Tag Archives: shopping

Bucket List Update…I’m Slacking

Back in January, one of my first blog posts was a personal bucket list of local attractions that I have never been to and want to cross of my list in 2011. So how is it going? Of late….not so good. In the beginning I crossed off a few items rather quickly. I thought that June, mid-year, would be a good time to look back and review my progress and regain some momentum.

So here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. America On Wheel’s Museum  - see my post
  2. Visit a local vineyardsee my post
  3. Souper Bowl at Banana Factorysee my post

Three things. I did three things, that’s it??? And all three of these were crossed off by mid-February!

So here’s what I didn’t do, along with my sorry excuses…

  1. Easton State Theatre - I originally wrote:
    “Everything I am interested in seeing is always sold out by the time I hear about it or the cost is not in-line with my level of interest.” Pretty much the same thing is happening. I either fail to check the schedule or I do find something I’m sort of interested in but the price is higher than my interest (for example, Bryan Adams).
  2. Any number of restaurants in Easton I have yet to get to. We aren’t big restaurant goers…my husband doesn’t care for crowds and we have a kid. Might have to turn this one into a birthday dinner.
  3. Godfrey Daniels - busy weekends…wanted to take Hailey to a storytelling event but was already over booked. Need to take another look at the schedule.
  4. Touchstone Theater - I’d like to get there sooner but if I don’t, I plan on seeing the Christmas Follies in December.
  5. Gio’s Italian Grill in Macungie - I jinxed myself. This was supposed to be a done deal…my reunion was supposed to be here but it got hijacked and turned into a picnic. I must admit the picnic was a lot of fun, not that Gio’s wouldn’t have been good, but it was great seeing everyone’s kids so it worked out for the best. Even if that means I have to make new plans to cross this off the list.
  6. Historic Bethlehem Cemetery Tours this is in October so I’m still ok…for now.
  7. Renninger’s Antiques and Collectors Extravaganza in Kutztown. I made plans to go to the June Extravaganza with a friend who also loves antiques. They are moving into a new house in July and she has sworn off buying more stuff that they will have to pack and move so we rescheduled for September’s Extravaganza.
  8. Glass blowing and/or photography classes at the Banana Factory. I found the class I want to take (a photography class where you make a book) but I forgot to sign up and I think it already started. I’ll have to check the next schedule.
  9. Martin Guitar Tour - I’m going to go to this when I’m on vacation for Musikfest in August.

To be honest, I’d be happy if I got through more than half of this list this year. I think the hardest one for me is going to be the State Theatre and maybe the Banana Factory class, depending on what is offered and when. 

I’m also making a summer to-do list. Not really a bucket list because many of the things I’ve already done previously, but just want to get there again. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing a post about it soon.

Did you make a bucket list for this year? How are you doing with it? Let me know in the comments! 


Where am I? Photo quiz.

Wow, just realized it’s been over a month since my last “Where am I?” post, and almost a month since my last post in general. I really need to get back on the ball here.

So, in an effort to slowly bring everyone back to speed, we have an easy one today. No hints.

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Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas

I started this Mother’s Day brunch requirement…errr…. tradition early on. From the time I was pregnant with Hailey I knew that I wanted brunch at Hotel Bethlehem to be my Mother’s Day tradition. Unfortunately for me…my husband is not one for doing things like making reservations so for my first Mother’s Day the Hotel brunch was booked and we went to the Brew Works instead.  The following year, even after persistent nag…err reminders, my husband did not make reservations for the Hotel Bethlehem brunch in time so I made reservations at Bolete. The following year and from that point forward I took matters into my own hands and I make my own Mother’s Day brunch reservations at the Hotel Bethlehem each year. Sigh.

Each of the three places has something a bit different to offer, so here are my takes on each of them:

Bethlehem Brew Works. Keep in mind that it’s been 4 years since I’ve had my Mother’s Day brunch here so the offering could be a bit different today. They offered a Mother’s Day brunch with no reservation requirement. The food was standard brunch fare and they had good Bloody Mary’s. Also, the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission’s Art Sale is on Main Street on Monday’s so the location is perfect if you want to incorporate this into your Mother’s Day as I do every year. Pros: Location, no reservations-perfect for last-minute plans, good drinks, casual,  louder atmosphere so if you have real little ones they won’t stick out when they start crying, good price, very flexible Cons: Food is ok but standard-doesn’t stand out, lacks a special Mother’s Day ambiance

Bolete. I was able to get in here with a table for three calling a few weeks before Mother’s Day. I called about 1-2 weeks ago as research for this post and they said they had some openings for smaller parties but were not taking any more reservations for larger (6 or more) parties. Bolete’s food is amazing and Mother’s Day brunch is no exception. This is not a brunch, they offer a special menu with a mix of brunch options, some more breakfasty-others less breakfasty. When I was there it was served as three courses. I had the best blueberry pancake in my life here. On the menu: Blueberry Pancake……$10. Yes it was one pancake (not huge, normal size) for $10. And it was so worth every penny. The food here is farm fresh and cooked to order. I was not a fan of the Mimosas or the Bloody Mary. If you have impatient toddlers it may be challenging. Also, Bolete’s location is a short drive to Main St. for the Art Sale, but it’s not the same as walking out from Brunch into the middle of the sale. Pros: the food is amazing, small intimate experience, not buffet style, nice Mother’s Day ambiance, can generally get reservations weeks ahead rather than months ahead, perfect for families where kids are older. Cons: location (not walkable to other activities like Art Sale), drinks in my opinion were not great, slower service (because food is carefully prepared, cooked to order) may not be ideal for young children, less casual than other options (this can be good or bad depending on your preference), portions are smaller (you will not be stuffed-this can be good too)

Hailey at Mother’s Day Brunch, Hotel Bethlehem, 2009

Hotel Bethlehem. Call months ahead for this if you want to get in. Seriously. Months. A few days before Mother’s Day you will receive a call from them not only confirming your reservation but asking you to reconfirm the number in your party and to provide credit card information so they can charge you if you don’t show up. Because this brunch is in such high demand they want to make sure that not only you show up but that your entire party shows up. I haven’t had the experience of showing up without my entire party or not at all so I don’t know how well they enforce this but I’m thinking they are serious if they go through the trouble of calling everyone and requiring the credit card info in advance. I must admit this practice put me off a bit but once you are at the brunch it will all be worth it, trust me. If you have been to any Hotel Bethlehem brunch you know that they do a really nice job and they kick it up several notches for Mother’s Day. They also have an expanded children’s buffet area that included a make your own cupcake station last year. It was super cute. They have coloring activities for the kids to keep them busy too. Hailey loves the formality with the white table clothes and is pretty well-behaved here. She eventually gets over acting like a princess at a formal function and spends most of the remainder of the brunch under the table in her fortress. While the food is buffet style, which I usually find ho-hum, the quality is high.  They have the expected omelette and carving stations as well as some surprises, especially in the seafood selection. And when brunch is over you can step straight outside and browse the Art Sale. Pros: Best Mother’s Day ambiance of the bunch, cannot beat the location, food is very good, Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s are excellent, great for kids of all ages, beautiful views, moderate price, formal feel but you can still be pretty casual here Cons: have to make reservations in advance, not good for go with the flow types (changing number of guests, last-minute cancellations), confirmation process can be off-putting, buffet style (some people like my husband are not a fan of buffets)

If you have any Mother’s Day experiences or preferences please share in the comments!

Ack! A Wrinkle!

The other morning I woke up looking like Yoda. Well actually, not that many wrinkles, but two, one on each side of the bridge between my eyebrows. And these are not superficial wrinkles, these are fairly deep.

Botox is NOT an option for me. I depend to much on my animated expressions. Especially the eyebrow furrow and the eye roll. Actually, it’s surprising this has not happened sooner. I don’t necessarily care if other’s see it, but I don’t like looking at it. I have been lucky to make it to my grand age of 37 without grays or wrinkles…looks like the wrinkle bit is coming to a close. I credit my lack of grays to my grandmother’s genes, and my skin…well…I don’t credit my genes for that…it probably has more to do with the fact that I started using Oil of Olay when I was 11 and I have been obsessed with anti-aging moisturizers ever since. Oh and sunscreen. I have freckles year round, so to keep them in check I wear SPF 50 sunscreen on my face. And sunglasses. My entire family is like vampires, none of us can be outside without sunglasses, even the house is dimly lit.

So why am I bothering you with all of this? I need your help. I need to find a new wrinkle cream to help me smooth this crap out. Here are my requirements and preferences in order of importance:

Must haves:

  1. Must work (at least to some extent, and not just as a smoother, must  prevent further damage, would be nice if it could reverse some existing damage)
  2. Must not be tested on animals
  3. Must be all natural

Must not have:

  1. Nasty ingredients like petrochemicals, lanolin

Would be nice if:

  1. Ingredients are all natural
  2. Organic
  3. Locally available
  4. Locally made
  5. Vegan (I can live with bee products if it really works, but I don’t want to rub a placenta on my face)
  6. Not crazy expensive. I would consider $75 bucks for something that only lasts a month crazy expensive. $75 for something that lasts 6 months…I can deal with that.
  7. It would be great if it also worked as an eye cream.

Currently for an all over moisturizer I use a product called Amurie Rejuventation Moisturizer. It is locally distributed (Northampton PA) and I get it through the Lehigh Valley Food Coop (full disclosure, I am a shareholder and board member). It is also all natural, and it works great as an all over moisturizer. But it is not a targeted wrinkle cream.

If you have anything that you have actually used and love, share it here. If you in anyway represent the product, that is fine, please comment, but be up-front that you represent the product so your comments can be taken in context.

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions!

Sales: Aardvark on Groupon, Hatley at Milk & Honey Kids

I haven’t written about sales in a while because, quite frankly, they have been pretty sucky lately. But I woke up to some good news this morning…Aardvark is on Groupon today! According to the counter their $30 for $60 worth of Aardvark Sports Shop stuff is good for two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and the Groupon expires 9/3/2011. If you aren’t familiar with Aardvark, it is a great place to buy running shoes. I will never buy them at a chain sporting goods or self-service store again. Even if you can find the same pair a few bucks cheaper, what if they are the wrong shoes for you? Now you just wasted your money on running shoes you aren’t happy with. At Aardvark they really take the time to match you up with something that fits your budget as well as the needs of your feet. In fact, usually they will bring me about 3 types of shoes in my range and when they told me which was the best fit for me…to date it has never been the most expensive pair. They aren’t there to rip you off, they want you to be a customer for life. They also have a lot of cool gadgets and clothing as well as information on races and running groups. Don’t feel this is a store just for marathon runners. If you are just starting out or even just thinking about it, stop by they’ll get you motivated and up and running….literally.

Another great store in the Lehigh Valley, this one much newer to our area, is Milk & Honey Kids. They carry great kids clothes brands like Tea and some really neat toys, they have a lot of Melissa & Doug which is one of my…I mean Hailey’s…favorites as well as a lot of fun things you won’t find at the big box stores. They are trying to fill the void that Toy Magic left behind, and while it is still primarily clothing, they are doing a great job with the toys. So far I’ve only been to the Bethlehem store (next to Panera bread on 512) but they also have a store on Hamilton Street in Allentown which is bigger.

Milk & Honey’s vendor of the week this week is one of my favorites, Hatley. They make the most adorable rain boots, rain coats, and umbrellas and the sale is perfect timing! Be sure to click the link for the coupon. A bit of warning…you are going to pay more for kids clothing than you will at Old Navy or Children’s Place, even more than Gymboree. I won’t get all of Hailey’s clothing or toys, here but I will get special gifts here. I’ll usually seek out things that are more unique that you can’t find elsewhere.

First Friday tonight, Bethlehem restaurant week extended, sales

Quick update…

First Friday is tonight on the southside. Be sure to check out singer-song writer Dina Hall at Cleo’s and the big sale at Home & Planet (they are also raffling off a skateboard stool with skate decks provided by Homebase – proceeds go to the Bethlehem Skate Plaza). I can’t make it tonight so let me know how it went in the comments. I’ll be at Emeril’s and the Sands, my first time there since opening weekend in 2008. (Well…except that one time I went at 2AM hoping to get a sandwich from Carnegie and it was closed so we left…what’s up with that? It’s a casino…everything should be 24/7).

In case you haven’t heard, Bethlehem’s restaurant week was extended due to the bad weather. Check out the details here.

Groupon has a great deal on now for a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card for $10. I usually try to support local when I buy books, but I’ve been guilty of buying a book or two there…or maybe I’ll just use it on a DVD. Hurry the deal won’t last long it expires in 3 days or when they run out.

Also, if you are a Steel Fitness member you can get 15% off of services at Apotheca in the month of February. Check out my recommendation here.

Happy Friday!

Shopping updates: Sales and Closings

Haven’t written in a while…have a couple of ideas for posts but one of them requires me to take some pictures so I’m waiting for the weekend, about the only time I have access to daylight these days!

Also, there haven’t been a whole lot of new sales that I’ve been excited about…at least not enough to share.

But today I did see that Cleo’s on 3rd St., South Bethlehem is having a 25% off the entire store this week (Jan 13-22). This is a nice shop with jewelery, gifts and home decor. If you have had your eye on something or haven’t checked this place out yet, now would be the time.

Also, don’t forget that RunKeeper Pro is still available on iTunes for free until the end of this mont! It’s usually $9.99 so its a great deal. Even if you don’t run you should consider getting this app. It also tracks walks, biking, skiing, wheelchair, skating, and rowing.  No swimming, at least not until they make a waterproof iPhone. If you aren’t doing any of these things…you really should be….why not track your activity and see your progress over time?

Also, I’ve been reading about the legal troubles of Richard Leidich, who was the proprietor of Bergy’s, that is until he was charged with embezzling $99,000 from the Blue Mountain Community Library in Pen Argyl. So, Bergy’s  is closed. What the heck is Bergy’s you ask? It’s an old country store in the Wassergass. Wassergass? That is a section of Lower Saucon east of Hellertown, that connects to Bucks county to the south.

I write about Bergy’s basically because of childhood memories. When I had pet rabbits (which was during much of my childhood) I remember going to Bergy’s for their feed, and I always felt I was stepping back in history, like the store looked the same in then as it did when it opened (back in 1903). I also had friends in Wassergass growing up and we’d occasionally stop in. It’s one of those places you always hope to see make it. This isn’t the first time it has closed, I hope to see it come back again.

If anyone has any Bergy’s memories or history to share I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Sales and In-store Events

Quick update on some interesting sales and in-store events.

Chit Chat: This consignment clothing store is closing at the end of the month and they’ve been running a sale. They are also going to be selling off some of the fixtures (furniture) etc. This place is furnished quite nicely so that may actually be something interesting to check out. Haven’t heard if another tenant is lined up yet. Will keep you posted.

Potterybarn/Potterybarn Kids: I’m trying to figure out what to do with all these toys that my daughter has from Christmas and her Birthday, which is conveniently (not) just a week before Christmas. Potterybarn Kids has some nice storage stuff 20% off this month (great timing). I’ve been hoping to find something antique/vintage instead, but these are tempting because they are created specifically with toy storage in mind, yet are nice pieces of furniture on their own. Potterybarn has an extra 15% clearance (on-line and in-store) off through Monday, definitely worth checking out.

Milk and Honey Kids: I received an email that they are having a Valentine’s event in their Allentown store on February 5th from 1-4. There will be a fashion show with cupcakes and “mocktails” and manicures and updo’s from Studio Two for the girls. Click here for details and a $5 off coupon that appears to be good at either their Bethlehem or Allentown location. They have really cute clothes and toys, but be prepared for the prices. For me this is a great place to get special gifts but for everyday I don’t typically spend this kind of money on clothes that kids either ruin or grow out of too quickly.

Kohl’s: Speaking of great gifts, Kohl’s always has these great books and coordinated stuffed animals for $5 and the proceeds go to Kohl’s Cares children’s charities. Right now the theme is Eric Carle (The Hungry Caterpillar). The animals are beautiful, just like his books, and you can’t beat the price. One book, one animal, 10 bucks and it looks like easily a $30 gift. Especially great if your kid is in daycare and gets invited to a lot of Birthday parties.

It is also time for the 15%, 20%, or 30% sale for Kohl’s cardholders. I got my stinking 20% coupon last week. I hardly ever get the coveted 30% coupon. Just a FYI you can’t use these coupons on the Kohl’s Care’s products, one of the few exceptions on Kohl’s coupons, but it’s for charity and they are a great deal already so this is just fine by me.

Season’s Olive Oil & Vinegar Tap Room: This great shop on Main St. in Bethlehem has some special products and events inspired by Valentine’s Day. There is a yummy sounding Strawberry Balsamic that is only available for a limited time, a cooking class showing how to make sweet treats with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars (of course!), and a special Valentine’s Gift Pack with dark chocolate and strawberry balsamic vinegars and Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sounds yummy. Details here. My own tip: the dark chocolate balsamic is great with strawberries over vanilla ice cream (yum!).

Happy shopping and in-store eventing! If you have any you would like to share please add a comment!

As always, I try to represent sales and events accurately however please always check with the retailer for details. I am not responsible for anything!

Bucket List 2011 – Lehigh Valley Stuff I Want to Experience for the 1st Time

Do you have a bucket list? I don’t. I’m more of a take it as it comes kind of person. Which is probably why I haven’t done a whole heck of a lot! So….one of my new year’s resolutions was to put a short term bucket list together of things I’ve never done in the Lehigh Valley that I’d like to experience in 2011. In the past I’ve only done this in my head and might have knocked one or two off the list and then forgot all about. I’m getting old…it’s time to put it in writing!

So here goes  12 things to do, because there are 12 months (actually it just worked out nicely that way):

  1. America On Wheel’s Museum - This place looks pretty cool and right now there is a British Invasion exhibit. I actually HAVE to go there this month as I’ve signed up to volunteer to help take down their Christmas decorations (which is laughable because I still haven’t finished taking down the Griswald-esque display at home), but I’d like to visit as just a visitor too.
  2. Easton State Theatre – Everything I am interested in seeing is always sold out by the time I hear about it or the cost is not in-line with my level of interest.
  3. Any number of restaurants in Easton I have yet to get to.
  4. Godfrey Daniels – I still can’t believe I haven’t been here. It’s on the Southside and not only do they have great music acts they also have story telling sessions for kids. I have no excuse.
  5. Touchstone Theater – Again no excuse. I really want to see the Follies show they do at Christmas. I saw the kid friendly version at Christkindlmarkt in 2009 and it was a lot of fun.
  6. Gio’s Italian Grill in Macungie – everyone raves about the food here. It’s just a bit off the beaten path for me. But…I graduated from high school with Tony the owner and he is hosting our 20th High School Reunion this June so that should make this an automatic cross off! (I’ve jinxed myself, haven’t I?)
  7. Historic Bethlehem Cemetery Tours in October – I actually bought tickets through Groupon for this in 2010 but scheduled my tour during the Halloween parade. #FAIL
  8. Renninger’s Antiques and Collectors Extravaganza in Kutztown. I forget about this thing every year. And they hold it THREE times a year. This is so right up my alley. Not officially the LV but close enough.
  9. Glass blowing and/or photography classes at the Banana Factory. This has been on my unwritten list every year since they opened that glass blowing studio. Well, now it’s in writing damn it.
  10. Visit a local vineyard - Yes, I’m lame…I haven’t done this yet.
  11. Martin Guitar Tour – I’m not a guitar player but appreciate the workmanship that goes into these beautiful pieces. Another one that is on my yearly bucket list in my head.
  12. Souper Bowl at Banana Factory – Last year I failed to buy my tickets in advance and it sold out. I’m buying my tickets today!

And just in case I managed to inspire anyone…here are 12 things I’ve already done, that I love, and maybe you haven’t gotten around to doing yet:

  1. Farmer’s Markets: Allentown (year round), Easton, Emmaus, Hellertown, and South Bethlehem all have great to nice farmer’s markets. (Listed in order of my favorites-*sigh* yes southside is last, it’s small and its on a weekday…booo).
  2. QMart (whoa, they have a website?)  Quakertown’s Farmer’s Market – I didn’t list it with the above because, well, its in a whole class of its own. It’s a great place to go when you are feeling bad about yourself (As a friend likes to say “QMART – where men are men and sheep are scared”). You can buy anything from blow dart guns to used porn there (ok, I think it is just back dated, but used is funnier).
  3. Merchants Square - Kind of like Qmart, on a smaller scale, a little less weird, and there is no food. My favorite place there is K.D Smith Auctions. It’s a monthly bid board auction with some great finds – furniture, old cameras & radios, military stuff, old toys, local memorabilia, even classic (50′s -70′s?) nudie pictures. There is also a good children’s consignment store and many collectible toy stores. If you want weird…go on the second floor and check out the wrestling memorabilia place. They have ring worn costumes. Enough said.
  4. Seasons Olive Oil and Vinegar Tap Room - Awesome store on Main St. They have the best olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the world. Go in and sample, my favorites are the dark chocolate balsamic, the pineapple white balsamic, and the tuscan organic olive oil. Yum….and they make excellent gifts…hint…hint.
  5. Abode - I LOVE THIS STORE. Beautiful, unique furniture that is reclaimed and refinished. The store is in a historic home behind Tika’s, just off Main St. on Market St. It’s easy to miss but definitely worth finding.
  6. First Friday –  It amazes me how many people have not been to this event. Every first Friday of the month the stores, restaurants and galleries stay open late (until about 10PM) and the streets bustle with activity. See artwork, hear musicians, eat, drink and be merry. Many of the shops have free alcohol!! Small little cups…but still…free alcohol! Oh and sales! Can’t forget the sales!
  7. Musikfest – Another one that amazes me. Just go. If you don’t like crowds, go during the week during the day. If the heat is the issue, go later in the evening. Parking the problem? There are shuttles.
  8. Blueberry Festival - This is a lot of fun if you have kids, like crafts, or really, really like blueberries. If none of these apply, then it may not be for you. If this leaves you wanting more, try the Kutztown Folk Festival.
  9. Take a non-credit class at NCC or your local community college. There are soooooo many cool classes, I just got my catalog in the mail today.
  10. Go to an Iron Pigs game – It’s a beautiful stadium and there’s stuff to do besides just watching the game. If you have kids this is a must. If not, it’s a lot of fun to just sit at the tables near the entrance and drink beer with friends.
  11. Crayola Factory – Again, if you have kids. This place is a lot of fun and there is a lot of stuff there to tire them out. If you don’t have kids, and you don’t like being around a bunch of over-excited ones, you should probably just get your Crayola fix at the gift shop.
  12. Lehigh Valley Zoo – This is a lot of fun because it is relatively close, there aren’t a ton of crowds, the penguins are cute and did I mention there aren’t a ton of crowds? You can make a day of it or squeeze in a quick trip and have the rest of the day to do other stuff. Get a membership and  get 50% off of participating zoos, including the Philadelphia Zoo! It’s the best deal if you have kids.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, a little something for everyone. Even if a person did just half these things she would have a great 2011. If you have other places and events to recommend or have questions about any of the experiences listed here please leave a comment.


Why I Hate Allentown

OK, two things…one, “hate” is a strong word, it caught your attention right? I don’t really HATE Allentown, I’m just disappointed with it-but that makes for a boring title. Second, if I’m “Michele of Bethlehem” why is my first post about Allentown? Because I said so.

Now that all that is out of the way…

I actually have very fond memories of Allentown growing up in the Lehigh Valley as a kid. One word, Hess’s.

When I was little, my grammy and I used to take the bus from South Bethlehem to Hamilton Street and make a day of shopping and eating in downtown Allentown. We would start at McDonald’s for breakfast, then go shopping up and down Hamilton Street, and of course to Hess’s. Right when you walked in there would be counter upon counter of perfumes. I’d spray every last one on me. Not so much because I liked the way they all smelled, but because the smell would make her gag.

Anyway…there were toys, clothing, jewelery, shoes, huge chandeliers, marble, models, talking elevators, the place was magical for a little girl. My grandmother would then drag me out of the store and we would continue down Hamilton to Woolworths’s which she always called the five & dime. We would get ice cream sodas and I’d spin around on the stools at the counter. Then it was back to Hess’s for more shopping and then to cap off a perfect day…the Hess’s patio.

Models would glide around the tables and the waitress brought the kid’s meal out in a little refrigerator. I still remember my grandmother would order the turkey platter and I’d order the kid’s burger. Once the waitress left my grammy and I would switch plates, me eating the adult portion turkey platter, her the kid’s burger. And of course there was the mountain of gigantic strawberries and whipped cream that was Hess’s strawberry pie. This story also partially explains my horrible relationship with food but…that is a post for another day.

This was in the late 70′s through early 80′s, by no means Allentown or Hess’s hay-day but well before its demise. Actually, at that time I thought of Allentown as the cool place to be and Bethlehem as *gasp* boring. And it was true. Back then.

So what happened?

Hess’s actually helped accelerate its own demise by expanding into the suburbs (Hess’s West, East, and South are now Bon-ton’s, Hess’s North I believe was roughly where Sam’s Club in Whitehall is today) but suburban sprawl was happening regardless of Hess’s expansion, and the Lehigh Valley Mall and what happened next in Allentown would have killed it with or without the help of Hess’s own expansion.

In the late 80′s & 90′s Allentown was in denial. They denied that gangs and crime were problems.  They believed that the only gangs in the area were “copycat” gangs, not the real deal. Of course the truth was New York City was chasing its criminals out and they took I-78 straight to Allentown’s doorstep. The city was not prepared to handle gang related crime and the criminals knew it and exploited it.

Combine crime with absentee landlords and dirt balls like Mark Mendelson who got away with decimating the city’s housing stock and landmark downtown buildings and the city was left with a huge mess. A mess that has taken and will continue to take Allentown years to dig its self out of.

So what does Allentown need to work on in order to have any shot of reclaiming even a glimmer of its former glory? Well, working on the crime problem would be number one on my list. Not all of Allentown’s crime problem is tied to actual crime however. I would venture to guess that the perceived crime as many times greater than the actual crime rate. If people perceive an area as unsafe it doesn’t matter if they are wrong, they are still not going to visit.

Concentrating on the “small things”  like litter, graffiti, double parking, noise complaints, and loitering can work wonders on lowering the perception of crime in an area. Of course reducing the actual crime rate and seeing fewer headlines about shootings and stabbings outside of its public schools would also help.

So what is next?

People are willing to trade some level of security for culture. People will leave their safe havens in their McMansions (again, another post for another day) to get some culture in the cit but the reward needs to outweigh the risk. Some, particularly young professionals, will jump at the chance at city life. Think NYC, Philadelphia. Today for many people the math does not add up to make a visit or a move to Allentown worthwhile. How do you solve the imbalance? 1) Lower actual crime. 2) Lower perceived crime (taking care of the small stuff, appearences). 3) Increase the number and quality of cultural attractions.

Allentown has concentrated on number three in the last few years (restaurants, ball fields, automobile museums, plans for additional river front development) and up until recently has basically ignored numbers 1 and 2. It is refreshing to see that the current administration is working on first appearances by targeting slum lords who let their properties waste away and by finally acknowledging they have a double parking problem in the city. Still, they have only begun to scratch the surface. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Downtown Allentown still has a few old gems, including its beautiful historic architecture and the Art Museum, that passed the test of time. But besides a few additions like the Allentown Brew Works little has endured to replace the numerous treasures lost. The key to making investments in cultural improvements pay dividends is to simultaneously work to improve the crime issues-both actual and perceived. The city needs to be less inviting to criminals to achieve this.

So why do I “hate” Allentown? Because they gave up and I see little hope that it will ever return to being an exciting place to be like it was when I was a kid. (Exciting in a good way, not in a fear-for-your-life way)

Look, I know that even if Allentown solved its crime problem that Hess’s is gone for good but I cringe every time I hear someone comment “Ugh, Hess’s again? stop living in the past.”

Most often the people who say this never experienced Hess’s and it was something one must experience to “get.” The closest I believe you can get today to experiencing Hess’s is to get your hands on a copy of Hollywood on Hamilton – Remembering Hess’s You can pick up a copy at the Moravian Bookshop or by making a donation to PBS39 WLVT .