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July 7, 2020
Fig Authentic(s): Missy Hartney and Tammy Wendling
The local shops and services in the heart of Bethlehem may not have been open to the public for regular business during the Governor’s stay at home order at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But that heart never stopped beating, aided by the love and support of Tammy Wendling, Downtown Bethlehem Association (DBA) Manager and Missy Hartney, Downtown Manager of the South Side Arts District.
Bethlehem’s one heart is made up of two districts. “The Arts District, with the SteelStacks and entertainment and public art, is the funky sibling of the Historic District—which has the history and beauty of the cobblestone walkways, the brick and the [street mosaic] Star. It’s amazing,” says Missy, “to have a town that has these complementary attributes.” And it’s a gift that our town has these two passionate advocates.
Both born and raised in Bethlehem, Tammy and Missy are collaborative champions for the place they call home, and for their unique districts. Tammy, previously with Adams Outdoor Advertising, recently celebrated her first anniversary as manager of the DBA. Tammy started in her role at the height of events season in summer 2019, and hit the ground running. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my job!” she says, whether she’s planning and executing promotional events or acting as a liaison between businesses and other entities. Missy has a similar background in event marketing and fundraising, and serves as “the glue” between the Arts District’s revitalization volunteer committees, providing strategic leadership, promotion, and support.
But this spring was no ordinary spring—and what Missy and Tammy have witnessed has been extraordinary.
“Our mission,” says Tammy, “is to work together instead of in isolation. And I have seen our DBA come together more now than I ever have in the entire year I’ve worked. Business owners contact each other now, asking for assistance. They support each other, cross-promote each other…they’re ordering at each others’ restaurants, and for example, picking up wine from Franklin Hill Vineyard, Franklin Hill is offering it to other restaurants to be able to sell… it’s created a unity that is so special and beautiful.”
That’s the beauty of small local business: the ability to reach out and care for one another, person to person. Missy was awed by the businesses that “not just stayed open and persevered, but that literally gave of themselves to the community. Who created partnerships with other merchants, and fundraising opportunities that benefited the businesses, patrons, and people working on the front lines”—whether they were donating meals, like Roasted, or making hand sanitizer, like Social Still, or fabricating masks, like The Fab Lab.
And once we got the go-ahead from the Governor’s office, Bethlehem welcomed the community back safely. Maintaining a safe, CDC-compliant comfort level for guests and patrons has been paramount, with touchless ordering, menu boards, and other creative solutions. Merchants reopening needed to adhere to stringent standards for the health and safety of their customers and employees. Parklets and strategic street closures throughout both the Historic and Arts Districts have made space for socially-distant outdoor dining (who doesn’t love a meal al fresco on a warm summer night?). Working closely with the City of Bethlehem, Tammy and Missy have helped make the transition both possible and responsible. Bethlehem is now a model community for reopening, and it’s been a team effort: “Without the codes office, health bureau, public works and community development,” says Missy, “the businesses wouldn’t have the parklets, restaurant education or capacity guidance they’ve needed.”
“Call your favorite restaurant,” says Tammy. “Get a reservation, so restaurants can manage their number of guests per night. Continue to order curbside pickup.” Even if you cannot go into shops or book services, businesses will have items available for purchase on sidewalks. “That dress you’ve been eyeing? Now is the time to spend some money. Our businesses need the love and support, and to generate some revenue, to make up for lost time.” And it’s going to be “an evolving solution,” says Tammy, so please: when you come back to Bethlehem, be patient and be kind.
Because shopping local, choosing local, and loving local is now more important than ever. “Shop local every chance you get,” says Missy. “You’re supporting your neighbors. You’re supporting your home, your backyard. These are the people who are making the character of your community. If you want Historic Main Street to retain its beauty and character and the Arts District to stay funky and fresh, you’ve got to support local.” Keep your heart beating, Bethlehem, with patience and with kindness.