Thorn Hill, other stores keep business brisk at Foxshire Plaza
The Foxshire Plaza shopping center in Manheim Township kept Thomas Troccoli pretty busy this year.
Since its construction in the 1980s, "Foxshire has always been a center that has had no vacancies," said Troccoli, a vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial Bennett Williams who has managed the property for more than two decades for Delaware-based owner Emory Hill Development Co.
Over the past nine months, however, the tenants of nine storefronts elected not to renew leases, Troccoli said. He and Emory Hill were "scratching our heads," wondering how hard it would be to fill the vacancies in the slow economy, he said.
However, "one by one, as one left, we just plugged in (new businesses)," he said.
Fortunately for Troccoli and his fellow local agents, Lancaster County's retail market has fared better than other parts of the country. The county has successfully absorbed nearly 1 million square feet of new retail space over the past three years, according to media reports.
Troccoli credited Foxshire's resiliency and ongoing appeal to its location on busy Fruitville Pike near the intersection with Route 30. The demographics of surrounding Manheim Township make Foxshire attractive to a wide variety of retailers, he added.
Pro Golf had occupied three storefronts for 20 years before vacating, Troccoli said. The Thorn Hill Wine Tasting Shop, holder of Pennsylvania's first limited winery license for a California-based winery, now occupies one of them. A Subway will move into another, and a deal is pending on the third, he said.
On the plaza's north end, Photography businesses Perfect Image and Greenfield Photographic Services Inc. took up space in a former Sovereign Bank branch. On the south end, Harrisburg-based eatery Neato Burrito opened its sixth location in November in a space vacated by Quiznos.
The Business Journal recently spoke with a couple of the new tenants to see how they are faring in their new digs.
Thorn Hill Wine Tasting Store
Jack and Amy Thorn had to venture to California to realize their dream of creating premium artisanal wine.
The Thorn family has been in Lancaster County for many generations. Jack and Amy Thorn run the Distribution Business Management Association, which offers global supply chain management consulting services.
Lifelong wine aficionados and accredited experts, they began searching in the late 1990s for the best places to grow premium varietals, Amy Thorn said.
That took them to California, where they bought their first vineyard in 2005, she said. Thorn Hill Winery now owns properties in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, all in designated American Viticultural Areas, she said.
They built a Tuscan villa at their Red Hills property in Lake County, complete with a tasting room and entertainment complex, an enterprise Amy Thorn called a "massive undertaking." They now commute between there and Lancaster, she said.
The problem, Jack Thorn said, was getting wine to Pennsylvania for them and their friends to enjoy without running afoul of state liquor laws.
Initially, the couple sold their wine to the state store system, then bought it back. However, it didn't seem to taste the same, Jack Thorn recalled.
Investigating, he learned that Pennsylvania transports wine in unrefrigerated rail cars, even at the height of summer, he said. The warm temperatures slightly but noticeably damaged the flavor, he said.
Moreover, the state's distribution system was sending Thorn Hill wine all over the commonwealth, and not enough was making its way to the Lancaster area, he said.
So, in 2009, he began the process of getting a limited winery license.
"It took a little while," he said, smiling.
The Thorn Hill store opened Dec. 1 with a launch party thronged by hundreds of local enthusiasts. The Thorns plan to host tapas parties, wine tasting events and wine classes, Amy Thorn said. The wine is sold by the glass, bottle or case.
The shop features Tuscan tile and a mahogany-clad gazebo that give a look of casual elegance to a space Amy Thorn calls "a coffee house for wine," complete with Wi-Fi. Patrons sit at glass-topped tables, the bases of which are the imported oak barrels used to age previous Thorn Hill vintages.
In Philadelphia, Thorn Hill wine is offered at Le Bec-Fin and the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons Hotel. Its growing popularity makes Philadelphia the likely location for a second Thorn Hill store, Jack Thorn said.
Their license allows them to open up to four stores, he said.
Thorn Hill produces about 3,000 cases annually, and hopes to increase to about 5,000, Jack Thorn said. The operation will remain a boutique winery focused on quality, Amy Thorn said.
Perfect Image and Greenfield Photographic Services Inc.
A former Sovereign Bank branch at the north end of the plaza is now home to Perfect Image and Greenfield Photographic Services Inc.
Perfect Image specializes in camera and cell phone repair and offers a wide range of photographic printing and image conversion services, such as home movie-to-DVD transfers. Greenfield offers products and services primarily geared to professional photographers.
Perfect Image relocated from Lincoln Highway East this spring, with Greenfield following in July, leaving the Greenfield Industrial Park, Perfect Image owner Wes Kauffman said.
The new location gives Perfect Image more space and increased visibility, he said. Customers like using the drive-through teller window for drop-offs and pickups, he said.
Locally owned stores have to be entrepreneurial to survive, but they can out-compete the big-box stores and online services on service and quality, he said. As the number of private shops dwindles, Perfect Image and Greenfield have become the sole providers of certain services, he said.
Perfect Image encourages event photographers to pass its name to their clients. For a small premium, customers can get much better print quality than a high-volume online service, Kauffman said. Photographers want their work to look good, he said.
In September, Perfect Image started renting out high-end professional equipment, Kauffman said.
"I'm excited about that. That's a neat business," he said.
In January, he will start a series of photography classes.
The one thing he won't do is sell cameras.
"You can't make anything on camera equipment."