by Jennifer Noel, photography by Gregory Blank
Iconic Route 30—a thoroughfare for many driving to destinations throughout Pennsylvania. Nestled along this bustling highway is the quaint town of New Oxford, the proclaimed “Antiques Capital of South Central Pennsylvania.”
With over 19 dealers in the area, New Oxford is often the premier destination for amateurs and experts in the business of antiquities.
Beyond the preservation of artifacts from decades past, the town also teems with businesses that create a unique community often overlooked by many during their busy travels. Situated on the circle in the center of New Oxford are several businesses that specialize in everything from homemade donuts to fine jewelry to that hard to find household tool. One thing each of these businesses have in common is a personalized experience for each customer, whether a local resident or a visitor just passing through.
“There are lots of little things happening here,” explained Rose Lansing, owner of Redbud House and office support staff for the New Oxford Chamber of Commerce. “Many people who have moved here love it as much as the people raised here.”
Redbud House, which specializes in household and kitchen goods, is a prime example of the distinct offerings of the New Oxford Area.
Lansing, who moved to the area in 2008, stumbled upon her now home by chance, while searching for a dual space for both she and her husband’s individual businesses.
“I didn’t even know the town existed, and now I’m living here,” commented Lansing. “The town draws people in that way.”
“And I can’t beat the commute,” she joked. Her home is 3 blocks away from her business in center square.
While the borough is only just over a half of a square mile, the town has over 100 businesses, and its nearly 1,900 residents are a blend of lifelong inhabitants and transplants to the area.
“Many of our newer residents have moved from larger cities or suburban areas and have made friends; one newer resident from Maryland said he really liked the ‘gentleness’ he found here,” remarked Mayor Portia Bosch.
Both Mayor Bosch and Lansing agree that the people are one of the greatest parts of the community.
“I really enjoy walking around the community and seeing friends and neighbors out and stopping to chat. We have made so many wonderful friends in town and I really like the small town friendliness here,” explained Mayor Bosch.
Lansing has a standing date with friends every Thursday at The Mill-Scozzaro’s Restaurant & Pub just down York Road from the square.
“It’s tradition,” added Lansing with a smile.
Tradition is certainly a word that New Oxford residents know well. Each year visitors travel from around the country to attend Market Day, the longest running outdoor antique and craft show in the country. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this June, about 200 booths will line the streets, some with 2nd generation vendors.
Sponsored by the New Oxford Chamber of Commerce, Market Day offers the opportunity for the community to attract visitors to the area.
“The town has a strong understanding of its history and its resident want to preserve it,” explained Barry Strohm, owner of Golden Lane Antique & Art Gallery on North Water Street.
Along with his wife, Connie, Strohm has witnessed the town’s efforts to safeguard its history for future generations.
Recently, the New Oxford Area Historical Society raised enough funds to purchase the land where the New Oxford Train Station and Museum, built in 1892, currently resides, in order to ensure the station would remain a lasting part of the community.
The Historical Society also sponsors Liberation Day in September, a WWII reenactment of the liberation of a Dutch village by Allied Forces. The reenactment allows residents to travel back in time as they witness soldiers march through the streets to the circle, where the citizens in period garb await freedom.
Local businesses also understand what it means to be a longstanding member of the community: Martin’s Hardware has been a staple on Presidential Circle for 60 years.
Steve Martin and his father purchased the business in 1974, after the store had seen two previous owners.
Martin explained that a love for tools was uncovered at around 8 years old when he helped at his uncle’s hardware store when visiting him as a child.
“I found my calling at an early age,” Martin remarked.
Martin, a New Oxford resident, appreciates how the community has embraced the hardware store over the years and continues to shop local.
“I have spent two-thirds of my life here; my wife was a Conewago Valley school teacher for 31 years. We are ecstatic that people have accepted the business here,” Martin said.
Our business is “small and mighty” explained Martin, with the focus always on the needs of the customers, he added.
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Unassuming, Barry Strohm sits at his desk just inside the doors to Golden Lane Antique & Art Gallery. However, he has an important job: gatekeeper to the past. His antique business occupies nearly 30,000 square feet of a repurposed shoe factory dating back to 1887, and is the largest antique center in the area. Strohm and his wife originally purchased the building as a real estate investment, but it eventually evolved into a prime antiquities location, opening in 1989.
Housing 75 dealers, the gallery attracts vendors from all over including as far as Long Island, New York.
However, while Golden Lane is known for its antiquities, it’s a hidden gem in the art world. Walking throughout the reinvented factory, customers will notice fine art pieces such as a linocut by Pablo Picasso, a drawing by Salvador Dali, and a $20,000 painting by Nicolaes Berchem dating to 1654, among many others.
“We have the most eclectic selection of the businesses here,” noted Strohm.
Strohm is a true jack of all trades, previously working in heavy construction, photography, and as an art dealer at shows around the country. Within the last 4 years, he has also published 3 books, with a fourth on the way, all dealing with the spirit world. A current resident of Park City, Utah, Strohm and his wife reside in an apartment in New Oxford and visit their home in the West several times a year.
The gallery abounds with history with artifacts such as pages from the Martin Luther Bible, dating to 1557.
“The antique business is a world of opportunity,” said Strohm. “We sometimes make mistakes about the value of pieces, but that is part of the great hunt, looking for the incredible.”
The gallery offers only original pieces, no reproductions. For those interested in investing in antiques, Strohm has some advice, “Ask questions and come and learn about our historical heritage, the way our ancestors lived.”
A few blocks from the gallery, sits a more recent addition to the New Oxford business scene, the New Oxford Coffee Company. Reopened in 2012 by owner Paul Dukehart, the café and bakery is also neighbored by Holey Joe’s café, which specializes in soups, sandwiches, and fresh and funky donuts.
“The New Oxford Coffee Company is made up of three seemingly separate businesses: the coffee shop, our full-service bakery, which provides the pastries for the coffee shop as well as a gluten free case and case filled with whole pies and cakes, and Holey Joe’s, which has a lunch counter and hot made-to-order donuts,” explained Manager Katrina Todd.
The Coffee Company also holds open mic nights and wishes to incorporate similar community events in the future.
“New Oxford is a small town, so it’s nice to have something to do locally in the evening,” explained Todd. “I have a vision to build a community within our business—to encourage people to spend time here and help us reach out to people locally and around the world.”
This commitment to global outreach is certainly at the heart of the New Oxford Coffee Company: 100% of the proceeds from the businesses benefit missions in Haiti.
Dukehart himself serves the Tytoo Gardens Children’s Foundation, an orphanage and outreach center in the village of Simonette, Haiti. During some of his visits to the area, Dukehart has installed solar panels and well pumps.
Todd also has served in Haiti with an organization called Source of Life Ministries, which house 14 children who once lived in poverty in the capital city of Port au Prince.
“Customers can come in and purchase delicious coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and soup and know that they are actively participating in making a brighter future for people in on the poorest places on earth,” remarked Todd.
So whether visitors are looking for an antique treasure, or simply a slice of German Apple Cake, the community members of New Oxford can point you in the right direction; likely just around the circle.