Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hometown Hellertown Shopping Spectacular

When: Saturday, Dec. 16

Where: downtown Hellertown

Cost: FREE!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Seven Ways to Connect at a Networking Event

So your going to a networking function that you have never been to before (or maybe even one you have) determined to crack the networking code and start building priceless business relationships. Be aware that it’s possible to go to a networking event and not have any ‘networking moments.’ It is not just about showering and showing up. It’s about connecting with people and finding ways to help them progress. Here are seven proven strategies for making contact at networking events.

1. Go it alone.
When attending networking functions, go by yourself or at least communicate to your carpool buddies that you should all fan out. Moving about a networking event solo encourages people to approach you and makes it easy to mingle and initiate conversations. It may be more comfortable to have a friend right there with you, but remember: you are there to grow your network, not hang with the people already in your network.

2. Stand near the registration table.
After you have registered and put on your nametag, take advantage of the many opportunities to make small talk with new arrivals after they have signed in. These are the couple of minutes when most people are alone and interested in someone new to communicate with. Even something really easygoing like, "Looks like a good turnout..." is probably good enough to get a friendly conversation started. Remember that like you, people are there to make new contacts. And if they are not, they are in the wrong place.

3. Study the tags.
If nametags are preprinted and on display at the registration table, scan the tags of the other attendees to see what opportunities await you. Here’s something, though I have not tried this myself, Rachel Wood, a top financial advisor in the Boston area who introduced herself to me after one of my CODE Crackers Networking seminars, does something pretty neato. If she spots a nametag on the registration table of someone she would like to meet, she asks the people manning the table if she can clip a note to their tag saying she would like to meet them. She swears by it.

4. Circle and scan.
Before diving into the event, try circling the room and checking out the nametags for people or companies you definitely want to make contact with while there.

5. Look for people standing alone.
These folks may be nervous, and your initiative will often endear you to them. Plus, one-on-one networking is the best networking.

It is hard to join a group unless invited.

6. Sit between people you do not know well.
If the event is a sit-down affair, do not sit by a friend or business associate. You already know that person! You might be sitting there a while, so make sure you are going to be sitting by someone you can form a new relationship with. Plan who you want to sit by, but wait until the last minute to actually sit down so you can keep making new contacts.

7. Hang out at the food table.
I know it sounds like I’m joking, but people tend to be easily accessible around food. Stand near the food table, but not the bar. People tend to grab their drinks and move away from the bar, but are more likely to linger near the grub.

As people check out the buffet table, small talk comes more easily. "That Danish looks good..." is as good an opener as any. Once they have their hands full, people often look for a flat surface where they can place their plate and beverage. Take a spot next to them and get to chatting.

Check this out. Our endorphin levels are higher when we are close to food, which boosts our memory and the chance that we will remember and be remembered. We humans are a trip, aren’t we?

One quick DON’T
Don’t go to networking functions hungry.

Eat before you go so you can focus on the person, not the cantaloupe. If you are hungry, grab a quick bite off to the side, and then mingle. And don’t talk with your mouth full. (I hope I didn’t need to write that.)

Crack the Networking CODE.

Be Progress (TM).

From Dean Lindsay – Progress Agent (TM) at the Strategic Business Network.

Recognized as a ‘Sales-and-networking guru’ by the Dallas Business Journal, Dean Lindsay ( is founder of The Progress Agents LLC ( – a workshop and seminar company and dedicated to Empower Progress in Sales, Service and Workplace Performance. Lindsay’s best selling book, Cracking the Networking CODE: 4 Steps to Priceless Business Relationships, teaches valuable skill sets and strategies for building solid business relationships and achieving success in networking opportunities.

Lindsay's Cracking the Networking CODE has been endorsed by a who's who of business leaders and performance experts including Ken Blanchard - author of The One Minute Manager, Brian Tracy and Frank Bracken, the President and COO of Haggar Clothing Co. Jay Conrad Levinson - the author of Guerrilla Marketing, thought so much of Cracking the Networking CODE that he wrote the book's foreword.

For more information, log onto:, and call 1-877-479-5323.

NET December Dine-Out at Tortilla Flat

Join the NET for its monthly Dine-Out at Tortilla Flat in downtown Bethlehem. Tortilla Flat offers an extensive menu of traditional Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices. As an added bonus, Tortilla Flat features live Spanish classical guitar music every Friday. It has consistently been voted one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Lehigh Valley.

Please RSVP to by Wednesday, December 13th.

You MUST RSVP to attend this event.

When: Friday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m.

Where: Tortilla Flat, 500 Main St., Bethlehem Pa. 18018

Cost: Expect to pay $10-$20 depending on your order

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Nearly 30 people attend Progressive Dine-Out in November

Nearly 30 people attended the NET Progressive Dine-Out in November at Edge, Brew Works and Apollo Grill all in Bethlehem. NET members had drinks and appetizers at Edge, dinner at Bethlehem Brew Works and dessert at Apollo Grill.

"The progressive dine-out went extremely well. Everyone really liked the idea of sampling three restaurants in one night," says Wendy Gerlach, NET Vice President who is responsible for NET events.

Many of the young professionals enjoyed their meals and plan on making separate trips to the restaurants independently. A few members of the Pocono Network of Professionals also attended.

Don't miss out on the NET's next Dine-Out at Tortilla Flat December 15, 2006.

Bethlehem unveils a more public-friendly budget

OK, you can recite the names of all the members of Bethlehem City Council. You've weighed in on the casino debates online. And you may even have heard that the mayor — you know his name — is proposing a no tax-increase budget for next year.

But do you know that real estate taxes only make up 34 percent of the city's revenue? Or that the biggest expense — nearly 70 percent — goes to personnel? How about that Bethlehem was able to squeeze more water from its sludge this year, saving nearly $100,000 in landfill costs? And what about the city's plan to fix that swale problem near Bridle Path Place?

Haven't heard about that? Well, pick up a copy of the city's budget proposal — either in the Bethlehem Area Public Library or on the Web. It's all in there.

Responding to a mandate from council, Mayor John Callahan has submitted a newly formatted budget that makes it easier for the city's 72,000 residents to wade through municipal finances.

Instead of a telephone book-sized volume, the city streamlined its spending proposal, omitted some line items and reported spending trends in colorful graphs and charts. Bureau heads painted the big picture of city services by listing their goals, achievements and summarized changes to next year's budget, proposed at $58.3 million.

The format earned praise from Councilman Joseph Leeson Jr., whose job as finance chairman is to keep a check on city spending. He called the new format a ''quantum leap'' in making city finances more accessible to the public.

''This is an outstanding job,'' Leeson said.

More here.

"Something spectacular happening (in the job market)" analyst says.

Unemployment in the Lehigh Valley fell last month to its lowest level since January, largely because of an increase in health care, education and administrative jobs, according to data to be released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The Valley's unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percent to 4.2 percent in October, lower than the rates for Pennsylvania and the nation. The region's jobless rate has been the same or better than that for Pennsylvania every month this year. The state rate was 4.3 percent last month, and the national rate was 4.4 percent.

Only 17,200 people were counted as unemployed in October. That's the second-lowest reading in five years. Only January of this year had fewer people, 17,000, counted as jobless.

''These are healthy numbers,'' said state labor market analyst Joe Merlina. ''There is something spectacular happening in Allentown.''

Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5 percent to be full employment. That means anybody who wants a job can get one.

In October, the Lehigh Valley was home to 346,400 jobs. That's 5,800 more than the year before. The region has added jobs over the past year at nearly twice the rate of Pennsylvania. In the past five years, the Valley has added 20,800 jobs. That's an increase of 6.4 percent, or about triple the state's rate.

The job sectors that have seen the biggest gains over the past year include professional and business services, up 2,200 jobs; administrative and waste services, up 1,400 jobs; and education and health services, also up 1,400.

More here.

Death of fellow young professional leader mourned by community

Today, YPO conference hosts at Next Generation Consulting's blog reports Meghan Hackett, 23 died Sunday from a brain aneurysm.

Meghan went home from her job at the Chamber of Commerce in Dubuque, Iowa a week ago, complaining of a headache. She never came back.

"Meghan was the driving force behind Dubuque's new Young Professionals Network.

In less than three months she encouraged more than 100 people to join the organization.

'This organization is in it's infancy and that was the beauty of what Meghan was doing. She provided that energy to help everyone else get out there and figure out what this organization was going to look like,' said Kathy Kessler of the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce.

Life was cut short for this young woman with what people called an infectious smile. But the impact she made on the community in that short time, will long be remembered." - KCRG News reports.

The NET extends its deepest sympathy to Meghan's family and friends, and the Young Professionals Network of Dubuque. She is a great loss to the young professional community and will be truly missed.

The Young Professionals Network of Dubuque has established a Meghan Hacket Memorial Fund. To contribute, write c/o Kathy Kessler, Dubuque Chamber of Commerce, 300 Main Street, Suite 200, Dubuque IA 52001.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Support local farms: Buy a local Christmas Tree

Did you know Pennsylvania is one of the largest growers of Christmas trees in the United States? This year, instead of picking up your tree at one of the big box stores, consider getting nostalgic and cut or pick your own at a local grower. You'll get the best and freshest selection and start a great new holiday tradition to celebrate with friends and family.

  • Beck's Yule Tree Farms, 4674 Park Ave., Slatington PA 18018, 610-767-675, North of Allentown, off of 309 between Neffs and Newside on Park Ave.
    • Choose & Cut: Douglas, Fraser, Scotch Pine, Colorado Spruce, Norway Spruce, White Spruce
    • Pre-Cut: Douglas, Fraser
    • Saws provided, Trees baled or wrapped, Wreaths and greens, and Restrooms available. Hot food & beverages on the weekends, professional wreath Decorating.
  • Tranquility Tree Farm, 5563 Acorn Dr., Emmaus PA 18049, 610-967-2964
    • Choose & Cut: Douglas Fir
    • Pre-Cut: Concolor Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce
    • Saws provided, Trees baled, drilled, & wrapped, Stand Straight stands, Wreaths, garland & greens, Tractor and Wagon rides, Gift shop, Public restrooms available. Santa
  • Deer Run Tree Farm, 542 Columbia Ave. Bangor, PA 18013, 610-588-0825
    • Just 2 miles off Rt. 611. Look for signs 10 ½ miles South of Delaware Water Gap and 10 miles North of Easton on Rt. 611.
    • Choose & Cut: Canaan 5-10’, Douglas 4-11’, Fraser 5-10’, Colorado Spruce 6-7’, Norway Spruce 5-8’
    • Saws Provided, Trees Baled or Wrapped, Wreaths & Greens, Public Restrooms Available. Free hot dogs & drinks with purchase. Tree stands, tree bags, Watering systems also available. Tractor/Horse & wagon rides.
  • Newswanger's Tree Farm, Box 1718 Faulstick Road, Saylorsburg, PA 18353, 610-381-3184
    • North on Rte. 33- Exit Wind Gap/Bath. Go north thru Wind Gap on Broadway 2.5 miles. Pass Gateway Motel (on left) and take first left (Mountain Rd) for 3 miles.
    • Choose & Cut: Douglas Fir 4-12', Concolor 4-8', Colorado Spruce 4-12', White Spruce 6-9'
    • Pre-cut: Douglas Fir 6-8', Colorado Spruce 6-8'
    • Saws provided, Trees baled or wrapped, Wreaths and greens, and Restrooms available
  • Ott's Tree Farm, 768 Orchard Road, Mt. Bethel, PA 18343, 610-588-7968
    • May be reached from Rts. 512 & 611 in PA. From NJ & NY Rte. 80, exit 4 to PA.
      Approx. 4 miles to farm - Call for directions.
    • Choose & Cut: Canaan Fir 3-4’, Douglas Fir 2-3’, Fraser Fir 3-4’
    • Pre-cut: Canaan Fir 6-7', Douglas Fir 6-8', Fraser Fir 6-7'
  • Twin Creek Tree Farm, 105 Tomahawk Trail, Northampton, PA 18067, 610-502-0232
    • Choose & Cut: Canaan 4-8’, Douglas 4-8’
    • Pre-cut: Concolor 6-8’, Douglas 4-10’
    • Saws, baled or wrapped, wreaths and greens, gift shop, free hot chocolate and candy canes.
For tips on how to choose and care for a live tree click here. A variety selection guide can also be found at this informative website.

Link Love: Thanks Lehigh Valley Bloggers

We here at The Afterwork Chronicles are long overdue for some thanks to the many blogs who have listed the The Afterwork Chronicles on their websites. Special thanks goes to:
It goes without saying that these independent speakers of the Lehigh Valley are voicing their own opinions in the blogosphere, and not that of the NET's, but we love them anyway. Thanks guys!

Betcha didn't know...

Moravian Book Shop, in Bethlehem, is the oldest continuously operating bookshop in the world.

NET Connect: Business Card Exchange

NET Business Card Exchanges are always a great success, with lots of connections made with people from many different industries and professions. December's event will be held at Pop Mart, an off-beat clothing retailer in downtown Bethlehem. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards.

Business card exchanges will be held the second Thursday of every month.

Come alone, bring your friends, introduce someone new to the NET, introduce yourself to someone new. Expand your network...Connect.

All NET members and non-members welcome.

When: Thursday, Dec. 4, 7 p.m.

Where: Popmart, 38 W. Broad St., Bethlehem

Cost: FREE!!

Sponsored by NET and Popmart. Thanks guys!

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nazareth Main Street Program Meeting Tonight

For those interested in developing downtown business in the Nazareth area, there is a working meeting of the Main Street Program tonight (Wednesday, November 29, 2006) at the Nazareth YMCA (use front entrance) at 7:00 p.m.

Sub-committees have been planning while awaiting official approval from the state. Residents, business owners, and those with an interest in building upon the downtown area are encouraged to attend.

NET Organizational Meeting

This is when we discuss the business side of the NET. Have a good idea? Want to volunteer? Have questions? Please attend to discuss. Read more about available volunteer opportunities with the NET.

All Members and non-members welcome.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe, 520 Main Street, Bethlehem 18018

Admission: FREE!!

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Financial Planning 101: Tips for Smart Holiday Spending

Ideas for holiday spending from the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association:

  • Decide how much you can afford and then stay within that budget. It will be easier if you make a price list for all gifts and other holiday items you plan to buy, such as food, decorations and postage.
  • You can save at least 10 percent on most items by comparison shopping at various stores by using the Internet. Comparison shop easily at When shopping online, be sure you are buying from a secure site (with a locked padlock icon on the toolbar) and review e-mailed statements for accuracy.
  • Pay off debts quickly, and pay in cash if possible. When using credit cards for holiday purchases, use a lower-interest card and pay off that debt as soon as possible after New Year's. One of the best deals we've found is a Citibank Platinum Select Mastercard at 11.74% with no annual fee. Don't borrow more than you can repay in several months. Remember that if you make only the required minimum monthly payment, you may never pay off the debt.
  • Open a Christmas Club account for next year. Your bank or credit union can automatically transfer money every month from your checking account to your Christmas Club account. Use a high-yield savings account like at Emigrant Direct which is currently a 5.05% interest rate.
  • If you give or receive a gift card, read the fine print. There may be fees, such as for checking your balance. Some store cards deduct $1 a month if the card hasn't been used for 24 months. Also, please be careful of scams with gift cards. Never use a gift card that doesn't have a scratch off section to get the PIN number.
  • Pay attention to a store's return policy. Some stores are tightening their policies. Keep receipts and note time limits that may affect the recipient of your gift. Always ask for a gift receipt whenever possible.

Handel's Messiah this weekend is 20% off for NET Members

The Allentown Symphony Association presents Handel's "Messiah" conducted by Maestra Diane Wittry at historic Symphony Hall featuring The Allentown Symphony Orchestra with guest artists, Jeffrey Mandelbaum, countertenor, and The Allentown Symphony Chorus. Handel's Messiah is best known for the Hallelujah Chorus.

When: Saturday, December 2nd at 4 p.m.

Where: Allentown Symphony Hall, 23 North 6th St. Allentown

Cost: $30-$10, 20% off for NET members

Not a NET member? Join now.

A tree lighting ceremony in your neighborhood

Allentown - Saturday, December 2nd at 6 p.m. at the WWII Veteran's Memorial at 19th and Allen Streets

Bath - Sunday, December 3rd at 5 p.m. next to the Wachovia Bank Property

Catasauqua - Sunday, December 3rd at 6 p.m. at Catasauqua Park

These towns have held theirs already: Bangor, Easton, Bethlehem, North Catasauqua

Anyone know of any others?


Nazareth: Thursday, December 7 at 6:00 p.m. in the Circle

Allentown: Wednesday, December 6 at 5 p.m. on Center Square at 7th and Hamilton streets.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ethnic Eats: Musashi Japanese Restaurant

Musashi Japanese Restaurant
1146 MacArthur Road

Food type: Japanese

Morning Call Review:
"Musashi gets high marks for radiating freshness not only in its fish, where it counts for everything, but in the noodle, pork, chicken, beef and vegetable selections we sampled."

Lehighton Family delivers White House Christmas Tree

An 18-foot Christmas tree and six grandchildren of its Lehighton-area growers arrived at the White House this morning via horse-drawn wagon for an official welcome by First Lady Laura Bush.

Bush thanked the Botek family for donating and delivering the main tree, which will be displayed at the center of the mansion in the Blue Room throughout a month of holiday festivities as the official tree.

Then she invited the dozen or so Boteks on hand into the White House for tea. The Boteks own Crystal Spring Tree Farm, Mahoning Township.

"This is by far the biggest honor that we have ever, ever had," said Chris Botek, son of founders Francis and Margaret Botek, said afterward. "My parents have worked their whole lives (raising trees). It's been 42 years and now we're in the White House. It doesn't get too much better than that."

The farm provided three Douglas Firs to the White House. The two smaller trees will be displayed in the Oval Office and upstairs in the Bush family residence.

More here.

Ptarmigan Ski Club Winter Sports Expo

The expo will include many local ski areas, including Blue Mountain, Elk, and Bear Creek as well as New York and New England resorts such as Windham, Stowe and Jay Peak. Also available will be fitness professionals and vendors and exhibitors from local ski and winter sports shops, including Sports Chalet, Nestor's, Pinnacle and Army-Navy. Tour operators, fitness professionals and other related businesses will be on-site as Ptarmigan Ski Club offers a one-stop shopping opportunity for skiers, boarders and others who like active outdoor winter sports. Learn what's new at your favorite ski area, do some Christmas shopping for loved ones or for yourself, and see what is available for winter destination trips. Win lift tickets and other valuable prizes that include lift tickets for ski areas from the Poconos, New England and Western U.S. ski resorts.

When: 7-10 p.m., Dec. 12

Where: Fullerton Fire Hall on 2nd Street

Cost: $5, includes light refreshments and free beer and soda, and one ticket for our great prize drawings

Emmaus Merchants, Business Owners and Concerned Residents Meeting

Monthly meeting. Speakers will include Borough Council President, Craig Neely, and (hopefully - still waiting confirmation) Borough Public Works Director, Jeff Clapper. Topics include the upcoming Triangle Modifications, and other topics of choice. Now is the time to ask your questions regarding borough policies, borough council meetings (how you can have a voice), the triangle, lighting, parking, traffic control, pedestrian safety, etc.

When: Wednesday, December 6th, 6:30 pm

Where: Emmaus Borough Hall (2nd floor - Council Chambers)

Toys for Joe's Kids annual drive

Help Jack Callaghan's Ale House make area children's holidays a little bright at their annual toy drive, and have fun while doing it! All toys will be forwarded to Catholic Services Of the Lehigh Valley to be distributed to families with children who need our help to have a wonderful Christmas. Admission includes finger food, four beer tickets, prizes and live Music by “Prugal.”

When: Saturday, December 2nd, 1:00PM - 4:00PM

Where: Jack Callaghan's Ale House, 2027 Tilghman Street, Allentown

Cost: $5 and one new unwrapped toy

Jazz Cabaret featuring The Eric Mintel Quartet

Enjoy the ambiance of the Symphony Hall Rodale Community Room (3rd Floor), and the smooth jazz of The Eric Mintel Quartet.

When: Friday, December 15, 2006; 8:00 pm


Cost: $20

For ticket information call the Symphony Hall Box Office (610) 432-6715 or click here.

Young People's Philharmonic

Lehigh Valley's own youth orchestras perform at Symphony Hall this season presenting their traditional "Holiday Concert." Come and hear these two amazing orchestras which represent young musicians from the Lehigh Valley, the Poconos, and New Jersey regions.

When: Sunday, December 17, 2006, 4:00 PM

Where: Allentown Symphony Hall, 23 N. 6th Street, Allentown

Cost: $10

For ticket information, call the Symphony Hall Box Office (610) 432-6715. Or click here.

Feast of Song at Christmastide

The Concord Chamber Singers of Bethlehem invite you to attend their 18th Annual Feast of Song at Christmastide. The Singers have been performing secular, sacred and popular tunes for 40 years throughout Pennsylvania (and Europe).

When: Wed 12/13/06 and Thur 12/14/06; Sat 12/16/06; 6:00 pm for Cash Bar, 6:30 for seating, 7:00 dinner & concert

Where: Hotel Bethlehem (during the week), Symphony Hall Rodale Room (Sat)

Cost: $45.00

Deadline for ticket reservation is Wed 12/6/06 and can be made here.

Good news young professionals - new dog park approved for Nazareth

Today, Bernie over at Lehigh Valley Ramblings noted that Nazareth approved a dog park back in July. This would be an addition to the only other dog park in the Lehigh Valley over in Bethlehem. We'll keep you posted about any new developments.

Anyone else hear of developing dog parks in the region?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Downtown Allentown to get new high-end sneaker store

Sneaker Villa, a Reading-based retailer of urban athletic shoes and sportswear will open its 17th store and first in the Lehigh Valley in Allentown in the first floor of a downtown building that is now topped with luxury apartments.

Besides high-end brand-name footwear, the chain sells apparel from brands such as Akademiks and Rocawear, said Sneaker Villa Chief Executive Officer Jason Lutz. The store is is expected to open in early 2007.

''We are really excited,'' Lutz said. ''We've had a lot of success. Our business strategy is looking at neighborhood communities, the downtown market. It is a vibrant area. The downtown is hustling and bustling with people. We hire from the neighborhoods. We promote from within. Our store managers have to live within the neighborhood they are located in.''

Sneaker Villa, which has stores in a variety of Pennsylvania cities including York, Reading, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, has a record of community involvement.

Its store branches work regularly with neighborhood charity groups and schools. Students at some local schools near store locations get 5 percent off for A's on their report cards. Others get free tickets to high school dances for attending classes at least 90 percent of the time.

The company ranked 64 on Inc. Magazine's ''Urban 100,'' this year, a list of fast-growing businesses with a concentration in inner-city neighborhoods. The magazine reported that it grew 219.9 percent between 2000 and 2004, employing 165 and recording 2004 sales of $24.5 million.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski said Sneaker Villa's interest in Allentown is a promising sign that the retail quality on Hamilton Street is slowly improving.

''The goal is to systematically up the quality of the retail,'' Pawlowski said.

More here.

Moore Township joins one of PA's largest regional comprehensive plans

Moore Township cemented its role in one of Pennsylvania's largest regional comprehensive plans Tuesday.

All three supervisors voted for an ordinance adopting the ''Nazareth Area�2030'' plan, which charts development in eight Northampton County municipalities.

The agreement must be passed by all eight: Bath, Chapman, Nazareth and Tatamy boroughs and the townships of Bushkill, Lower Nazareth, Upper Nazareth and Moore.

Now that Moore has adopted the agreement, Chairman Maynard Campbell said, ''we can get down to brass tacks with our zoning'' — the next phase of carrying out the plan.

The agreement enforces the intermunicipal land-use plan that all eight municipalities already have passed. Moore supervisors adopted the land-use plan in July.

The agreement also should offer leverage against aggressive developers, giving the municipalities legal protection against those who might challenging zoning ordinances as too restrictive.

Getting all eight to adopt the agreement is expected to be easier than getting the land-use plan passed. That earlier process was so contentious at times that Stockertown and East Allen Township dropped out of the plan.

More here.

Holiday traditions lit across the Lehigh Valley

Many holiday lighting ceremonies took place across the Valley this weekend.

Easton lit their peace candle in Centre Square.

Bethlehem lit the Christmas tree in Payroll Plaza. The tree is a part of a larger city-wide effort. City crews have spent the last two months setting up 850 evergreen trees, 40,000 bulbs of lights, Advent candles and outdoor speakers in time for the tree-lighting ceremony and the huge tourist season.

And Lights in the Parkway in Allentown started on Friday.

Be sure to check out the lights in those cities and beyond!

Four farms in Montco being saved

Four Montgomery County farms with a total of almost 260 acres could remain farms forever now that the owners have agreed to sell the rights to develop them.

This would bring to 110 the number of farms, or about 7,200 acres, under conservation easements in the county, according to Brian N. O'Leary of the Planning Commission staff. The deals must pass state review first, however.

The conservation easements for the four properties will cost $10.8 million. The county will pay $3.3 million for the easements while the state will pay $5.8 million and municipalities in which the farms are located will pay almost $1.8 million.

One of the farms under consideration is the Earl and Clyde Moyer 66-acre feed crop farm in Franconia Township.

''It's sitting right in the middle to create a block of preserved farms,'' O'Leary said. ''If you drive into that part of Franconia, you really get the sense that this is farm country.''

Willow Creek Farms in Worcester Township is another to be preserved. It is the only certified organic produce farm in the county, according to O'Leary. The 104-acre farm is unusually large for the county, O'Leary said, and ''a good example of how farming can remain viable in Montgomery County as they adjust to changes in the farming economy.''

''It's what consumers want,'' he said. ''Farmers have to adjust to consumer demand and adjust to serving the local market.''

Another farm near Willow Creek Farms — the 45-acre Elizabeth Schierenbeck horse farm in Worcester — also is under easement consideration, as is the 44-acre Wismer dairy farm in Trappe.

Montgomery County has fewer acres of conserved farmland than some neighboring counties, including Berks, Bucks and Lehigh, O'Leary said, because less farmland is available for purchase and because prices for Montgomery County farmland is higher than in some other areas.

More here.

Northampton County aids Main Street Programs

Two Northampton County agencies are preparing to make as much as $1.6 million available to businesses and other organizations in grants or loans.

The money has been collected over several years by the Industrial Development and General Purpose authorities, from fees they earned for providing financing for development projects.

Two weeks ago, the authorities made their first grants, each giving up to $7,500 to the Easton Main Street Program for a tourism kiosk outside Two Rivers Landing, and up to $10,000 to a facade renovation and streetscape programs in Bangor, Bath, Hellertown, North Catasauqua and Wilson.

The county Industrial Development Authority has a bank account of about $1.2 million, generated since the 1990s. Its mission is to create jobs and assist the economy, and should spend its money for those purposes, said John Kingsley, county authorities administrator.

The General Purpose Authority has a bank account of about $450,000, earned since the authority formed in 1999.

It has a broader mission and has financed projects for county government and local universities. It may have a broader latitude for spending its money.

More here.

Old-fashioned general store re-opens in Lower Saucon

You push open the wood door of A.L. Bergstresser & Son and see the gouged plank floor, the four porcelain stools and the odd assortment of boots, farmer's overalls, Comet and pretzels behind the counter. You're mesmerized.

It's overwhelming. The nostalgia of it all.

Then you begin to notice the warmth, not from the radiators along the walls, but from the conversation. And so you order a $3 sandwich and cup of coffee to listen. Eventually, you talk too, savoring the same time-warp feeling of community that keeps Woody Eyer coming back three to four times a week to the recently reopened general store, a Pennsylvania Dutch landmark at an out-of-the-way crossroads in Lower Saucon Township.

''It's a good-old-fashioned country store,'' Eyer, of Lower Saucon, said last Sunday over black coffee and a doughnut with his friend, Jerry Flank, 66.

Welcome back to A.L. Bergstresser & Son, a 103-year-old institution commonly known as Bergy's Mall at Lower Saucon and Wassergass roads. After a four-year hiatus, Bergy's Mall is up and running again, albeit as a slimmed-down, tidier version of the general store/social hub Alfred L. Bergstresser started when he bought the building from Jacob C. Wasser the same year the Wright brothers learned to fly in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

''It's a good place to have a conversation,'' said Flank, of Williams Township.

Most customers are long-time residents and newcomers who are willing to pay a little more for a gallon of milk at Bergy's Mall than drive more than six miles back and forth from the hilly hamlet of Wassergass to the Giant supermarket on congested Route 412 in the township. Some customers are just passersby too, such as Elisabeth Ruzicka-Dempsey, who couldn't help but sample the store's rustic atmosphere — and odd merchandise — from a bygone era.

''We're on our way to Hellertown to pick up an organic turkey for Thanksgiving,'' said Ruzicka-Dempsey, 60, of Milford, Hunterdon County, as her husband, Thomas Federowicz, a carpenter by trade, admired the building's rustic authenticity. ''We've driven by here numerous times and we saw that it was open today.''

''I'm amazed that the original fixtures are still here and I hope they don't change anything,'' Federowicz said, gazing at the cabinetry, counters and enamel pots. ''Everything that is old is new again.''

Not quite.

The store is not the same as it once was, from the horse-and-buggy days of 1903 on up until the end of the 20th century. The gas pumps are gone from the tiny front parking lot. So too is the boxed chaos the Bergstressers used for generations to organize their wares.

For decades, you could buy chicken feed, fertilizer, pots and pans, penny candy, molasses, bullets, fan belts, ladies shoes, hats of every shape and size, and big fat $1.50 Bergy sandwiches — a quarter-pound of lunch meat and one slice of cheese on white bread — that were a steelworker's delight. Everything but the meat was in boxes.

So much stuff was stacked in the store, locals began calling it Bergy's Mall in the 1970s. Customers designed T-shirts. In about 1980, a now-deceased local pub owner penned a song in tribute to the orderly mess.

Bill Bergstresser ran the store just like that from the time his father, John, died on Nov. 29, 1985, until 2002, when a Rhode Island antique dealer moved in and cleaned up. The business didn't work. The locals never liked it. It wasn't Bergy's.

As time passed, Erin Leidich grew sad at the sight of the shuttered building. David Leidich, 38, grew annoyed because he had to drive to Route 412 for groceries.

''It used to be the hub of the community,'' said Erin Leidich, 36, a Chester County native who fell in love with Bergy's Mall when she and her husband bought a house down the road. ''It was just kind of sad to see it dark and quiet.''

So they struck a deal with the Bergstressers.

''We've known David since he was little,'' said Donna Bergstresser, 56. ''When he approached us, Bill said, 'What do you think?' and I said, 'Let's go for it.'''

Nowadays, you will not find bullets or feed in the store. Erin and David Leidich's daughters, Maisie, 4, and Cate, 2, play there while their mom and grandpa work. Northampton County Community College students stand around at night for wine-tasting classes, and other social events are planned too as the store's food and beverage list grows with Monday's delivery of a full lunchmeat counter.

But you can still find vintage overalls, boots and Brooklyn — not Los Angeles — Dodgers baseball hats for sale alongside the inexpensive coffee and sandwiches and local and out-of-town newspapers. The Leidich family knows Lower Saucon is not the farming community it once was. But if they keep the history and friendship just right, they hope Derstine and others continue to come as much for A.L. Bergstresser & Son's past as they will for their own future.

''You don't see a lot of these places anymore,'' Flank said. ''You can take your time here.''

Pass the molasses, please.

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