The way Silas Chamberlin describes it, there’s the big three—Harrisburg, Lancaster and York.
That’s how the Downtown Inc CEO plays up the strengths of the region and pitches downtown York as a destination for business owners.
“The idea that you can explore communities in your backyard is becoming more and more tempting to people,” Chamberlin said.
York is a 30-minute trip down I-83 from Harrisburg. The city’s revitalization efforts have branded it a craft beer destination, a shopping oasis along Beaver Street and a place for businesses to collaborate.
In the past three years, Chamberlin said, 130 new businesses have opened in downtown York. That includes service-oriented companies such as law and engineering firms, but many new restaurants and retail spaces have popped up, as well.
There are both big names and new faces. The Yorktowne Hotel, under the Hilton flag, is a $30 million-plus redevelopment project, according to Chamberlin. It’ll be done in early 2020. A new restaurant specializing in pizza and whiskey recently opened called Fig and Barrel, and Chamberlin said that S. Beaver Street is now a destination during the city’s popular First Fridays event.
“The more variety we have and the more business growth, the better it is for everyone,” Chamberlin said.
This shopping season, you might want to day-trip down to the historic, revitalizing White Rose City for everything from clothes and accessories to dinner and drinks.
Elizabeth & West
44 W. Philadelphia St.
The quaint boutique right next to Central Market boasts a side entrance straight from the market and into the second room of the shop. Rebecca Wattenschaidt, the face behind the popular “Mommy in Heels” blog and Instagram account, started the store in December 2013 as an e-commerce endeavor.
She looked for a part-time job at Downtown Inc while waiting for the online store to turn a profit. The same minute she sent the email, she received another one from Downtown Inc asking if she was interested in some retail space downtown.
“The idea of having an actual storefront put the whole part-time job search on hold,” Wattenschaidt said.
She moved to her current location on W. Philadelphia Street 2½ years ago, expanding from an online shop to an actual storefront. Her goal for the store is to provide affordable pieces, while catering to a broad demographic.
The clothes focus on fun patterns and chunky knit sweaters for the season. Wattenschaidt even does “try on” videos on Instagram so women can see what near arrivals look like on an actual person.
“It’s me. It’s very personal,” Wattenschaidt said. “Your experience is very personal. In all my online orders, I always include a handwritten thank-you note, as well, which I really pride myself on.”
Hamir’s Indian Fusion
24 S. George St.
A little over five years ago, Hamir Patel was a general manager at Wendy’s when his friend Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer. A month later, his sister-in-law was also diagnosed.
It brought a passion for cooking to the forefront. Patel asked Denise what he could do to help, and she told him to cook for a good cause. Denise invited friends over to her home. Patel cooked, and a dream began.
He slowly started creating more recipes, combining the traditional flavors of Indian food with other cultural dishes such as Thai, Creole and Mediterranean. Denise and her friends are still his loyal taste testers.
“Once I get a green light from all of them, then it becomes a recipe,” Patel said.
He turned cooking into a home-based business and then auditioned at Taste Test York before opening a space on S. George Street. The restaurant is tucked away from the bustle of the market district, while simultaneously offering a homey vibe and a nice dinner spot for two. The décor on the walls is even donated by the women who helped him get his start.
That’s what it’s all about to Patel, who alternates between the chef who prepares your meals and the restaurant owner who tries to visit every table to talk to his guests. Meanwhile, plates of coconut curry chicken, Indo-Thai shrimp and many others make their way to tables.
“Food is something that brings people together,” Patel said. “It should be that way. You should have a good experience surrounded by your friends, colleagues, spouse.”
My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe
38 N. Beaver St.
This consignment shop traces its roots back to Harrisburg University, when owner Alexandria Keener-Hammond was looking for a meaningful internship. Her mother had always wanted to open a boutique, and, with a house full of clothes, it seemed like a good idea. Keener-Hammond, a web design major, went to her advisor and asked to start an online consignment business.
“It just kind of all came together one day with needing an internship and not knowing what to do and having all of these really great pieces in our closet that we were going to get rid of,” Keener-Hammond said.
Now, she owns My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe with her mom and runs the business full-time. They’ve been operating for six years and moved to their Beaver Street location this past May.
Stepping inside is like going to a friend’s house. There are exposed beams, a fireplace and exposed brick walls that make it feel more like a stumbled-upon gem. Items are typically priced at a third of what they originally sold for, and they carry brands from Chanel to American Eagle.
Keener-Hammond said that it’s not just the coveted Beaver Street location that makes My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe a destination. She’s noticed that more foot traffic downtown means her business grows every year.
“More and more people every day are realizing that downtown York is a really great place to come down and grab lunch and hang out with friends, or bring their kids on First Fridays and just have a really good time.”
Collusion Tap Works
105 S. Howard St.
There are now six breweries within a half-mile of each other in downtown York, according to Collusion Tap Works owner Jared Barnes. He called it “quite overwhelming” but is happy to see so many new restaurants, and even breweries, opening up that bring people downtown and give them options.
Collusion Tap Works opened in 2016 after Barnes worked for multiple breweries up and down the East Coast. The York Suburban grad lived a full life before he started making beer. He joined the military at age 18, came back to go to school for engineering and then started making beer in the basement of a place he worked at in Columbia, Pa.
The basement beer turned into a full-time gig. Barnes went to school to learn brewing in Chicago and then Germany. Eventually, he came back to York to work for himself.
Collusion is located in the trendy Royal Square area near Taste Test York and numerous art galleries. There’s plenty of parking, which is in demand in other downtown locations. The building itself is small but comfortable, with eclectic decorations that remind you fondly of your college dorm.
Barnes said they have 21 to 24 beers on tap depending on the day. Homunculus and the Fuzzy Scrumpit IPA are two of the most popular options, but there’s also a mix of sours and stouts.
“We don’t just brew one or two styles of beer,” Barnes said. “We’ve done 430-something different beers now since we’ve been open for two years. You’re going to have something new every time that you come to Collusion.”
Gusa by Victoria
252 W. Philadelphia St.
“I got married into the area, and when I came here there was absolutely nothing—or so it seemed—for me to do,” Victoria Kageni-Woodard said about her arrival in York.
Kageni-Woodard, originally from Kenya, started working in the construction industry to provide for her family. However, it was a passion for creating clothes that drew her to the United States in the first place.
She attended Savannah College of Art and Design to hone her sewing and fashion skills. After a few years of renting a space in Royal Square, she ended up on W. Philadelphia Street.
While her core product is sewing and fashion design, there’s no limit to the experiences at Gusa by Victoria. The clothes, all of which she makes herself, are bright and vibrant, reminiscent of many of the patterns in African fashion. However, Kageni-Woodard doesn’t stop there. She teaches sewing workshops and Swahili to kids and adults, hosts jazz nights outside of the shop and created the Gusa World Music Festival.
“I’m always trying to figure out other things to make it more lively,” she explained.
Kageni-Woodard also offers a dining experience called Gusa Dining Excursion. Every quarter, she picks a country from Africa and has a celebration, including native food, traditional dancers and even a class about the people and the culture. Next summer, she’s hoping to launch “Gusa Goes to Kenya” to bring a group of people, including her children, back to her home in Kenya.
Day Trip: York
In recent years, downtown York has become a haven for boutique browsers and shoppers. Here are a few more places to stop during your trip to the historic city center.
34 W. Philadelphia St.
The arguable hub of downtown York, Central Market has a stand for everyone. Whether it’s a burrito or flavors of Africa, you will find it in the large building.
48 W. Philadelphia St.
Unique gifts and personal service are the hallmarks of Cherie Anne, a boutique featuring everything from hand-knitted clothes to gourmet food to locally made, artisanal products. Cherie Anne and daughter Amanda will steer you through their carefully curated, eclectic selection of handmade creations.
126 E. King St.
HIVE is an arts collective that features both local and national artists. It’s free and open to the public.
256 W. Philadelphia St.
This coffee shop also functions as an art and thrift boutique. Stop by the store in the WeCo neighborhood or check out the window downtown with a drive-thru menu for coffee.
Molly’s Courtyard Cafe
46 W. Philadelphia St.
The former Cherie Anne’s Courtyard Café recently changed names and moved right next door to a bigger space. The courtyard is still magical, especially on a nice night.
113 S. Duke St.
Get your upcycling on at this secondhand marketplace, which features curated vintage goods from apparel and antiques to handmade jewelry.
54 W. Market St.
Check out classic arcade games and new gaming consoles in both downtown York and Hanover.
York City Pretzel Co.
39 W. Market St.
These hand-twisted pretzels are made right downtown. Purchase them for your next party or stop in for a pretzel sandwich while you’re walking around.