First, I'd like to thank all the kind readers who welcomed me back to work and to Retail Watch after my extended medical leave. It really warms my heart to know how caring you all are.
Here at The Morning Call, we often find readers are more likely to send negative rather than positive emails. But that's not true with Retail Watch readers. You play a major role in Retail Watch, feeding me helpful tips through emails and phone calls. I love being in touch with all of you again through this column. And I encourage you to keep up the good work. I couldn't do this column as effectively without you.
This week I want to start by introducing you to a new business that also might warm your heart, as well as jog your memory, as you browse through its merchandise — GingerBread House Gifts & Antiques.
As you walk through the door of shop at 1045 Trexlertown Road (that's Route 100, just north of Hamilton Boulevard), you'll get a warm, cozy feeling when you are greeted by a friendly hello and the aroma of gingerbread. Owner Karin McIntyre will invite you to help yourself to refreshments, which include gingerbread cookies, of course.
With your senses of smell and taste satisfied, it's time to treat your eyes as you browse through the store and zero in on the merchandise, which McIntyre calls her "treasures."
Five rooms on the first floor of the circa 1850 building are filled with treasures from the past, including vintage pottery, silver and glass, antique dolls and even "mantiques" — antiques or collectibles that appeal to men, such as swords, old lead soldiers and Coca-Cola coolers.
"This is not just a shop for the ladies," McIntyre said.
There's even something for kids and kids at heart. One room is filled with "Star Wars" and baseball memorabilia, as well as Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars that McIntyre's 13-year-old son, Brady, has been collecting for years.
And if the store's treasures don't catch your eye and make you feel at home, McIntyre's four-legged companion, Riley, who's half Yorkie and half Maltese, certainly will. Riley adds to the homey feel, she said.
McIntyre purchased the building two years ago and has been refurbishing the interior and exterior while collecting merchandise at estate sales, flea markets and even from Craigslist. She says she buys and sells, so if you have vintage items you'd like to unload, she'd love to see them.
"I just love antiques. And my house was filling up," said McIntyre, who was a stay-at-home mom for the last 16 years. Prior to having her two children, she had a franchise jewelry shop in King of Prussia Mall.
In addition to vintage merchandise, she also sells primitives, candles, jewelry, scarves and other women's accessories.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more Info: 610-351-1210.
Next, let's look at a relatively new business that we missed when it opened late in November, shortly after I left for my medical leave — The Spa at Westgate at 2293 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem. It's inside Westgate Mall, between Weis and the state store at the site previously occupied by a Curves franchise.
The Spa at Westgate is not about hair, manicures and pedicures. Instead, it's about stress reduction, says owner Joe Venturini. It offers services such as massages, facials, waxings, foot detox and exfoliation with sugar scrubs. Among the massages offered is a shiatsu, a deep-tissue massage done with the feet. Yes, the therapist literally walks on your back.
You can go on your own or you can book a party — bridal, bachelor's or birthday. These are becoming very popular, Venturini said. "You can customize the event. We'll close the spa to the public and bring in food to round out the event," he added.
It's open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more info: 610-419-8330.
Since I continue to receive emails and phone calls from readers who have gift certificates to Paolo's Italian Restaurant in Northampton, which closed its doors unexpectedly on Jan. 29, I will share the good news I posted last weekend on The Morning Call's Lehigh Valley Restaurant blog (www.mcall.com/entertainment/restaurants/blog/).
Both restaurants will honor them for face value up to 50 percent of your total check. So, if you have a $50 gift certificate and your total check for dinner is $100, your certificate will be honored at its $50 value. If your total check is $60, you'll get $30 (or 50 percent) off your order with your $50 gift certificate.
So, what happens to the other $20 on that gift certificate?
At Riley's Pub, you will be issued a $20 gift certificate for the remaining amount and it also will be honored at 50 percent off the tab at your next visit. There's no expiration date on the offer.
At Louie's Restaurant, you will lose the rest. So, it's best to go with enough people to run up a larger dinner tab. Owner Louie Belletieri said that as much as he'd like to reissue the balance, it would become a bookkeeping and redemption nightmare, particularly because his restaurant issues plastic gift cards. The offer is good until May 1.
Yes, you will have to spend more, but both restaurants are giving you an opportunity to redeem your certificates at 100 percent of face value.
There are some qualifiers, which you can find on my blog post at http://www.bit.ly/XXAqZD. Or call the restaurants with questions: Louie's at 610-791-1226 or Riley's Pub at 610-262-9911.
Judging from the phone calls and emails I receive, I'm realizing that not everyone is familiar with the new Lehigh Valley Restaurants blog. It's worth a look. You'll not only find information about restaurant openings and closings, but also learn about special events and promotions, as well as restaurant reviews.
More good news: At the end of last week's column, I mentioned that the Wine & Spirits store at South Mall in Allentown/Salisbury was closed. A colleague discovered it when she stopped to make a purchase.
Regular patrons will be happy to know it's not closed for good. It's simply undergoing a major remodel and will reopen in mid-March with a fresh look and a greater selection of beverages, said Liquor Control Board spokesperson Stacy Kriedeman.
It will be the first state store in the Lehigh Valley to get the remodel. Stores in New Hope, Reading and Harrisburg already are boasting the new look.
I also have good news for people on the east side of Allentown who have been going through Taco Bell withdrawal since the location at 776 Union Blvd. closed in December. As my colleague Emily Opilo reported last week in The Morning Call, Taco Bell is not deserting its east Allentown patrons. It will be replaced by a new Taco Bell franchise that will be built at 1122 Airport Road, currently the site of Jimmy's Place, a heavy-metal bar. Bar owner Jim Nota says he plans to move to a new east-side location that has yet to be determined.. One building must be removed and another erected, so the target opening date probably won't be any sooner than early August.
I also have good news for readers Colby Castelo and K.W. Johnson Jr. who want to know what's going on at the site of the Taco Bell on Northampton Street in Wilson. The building was leveled and construction has started.
"We have begun construction on our new Taco Bell building which will be completed and open for business in early May. We think it will be a welcome addition to the area with a fresh, new look and better site amenities," said Sally Inmon, vice president of Summerwood Corp., the owner of 75 Taco Bell and KFC franchises throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The target date for the opening in the new building is March 16, said store manager Elissa Agar.
With more floor space, owner Chris Schmidt will be able expand his merchandise line and enhance his displays, she added.
Schmidt moved from 12th Street in Allentown to the current location about 5 1/2 years ago. He started working at Finish Line in 1989 and purchased the business in 1997.
Finally, here are few last-minute discoveries that I will follow-up on in upcoming columns:
First, I received a call from reader Richard Sotak of Upper Milford Township, who said he just learned The Farmhouse at 1449 Chestnut St. in Emmaus is closed. We previously learned it was closed for renovations, but Sotak said he was told it was closed for good. I'll try to get more information for next Sunday's column.
On my drive to work Thursday, I saw signs for a new business, Car Hop Auto Sales, being erected at the site left vacant by Blockbuster on Lehigh Street in Allentown, across from Queen City Airport.
And just a couple of doors down from it on Lehigh Street, Bennett Infinity will be moving from 4800 W. Tilghman St. in Allentown to the Auto Mile at the space between Bennett Toyota and Wawa.
Finally, Saladworks will be opening a new location in Whitehall Township. Again, I'll fill you in next Sunday.
Retail Watch keeps track of new store, restaurant and bank development in the Lehigh Valley. Have a question about a retail construction project, a store opening or a chain you'd like to see come to the area? Call features reporter Irene Kraft at 610-820-6597 or email email@example.com. Retail Watch appears every Sunday.