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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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Do you got the bug?

It’s springtime. Thank God.

Depending on where you are, hopefully no snow has coated your driveways, yards, and roofs. With springtime, comes warmer temperatures, blossoming flowers, and of course, longer days! It also comes with upcoming travel plans.

If you’re struggling on where to go on your next vacation, let me help you out. Why not go to Sicily? Aside from the fact that my family heritage hails from there, there are lots of wonderful things to explore. I could tell you, but I think it would be better if I show you. Below is a link of a travel magazine I designed for my final online design class project.

Flip through and see what Sicily has to offer. FYI: The only thing that’s fake is the ad on page 6. Grazie!

http://issuu.com/noseyrosie/docs/final_indesign_project

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Published articles

 

Community hub keeps expanding

A/N: This article appeared in the February 20 issue of the Ephrata Review.

By: Rosalba Ugliuzza

Fridays are back and the Village Post Office has arrived.

These are just two of the reasons the year is off to a great start at the Ephrata Public Library.

But there is even more excitement on the way in the coming months as library visitors and users will be able to scour the building in a galactic way.

Beginning Saturday, May 18 until July 11, the library will host a science traveling exhibit called “Discover Earth.” Thanks to a grant received by the American Library Association, Ephrata is the only library in Pennsylvania hosting the grand exhibit.

“This project will be the largest that we’ve ever done at the library,” said executive director Penny Talbert. “I am expecting in those six weeks to see 60,000 to 80,000 people come to see the exhibit.”

Part of the STAR Library Education Network, which is led by the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, the Discover Earth exhibit is visiting 10 libraries nationwide.

The exhibition includes an 18-inch diameter Magic Planet globe and a 42-inch multi-touch table computer. Children and adults will be able to gain knowledge about the Earth through features like animal specimens and simulation-based educational games.

Talbert said said there will be educational tours for the kids.

“They will view a short movie and then they will go through the exhibit to do experiments,” she said. “There’s a game show that kids can play. It’s really neat.”

The library has also recently installed a real-time digital weather station that will collect data and show how local temperature, pressure, and precipitation change during the exhibition’s stay at the library.

“We’ll be able to gather that data and compare it with the other data that the 10 (stations) in other libraries in the country have,” said Talbert.

As part of the exhibit, there will be an archaeologist who will help the kids with an archaeological dig. Talbert said an astrophysicist from NASA will be teaching a beginner astronomy course for the public.

“There are close to 100 programs that we are doing for this exhibit,” she said. “It’s going to be crazy, but it’s going to be awesome.”

The exhibition will also coincide with the library’s summer reading program this year, aptly titled “Earth Science.”

“It’s like the perfect storm,” said Talbert. “So we are really excited and scared to death.”

The library has overcome challenges in past years, but it has received enormous support from the public for its changes like the most recent one with the “re-opening” on Fridays.

“We had a lot of people that were very adamant that we open on Fridays. In fact, we used to get our annual fund drive letters back, and they would write, ‘Will donate when you open on Fridays,’” Talbert said. “Fridays were our slowest days so that’s why we decided to close.”

Closed Fridays resulted in a 37 percent cut in the state funding. Talbert said the Ephrata library wasn’t as badly hit as other libraries.

“When something like that happens, you try to recover, and you find new sources of income,” she said.

Foot traffic has consistently picked up with more services offered. In 2012, more than 335,000 people visited the library, and circulation has increased by four percent.

With the growing popularity of electronic readers, EPL has expanded its collections of books, audiobooks and magazines by launching a digital library.

“Not only is the library going to be about books and the community, but it is also going to be about content delivery,” said Talbert.

Through an online service called OneClick Digital, users with a library account can download free e-audiobooks. Users can also download books through OverDrive, another online service with a collection of best-selling and classic titles. There’s a seven- to 14-day lending period. Once the e-books expire, they will return to the digital collection. Users can check out five titles at one time.

Users can also check out Amazon Kindles and Kindle Fires at the library. Talbert said people have also started to embrace the Zinio online service, which allows users to download magazines to their computers, Kindle Fires and iPads.

“Books will never go away. People love books,” she said. “Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh in 10 years, we’re not going to have books,’ but they like them. There’s a reason why we’re so busy.”

The Village Post Office, located on the State Street entrance of the library in the former staff room, opened about two weeks ago and functions just like a regular post office. People can mail letters and packages and buy postage stamps — however, packages will not be weighed.

The library’s VPO is the first in central Pennsylvania.

“The nice thing about it is that the (Village) post office is opened much later because we are opened Monday through Friday until 7 p.m. and Friday, we are open until 5 p.m.,” said Talbert. “People seem pretty excited about being able to come here and mail their packages.”

With the passport and post offices now in effect, the library plans to expand it services again in mid-summer by opening a notary office. Talbert said the expansion of services is a good thing for the library.

“It’s almost like a knowledge center or a community commons, and it’s becoming more and more like that,” she said. “It’s a destination. I want them to come here.”

There are a couple of spots still available to sign up for the Discover Earth exhibit. For more information on the exhibit, the digital library, and the Village Post Office, visit ephratapubliclibrary.org.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Published articles

 

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Pumped for Love

A/N: This article was also part of the Heart Health supplement in February’s issue of Businesswoman’s magazine.

By: Rosalba Ugliuzza

Behind every great man, there’s a great woman. But for 77-year-old Eugene Borza, he has a sweetheart.

Thanks to his wife of 37 years, WITF-TV President Kathleen Pavelko, Borza has overcome his latest health scare for the better.

Last January, Pavelko was at her husband’s side when he underwent surgery to replace four blocked arteries at the PinnacleHealth Heart Center in Harrisburg.

“My wife Kathleen is an angel. She decided she was going to best take care of me because when you’re on a lot of meds, your mind is not working very well. She was there all the time,” said Borza, a retired college professor. “She was the basic source of support.”

Borza had no medical and family history of heart disease. So the news came as a shock when he developed symptoms of shortness of breath and chest discomfort in March 2011. After a stress test resulted negative, the couple consulted with their physician who initially thought the problem might have been gastric-related.

“Our physician, Dr. Howard Cohen, suggested that only the “gold standard” test (cardiac catheterization) could confirm the source of the symptoms,” said Pavelko. “That revealed four blockages that were repaired via surgery a few days later.”

Borza is grateful for the excellent care the doctors and staff provided at PinnacleHealth. The couple, who have two children, have resumed a healthy, low-salt, moderate fat diet and exercise regularly.

Pavelko said it’s important that two people are present when they are consulting with a medical professional.

“Each meeting is an invaluable opportunity to ask questions and expand your understanding of the situation,” she said.

 

Borza said his wife did just that and owes her a great debt.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Published articles

 

Center Stage

A/N: February is heart awareness month. This article was featured in a supplement in February’s issue of Businesswoman magazine.

By: Rosalba Ugliuzza

Brenda McCann was an active person growing up. She had played softball and bowled. She has never had high blood pressure or high cholesterol. However, when she experienced fatigue and shortness of breath, she thought it was part of the aging process.

Unbeknownst to her, her heart would take center stage in the years to come.

Her cardiac journey began in January 2008 when McCann, 51, was supposed to undergo a hysterectomy. But once she was under anesthesia, her heart jumped to 300 beats per minute. Alarmed, doctors canceled the surgery and performed a heart catheterization instead.

“They claimed normally when the heart races and does an irregular beat, it usually means there’s a blockage,” she said.

By spring 2011, she had a pacemaker put in, and in July 2012, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, in which the organ wasn’t pumping out enough blood. McCann said her heart was pumping out blood below average, between 20 to 25 percent.

Doctors at PinnacleHealth performed a cardiac ablation to correct her heart rhythm problems. Though heart problems run in her family, McCann is the only member to have this surgery.

“I guess I can say I’m lucky I went in for surgery or I might not have known the condition that I had was serious and it was,” she said.

In addition to her follow-up appointments at PinnacleHealth, McCann takes her heart medications and monitors her sodium and water intake. She and her husband, Howard, have also taken an organic approach to their lifestyle like growing vegetables from their garden and ignoring packaged foods and canned goods from grocery stores.

 

“We bake our own bread. We can our own produce in the summer. It’s just something that we do,” she said. “Everything on my end contributes to longevity.”

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Published articles