Once a bustling industrial hub, South Bethlehem remains an active community, now offering a lively economic environment where businesses can sell their products and services, and connect with visitors and residents.
The South Side of Bethlehem also hosts an expanding business community, drawing increased commerce and an array of options to local residents.
According to the SouthSide Arts District website, South Bethlehem has 54 restaurants, 13 arts and entertainment venues, and 15 stores and boutiques amongst other local businesses.
The Brown and White spoke with South Side business owners to hear about their thoughts on community expansion in the area.
Jenny Lim, co-owner of Jenny’s Kuali, a Malaysian restaurant, said she has seen a growth in opportunities in South Bethlehem, including an increase in attendance at nearby arts and entertainment venues and casinos, as Lehigh’s student population expands.
She said not only does she anticipate more students enrolling at Lehigh in the future, but also that more students and families will tour the school and bring business to establishments close to campus.
Lim said she enjoys introducing new cuisine to residents and visitors to broaden their dining experiences.
“I want to make sure (the area) is diverse,” she said.
Derek Wallen, co-owner of Roasted, also said the South Bethlehem business community is continuing to expand. Just this past year, several new restaurants have opened, including F&A Grog House and The Flying V.
As a business owner, Wallen said it’s important for him to connect with residents of the area where his restaurant is located. He said residents have countless opportunities to connect with their local businesses through a variety of means, including open forums and community gatherings.
Wallen said he enjoys sourcing the food for his restaurant locally. He said when another grocery store opens in place of Ahart’s, he will try to purchase food from there.
Wallen said the development in the area, although economically beneficial, may be concerning to residents, since this could result in rent increases.
“When you have one bedroom apartments starting at $1,200 or $1,300 and going up, it’s very hard for some to be able to afford that,” he said.
Apotheca Salon and Boutique
Amanda King, co-owner of Apotheca Salon and Boutique, said she is excited about the changes emerging in South Bethlehem.
Specifically, she is excited about the increasing foot traffic. She said she has seen more people walking around the area than usual, which she attributes to the city’s undertaking of enhanced safety measures.
“We really like seeing different people in the community and making people feel good,” King said.
Many of the development-related concerns of residents and business owners are currently being addressed by the Neighborhood Partnership Program, sponsored by the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem.
Beginning last spring, the plan aims to guide new building developments and improve neighborhood facilities, such as playgrounds and open spaces.