Unemployment rates fall in 39 US states last month
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.