(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.”