Tina Henninger’s business, the Palmerton Tasting Room, sits in the back of This ‘N That Finds U, a thrift store owned by another local woman. Both sit at the corner of Fourth Street and Delaware Avenue, but just down the road, there’s Bert’s Steakhouse. Across the way is Quilted Crow.
And those are just some of the businesses Henninger, 51, could think of that make up Palmerton’s retail landscape, all owned by women.
“I think women get kind of the short end of the stick in being acknowledged,” the Aquashicola resident said.
“As much as I know women are the ones out there doing a lot of stuff, I was shocked at how many women-owned businesses we have,” she went on. “If I’m shocked by that, I imagine other people are, too.”
Henninger ended up making a Facebook post, hoping to add to her ledger the names of other shops, craft stores, eateries and the like owned by women in Palmerton. Her list grew. “We seem to be a big part of the economic engine, especially here,” Henninger said.
Henninger’s business is a new one; she opened the tasting room just a few months ago, at the end of 2019. The owner of This ‘N That, Monica Newhard, offered Henninger a chance to get a liquor license and take over the space’s existing winery.
Henninger said her experience as a licensed practical nurse made the paperwork associated with her new venture easier. And before the coronavirus led to the state’s shutdown, things were going well.
But because of COVID-19, for Henninger, that success was short-lived. “I’m only making about a quarter of what I was before the shutdown, but at least I’m making something,” she said. “It’s more than some business owners are.”
Henninger was also in the middle of acquiring her own space for the Palmerton Tasting Room when COVID-19 brought that process to a startling halt. She said once the state begins reopening, she’ll have restart negotiations. “It is what it is,” Henninger said.
“We’ll just kind of have to start all over again. But it’s either that or you give it up and throw in the towel, and that just – that isn’t me.”
A shared struggle
Monica Newhard founded This ‘N That Finds U in 2018. She’s used her business to bring vintage, secondhand and antique treasures from all across the East Coast to Palmerton. She’s also helped another local business owner, Henninger, get her start.
But the global pandemic has proved tough, especially because Newhard’s business isn’t considered essential. People are spending less, and millions have applied for unemployment.
“I cry a little about it,” Newhard said of the stress sparked by the shutdown. “It is getting tough to honestly maintain.
“Before, we were just breaking even,” she said. “Now I’m behind.”
This ‘N That started with Newhard’s love of “uniquities,” as she calls them. Though her store is closed at the moment, it’s still filled with an impressive accumulation of found items she bought at auctions, from purses to vintage beauty containers, milk glass to rosy-pink stemware.
Looking at the books lining wooden shelves, or the ceramic trinkets, one might think of them as just that – a bricolage of old things. But to Newhard, they’re relics, the remnants of one’s life, and evidence of their story.
“I can tell you about every auction I’ve ever done. I can tell you what I bought at each one of those auctions,” Newhard said. “It’s just been amazing to get to meet these people, and find out these stories, because these items were once cherished.”
She brings up one story in particular. Back around 2016, Newhard had purchased a Drexel furniture set, which had to be picked up from a home off Cedar Crest Boulevard in Allentown. But Newhard, accompanied only by her son, ran into a problem: the furniture she had purchased was on the second floor, behind a spiral staircase.
As it turns out, a few surrounding homes had the same coiled steps. The man who had built them, Newhard was told, was a developer. He didn’t want any neighbors with children, so he made sure the structures around him, with their circular stairs, prevented that.
That was at the start of her auctioning adventure.
“It was really a newfound love for me,” Newhard said.
Though the coronavirus has threatened This ‘N That’s future; as a nonessential business, the store’s been closed since mid-March, “At this point, depending on how much longer this lasts, we will be looking to close our doors,” Newhard said.
“You just can’t continue to put everything into it.”
“There’s some things you don’t expect in life,” she continued. “This (pandemic) wasn’t one of the things that I expected in life.”
And as counties begin reopening under Gov. Tom Wolf’s phased restart of the state, Newhard said she’s not sure people will be willing, or even able, to splurge on some of the few-of-a-kind treasures she sells.
“What does that mean for the future?” Newhard asked. “When I do open, will people be there to shop? I don’t know.”
Setting an example
For Terri Trotter, owning her own business has been a lesson not only in creativity, but in independence.
Trotter runs Third Street Quilt out of her basement. The Palmerton native started it after her divorce in 2013; Trotter wanted a way to earn money while also staying home with her kids.
She began with just a sewing machine and long arm frame. A year into running her business, she sprung for an INNOVA, a specialized machine designed just for quilting. Since then, Trotter has helped bring her customers’ quilt top dreams to life.
“I’ve had the support of a lot of amazing women that have come before me,” Trotter said. “They bring me their quilt tops. We are able to talk, and they tell me their story about making their top, and to be included in part of that story.”
“I think that’s more what I get out of my business than anything,” she said.
What’s more, Trotter – who is also a supervisor in special education at Lehighton middle school – said she’s been able to set an example for both her children.
“My son said to me the other day, ‘I’m really proud of you mom.’ To know that they’re watching in the background, and knowing I control this … it feels good,” she said.
Trotter runs Third Street Quilt out of her basement. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Tina Henninger of the Wine Tasting Room in Palmerton. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Monica Newhard, owner of This ‘N That Finds U, poses for a photo in the store on Delaware Avenue in Palmerton. To Newhard’s right is her 12-year-old granddaughter, Helen Welch, who often assists in buying “uniquities” for her grandmother’s shop. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Vintage items, like these beauty containers, fill almost every inch of This ‘N That Finds. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Statues and snowglobes are just some of the items comprising This ‘N That Finds U in Palmerton. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS