspondent

Nestled in the heart of Oley Valley’s luscious farmlands and rich history are its many small businesses ready to welcome the public with open arms this weekend.

Starting today through Sunday, April 17, “Rediscover The Oley Valley” community event will kick off with 15 area specialty shops and restaurants opening their doors to residents and out-of-towners eager to spend the day shopping, dining, or simply sight-seeing in the countryside.

“People can get breakfast at one place or visit an antique shop, then visit a gift shop, then go down to the nursery and see what they have,” said Stuart Kern, event organizer and owner of Evelyn and Harriette’s Gifts.

Although the participating small businesses are not all located on the same street, each of them provides unique merchandise, affordable prices and personal customer service.

The purpose of the event is to inform people about the small businesses in Oley Valley in hopes that they can spread the word to their family and friends.

“The people around this area are so receptive. They’re very friendly. We get a lot of customers that come in, consigners that come in and we just talk. People have lived here for many years,” said Karel Guinther, owner of Treasures Through Generations, LLC. “The biggest thing you’ll get from a smaller store and the privately owned is the customer service.”

A few businesses will also offer refreshments and snacks throughout the weekend.

Simplee Charming Boutique & Consignment will offer daily specials Friday through Sunday like 10 percent off on home good items (furniture and glassware), 10-percent discount on spring and summer clothing tops and 25 percent off pants and skirts and other items.

Sewers and quilters can visit Ladyfingers Sewing Studio and shop for top quality designer fabrics, quilting materials and supplies. It also offers an array of threads, books, patterns and classes for those who want to hone their craft.

Customers will get a blast from the past browsing through a plethora of vintage items like furniture, records, toys and even a bench made with antlers at Under the Sun.

“Just about anything you can think of. You can get something here for $1 and you can get something here for more than $1,” said co-owner Tina Landis. “Many people here are appreciative of the stuff. They cry with happiness not about buying but about the memories.”

Folks looking for some creativity can visit Glick’s Greenhouse where they will learn how to make miniature fairy gardens. Owner Dave Glick said this free activity has had a lot of interest from his customers.

“People have been asking for the last two years for them to plant their own miniature fairy garden,” he said. “So we are setting up a room with all the supplies and potting tables. We’ve made a display with six different stand-up posters and each one tells a different step.”

Glick’s offers a large variety of herbs and vegetables, including kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. There will be a 10-percent discount on gerber daisies and Martha Washington geraniums or pansy geraniums. Five-inch pansies will be on sale for 75 cents.

From noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oley Valley Organics, LLC will provide a tour of its 13-acre farm. There will be composting demonstrations, and visitors will get to see the farm’s 140-year-old oven that still bakes the breads.

Owner Barb Dietrich said they grow seasonal produce and a lot of garlic. She and her fellow certified organic farmers make and sell their own garlic powder.

“We’re waiting for the asparagus to come in. We grow salad greens, Swiss chards and spinach. Our season is getting underway,” she said. “The families are interested in growing healthy foods.”

Marsha Moser, owner of Woods Pub and Grill and Creekside Pleasantville Diner, said the Oley community stands out because “the people know how to eat good food.”

Woods Pub and Grill offers award-winning wings, prime rib cheesesteaks, charbroiled burgers and steamed clams. This weekend’s breakfast features at Creekside include eggs benedict, strawberry shortcake, French toast, banana foster pancakes, homemade quiche and spicy sausage patties.

Because Oley is so largely agricultural, according to Kern, it is not considered a shopping destination unlike Reading, Allentown, and King of Prussia. He hopes the open house will encourage more people to come to the area more often.

“Oley is a very stable community that does not have the influx of new and younger people needing access to commercial sources,” he said. “The two main roads that bisect the Oley Valley are Route 662 and Route 73 and act as conduits for people to travel through the area and not realize what is available just off the side roads.”

The number of businesses participating this weekend was “more than twice than expected,” said Guinther, who helped organize the event.

Organizers hope to offer the open house twice a year – one in the spring and the other in the fall. The success of the open house could lead to more businesses participating in local community events in the future, which would boost the local economy.

“We want to give back to the community in any way that we can. There’s a lot of history in Oley,” said Niki Miller, assistant director and treasurer at Clay on Main. “Just doing a driving tour of Oley is fascinating because of the architecture. Each store is unique and different. People can find what they like, and we want them to come back.”

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Published articles

 

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“They’ve just assumed I would always be here”

(A/N: This story is about local ladies’s clothing shop that closed its doors for the final time in late July. It appeared in the June 23rd issue of the Reading Eagle.)

By Rosalba Ugliuzza, Reading Eagle correspondent

Janet Mutter has always been hands-on in helping her loyal customers look and feel beautiful. She will continue to do her job until the very last day.

For shoppers who didn’t receive a letter in the mail or email months ago announcing The Carriage House’s “Going Out of Business/Retirement” sale, they sure have gotten the memo now, as colorful signs clutter the store windows, indicating that after 17 years of upscale retail service, everything must go by Saturday, July 23.

The retail owner said her sad customers are wondering where they are going to shop now.

“We’ve tried to help them find a store that carries a certain brand that they like so that they can continue buying it,” she said. “They said they’ve just assumed I would always be here. It’s almost as hard for them as it is for me.”

The decision to close is bittersweet for Mutter, but she said she is ready to move on. Her lease expires in the beginning of August.

“It’s time for me to enjoy myself and to not have all the responsibilities,” she said.

In the meantime, shoppers can take advantage on buying anything in the store from clothing, accessories and fixtures to hangers and wall pictures. Discounted items range from 15% to 60% off. Formal dresses are currently 30% off and spring and summer clothing attire are 20% off.

The women’s clothing store is also holding a ticket drawing. Customers have a chance to win some fabulous prizes, including a Keurig coffee maker, a KitchenAid stand mixer and a 39-inch flat screen TV. Each shopper will be assigned a number and is eligible either by just entering the store, making a purchase, or referring a friend. The more times they come into the store, the more tickets they will receive. The ticket drawing will be held on Saturday, July 23.

So far, merchandise sales have gone far beyond expectation.

“They really have been fantastic,” said Mutter. “It was way beyond I expected … When I went to open, I was like, ‘Oh my God, what if nobody shows up?’”

Growing Up

Mutter’s passion for women’s fashion began as a young girl under the tutelage of her grandmother, Florence Gift. By age 15, the Boyertown native sewed flower girl dresses for the former Rose’s Bridal Shop in her hometown.

She took some sewing classes at Albright College. However, after graduating with a teaching degree, Mutter made a detour in her career path.

“I decided that while I was student teaching that I didn’t want to teach,” she said. “So I had to be creative and started interviewing for positions that my degree didn’t qualify me for.”

For 15 years, she worked in the human resources department at UGI Utilities, Inc. Working there provided an incentive for her future.

“I could take the skills I learned about the laws of having employees and benefits and apply them to my employees,” she said.

Two weeks after leaving UGI, she worked Robert Scott & David Brooks, a large outlet store that was located at the former Reading Station on Sixth Street. She quit in 1998 to begin her dream job.

“I finally decided that if I was going to do retail and if I was going to be doing the hours, I was going to do it for myself,” Mutter said.

The Beginning of The Carriage House

The Carriage House was opened in 1999 in West Reading. Mutter said she was pleased with the buzz it had received, but there was one major flaw: lack of parking.

“I didn’t have a location with a parking lot so my customers had to park along the street,” she said. “I heard too many times, ‘I was going to stop, but I couldn’t find a parking space so I kept going.’ That’s not what you want to hear as a storeowner.”

In 2010, Mutter resolved the issue by moving to its current location at the Village Square Shopping Center in Wyomissing.

Over the years, the retail business has been called the miniature version of Donecker’s, the upscale clothing and furniture store in Ephrata, Lancaster County that closed in 2008, because of its clothing merchandise made by high-end manufacturers like Pendleton, Ribkoff and Lyman.

“When I opened, that’s what everybody told me because they were still in business at that time,” Mutter said.

What has made her store different from other ladies’ clothing store is the quality customer service. Mutter and her four part-time employees have gotten to know their customers well. She calls them her “best advertisement.”

“We’ll check in with our customers in the dressing room. We’ll go out and get different sizes for them or say, ‘Here try these, I think they’ll look better on you,’” she said. “I always say if they feel good with what they have on they are going to carry themselves completely differently and they’re going to be a great advertisement for me.”

The retail business has created generations of customers. With weeks to go until the last day, Mutter knows how hard it will be to say goodbye.

“They’ve become like family,” she said. “I was very lucky. Very fortunate.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Published articles

 

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Sweet Ride Ice Cream opens shop in W. Reading

(A/N: This article was printed in the July 13th issue of the Reading Eagle. http://www.readingeagle.com/ontap/article/sweet-ride-ice-cream-opens-shop-in-west-reading)

By: Rosalba Ugliuzza, Reading Eagle Correspondent

You may have spotted Chris and Angie Farrell’s ice cream bike at City Park.

Or, you might have caught a glimpse of their ice cream trailer at West Reading Fall Fest.

Now, the Farrells have parked their Sweet Ride at 542 Penn Ave.

In April, the Sinking Spring husband-and-wife team opened Sweet Ride Ice Cream at the former site of Yoas Services Inc. The West Reading shop is an addition to their current bike and mobile parlor business.

The name Sweet Ride culminates all the services the Farrells provide on and off the wheels.

“We want to make people happy when they’re visiting,” Chris said.

Ice cream aficionados of all ages can have an enjoyable dessert experience when they walk in the door. The super-premium ice cream comes from Nelson’s Dutch Farms, a family-owned business from Montgomery County.

While hand-dipped ice cream is its focus, with more than 20 flavors to choose from, the shop also has freshly baked cookies, chocolate marshmallows, floats, banana splits, sundaes, nondairy raspberry sorbet for vegans, sugar-free selections for diabetics, Philadelphia-based Peddler coffee and more.

The most popular flavors are the graham slam and coffee, while the ice cream-flavored milkshakes and banana-peanut butter chips are also doing well.

“We try to have something for everyone,” Angie said.

Sweet Ride Ice Cream is not your typical fast-food ice cream place. There’s a separate room for parties and other special gatherings. There have been three parties since the store’s opening.

Dose of nostalgia

Behind the counter is a 1946 soda fountain, where the sweet beverage is handcrafted with carbonated water and soda syrup. This vintage object – along with the shop’s classic ice cream mixer and black, white and blue decor – give a dose of nostalgia to the older customers.

“We just had an older couple, and they were like: ‘We love sitting there,'” Angie said. “They sit (by the counter) every time they come in. Another couple has said, ‘We feel like we are on a date.'”

“What’s nice is for the older generation when they come in the store, they’ll reminisce a lot,” Chris said. “They talk about the different soda fountains they went to around the city when they were young. You’ll hear young kids say to their parents: ‘Oh, we’ve never been to an ice cream store like this before.'”

Board games are available for kids and their families and friends while they indulge in delectable desserts.

Idea of opening

The Reading High School alums got the idea of opening an ice cream business while on a beach vacation in the summer of 2013. According to Chris, a 1990 graduate, a girl arrived at the dunes to sell ice cream to beachgoers.

“I’m a schoolteacher looking to make some money over the summer, so I said to Angie (a 1992 graduate): ‘Well, I should get an ice cream bike,'” Chris said. “I was just sort of joking. But the idea kind of stuck in my head when we came back from vacation, so I started looking into it.”

His research had found that ice cream bikes were popular at weddings and other formal events in England. This gave the couple an idea to try the same thing in the Reading area by purchasing a vintage ice cream bike from Worksman Cycles in Ozone Park, N.Y.

The bike is utilized for outdoor and indoor events, and serves between 100 to 200 customers.

“It’s always neat when we arrive,” Angie said. “It has the old-time bells on it. It makes a statement. It really adds a fun and unique dessert experience to the special events.”

The Farrells have sold ice cream at baseball tournaments, parties and Bandshell Concert Series at City Park.

It is a hit at weddings. After their ice cream bike service became a success, they decided to kick their business up a notch by getting a mobile ice cream parlor.

Their parlor is a trailer that serves super-premium, hand-dipped ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet to companies, organizations and special events. Fat-free, gluten-free and sugar-free options are available as well as sundaes, custom ice cream cookie sandwiches and floats.

“We were thinking: What can we do when we go to companies that have hundreds of employees, on a bigger scale?” Angie said. “With our mobile ice cream parlor, we have a window side just like a regular food truck, but then on the other side we have two doors that open, and we put steps out. For special events, we have customers enter the parlor.”

Customers can select what type of flavor they would like and then exit the trailer. The mobile parlor has traveled to places such as Harrisburg, West Chester and Philadelphia, serving ice cream at fundraisers, graduations, weddings and more.

“People really love that concept,” Angie said. “There isn’t anything around here like it.”

In April, Angie quit her job as a paralegal to manage the ice cream business full time. Chris is a full-time television and video production teacher at Exeter Township Senior High School.

When it comes to the ice cream business, Chris said, “I help out as much as I can.”

Chris and Angie, who have three sons, thank their families for their huge support and help in making their business come to life.

The Farrells hope their customers can have a good time at Sweet Ride, whether they are on a date, with friends or with family.

“Just enjoy being together, and be happy,” Angie said.

If you go

Co-owners: Chris and Angie Farrell

Location:
542 Penn Ave., West Reading

Phone:
484-987-7338

Hours:
Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 8:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 8 p.m.

Web:
sweetrideicecream.com

Facebook: facebook.com/sweetrideicecream

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Published articles

 

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