Emmaus

Formed in 1759 as a closed Moravian community on land owned by the Moravian Church, Emmaus is tucked into the north slope of South Mountain in Lehigh County. The town’s name was changed to Emaus (one “M”) in 1830 and the village of 200 acres was incorporated as a borough in 1859. In 1938 the Emaus Rotary Club circulated petitions to change the name back and Emaus again became Emmaus. Today, Emmaus is more than 30 times the size of that original Moravian town with a population of approximately 12,000 residents and a bustling business district.

Boasting more than 600 businesses, Emmaus is easily accessible from two of Lehigh County’s main arteries – Lehigh Street from the east and Cedar Crest Boulevard from the west.  The borough is anchored by a charming downtown, sprinkled with one of kind unique shops, cafes and restaurants, each a little different from the other. The area just outside of downtown is populated by the service industry and offers a wide variety of doctors, lawyers, CPAs and financial planners as well as banks, hair salons and yoga studios. The “west end” of town, where Main Street becomes Chestnut, includes a Weis Market, CVS and strip malls with a large array of offerings including a Chinese restaurant, a jewelry store, deli and a smoke shop, among many others. On the opposite side of town lies the famous “auto mile,” where car dealerships and service centers line State Avenue on the way into town from Lehigh Street.  As Teri Madison, Executive Director of Emmaus Main Street Partners (EMSP) says “It sounds like an odd mix, but we have it all covered.” The side streets are thriving as well with a holistic community emerging near 8th and Broad Streets and eight like-minded manufacturers occupying the Emmaus Commerce Center at 840 Broad Street.

The role of EMSP is to keep the borough as vibrant and successful as possible. According to Madison, economic stability is essential for that success and based on the high number of successful businesses in town and the low vacancy rate, Emmaus is flourishing. In addition to the economic component, EMSP also works with the community to preserve the historical and architectural integrity of the borough, and to keep the parks and railroad systems intact.  As the only paid staff person at the Emmaus Main Street Partners, Madison works with an active board of directors and relies on more than 100 volunteers to promote and preserve Emmaus. EMSP is completely funded through corporate and individual contributions, along with an occasional project-specific grant.  Its largest fundraiser is the Annual Golf Classic, scheduled this year for June 24th.

When Madison started with EMSP ten years ago, the focus was on “restoring and preserving.”  Although Emmaus is now a land-locked community with no room for residential growth, plenty of opportunity exists for commercial growth. “We are now about expansion and progression,” explains Madison.  While physical growth may be limited, opportunity exists to repurpose the manufacturing corridor, once alive and profitable, to become vibrant again. Madison reminds us “these things take time, but there are goals on the horizon and we are looking ahead.”

The vibrant economy was one of the criteria, along with the number of arts and leisure activities available, the low incidents of property crime, the cost of living, the healthy housing market and the outstanding school district, that resulted in Emmaus being named one of the Top 100 Best Places to Live by Money Magazine in 2007 and 2009.  Many attributes contribute to the high quality of living in Emmaus including the passionate residents themselves.  The people of Emmaus have great pride in their traditions and culture and actively participate in preserving, promoting and enriching their town.

One significant initiative is the Emmaus Farmers Market, opening for its 11th season on May 5th.  The only 100% producer-only market in the Valley is held every Sunday, rain or shine, through Thanksgiving in the KNBT parking lot at 235 Main Street.  Attracting between 700 and 1200 people each week, the Emmaus Farmers Market hosts more than 20 producers of seasonal local produce, meats, cheeses, pastries and plants. All items for sale at the market must be grown or made by the seller and market bylaws require all vendors be located no more than 75 miles from the market.  Visitors from all around the region shop, eat and socialize to the sound of live music at what has become a Sunday morning tradition in town.

The famous Triangle in the center of town received a makeover in 2009. As a result of the five- year Triangle Improvement Project, what was once a grassy patch in the center of town has been transformed to a beautiful public space that serves as a daily gathering place. Now known as Triangle Park, what was previously all lawn now includes a hardscape surface, making the area more accessible for strollers and wheel chairs. With the addition of raised flower beds and seating, a water fountain and Wi-Fi, it’s not unusual to see folks eating their lunch or drinking a cup of coffee while checking their email midday.

What began as a closed community with limited interaction with outsiders is now a thriving marketplace for residents and out-of-towners alike.

Spend the Afternoon in Emmaus

Park your car and stop in at BAKED, a neighborhood café and bakery where you’ll find homemade sandwiches and delicious treats from the bakery. Or, enjoy a salad, soup or slice of quiche at Sweet Memories; then head upstairs to explore the gift shop, full of all kinds of fun items. Continue walking towards Triangle Park and have fun exploring the unique boutiques along the way.  Be sure to stop in at All Bright Ideas. Billed as an “organizing boutique,” All Bright ideas sells everything from shoes, bags, clothing and accessories to organizers for your closet, dresser and jewelry.

Next, grab a cappuccino or an ice cream cone at Creamery on Main. From there you can walk across the street, relax and people-watch in Triangle Park. Make your way around the Triangle, checking out all the unique stores and eateries and head back down the other side of Main Street.

On the way back to your car, stop in at Wentz Hardware. Family owned since 1943, Wentz Hardware carries a complete range of products appropriate for the construction professional, the do-it-yourselfer and everyone in between. The professional staff also offers expert advice as well as home repair services.

Finally, hop in your car and drive out Main Street towards Cedar Crest Boulevard and take a stroll through the showroom at Royal Furniture. A locally-owned family furniture store established in 1960, Royal Furniture sells quality furniture and accessories from well-known manufacturers including Lexington, Broyhill, Clayton Marcus and Lane Home Furnishings.

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