May 2, 2010

Jerry and The Cookie Lady

I'd usually pull in around 6:30 a.m., Jerry had the coffee made and maybe a deputy sheriff or two had already arrived. Downtown is nice in the early morning, most of the unsavory characters are not early risers. Jerry had opened the coffee and cold sandwich shop in around 2004 in the 500 Block of Hamilton Street. By 7:30 several City Councilmen, a few cops, a couple of gadflies and other assorted early morning types would be pontificating on solutions for Allentown. It sure didn't hurt Allentown to have twenty or so gainfully employed people start their day on Hamilton Street. Jerry had started his shop the old fashion way, with his own money. Toward the end of 2005, to accommodate several customers, Jerry made a few eggs on a flat George Forman Grill. Come 2006, the new regime insisted on a code compliant grill, exhaust and fire suppression system, for a couple eggs; The necessary architectural drawings alone would cost thousands. Because his location in the building didn't lend itself to a feasible exhaust system, Jerry was forced to relocate. Again, totally with his own money, Jerry moved his shop up to the corner of 7th and Hamilton. I'll spare all the details, but he could have built a nuclear reactor with no more bureaucracy. Jerry will never recoup his investment (his life savings) because the city closed the building in 2008 because of violations on upper floors which were not in use. That abuse of power is chronicled on several posts on this blog.

Vicky, the cookie lady, opened her very small shop about the same time the city was forcing Jerry out of business. Her shop, Vicky's Sweet Spot, opened in a building operated by one developer who received multiple facade grants from the city. These locations are easily identifiable from the same appearance, stained wood fronts. Although Vicky's shop is only about 250 sq. ft., only sold coffee and cookies, she received a $10,000 restaurant grant from The City of Allentown. Her grant and other similar ones are chronicled on several posts on this blog and of course she was introduced on Allentown Good News. I patronized her shop several times. The last time, right before she closed the business earlier this year, I noticed she was making eggs on a small grill.

I shouldn't have to elaborate on the conclusions, but there are so many apologists in this city, let me spell it out. One man invests his life savings, works his butt off, and gets nothing but grief from City Hall. Another person gets set up for a free ride at taxpayer expense. Vicky's, even after first opening, kept irregular hours and was often closed. I doubt if the whole show; rent, equipment, etc. used up the 10 grand; maybe that's why she called it the Sweet Spot.

reprinted from Aug. 18, 2009

related story: The Morning Call


monkey momma said...

Wow - how did you time this so perfectly with the Morning Call's analysis of downtown grants???

This is a great first person account of how city policy can affect the average "joe." I am sorry to hear of your friend's plight, Mr. M. I hope he has found a better place to work now - how did his story end??

michael molovinsky said...

this is a reprint, i first published the piece last august. i also wrote other pieces about most of the other grants mentioned in the Morning Call story yesterday, but with less detail. (and readership)

michael molovinsky said...

it ended very badly for my friend jerry. the city closed the building (monument plaza, former Ist National Bank, 7th and Hamilton) and he lost all his investment

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky,
Please comment on the Call's Pawlowski grant rent paying free ride story in Sunday's paper.
Who gives someone rent money for new businesses and require few if any proof of purchase receipts? If a store owner can't even afford the rent, what is she/he doing opening a business with taxpayer dollars in the first place!

Anonymous said...

There was a small owner-owned Italian-theme restaurant that opened on Hamilton Street in the Americus Hotel some years past. Stories ran in local papers, city officials could be seen eating lunch, and it seemed everyone enjoyed the food. When Pawlowski ordered the building closed, so too was this little restaurant that must have cost its owners their life savings.

Anonymous said...

What is Jerry doing now?

michael molovinsky said...

although almost all people comment on the blogs either anonymously, or with a "pen name", nobody is shy about asking personal questions about others. this blog does not generally discuss people's health, wealth, address, significant other, current occupation, etc,. and often doesn't print such questions.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:17, i have written numerous posts about both the foolishness and inequity of such programs. at the same time, both lanta and the parking authority have undermined existing viable businesses.