Wow! What a crazy week it has been for retail — a week of feast and famine.
Last weekend, as people throughout the Valley made their way from store to store to pick up items they needed to survive an extended power outage, supermarkets, drugstores and home centers, in particular, were racking up the sales.
After Sandy hit, business literally stopped, except for the lucky few who still had power. Cold, hungry consumers waited in long lines for a chance to eat a hot meal or fill gas cans to fuel their home generators.
My colleague Peter Hall reported Thursday that sales were up 50 percent at one of the lucky ones — the Trivet Diner on Tilghman Street in South Whitehall Township, where patrons waited at least 30 minutes to get a table.
The majority of businesses, including two new shops in Emmaus — Impulse Boutique and 2 Hip Chics — are among thousands in the Lehigh Valley region that got an unpleasant taste of the aftermath of a brutal storm. Power in Emmaus was out for much of last week.
Still, when the going is good, these retailers are thrilled to be part of the Emmaus community, owners at both businesses said.
"We love the area and we would rather invest in bringing the life of a downtown back than putting it into a mall," said Ashish Rai, who owns Impulse Boutique with his mother, Nashi Rai.
"I grew up in Emmaus. I went to school here. It seems natural to open a business here," said Ashish, a 1994 graduate of Emmaus High School.
He and his mother, a retired physician, opened the shop at 346 Main St. in late September because "we think we have good taste," he said. "And, I'm kind of a fashion nerd."
Ashish has always worked in retail, but Impulse Boutique is his first business venture. He managed a Kenneth Cole store in a mall for years before deciding to open his own store.
Located in the shop that once housed Main Street Jewelry, his boutique is all about accessories — watches, hats, gloves, scarves and fashion and sterling silver jewelry. Merchandise is cleverly displayed in nontraditional ways, he said.
Shelly Brown, owner of the new 2 Hip Chics boutique, located just down the street at 244 Main St., also is a "fashionista" who always dreamed of opening a shop of her own. And, Emmaus seemed like the perfect location.
"I love the charm of the town. Whether you're stopping for a cup of coffee, shopping at the farmers market or strolling down the street with your kids, it's definitely got an appeal," Brown said. She moved into the spot that previously was home to Out of Our Hands, a consignment shop for artwork and pottery.
"Brown also has a retail background. She's a director for Sipada Designs Jewelry.
At 2 Hip Chics, she sells an assortment of gift items she purchases in New York City — everything from handbags, tops, lotions, headbands and scarves to wine bags and cheese trays and spreaders.
In addition, she paired up longtime friend, Lisa Fury — the other Hip Chic — to showcase Fury's photography at 2 Hip Chics. Photos are displayed in the shop. And although Fury prefers shooting photos outdoors in natural light, she has a studio on the building's top floor.
Also striving to support their local downtown are Jen Diaz and John Buchanan, who recently opened Lucky Funtime Video Games at 106 W. Main St. in downtown Pen Argyl. Self-proclaimed video-game nerds, they opened their shop with hopes of turning a profit on something they love to do.
"Most of the towns lay idle with dozens of storefronts for rent and the locals just sigh and drive by to Easton or Allentown," Diaz said. "That's why we opened here instead of one of the larger cities. This is our home, and we don't like having to go all the way to Allentown just for video games."
Since opening a few weeks ago, they are getting local customers who appreciate the convenience of their location, Diaz said.
They have more than 2,000 classic, modern and imported video games for sale, with the average game priced around $5. "We also have a hefty dollar bin, filled with a lot of games that are ridiculously cheap," Diaz said.
A bonus for their patrons: A free play arcade equipped with three machines.
Colleague Peter Hall also reported a fire early last Sunday morning at the Farmhouse Restaurant at 1449 Chestnut St., Emmaus. The good news is the fire did not close down the restaurant. The bad news is that Sandy did. The fire was contained outside the building, allowing it to be open for business as usual last Sunday. It was closed, as usual, on Monday. Like most places in Emmaus that were hit by Sandy, it will reopen when power is restored.
It's tough to report more on new business openings because most places were closed last week by power outages.
I was, however, able to answer a few questions from readers.
Several of you asked when the new Weis Market above Fogelsville in Upper Macungie Township will open. Weis is not yet releasing an opening date for the store. Although the 65,000-square-foot store at Route 100 and Glenlivet Road looks like it's nearly complete on the outside, there's a tremendous amount of work still going on inside, Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin said.
This Weis, he said, will be like no other Weis in the Valley. In fact, it will be the chain's first LEED-certified store, which means it is utilizing environmentally friendly building practices in its construction and operations. Curtin promised to let me know when an opening date is near.
Retail Watch reader Heidi Schiavone of Coopersburg wants to know what's going on at the Piccadelly Café, a breakfast and lunch restaurant and bakery in the Black River Plaza at 3610 Route 378 in Lower Saucon Township, where "available" signs are posted on the windows. "They always seemed to have quite a crowd for lunch and the food was good," Schiavone said. "I hope they might be moving to a bigger location. If they are closing, it would be a shame."
Sorry, Heidi, like you, I've been trying to contact them for weeks and was not able to get an answer or even leave a message by phone. Perhaps one of our retail-savvy readers has an answer.
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.