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BC-PA--Exchange, Advisory, PA

March 19, 2019

Here are the stories for this week’s Pennsylvania Member Exchange package. If you have any questions, contact the Philadelphia bureau at 215-561-1133.

For use anytime:


Editorials from around Pennsylvania.

For Saturday, March 23, 2019:


BETHLEHEM _ The package arrived in the mail several months ago and landed on Bethlehem Detective Tom Galloway’s desk with a thud. There was no return address. It held a plastic three-ring binder, containing several pages of meticulously organized notes. A young woman’s smiling face on the cover, the photo framed by the words “Justice for Holly.” Nearly 40 years after 17-year-old Holly Branagan was stabbed to death in the kitchen of her Bethlehem home, tips continue to pour in about the Lehigh Valley’s most vexing unsolved murder. Many, like the binder, come from anonymous sources who summarize the evidence and suggest a suspect. Nearly all of the tipsters get key facts wrong, Galloway said. And their guesses about the killer and efforts to bring that person to justice? That question, police concede, may never be answered. Pamela Lehman and Laurie Mason Schroeder, The (Allentown) Morning Call.


PITTSBURGH _ The clock is ticking at shoe repair shops around the region. In most of them, men in their 70s and 80s work alone in stained aprons, maneuvering shoes against trimmers and finishers, stitching, gluing, polishing and nailing to finish those boots by Tuesday, those pumps by Saturday. Hundreds of shoes await them, spilling from bins and shelves — scuffed, torn, sole-less, heel-less, dog-chewed and broken — with no apprentices in sight. Among roughly 25 cobblers working full time in Allegheny and adjacent counties, two are 90 and only a handful are younger than 65. The Shoe Service Institute of America reports that shoe repair shops have dwindled from 100,000 in the 1930s to 15,000 in 1997 to about 5,000 today. The industry may be facing extinction, but business is booming for the cobblers who remain. Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


GREENSBURG _ Barbara Wilhelm and Sally Findley remember when Westmoreland Mall was packed, even on weekdays. Last week, they sat in the food court surrounded by partially filled tables. “Oh, there’s no crowds now,” Wilhelm said. “You come to this mall during the week and it’s like there’s nobody here.” People sauntered in and out of stores. Music echoed off the tile floor. Of nearly 100 retail spaces inside the Hempfield mall, 10 storefronts sat empty, including the boarded up entrance to the former Bon-Ton department store. Signs announcing “going out of business” sales decorated the windows of four businesses and another has announced plans to leave at the end of the month. “I think they’ve got a very rough road ahead of them,” said author and retail market researcher Pamela Danziger,. “One of the things I think mall developers have to look at is a new model of what a mall should be.” Megan Tomasic, Tribune-Review.


PHILADELPHIA _ Inside the Saxbys coffee shop at Drexel University, Alyssa Bennett, 21, makes deposits, sets schedules, and pitches in at the latte machine when the line gets long. The third-year Drexel student is what the Philadelphia-based company calls a “Student CEO,” referring to cafe executive officer. In locations on or near college campuses in Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, and New Hampshire, the coffee company hands over operations to a local student for the semester, paying them above minimum wage to run the cafe full time while also receiving class credits. As academia becomes increasingly competitive in attracting top students and staff, universities are turning to retail to create study, work, and play environments that set themselves apart. Even as brick-and-mortar stores struggle to compete with online retailers, the upcoming generation of college students is fiercely brand-loyal and often prefers a hands-on shopping experience, research shows. Ellie Silverman, The Philadelphia Inquirer.


MARIANNA _ Marianna Borough sits quietly, unobtrusively in southeastern Washington County, a small town dozens of miles from an appreciable population base. But it is one with a burning history. The borough was built on coal, and sustained by coal for eight decades. Construction of Marianna Mine in the early 20th century resulted in a facility hailed as one of the most modern and best equipped in the world. Brick homes were erected nearby, properties that were the envy of other communities. A number endure today in the Marianna Historic District designated by the county. Grimy mine or not, this was a nice community. Now it is a case study in rural blight. Urban blight is a widely recognized concept, associated mostly with large cities, but blight is a profound challenge in rural, sparsely populated areas as well. Rick Shrum, (Washington) Observer-Reporter.