By Jeffrey B. Roth; Photos by Phil Grout
To natives of Hanover, who grew up during the 1950s, downtown Hanover was the place to go shopping at upscale stores, such as the Bon Ton and JCPenney.
It was a bustling area, hosting restaurants, retail stores of various kinds and professional offices. downtown was where neighbors and old friends would run into each other while shopping or having a meal at a favorite restaurant.
During the last several decades, Hanover, like many other downtowns in towns across the state and the country, experienced an economic decline. Big box stores, large grocery stores, chain pharmacies and hardware stores moved to the suburbs, often sharing space with other stores in malls and shopping centers.
Downtowns suffered an economic decline, structural decay in the form of vacant buildings and store fronts, and lost much of their importance to the community. To reverse the decline, Hanover Borough, the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce and a group of downtown business owners and entrepreneurs forged alliances to revitalize the town center.
From those efforts, a Main Street Hanover program was created. Its mission, to resuscitate downtown. During the last five years, a recovery has taken root and is gaining momentum with each new business which opens around the Center Square.
Some of those business ventures include:
Timeline Arcade 22 Carlisle Street
Billed as the largest arcade in Pennsylvania, the Timeline features pinball machines, vintage video games and other classic arcade games. Owner, Brendon Spencer, said the arcade is about history as much as it is dedicated to fun.
“We restore all of our classic games to working condition so that they can continue to be played and enjoyed in the future,” Spencer said.
About six years ago, while visiting Georgetown, Spencer came across the National Pinball Museum, which later moved to Baltimore, Md., but had to cease operation last year. The facility showcased more than 800 classic arcade games; all part of a collection put together by David Silverman.
The work of 35 years, the collection included a 19th Century pinball machine progenitor, vintage woodrail games and more modern, solid-state electronic machines. In February of last year, 75 arcade machines from the collection were sold at public auction.
“During the visit, I was inspired to investigate opening an arcade that featured classic video arcade games from the 70s, 80s, 90s and those of today,” Spencer said. “I started researching the business and eventually I got a loan from a bank. We started in the mall.”
Spencer made the decision to move downtown to escape the restricted operating hours imposed by the mall. The idea was to become part of the nightlife and to establish itself as a tourist attraction for classic arcade and vintage video game enthusiasts of all ages; not just kids.
Spencer and his arcade were recently filmed by the Discovery Channel for a documentary called “Arcades Across America.” The documentary, in combination with the July 24 release of “Pixels;” a comedy movie, is expected to spark people’s interest in classic arcades.
“With the new movie coming out this summer, there is a buzz building around classic video games,” Spencer said. “It’s going to be a good summer for arcades.”
Warehouse Gourmet Bistro and Brew Pub 7 Pennsylvania Avenue
A family-owned and operated restaurant, Warehouse opened in October 2005, as a catering, carry-out and delivery business. In December 2010, the American bistro with a French influence, opened. Serving handmade food, including breads and desserts, soups, sandwiches and bistro entrees, the restaurant’s ambiance offers a casual dining experience.
Keith and Melinda Bortner Stambaugh, along with Melinda’s father and mother, worked together to grow the business. Today they employ about 20 additional staff.
“Back in the late 1990’s, early 2000s, you could not find items like a ‘Goat Cheese and Apple Salad’ in Hanover,” Keith said. “Melinda knew there was a niche to be filled. Our restaurant concept has always been handmade food.”
Keith, who is self-taught, has been baking the bread, cheesecakes and high-end desserts since the restaurant opened. Melinda’s soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches and dinners brought new flavor combinations to a stagnant food town, Keith said. Keith’s artwork hangs throughout the dining room. The upstairs pub is even more casual, without pretense.
The Stambaughs said little has changed in downtown over the last decade. With new businesses opening, they are optimistic that the revitalization efforts will have a lasting effect; but, they said there are still many unoccupied store fronts.
“Our friend, Brian Linka, just opened The Gallery Fine Art and Tattoos and Keith has paintings hanging there now,” Melinda said. “What any downtown needs is more quality businesses that have quality products or services that people want and need. To make the downtown inviting to new millenial age consumers, the interiors need to be clean and organized. The more the better.”
There are a number of great stores, restaurants and other businesses currently operating downtown, they said. The revitalization effort “shows great promise. The Hanover Art Guild is next door,” Melinda said. “Everybody loves The Hot Weiner and The Texas Lunch, (Hanover traditions). Merlin’s Coffee Shop roasts its own beans and has the best coffee around.” The Winner’s Circle, Clark’s, Furs by Susan, Treasures, and the Sheppard Mansion all add to the diverse culture of the downtown.
Something Wicked Brewing Company 34 Broadway Street
Six partners are the engine that drives the brewing company, which was in the last stages of opening its doors to the public at the time of the interview in late March. Owned by Bill and Bridget Seidler, Jim and Cindy Staub, Scott Pivoris and Stephen Buenzow, all craft beer brewers and friends, the microbrewers have created four distinctive craft brews– Vanilla Bourbon Stout, Gruesome Grinch Holiday Ale, Swing Lube Light Pale Ale and Hop Crazy, which are becoming customer favorites, Buenzow said.
“Collectively, we have over 40 years of brewing experience as home brewers,” Buenzow said. “When we open we expect that our customer base will be late 20s to late 60s, living near Hanover, or beer lovers who don’t mind traveling for a really good beer. We will have a variety of styles including a couple of IPAs, Summer Kolsch, Hefe Weisen, Chocolate Coconut Stout and rotating seasonal/experimentals.”
The facility, in addition to craft beers, will offer a limited, but nice selection of food items. It will also be a place to learn about great craft beer from the people who brew it; a place to meet friends and socialize, or watch a game and relax, Buenzow said. The partners are encouraged by the increasing number of public events held in downtown. Buenzow said he hopes more events will be added to old standards, such as the Halloween and Christmas parades, Dutch Days and the Hanover Chili Cookoff.
“I think the branding of downtown is something that is evolving as we speak,” Buenzow said.
“I think there are several different schools of thought on the branding for downtown; and I think that represents the diversity that already exists in Hanover and downtown,” he added. “I think there is a growing presence of entertainment, music and craft beer, which give people a reason to hang out for a while downtown rather than just pass through or make a quick stop. That creates opportunities for other businesses and the future depends on other businesses that will be willing to invest and locate in the downtown area.”
Abithat’s Tasting Room 17 Carlisle Street
Since its opening in July, the gourmet balsamic vinegars, olive and other specialty cooking oils business, has expanded, said owner Tabithat Harrison.
“We pride ourselves on only offering the freshest, highest quality products,” Harrison, who was born in New Orleans, said. “We are continually searching to find new and exciting products to offer our customers. We have added some jellies made with local honeys and wine; some balsamic glazes; and I’m just starting to work on a line of BBQ sauces made with balsamics.”
Other new items include five varieties of infused olive oil, truffle oil, regional spice blends and finishing salts, Harrison said. The family-owned and operated business also supplies products to several restaurants in the area.
If that interest continues, Harrison said she’d love to begin offering products wholesale.
Harrison moved to Hanover about 12 years ago, from Fredericksburg, Va. During Harrison’s travels, particularly to Italy and the Mediterranean Sea area, she had the chance to sample “exquisite olive oils. I really wanted to do this; and when we moved here, the timing was right.”
“There is a great sense of community between downtown merchants and business owners,” Harrison said. “We promote each other.”
Since opening her business, Harrison said she has noticed that the downtown is attracting an increasing diverse demographic, from teens and college age students, to adults and seniors. The broad representations of age and socioeconomic backgrounds is a testament to the promotional efforts conducted by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Hanover, and to the merchants as well.
“I would love to see more events held downtown,” Harrison said. “The more things that happen, the better off we’re going to be.”
The Hanover Hub 11 York Street
Alex Slagle, chef and owner, is originally from Greenville, S.C., but moved to Adams County, where he graduated Gettysburg High School in 1998. When Slagle started his first job at age 13, it was in the kitchen of the Farnsworth House, in Gettysburg.
After serving in the U.S. Army for eight years, including a tour in Iraq, Slagle enrolled in a culinary school. Last July marked the second anniversary of the restaurant at 11 York St.
“My wife, Tara, and I like to travel,” Slagle said. “I wanted to own a small restaurant and I saw this business was listed for sale.”
Featuring a menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads, fountain drinks, espresso and other coffees, along with smoothies and other hot beverages, The Hanover Hub offers a casual American dining experience. All the food is locally-sourced and hand-crafted.
Slagle characterizes the atmosphere of downtown as akin to a cohesive family. It is the sense of community and the culture of cooperation that is a key to the success of the rebirth of the downtown, he said.
“I like the downtown lifestyle,” Slagle said. “In Greenville, downtown is art driven…there are no chain restaurants. Hanover is becoming that now. The community is really pushing to revitalize the area.”
Miscreation Brewing Co. 6 Center Square
Miscreation Brewing Co., located at 6 Center Square, was born from three-area entrepreneurs who had a passion for home brewing.
Mark Mathias, general manager, and brothers, Brent Stambaugh, brewmaster, and Jason Stambaugh, sales and marketing, have known each other for years.
“We were all big craft beer fans and we traveled around to different breweries to check them out,” Mathias said. “One night, about four years ago, we decided to open a brewpub.”
The partners, who each worked in other industries, quit their jobs to pursue their dream.
Occupying a formerly vacant building, the pub has three levels—a game room on one floor, general seating on the second and the main bar in the loft area, Mathias said. In June, if all goes according to plan, the pub will open the first sidewalk seating area.
While the pub sells a large variety of seasonal craft beers, it currently offers seven rotating taps, each featuring one of their brews: Frank’N Stout is a dark beer with a spicy kick, which quickly became a favorite at craft beer events; Reckless IPA is a malty beer mixed with Chinook Hops; Speech Impediment, a peach brew; Illumination, a Belgian variety made with blueberries and cranberries; Souless, a strawberry pale ale; Palestorm, a citrusy pale ale; and Smashed Pumpking Porter, the first seasonal brew they ever made, Mathias said.
In addition to beer, the pub offers Pennsylvania wines. Their food menu includes paninis, wraps and other finger foods. They also serve their homemade chili, a People’s Choice winner at the annual Hanover Chili Cookoff.