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Snapshot | Winter in the Rose Garden

December 18, 2013

WinterRoseGarden

The flowers long gone, the Allentown rose garden took on a different kind of beauty after the first good snowfall of the winter.

Have a snapshot you’d like to submit to My West End? Send it along to AllentownWestEnd@gmail.com and we’ll post it.

West End News | Update: Youell’s Oyster House

November 21, 2013

As The Shanty prepares for its re-opening on 19th Street, another legendary Lehigh Valley restaurant is undergoing reconstruction just across Lake Muhlenberg.

YouellsRendering

Youell’s Oyster House, which was destroyed by a fire during January of this year, aims to serve its seafood-centric menu once again by the end of January 2014.

“The fire was devastating, and it’s been tough, but with the reconstruction we have a real opportunity,” says owner Christian Filipos, standing in front of unrolled blueprints of the new restaurant.

ChristianYouells

“At first we looked into other locations around Allentown, but we finally decided on settling where we’ve always been. We’re here and we’re happy.”

The new Youell’s will feature architecture different from what former patrons once knew. Large paneled doors facing the corner of Walnut and 23rd streets will open into a lobby with 12-feet-high ceilings. Spacious seating will flank the foyer and a boomerang-shaped bar area will seat 20.

YouellsBlueprint1

“In the middle of the bar, we’ll have a raw bar, where we’ll have the day’s oysters as well as any other fresh specials,” Filipos says. “We’ll also have a an oyster shucker there preparing the oysters.”

The menu, captained by the same chef, will still include favorites such as Youell’s seasonal soft shell crabs and seafood combination platters, Filipos says. A sneak-peek at their menu also showcases more modern fare: salmon caviar crostini, tuna tartar, and the intriguing ground lamb and harissa “meat bombs.”

“You’ll find the core Youell’s menu, but you’re also going to see items representative of more gastropub, bisto, or small-plate restaurants,” says Filipos.

Youell’s will also house a vegetable garden and apiary (or bee yard), both of which will help feed the menu. Diners, if they’re seated on the second floor of the restaurant, may have a view of these on-site specialties. (They will, of course, also be protected from the bees.)

YouellsBlueprint2

How does Filipos feel about the increase in restaurant competition in the area since the fire?

“I never realized how strong our brand was until the fire,” he says. “We own seafood in the Lehigh Valley. We’ve sourced locally—farm to table, sea to table—since 1895. We have the buying power to buy the best stuff every day.”

Filipos says he can see Youell’s drawing customers who will visit Allentown’s reinvigorated downtown. “We hope Youell’s is a gateway restaurant for the arena,” he says.

For near-daily updates of the reconstruction progress, like Youell’s Facebook page.

And be patient.

“We know people are hungry to get back,” says Filipos.

West End News | Update: The Shanty on 19th

November 11, 2013

It’s happening, hungry people: The construction of brand-new Shanty on 19th is moving closer to completion. Partners Ron Pickering and Joe Tatasciore are targeting a grand (re)opening of the historic restaurant around the holidays.

To keep your appetite piqued, here are some pictures of the renovation, along with a few new updates.

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The interior décor will spotlight movie memorabilia inspired by the West End Theatre District.

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The restaurant’s bar will feature the same art deco influence found in the architecture of the Civic Theatre and other 19th Street buildings.

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The restaurant, which will serve new American cuisine, will also include a room to accommodate private parties and events.

TheShanty4

Make sure to check out https://www.facebook.com/Shantyon19th for even more updates, as we count down to the grand opening.

—Gabriel Hurtado

Event Recap | West End Oktoberfest 2013

October 16, 2013

It’s October, right?

The answer was less than clear at the Sixth Annual West End Oktoberfest. Graced with unseasonably warm weather, festival-goers milled about 19th Street clothed in shorts and T-shirts instead of typical fall sweaters and jeans.

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This year’s version of Oktoberfest continued to pay homage to German traditions as the polka band, The Pennsylvania Villagers, entertained crowds throughout the afternoon. German style food and drink provided by local vendors kept appetites satisfied throughout the day. As the night progressed, the music took a rock turn courtesy of Secret Treaty and Steve McDaniel Band. The night also includes a blues set by Leroy Justice, music from Civic Theatre’s upcoming show, Spring Awakening, and finished with an emotional, final Oktoberfest performance by Endzone.

Oktoberfest2013

And who can forget the beer? For the second consecutive year, Fegley’s Brew Works of Allentown brought along some of their unique, seasonal beers including the event’s very own, West End Oktoberfest lager. Along with the great beer, Vynecrest Winery, located in Breinigsville, supplied two locally grown wines, including a German-style Riesling.

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Adding to the festive nature of the event, some paint splattered runners found their way to 19th Street from the Lehigh Valley Color Run 5K that took place earlier that morning at Cedar Beach Park.

In all, the event attracted nearly 3,000 visitors and community members to the West End Theatre District for a full day of food, drink, music, and family entertainment. Not even a sudden, evening rain shower could dampen the spirits of those who attended.

Proceeds for the event go to The West End Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the continued revitalization of the West End Theatre District and the surrounding neighborhood. Civic Theatre shares in the proceeds from beer and wine sales. For all of those who came out and joined the festivities, thank you. Your support not only made for a great day, but it will help continue the improvement of our neighborhood.

Special thanks goes out to the main event sponsors. Your involvement helps make West End Oktoberfest the Valley’s largest one-day Oktoberfest: Verizon, Air Products, Fegley’s BrewWorks, Muhlenberg College, Painting & Decorating by Shane, City of Allentown, Lehigh Law Enforcement

In addition, we would be remiss if we did not thank the following groups and individuals. The event could not have functioned without your hard work and dedication: Suzanne Hauck (event organizer), Scott Smith (TDS Technologies), Jody Hauck (entertainment coordinator), Brian Sherry (volunteer coordinator), Civic Theatre of Allentown, West End Alliance events committee, the volunteers, and the merchants and residents of the West End Theatre District for sharing the street with us.

Welcome the West End Theatre District’s Community Fellow!

October 9, 2013

With the reinvention of 19th Street, a facade project underway, the (re)opening of new restaurants in the area, and a host of upcoming events—the West End Theatre District has become a busy place. For that reason, join My West End in welcoming Gabe Hurtado, the new community fellow for the West End Alliance. What brings Gabe here and what will he be doing for the neighborhood? Allow him to explain…

Gabe

Let me take you back. It is August 2009. The rain and wind strike the windshield with such force that we can barely see the taillights in front of us. We weave through the maze of traffic cones that litter the streets Ott, Chew, and 26th, as my family and I approach our destination. Before I know it, my dad throws the Honda Pilot into park and the situation sets in. We’re here. Rain and all, it’s freshman move-in day at Muhlenberg College and it’s time to open life’s next chapter (May I add, without an umbrella…).

Logistically one of the most hectic days I’ve experienced, that Friday in August unexpectedly calmed me. Deep down, I knew I belonged. From the down-to-earth people to the civic opportunities both on and off-campus—the West End felt right. Although I did not know it at the time, this community would be my home for more than just the next four years.

Now, as part of the Community Fellows Program at Lehigh University, I am thrilled to announce I will work with the West End Alliance over the next nine months in just about every capacity you can imagine for a nonprofit organization. As a part of the WEA, some of my goals include increasing organizational visibility, fostering connections between all community stakeholders, and facilitating consistent neighborhood events for all to enjoy.

How does this affect you? Well, my stay will mean regular blog posts highlighting local businesses, residents, events, and really anything related to the West End. Apart from this site, I am also a real life person. I look forward to developing meaningful relationships with community members. Though I have lived in the neighborhood, I believe my number one job is to listen and learn. I look forward to gaining a more holistic picture of the perspectives of the community. After all, as West End residents, business owners, and employees, we’re all in this together.

The West End is truly an amazing place. I experienced this as a college student, young professional, and now a member of the everyday workforce. Let’s join together to make the West End the leading neighborhood in Allentown.

Please feel free to contact me at gfh213@lehigh.edu with questions, concerns, ideas, or just to say hello!

Go Local! | Another Story

August 22, 2013

When I walked into Another Story, there was no one behind the counter. I heard a shuffling from upstairs and a voice called down that they’d be down just as soon as the tea finished.

AnotherStoryStorefront

A few minutes later John Furphy, the owner of Another Story, emerged. He sat down behind the register informing me that his radio show, Radio Free Hippy, on WMUH kept him up all night. In between sentences, John couldn’t help but interject jokes—both good and bad, but mostly (and intentionally) bad. This lifestyle of barely sleeping, but maintaining a smile seems to be familiar to him.

AnotherStoryFurphy

Furphy was born in Philadelphia and adopted by two parents outside of Pottsville. After 12 years of Catholic school and a brief stint in college as an English major, he settled in Allentown in late 1977.  Furphy has had a love for reading for his entire life. In fact, in high school his aptitude test indicated that he should open a bookstore.

The man is a natural storyteller. Our conversation was studded with personal anecdotes. For instance, there was that time he tried out for Jeopardy.

After doing moderately well on the main portion of the test the judges decided to be creative, Furphy says. They would provide the answer, and the contestants would have to come up with the question. The answer provided was ‘Washington’. Most contestants went the easy route asking questions like, “Who was the first president of the United States?” Furphy, however, had his mind on other things. Furphy had been reading Washington’s diaries at the time, so, naturally, he responded with: “What president grew cannabis sativa for medicinal purposes only?” Needless to say, he never made it on Jeopardy.

Before Another Story came to be where it is with the name it has, the place was known as the Book Cellar, located on 9th street in downtown Allentown. Furphy became a regular and grew to know its owner, Bill Bascom. Eventually, Bascom moved on and John took the reigns as the new owner of what was now called Another Story.

Furphy says he enjoyed being downtown and supplying used books to those who couldn’t afford the prices of chain stores. As time passed, he saw the downtown area decline. As Furphy puts it: “The perception of a high crime area became the reality of a high crime area.” After witnessing a shooting, he knew it was time to pack his books and head for higher ground.

Initially he looked into Emmaus, but plans fell through. His time was running short and money was dwindling. Eventually, his current location found him—West End Allentown.

Running a used bookstore these days is always a risk that many aren’t willing to take, Furphy says. Even the big retail chains can’t eke out a living these days, with competition from online retailers and the advent of e-books. Jon saw these problems, but kept going.

AnotherStoryBooks
A few years after moving into the West End, his sales were down and he had to take a job as a taxi driver. He would work four hours in the shop and then ten hours driving a cab. He did this for three years before getting into a car accident and losing his job. He went back to keeping the store open for full hours; He hasn’t reported a profit in seven years.

With all of these difficulties, I had to know why he kept going. What would drive someone to spend so many years pouring their heart and soul into such an endeavor?

Furphy says: “Literature in and of itself is a necessary component of humanity. In literature you have almost a record of a person, of human experience. A novel can make you understand different places, different lives, different times. Without it humanity would be so poor we’d be shuffling automatons.”

AnotherStoryCounter

Furphy’s passion for his business is palpable when he sits behind the counter. You can always expect a witty comment or interesting quote while buying your books. As we spoke, a young woman walked into the store. She eyed the aisles before returning to the counter and informing us how awesome it was that such a place existed. She left without buying a book.

This seems to be the attitude toward used bookstores. People love the idea of that antiquated corner where the classics brown on the shelf while the wizened store owner runs his fingers across their spines.  Furphy sees this, but says, “You do this because it’s something you care about. You do it because you don’t have a choice.”

One of the biggest hurdles he faces is still location. Another Story isn’t located on the main stretch of 19th Street, but on 18th Street across from Wert’s Cafe. Furphy sees promise in the future of the West End. With the new revitalization occurring, and the hope for more businesses in the area, perhaps people will walk that extra block and check out one of the last used bookstores in the area.

When I asked Furphy what he would do if he didn’t have to take care of the store anymore, if he didn’t have to try to sell books and attract customers, he looked at me with a furrowed brow. Being the owner of Another Story isn’t a chore. To him, it isn’t a burden. It’s life and he’ll be around as long as people are willing to get lost in literature.

Store Information:
Another Story is located at 524 N. 18th St. Allentown, PA 18104
Phone number: (610)-435-4433
You can e-mail the store at anotherstory@verizon.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anotherstoryusedbooks

Store Hours:
Open 11-6
Thurs 11-8
Sun 12-5

—By Bryan Kleiner

Snapshot | John Peter Gabriel’s Spring

May 16, 2013

MuhlenbergStatueAfter a long winter, Muhlenberg College’s statue of John Peter Gabriel takes in the rewards of spring in full bloom.

Have a snapshot you’d like to submit to My West End? Send it along to AllentownWestEnd@gmail.com and we’ll post it.

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