Over the years, the Lehigh Valley has seen a growth in diversity of businesses. There are a number of Black-owned businesses that have sprouted in the Bethlehem and Allentown communities.
Coal Bethlehem is not a typical casual dining establishment. It aims to provide the customer with authentic West African fusion.
Kofi Armah, from Ghana, is the executive chef at Coal Bethlehem and has been living in the Lehigh Valley for about nine years.
“I’ve worked for a couple of establishments in the Lehigh Valley, like Hotel Bethlehem,” Armah said. “I realized that we didn’t have that much diversity in the dining scene.”
Armah recalls some challenges he had to face when starting this business. However, he was more motivated to teach about what was missing.
“The cuisine isn’t as popular compared to every other place in the area,” Armah said. “It was more of a challenge educating the consumer.”
In its dishes, the restaurant aims to include elements from West African cuisine but mainly focuses on Ghana’s street food.
Menu items include a variety of grilled meats and salads.
Armah said there have been some challenges as a result of COVID-19.
“We are not doing as much dining as takeout, which is not the best,” Armah said. “We prepared for our guest to dine in here to have the full experience.”
The restaurant is located at 81 W. Broad St. in Bethlehem and is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.
Danielle Adams is forming future leaders with her company QueenSuiteCoach. Adams provides personal and professional development for anyone looking to improve their business skills.
Adams, 40, began coaching individuals from her own desire to see others grow and achieve more than they thought possible. The name of the company is inspired by her grandmother, as Adams refers to her “Queen Chief.”
The racial disparities in the Lehigh Valley were not new to Adams, a Black woman from a white neighborhood in New Jersey.
Adams said she never worried much about being accepted, but she did struggle in the early stages of opening the company. Now she is proud of how far she has come.
Adams said the goal of QueenSuiteCoach is to help others find their purpose and be as successful as possible.
“My goal is to empower other people’s passion and purpose,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help promote the growth of others for the greater good of the community, I would do.”
More information can be found on the company’s website. QueenSuiteCoach operates Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Evan Robinson is the owner and a certified personal trainer at 36E Fitness, a private, training-based gym.
Robinson started his own gym while working as a trainer.
“For me, a lot of complaints I heard in the big gyms were that a lot of people are self-conscious of working out in front of other people,” Robinson said. “ After I heard that one time too many, I was like, ‘I got it’!”
36E Fitness is four years old and provides other services in addition to training, like self-defense.
Robinson said COVID-19 has not really prompted changes to his gym since he only serves one client at a time. He did notice that the pandemic motivated more people to exercise.
Robinson said his goal is to help people best achieve their workout goals.
“I am a business,” he said. “But my thing is, if you start to workout and are looking for a plan, come see me. I can help you get on the right path, and you can continue right there at Lehigh.”
36E Fitness is located at 559 Main St. in Bethlehem and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More information can be found on their website.
Bridging the Gap
Quanesha Johnson is the founder, educator and counselor for the private practice Bridging the Gap, which aims to create a space for people to be themselves and challenge negative thoughts.
Johnson, originally from Brooklyn, formerly worked as a teacher and then as a counselor before starting Bridging the Gap in the Lehigh Valley.
“There are not a lot of therapists and educators that look like me,” Johnson said. “I had to be true to myself. I knew when I walked into a room or a space that my hair looked different. I couldn’t say let me blow this out (hair) and make it straight. This is who I am.”
Bridging the Gap provides one-on-one counseling with children and adults and also hosts workshops and presentations on authenticity and acceptance.
Amid COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, Johnson noted the importance of Black women spreading messages of awareness and acceptance.
“One thing that is important to do is, in order to heal anything, you have to identify the problem,” Johnson said.
She urges Black people to have conversations to better understand microaggressions in workplaces and even with friends that are non-Black.
Follow the official Instagram and website for more information at @BTG_CounselingEd.