Former GIANT exec hired to impact access to fresh, affordable food

Nicholas Bertram is accustomed to making a giant impact. 

The retail industry veteran and former president of The GIANT Company has joined the leadership team of Flashfood in the newly created position of president and chief operating officer.  

Flashfood is a digital marketplace connecting consumers to fresh, discounted foods such as bakery and deli items, meats, produce, and snacks nearing their best-by date. The Toronto-based company is used in grocers in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. 

During Bertram’s tenure at GIANT, the company tested the app across four locations in Lancaster in 2020 and announced at the time it would be implementing the app in 170 participating GIANT and Martin’s Markets stores. 

Flashfood Founder and CEO Josh Domingues said in a statement that Bertram brings “an unprecedented level” of first-hand leadership experience with many of the biggest names in retail, including GIANT, Walmart, and Jewel-Osco. 

“His vision and successes around sustainable retailing align perfectly with our company’s mission to reduce food that is wasted throughout the retail sector,” said Domingues. “Nick has seen how the level of waste experienced by grocers represents billions of dollars in lost revenue and understands the massive impact this also has on our planet. 

“More importantly, he understands how this food could have helped families, which is a shared passion he brings to Flashfood that will help fuel our next phase of growth.” 

Bertram has more than 20 years of experience in the retail sector. His tenure with GIANT resulted in reported historic growth via acquisitions, market expansion, new formats, and exponential growth of digital engagement and eCommerce sales. 

“I have never been more excited about the collective impact the food industry, sustainability-minded investors and technology companies like Flashfood can have on our future,” Bertram said. “Josh and the rest of the board of directors have given me an amazing opportunity to join at this stage, with such a talented team and unique product.”

Flashfood enjoyed an historic year in 2022 as it diverted more than 65 million pounds of food from landfills. The milestone was achieved after the company’s expansion to over 1,550 grocery stores in North America. 

Along with providing consumers and retailers with a solution to reduce food waste, Flashfood stated in a press release that it has fed hundreds of thousands of families and saved shoppers more than $150 million on grocery bills at a time when food costs are rising more than 11 percent. 

Flashfood’s free app on iOS and Android operates in over 1,550 grocery locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The app allows consumers to purchase items from grocery retailers and pick them up in-store at lower prices and at the same time reduce food waste. 

Flashfood works with The GIANT Company, Meijer, Tops Friendly Markets, Loblaw, Martin’s Markets, VG’s, Family Fare, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Save A Lot, and Giant Eagle. 

“Together with its retail partners,” Bertram said, “Flashfood is already making huge inroads in reducing food waste while helping consumers save money – and now is the right time to accelerate this bold work.” 

As COO, Bertram will seek to accelerate Flashfood’s growth, working with Domingues and internal department leaders to develop capabilities and innovation that impact both food insecurity and food waste. 

TikTok banned from state Treasury devices

TikTok, the China-based social media app which the head of the FBI recently deemed a national security concern, has been banned from all Pennsylvania Treasury-issued devices. 

Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced the ban Thursday. The move will protect the Pennsylvania Treasury Department’s computer systems. 

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which is based in Beijing. Garrity said in a statement that as the Treasury Department’s computer network is targeted constantly by criminals and scammers, TikTok presents a danger due to its collection of personal data and close connection to the communist Chinese government. 

“Banning TikTok from Treasury devices and systems is an important step in our never-ending work to ensure the safety of Pennsylvanians’ hard-earned tax dollars and other important, sensitive information entrusted to Treasury,” Garrity said. 

TikTok had not been used on any Treasury-issued devices, according to an internal security review conducted by Treasury this month. The Treasury ban covers phones, laptops, and desktop computers. In addition, Treasury’s firewall has been updated to block access to both the TikTok app and its corresponding website from the Treasury network. 

Congress is prepared to bar federal employees from using TikTok on government devices. Numerous states have banned the app, including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. 

TikTok has also been banned by Florida’s Department of Financial Services, Louisiana’s Department of State, and the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office. The Indiana Attorney General has filed two lawsuits against TikTok.

Shentel to build fiber network in Lancaster 

Shenandoah Telecommunications Co., known as Shentel, is expanding its footprint in central Pennsylvania. 

Glo Fiber, powered by Shentel, has reached an agreement with municipal officials in Lancaster County to bring its fiber-optic network to Lancaster Township; Mountville borough; East Hempfield Township; West Lampeter Township; and Manheim Township. 

Construction will start this month in Lancaster Township, with East Hempfield close behind. Work will be completed over two years and provide a network to over 35,000 homes and businesses, a release said. 

Glo Fiber will offer three tiers of symmetrical, high-speed internet access; streaming TV; and unlimited local and long-distance phone service to the area. Delivered via an app, Glo TV service is compatible with Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire Stick and many smart TVs with embedded streaming software. Last year, Glo Fiber built a network and began offering service in Carlisle. 

“Our expansion further into Pennsylvania means we will bring more connectivity to areas and communities that need reliable, affordable internet services,” Chris Kyle, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs at Shentel, said in the release. 

Based in Edinburg, Virginia, Shentel owns a regional network with more than 7,400 route miles of fiber and over 220 macro cellular towers. 


New app to reduce food waste, save shoppers money

The Giant Co. is looking to reduce food waste with a new app it is launching for its grocery store.

The Carlisle-based food retailer has introduced Flashfood, which allows shoppers to buy fresh food, including produce, meat, deli and bakery products that are nearing their “best before” date at reduced prices.

The grocery chain introduced the Flashfood app to stores in the Lancaster area during a pilot rollout. The app can now be used in 30 Giant stores.

Giant said it plans to have the app in 170 stores by fall. Bucks and Montgomery county stores will be among the first to join the program with stores in the Lehigh Valley being added later.

To use Flashfood, shoppers can download the free app and browse for the available deals and make purchases through the app. The food can then can be picked up the same day from the Flashfood zone inside the store.

“Our ongoing partnership with Flashfood is two-fold, providing our customers with access to fresh foods, while also helping to divert more than 250,000 pounds of additional food waste away from landfills,” said Glennis Harris, senior vice president of customer experience at The Giant Co. “We’ve received great feedback over the past year from our customers, many of whom have told us they can eat more fresh food because of the program. We can’t wait to offer this program at all of our stores and to all of our customers this summer.”

App developer Fizika Group creates print journal for seniors without internet

The creators of a wellness app for seniors have published a print journal for individuals without internet access.

Lancaster-based Fizika Group, a health and wellness technology company developed an app earlier this year to help seniors living in affordable housing communities improve their health.

Fizikaflex allows users to document their eating, sleeping and exercising through an online journal and share those results with peers. The new app was piloted in July among two dozen senior residents in the Lancaster-based Duke Manor and King Theater Apartments.

While piloting the app, the developer realized they should be offering a resource for seniors without internet access, the company wrote in a press release. So, Fizika partnered with the Seniors BlueBook of South Central PA to create the Fizikaflex Wellness Journal, a bilingual print publication.

The journal includes recipes for healthy eating, tips on working on health and wellness with a friend and a guide on how to journal food intake and physical activities. Seniors BlueBook is a national organization that develops educational resources for seniors, caregivers and senior professionals.

The wellness journals will be distributed to 1,300 residents living in affordable housing in Lancaster and York counties, including the residents of 27 housing communities owned by HDC MidAtlantic.

Jennifer Santiago, one of HDC’s resident services coordinators at the Lancaster-based King Theater Apartments, said Fizikaflex’s resources help her residents take a whole-person approach to fitness.

“Not only does it encourage participants to capture their steps and nutrition, but it also encourages participants to capture their socialization,” said Santiago. “The printed journals are a really valuable piece, and will allow us to engage more residents in our senior housing communities.”

Fizika Group’s partners with Seniors Bluebook allowed the firm to not only produce a bilingual publication, but allowed it to do so at no cost to area affordable housing communities, said Martha Lester Harris, founder and CEO of Fizika Group.

“We’re hopeful that this easy to use, fun and engaging guide to wellness will help thousands of people gain control of their health, which is especially important during this global pandemic,” she said.

Penn State and Highmark launch fitness program

Deb Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark Health, speaks on the benefits of Penn State University Athletics and Highmark’s new fitness program during a press conference at the Capital Building in Harrisburg on Monday. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

A new fitness program created by Highmark Health and Penn State University Athletics, challenges users to complete a set of weekly goals for the chance to win prizes such as Penn State football tickets.

Nittany Fit is the latest program created through a 2017 agreement between Highmark and Penn State Health to invest $1 billion in improving health care in south central Pennsylvania.

Penn State University Athletics announced Monday that it partnered with Penn State Health and Highmark to create the new fitness program.

Pennsylvanians can sign up online through Nittany Fit and get three weekly challenges that vary from “go meatless one day this week” to “learn a new joke.”

“Factors like diet, exercise and stress have a major influence on a person’s health status. But it’s not always easy to make the right choices,” said Deb Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark. “People need education and encouragement and we’re excited to offer that through Nittany Fit in partnership with Penn State.”

Users of the program and its app can win monthly prizes and are eligible for larger prizes depending on the number of weekly challenges they complete.

Steve Massini, CEO of Penn State Health, said that the health system is dedicated to promoting more ways for people to be engaged in their health to prevent issues down the road.

“We are looking at all kinds of ways to use technology versus having the patient come to us with everything,” Massini said.

Locally developed music app strikes a chord for founders, users

In 2010, Jason Kichline was an active member of the band at the Fountain of Life Church in Middletown.

The leader of the group asked the band to work on its organization and Kichline suggested it could benefit from an app.

“Musicians have a lot of paperwork, from chord charts, to the right version of the song and it’s generally stored in a 3-ring binder,” he said.

The director was hesitant about the digital solution. But Kichline, who plays a range of instruments, took it on as a challenge and set about figuring out how to make it work.

By May 2010, Kichline had developed OnSong.

A leap of faith

At the time OnSong was developed, Kichline was working at Harrisburg-based D2 Media, a design firm that he co-founded. It later became andCulture. He worked there for 13 years before taking what he describes as “a leap of faith,” leaving the company to focus exclusively on OnSong in 2012.

“I left because I like starting things, but not necessarily managing things,” said Kichline, adding that his wife’s position as an athletic trainer at Gettysburg High School was cut around the same time. She was able to join him in growing the business, so the timing felt right.

OnSong started off as an app that digitally stored music notation and other documents used by musicians. It cost $5.

“When you think about it, $5 was expensive for an app back in 2010,” said Jason.

Not long after the app’s launch came a partnership with AirTurn to add a wireless BlueTooth foot pedal that allows musicians to turn the digital page.

“Music stands are very bulky. The app only requires a stand large enough to support an iPad. Musicians can now touch a button and flip through an entire set list of music, either with a foot pedal, or swiping the screen,” said Kichline.

The app runs on any iOS device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and has evolved beyond mere organization to include stage management, lighting control, song editing and more.

“OnSong can control the effects and the vocal sound their keyboard is making and all that gets saved with that particular song, which saves time setting everything up during each practice,” said Kichline.

The company recently surveyed thousands of users to discover an almost even split between houses of worship and singer-songwriters who perform live gigs. About five percent of users work as music therapists.

Rapid growth

The Kichlines operated their business out of their townhouse in Upper Allen Township. After a few years they decided to build a new house and add an employee. Just this year, they increased their full-time staff to five, which necessitated a move to a 1,200 square-foot office at 2 Market Plaza Way in Mechanicsburg.

A quarter million copies of OnSong have been sold to date. And the price is now $30, reflecting steady growth in its features.

The company expects it soon will be pivoting to a subscription model with additional offerings.

“We’re keeping up with iOS upgrades and we want to offer more apps, with an eye towards supporting people in a world-class manner by continuing to upgrade and add value for those users in the future,” said Kichline, who estimates that a subscription rate may start between $5 and $10 per month.

Jeremiah Grube has been working for OnSong as a business manager for the past year and a half. But he has been using its app since 2011, when he worked for the house band at Christ Community Church in Camp Hill.

He would bring extra iPads with him on the road.

“All of us would then have the same information, from the music, to the chord charts, to the lyrics,” Grube said, noting that the app kept him from having to photocopy sheet music. He also liked the fact that he could email lyrics and chord charts to band members who owned Android phones and they could pull the information up on their devices.

What’s next

The couple’s focus now is on growth.

“We want to make this much bigger than it is and are trying to get to the next level,” said Jason, adding that they eventually want to offer musical content to users.

“The challenge is that the intellectual property wheels grind slowly and we have to pay royalties to acquire the license to distribute,” said Jason, adding that the music industry is slow to adapt to new technology.

As a problem solver, however, Jason has found the journey itself to be quite rewarding.

“I’ve always been about helping people and solving problems and that’s what it does for us. Those who have stage fright can use the app as a teleprompter, which is a confidence booster and solo musicians benefit from backing tracks.”

Attention to detailers: Entrepreneur crafts app to ease car detailing

A mobile app developed in York County puts automotive detailing services in the driver’s seat.

The brainchild of Vince Moley, York-based Kleancierge provides a “car detailing marketplace” for vehicle owners to find, order, arrange and pay for professional car care services — completed at home or at the office.

“We’re the Uber of car detailing,” said Moley, who has a background in software development.

Customers can order from the app’s menu of cleaning and automotive detailing services. Car detailing is the process of cleaning and restoring the interior and exterior finish of a vehicle to protect and maintain it.

Moley said vehicle owners often struggle with car care services, or they put off regular care of their vehicles because they don’t have the time. But according to Cars.com, vehicle condition is among the top factors influencing car resale value.

“They’ll get the car washed or have a process done that actually makes things worse” for a car’s finish, Moley said.

He said the average cost for a Kleancierge detailing appointment includes a car wash and ranges from about $150 to $175 for a four-door sedan.

“Detailers define what their pricing is. They are allowed to set the price and customize it to different vehicles,” Moley said.

Those detailing “partners” are vetted by Moley, He encourages them to complete training and adhere to standards outlined by the International Detailing Association, a trade group based in Minnesota. He said those standards ensure consistency of service and are among the industry’s highest.

Kleancierge is constantly on the lookout for best-of-breed detailers that are looking to improve their business, Moley said.

His service is winning over converts.

“It’s extremely convenient to have someone come to your home or office to clean your car. When we were turning over our sales fleet of cars at Penn Waste, we had to get all the vehicles detailed,” said Amanda Davidson, director of marketing for Penn Waste, which is based in Manchester Township.

She said Kleancierge handled cleaning and detailing for eight vehicles in Penn Waste’s sales fleet, including late-model Ford Escapes, a Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F150 trucks.

Kleancierge also takes care of Davidson’s personal vehicles: a 2013 Honda CR-V, a compact sport utility vehicle, and a 2017 Ford Explorer, a full-sized sport utility vehicle.

“The logistics … would have been a nightmare. It was much more time effective to have the detailer come to us,” Davidson said.

And she applauds Moley’s choice to remain in Central Pennsylvania.

“He’s committed to cultivating the tech community locally and encouraging other young entrepreneurs and software engineers to stay in the area,” Davidson said.

Carmine Pantano, owner of Frank’s Marble & Granite in Red Lion, is another regular customer. He uses Kleancierge for both his business and personal vehicles.

He schedules twice-yearly detailing services for his 2015 Dodge Durango Citadel, in spring and fall.

“Typically I’ll put in three days and times and within a few hours I get a response from the detailer. It’s a lot faster than trying to schedule over a phone call. I’m busy. I can schedule it and I trust the people that are coming to my business to do the work,” Pantano said.

More territory, services

Moley developed and launched the mobile app in 2018, and he has big plans for its future.

“Kleancierge’s goal is to be available throughout the United States and Canada over the next six to eight years,” Moley said.

Kleancierge services are currently available in Harrisburg, Lancaster and York, as well as in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville and Orlando Florida.

Moley also is considering adding services to the Kleancierge menu, such as window tinting and vinyl wraps.

Vinyl wrap is a technique that can complement or completely change a car’s appearance, according to the National Automotive Parts Association. Vinyl wraps can also be used to promote a business.