Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ebb and Flow

The original Cafe di Luna, 3d Street Harrisburg
Lovin' the bean!
Hunter Lyons at Olde Towne

If small towns around here had a coat of arms, it would feature the masks of comedy and tragedy, as people with energy, ideas and love have opened businesses that find and enthuse their audiences but often have a run that's tragically short.  I have heard from the owners/founders that after winning their tenacious struggles with the dull and conservative powers-that-be (don't even think of introducing something new or competing, even very marginally, with their vested interests!), that landlords have done them in.  I miss The Local Beat whose originator restored a long-closed tavern and booked quite amazing acts from New York and Chicago and points between.  The costs of renovating someone else's property proved unsupportable after the building owner doubled the rent; daytime business was spotty-to-nonexistent in addition.

The loss of Dingeldein's Bakery was a sad thing for New Cumberland, but it's been replaced by a similar venture, Linda's Pie Shop, headed by an adventurous lady and her family (7 children!).  After operating a gourmet dessert shop in the West Shore Farmer's Market during the 90s, Linda took off in an RV, eventually landing in Costa Rica.  Back here (why??), she's employed her model/chef son and other family members and friends and has re-introduced her legendary caramel apple pie.  Of course, we've tried it, and it lives up to the reputation.  The menu is short and simple now, but I'm sure they're going to expand incrementally.  The eldest son can definitely cook, and Zach says he was a fellow student at Cedar Cliff H.S. and they knew he'd gone on to model in Europe and New York.  Several chefs in the area have come from Brooklyn, NYC and Baltimore (one is in charge of Trevi 5, one of Hershey Hotel's fine spots, and has competed on TV's "Chopped").  I hope they all stay!

Across the street, the empty former home of Oxford Hall Celtic Shop (they moved south a block and renovated a large old house much in need of such attention) will host a new version of Harrisburg's Cafe di Luna as of April 1.  When the weather's finally good for ambling down the hill two miles into town, they'll be open and I'll be there.  The lack of places to go and the cold winds have kept the cash in my wallet, but that's going to change.  In the established downtown location, they deal in fair trade and direct-sourced coffee, have 98 drinks on the menu and seem to have a dedicated clientele.  But, as one seed is planted and flourishes, another fades:

Olde Towne Books & Brew has done an impressive job of reinvigorating the community of old downtown Mechanicsburg in the historic (1870s) Eckels Drug Store building, but will end its two-year existence on this coming Saturday night (3/23/13).  Founder Ryckitta S. developed a welcoming and happy vibe by combining a used bookstore, delicious drinks and noshes and a free music venue.  Soon after opening, young musicians and volunteer helpers showed up, and the place was lit up by local talent (and who knew there was so much?) for Tuesday Open Mic nights and full-house weekend shows.  They brought in all their family, friends and even several teachers who supported their students.  I once talked with the proud parents of Hunter Lyons, who was the first performer and will be the next-to-last, and they were the delightful opposite of those aggressive types you see at sports events.  Without a place for this to happen any more, well, it's a big loss.  We'll be there for the final night when Valerie Woods will be performing.

Local and national chain establishments along the commercial routes have also come and gone, but in most of those cases, it doesn't matter much to the community.  We can't keep losing what does matter.


(May 2013:  The downtown location of Cafe de Luna is closed, and the new New Cumberland version is now housed in Linda's Pie Shop.  In the case of the original building, the one formerly housing Oxford Hall, and even Linda's, the problems were with the old buildings themselves -- disintegrating floors, antique electrical service, lack of ventilation and non-food-service-compliant lighting that proved impossible to solve with the small business person's resources.  Why aren't landlords required to bring a building up to code to house the type of business they rent to?  Libertarians, don't bother with a propaganda blast.)


1 comment:

  1. Many times it is the people and not the place. You can have a memorable time at Applebees or an unforgettable time at the corner diner. If the surroundings are interesting or fit the moment or the people you are with. If the service is superb and friendly even a dump can be a life experience.