Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Allentown, House at Bethany Has a Mission beyond Sales

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Allentown, House at Bethany Has a Mission beyond Sales

Article excerpt

Allentown's retail picture brightened a little when the pretty storefront at 748 Warrington Ave. came alive in April, giving the neighborhood something it hasn't had for a while -- a place to buy a pair of pants, shoes, a blouse, a novel, a piece of glassware, a clock, a picture of a horse in a meadow.

This is not the retail most people have in mind when they wish for investment in their neighborhoods. It's the retail of great need.

Allentown's newest store, the House at Bethany, is part thrift shop, part ministry. Chaplain Marcy Aikens tends the store.

She was folding clothes to clear a center table one recent morning when Jerry Butler and Tom Brahler walked in within a minute of each other.

"You have a lot of nice stuff," Mr. Brahler said, scanning the neatly folded piles of shirts and the table of ball caps near the door. "You're getting closer to what I like."

"What do you like?" Ms. Aikens asked.

He either didn't hear or chose not to answer. He leaned in to look more closely at housewares on a shelf.

"No dinosaur books?" Mr. Butler asked. "I'm into dinosaurs."

"I'm sorry," Ms. Aikens said.

"Oh well," he said, "I never have any money anyway. But I have told several people about you. Maybe they'll stick their noses in and see what you've got."

Mr. Brahler straightened up.

"Well," he said, "I'm going down to see Carl the Barber." He scanned the shop one more time before disappearing through the doorway onto a sidewalk that's small-town quiet with a lot of free parking and not many takers.

* * *

The vitality that has shot wind into the city's sails, proffering No. 1 rankings and poising the likes of Garfield, the Hill District and Larimer for renewal, has not blown up to the southern hilltop neighborhoods.

Like so many of them, Allentown has businesses, legacy architecture and great housing stock.

"I'd try to buy Allentown if I could," Mr. …

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