In 2015, the borough of Camp Hill brought together residents and stakeholders to create a strategic plan. One of the more ambitious goals was to brand Camp Hill as a walkable, vibrant and well-connected community.
To do that, some chess pieces needed to be moved, so with the help of Smith Land & Improvement Corporation, and the cooperation of several Camp Hill retailers, a project was launched to create a 40,000 square foot retail center on Market Street. Old buildings were razed and a new, more modern structure took its place. The goal is to accommodate established businesses and attract new ones.
“My developer’s eyes saw a mishmash of structures, many enhanced with piecemeal additions that did not exactly scream out for people to walk by and visit,” said Rick Jordan III, president and CEO of Smith Land.
Boutique Shops Move
For years, One Good Woman, a specialty coffee, tea, food and gift store, was tucked away on a side street in Camp Hill. It is now in its new Market Street location and has doubled its square footage with the move. Co-owner Mechelle Webster said that business is brisk and attributes that success to the more visible location and the efforts of the Downtown Camp Hill Association. “They brought back the Candy Cane Walks and the quarterly walks after that, which made a phenomenal difference,” she said.
Lisa DeCavalcante, owner of Little Black Dress and Board Secretary of the Downtown Camp Hill Association, said her clothing shop, which will be seven year’s old in May, also benefited from the move.
“It’s like night and day,” she said, adding that her previous space was fine, but lacking in aesthetic appeal. “The carpet was ugly; the ceiling was low. We put a lot of lipstick onto that pig,” she said, with a chuckle.
DeCavalcante describes the new location as “beautiful, with high ceilings and white walls.” She was able to put quite a bit of attention into the small details. “I had an artist come in and do sketches of dresses, handbags and coats,” she said. And thanks to the new, improved location, she was able to expand her line to include a children’s shop.
“Shoppers can come here to buy clothes in proximity to other places that offer coffee, gifts, toys and other unique merchandise,” said DeCavalcante, adding that she is also looking for the additional ‘foot’ traffic that her new neighbor, Plum Bottom, a shoe store, will attract.
“The more, the merrier,” said Sue Pera, president of the Downtown Camp Hill Association and owner of Cornerstone Coffeehouse, explaining that business begets business and that Camp Hill has done well, despite the pandemic. “We brought in four new businesses recently: Cocoa Creek Chocolates, a nail salon, Tanya’s Cookie Boutique and the Watershed Pub,” she said.
Mark Vickrey, owner of Blooms by Vickrey, a gift and floral shop, said he, too, is glad to see more businesses set up shop in Camp Hill. Vickrey been a mainstay in Camp Hill for decades and he believes in fostering a working relationship with his business colleagues.
“We refer people to the other end of the block and they refer people back to us,” he said.
Vickrey praised the strategic plan. “They’re doing a great job. I’ve seen a difference in my business. It was a little difficult when Creative Elegance left, but now we have the Watershed Pub and we share parking with them, so hopefully we get their customers and vice versa.”
Thriving Despite Challenges
Pera said that the pandemic has been challenging for many businesses and many have had to adjust their business models by doing things differently, such as tinkering with their websites to sell their products online. Pera’s business dropped by 75% early on in the pandemic and they had to shut down their cooking classes.
“In our case, we just had to pivot, so we did takeout and curbside,” she said.
The increased costs of doing business also became a challenge. “Prices on sani-wipes and gloves tripled,” Pera said. If anything good came from the pandemic, it is the way it raised awareness small businesses and their entire workforce. “I gave raises to my entire staff since they are on my front line,” she said, adding that she feels fortunate that the Camp Hill community has supported her along the way, in good times and bad.
“Despite the challenges that we’ve had, we’re still thriving and people want to be a part of that. I see a lot of families walking with dogs and babies. I see new people coming in too. People just want to be a part of Camp Hill. It’s energized, vibrant, growing and is a friendly place to do business,” Pera said.