Un­em­ploy­ment rates fall in 39 US states last month

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - BUSINESS - By GARY PULEO By CHRISTO­PHER S. RU­GABER

PHOENIXVILLE — Al­though Eli Wenger is sell­ing Steel City Cof­fee­house, he’s not about to see it be­come a Star­bucks.

“Ul­ti­mately, the only op­tion we see is to sell the place to some­one who wants to con­tinue it in a sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity,” said Wenger, who coowns Steel City with his fa­ther, Glenn. “In other words, if Star­bucks wants to buy us, we won’t sell. I have put ev­ery­thing I have into this place and will only sell to some­one who rec­og­nizes just how im­por­tant a place this is to the com­mu­nity and wants it to con­tinue.”

A co-owner of the self-pro­claimed “finest cof­fee­house in the galaxy” since 2010, Wenger has worked there since 2007 but is now look­ing to sell the venue which hosts many lo­cal acts.

Re­cently mar­ried, Wenger said he is mov­ing to Maine with his wife, Erin, for “an amaz­ing work op­por­tu­nity” she has there and to be closer to friends.

“We made the de­ci­sion for real last week but Erin and I have been talk­ing about mov­ing to Maine for over a year,” Wenger said.

Wenger is “look­ing to sell but we are not go­ing out of busi­ness.”

A Craigslist ad online showed that the cur­rent sell­ing price for Steel City and all its fur­ni­ture, equip­ment, web­site and other busi­ness es­sen­tials is $225,000.

The sale is for the busi­ness only and does not in­clude the build­ing hous­ing it.

There has been some in­ter­est in buy­ing the busi­ness, Wenger said, but it’s still early in the game and the move to Maine is not im­me­di­ate.

“Sell­ing Steel City would sim­ply be the first step to­ward this even­tual goal that could take two to three years,” Wenger said.

Steel City has been present through much of what many have called Phoenixville’s re­nais­sance and Wenger said he’s proud of the role he and his Bridge Street busi­ness have played in that.

“I love this place and when it was go­ing to close in 2010, we stepped in to make sure that didn’t hap­pen,” Wenger said. “We then com­pletely re­mod­eled many as­pects of the venue from the chairs and wall paint to the kitchen, sound sys­tem and front of the build­ing mo­saic. While I think the core has re­mained in­tact, we’ve worked hard to make sure its the kind of place that of­fers some­thing to ev­ery­one.”

When asked about any spe­cific, spe­cial mem­o­ries he might take from Steel City when it even­tu­ally is sold, Wenger said he en­joyed “watch­ing the progress of the younger artists.”

“Big-time con­certs can be fun, don’t get me wrong,” Wenger said. “But it’s watch­ing 16-year-olds writ­ing their first songs, re­leas­ing their first CDs, play­ing their first full band shows, just get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter and grow­ing ar­tis­ti­cally, that’s what I love be­ing a part of.”

Fol­low Frank Otto on Twit­ter @ fot­to­journo.

COL­LEGEVILLE — The woman who launched a soft pret­zel em­pire is help­ing Ursi­nus Col­lege put a com­pelling twist on its new en­tre­pre­neur­ial pro­gram.

Anne Beiler, who gave the world more than 800 places to get their hands on a but­tery, doughy Amish spe­cialty, will share the finer points of her busi­ness acu­men for the U-Imag­ine! The Center for In­te­gra­tive and En­tre­pre­neur­ial Stud­ies (U-Imag­ine! Center, for short) speaker se­ries, U-In­spire!

Beiler, who sold her glob­ally suc­cess­ful Aun­tie Anne’s Pret­zels fran­chise busi­ness in 2005, will take the stage of the Len­fest The­ater on the Ursi­nus Col­lege cam­pus, 601 E. Main St., Col­legeville, 7 p.m., Wed­nes­day, Jan. 29, and the pub­lic is in­vited.

The pret­zel mag­nate who was born into an Old Or­der Amish fam­ily in Lancaster County and joined forces with her hus­band to cre­ate a mod­ern-day busi­ness phe­nom­e­non, is the per­fect fit for the U-Imag­ine!/U-In­spire! launch, said Re­becca Jaroff, chair of the English depart­ment.

“Anne Beiler is some­body who epit­o­mizes en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit, start­ing from ba­si­cally noth­ing and mak­ing an in­ter­na­tional, multi-mil­lion dol­lar busi­ness from a mar­ket stall at the farm­ers’ mar­ket in Down­ing­town,” Jaroff said. “Soft pret­zels are not any­thing new. But hand-rolled soft pret­zels with her recipe was ap­par­ently what the mar­ket needed at the time she in­tro­duced them, and she worked ex­tremely hard. There are only a hand­ful of women who had an in­ter­na­tional busi­ness, so she is also a role model gen­der­wise.”

Beiler’s char­i­ta­ble spirit fur­ther ce­mented her ap­peal with Jaroff, who di­rects the U-Imag­ine! Center with fac­ulty mem­bers Carol Cirka and April Kon­tostathis.

The women chris­tened their guest’s talk with the heart­en­ing ti­tle “Give to Get to Give Again: Anne Beiler’s Road to Suc­cess and Be­yond.”

“What makes her story so im­por­tant and rel­e­vant to Ursi­nus Col­lege is Anne Beiler’s vi­sion of giv­ing back,” Jaroff said. “We want our stu­dents to think about be­ing suc­cess­ful, of course, and be­ing in­no­va­tive and cre­ative, and good con­fer­ence speak­ers who can take on in­ter­est­ing prob­lems and solve them, but we also don’t want them to just think about mak­ing money. It should be about more than that. We want our stu­dents to think about the larger role they play in their com­mu­ni­ties.”

Jaroff re­called that the be­gin­nings of Beiler’s en­ter­prise were ac­tu­ally driven by her al­tru­is­tic na­ture.

“Out of the tragedy of los­ing a daugh­ter in a tragic ac­ci­dent, she was re­ally bereft and al­most lost her fam­ily, her mar­riage, her faith — and out of that tragedy came a de­sire, and es­pe­cially for her hus­band, to of­fer coun­sel­ing to their Men­non­ite and Amish com­mu­nity. She started the pret­zel com­pany so they could some­how achieve that, and when they achieved that and so much more, she sold the com­pany and they did start their own coun­sel­ing center.” “Give to get to give again” nails the U-Imag­ine! Center ethic that its founders en­vi­sioned from the start.

“We think that is such an in­spir­ing way to think about en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tiv­ity, that it’s not about me, me, me,” Jaroff said. “It’s in­spi­ra­tion, per­spi­ra­tion and all of that, and Anne Beiler cer­tainly em­bod­ies all of those things, but she didn’t just take all her money and ride off into the sun­set but has re­ally found ways to give back.”

In the near fu­ture, the com­mu­nity should be watch­ing for other in­no­va­tive ways that the Center will be reach­ing out to them, Jaroff al­lowed,

“We en­vi­sioned the center to be very much a bridge to the pub­lic from Ursi­nus Col­lege, a place where not only our stu­dents can come in and maybe pur­sue en­tre­pre­neur­ial ideas, but we want to reach out to the pub­lic as well. This was never meant to be an in­su­lated project.”

Fol­low Gary Puleo on Twit­ter @Mus­tang­man48.

WASH­ING­TON — Un­em­ploy­ment rates fell in four-fifths of US states in De­cem­ber and rose in just two, though most of the im­prove­ment stemmed from un­em­ployed Amer­i­cans giv­ing up on their job searches.

The La­bor Depart­ment said on Tues­day that em­ploy­ers in 30 states added jobs, the fewest to re­port gains since Au­gust. Nine­teen states re­ported job losses.

Na­tion­wide, em­ploy­ers added just 74,000 jobs last month, the fewest in three years and much lower than the av­er­age of 214,000 in the pre­vi­ous four months. Econ­o­mists at­trib­uted some of the slow­down to cold weather.

The na­tional un­em­ploy­ment rate fell to 6.7 per­cent, the low­est in more than five years. But the de­cline oc­curred mostly be­cause more peo­ple stopped look­ing for work. The gov­ern­ment only counts peo­ple as un­em­ployed if they are ac­tively search­ing for jobs.

Sev­eral states saw their un­em­ploy­ment rates fall sharply.

Yet most of the drops oc­curred be­cause more job-seek­ers gave up. New Jersey’s un­em­ploy­ment rate fell to 7.3 per­cent from 7.8 per­cent in Novem­ber.

But the state also said that em­ploy­ers cut 36,300 jobs in De­cem­ber. The un­em­ploy­ment rate fell be­cause about 26,000 of those out of work stopped look­ing.

North Carolina’s un­em­ploy­ment rate fell to 6.9 per­cent from 7.4 per­cent. Many econ­o­mists are closely watch­ing the state’s job mar­ket be­cause last July it sharply cut back on the length of its un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits, to about 20 weeks from 74. Since then, its job­less rate has dropped nearly 2 per­cent­age points.

But much of the gain oc­curred be­cause of work­force drop-outs. About 110,000 peo­ple have stopped look­ing in the past year. Un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit re­cip­i­ents are re­quired to look for jobs to re­ceive aid. Once they ex­haust their ben­e­fits, many ben­e­fi­cia­ries stop search­ing.

Still, some for­mer re­cip­i­ents have likely found jobs. Em­ploy­ers in North Carolina added 11,100 jobs in De­cem­ber and nearly 65,000 in the past year.

Rhode Is­land re­ported the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rate in the na­tion, at 9.1 per­cent. It has dis­placed Ne­vada, which had the high­est rate for sev­eral years, but is now sec­ond at 8.8 per­cent, fol­lowed by Illi­nois, at 8.6 per­cent.

North Dakota has the low­est rate, at 2.6 per­cent. The state is ben­e­fit­ing from an oil and gas drilling boom.

Phoenixville’s Steel City Cof­fee­house, which is up for sale. The self-pro­claimed “finest cof­fee­house in the galaxy” hosts many lo­cal acts. Co-owner Eli Wenger wants to sell it to some­one who will con­tinue in a sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity. Fac­ulty mem­bers, from left, April Kon­tostathis (math and com­puter sci­ence); Carol Cirka (busi­ness and eco­nom­ics); and Re­becca Jaroff (English), dis­cuss plans for the new U-Imag­ine! Center.

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