The Brown and White spoke to both former and current residents in the South Side Bethlehem area about the things they love most about the community. Whether it’s their favorite restaurant, an event, or just the general atmosphere, community members all recount something about the South Side that they hold close to their hearts.
Jessica Booth and Captain, her dog, MFA student at Moravian University
Q: Can you describe your background?
Jessica Booth: We’ve (referring to herself and her dog) lived here for a year and a half. I am a MFA student at Moravian College and Touchstone Theater. I really love Bethlehem, and I’m actually staying (after graduation). I love the Greenway, I am out here every single day. It was very quiet this morning. We usually run into a lot of other dogs and people.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on the South Side?
Booth: All of the arts are incredible on the South Side. You have ArtsQuest, Touchstone, the Ice House and the SouthSide Arts District. They are always doing stuff, they have musicians at different events. It’s really a great place to be for the arts. The food as well, we’re constantly going out and getting food.
Q: What is your favorite coffee place around here?
Booth: The Joint on the North Side is my favorite, but on the South Side definitely Lit (Coffee Roastery and Bakeshop). I’m also at Cafe the Lodge all the time for breakfast or meetings, it’s a great place to be on the weekdays.
Q: Do you know much about the gentrification issue?
Booth: I live over on Pierce Street and I’ve been noticing all of the apartments along my building are getting remodeled and renovated. I’m seeing more and more price increases. We’re trying to buy a house, and to even buy a townhouse on South Side Bethlehem is extremely expensive. I couldn’t believe how much they’re selling for. All of these new apartment buildings are popping up, I’m all for housing but we also have to think about our residents and how not everyone can afford that, especially coming out of the pandemic. I’m really grateful and happy the South Side is cleaning up and becoming an even better place to be, but we need to take care of our residents just as much.
Lee, Bartender at Sands Casino
Q: Where do you work and what is your background?
Lee: I am a bartender down at the casino. I’m actually a New York native, I’ve only been here for three years now. I’ve been a little bit of a wanderer for a while now. I was in New York for 22 years, North Carolina for six years and then I ended up here somehow.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do around here when you’re not working?
Lee: Honestly, there’s so much to do around here — I go to the ice cream shop for instance, which probably seems a little out of character for someone like me, but who can turn down ice cream? I hang out on the other side of the bridge sometimes too, everything is so close there’s no reason not to walk unless it’s 6 inches of snow, and even then, it’s gone the next day.
Q: What’s your favorite place to eat?
Lee: I’m a sucker for Lehigh Pizza. They are the best pizza place I’ve had outside of New York. I’d say it’s as good as some of the best places I know in New York even. It’s almost like a slice of home.
Q: Have you noticed any changes in the South Side?
Lee: Development has definitely been on the up, there’s no doubt about that. I think just down the road they’re building apartments. And parking garages are being built everywhere. I’ve also noticed general foot traffic has gone down, so much of that probably has to do with COVID-19.
Q: Do you think the South Side is bouncing back from the pandemic?
Lee: I think so. Everything’s starting to stay open a little later, there are more people out in the day now even more than three or four months ago.
Jada Calloway, Longtime South Side resident
Q: What brings you to the South Side?
Calloway: My name is Jada Calloway, we’ve lived (in the South Side) since I was four. We moved to the South Side a few years ago, but now we don’t live here anymore. My mom had her salon (Knot Our Hair Salon) here and she loves the foot traffic because everyone sees the salon walking by. The only thing that kind of sucks is the meter parking, but besides that it’s perfect for her. It’s only her, she just has an aesthetician who does facials and waxing in the back. She did it all herself.
Q: How was she (Calloway’s mother) able to battle the pandemic’s effects?
Calloway: During that time, this was someone else’s salon and she was buying it from someone, so when they shut down it was kind of the perfect time for her to remodel without actually having to shut down. She lost out on money because of COVID-19, but she was also able to redecorate and open brand new when they let us. She has a little calendar here, she never changes the month because that was the month they made her shut down her business, and so she keeps it there as a reminder to keep going. People try to change it all the time and she says, “no, it’s there for a reason.”
Q: What is one of your favorite things to do on the South Side?
Calloway: We used to live down the street on Third Street, so I would say, El Jefes. It’s open late so you’ll wake up in the middle of the night kind of hungry or after going out. I just turned 21 in June so all the bars are fun for me.
Q: What do you think about Lehigh University’s housing expansion?
Calloway: I feel like it’s something that people have to get used to. For the residents that have lived here all their lives, I understand their frustration. But it’s a college campus, they’re expanding because they can only build so many residence halls. It’s the older people not being able to understand, they’re not ready for change, but the world is changing. I get it, but it’s not that deep. I guess it’s something they have to get used to. But there’s college kids everywhere. I know for me, it’s different when the Lehigh students are here and when they aren’t at school. When students are back, the community sees the transition because there are way more people than we’re used to. I don’t think it’s a problem. When you move from dorms to apartments you get used to the real world. You have to pay rent, you have to pay bills, because in the real world there are certain things you need to get prepared for. It’s helping the students more than they think.
Q: If you could change one thing about the South Side, what would it be and why?
Calloway: The traffic. When we used to live on Third Street in our apartment you couldn’t hear anything that was going on outside, but you open that door and there is a line of traffic. Everyone’s on the South Side so you can never go outside and look crazy, everyone sees you all the time. Friday and Saturday night traffic is ridiculous over here. God forbid it’s a nice day, if it’s a nice day you’re better off just walking everywhere instead of trying to get in your car.
John Okumus, Owner of NYC Village Pizza
Q: How has the new housing complex Southside Commons affected your business?
Okumus: Southside Commons has hurt my business because the rent prices have gone up in the past few years and in general the area is just more expensive. However, everyone is going to need to spend money which will allow new businesses to open and new money to be in the economy.
Q: What is it like owning a business right next to a college campus?
Okumus: That is why we are here, Lehigh is the reason we have a business. Not just for me, but for all the local businesses, we depend on Lehigh.