Jan 17, 2012

A Giant Among Midgets

Here's a story you will not read about on any official City of Allentown website. It's a story of private gumption, instead of the usual public subsidy. It's the late 1990's, and I stop in and visit infamous Allentown landlord Joe Clark. He's sitting at a desk in the middle of a large empty storefront at 7th and Turner, surrounded by landlord supplies and building materials. The phone rings and it's Mayor William Heydt. Heydt just learned that Clark purchased the vacant Eastern Light Building on Hamilton Street, and wants to know Clark's intentions. Clark tells him he's going to build the best nightclub Allentown has ever seen. Heydt doesn't offer any help, but tells him that he'll be under close scrutiny. Clark does go on to build the club, without a nickel of help from Allentown. Years later, when the BrewWorks would open with unlimited city subsidy, a public parking lot on 8th Street was given exclusively to the BrewWorks. A few weeks ago Clark asked if he could rent the Parking Authority lot behind the nightclub; Request Denied. This week, based on ticket sales, Crocodile Rock was rated the 60th most successful nightclub in the world for 2011. The midgets at City Hall pay for consultants, when there's a genius half a block away.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is a genius who bought a couple houses a half a block away from my house. He seemed to think that it was standard proceedure to leave windows and frames out of the upper stories of the houses.... for years.
The same genius mentioned in this article.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 10:05, while this city is spending $160 million for the arena, joe clark brings half as many people to hamilton street, at no expense what- so- ever, to the taxpayer. joe is controversial as a landlord, especially, years ago, but this post is about croc roc, not his landlording. i contend that he is a genius. i hosted your comment to establish the guidelines for this post; i will not host comments critical of his real estate management, but will acknowledge that his reputation, especially in the past, was not stellar in that area.

Anonymous said...

If that story is true, it makes Allentown's leaders despicable. Apparently, there are different sets of rules, as you go from one administration the another. Despite what type of landlord Clark may be, at least he is a true entreprenuer. Is he that same Joe Clark who dabbled in restaurants back in the day? Broccoli Garden, or something...? He opened one in downtown Bethlehem, before it was the tony restaurant destination it has become. It was in the former Weinland Hardware building, Main and Broad. The restaurant failed, but the guy picked himself up and dusted himself off. Look up the work entreprenuer, and you may see Joe's picture. The Brew Works people? They remind me of the guy who wears suspenders AND a belt...


VOR

Anonymous said...

I remember that time well, when Mr. Clark was first putting up the Croc Roc. My buddy in the restaurant industry knew Mr. Clark and I had the opportunity to visit during construction. I used to patronize the place back in the day before the pace of my life (and alcohol consumption) slowed dramatically.

I always found Mr. Clark to be a very friendly host at his non-subsidized establishment. He was always shoving free tickets for some concert into my suit coat pocket everytime I went in there. At first I thought this was because of my restaurant friend, but I quickly noticed how Mr. Clark did the same thing with lots of people all the time.

There is no question that Joe Clark's Croc Roc is a genuine story of American businessman who risked his own money, not the Government's, and did (and contiunes to do) very well all by himself providing a service that the paying public has proven over and over again it likes, wants and/or needs.

GETTING OLDER

FutureDowntownArenaAttendee said...

Why do you have such an issue with Fegley BrewWorks? They submitted a business model, a successful one at that, and were approved for the grants that were available at the time. Also when you use the word "given" you imply that it was handed to them without cost. That is not fair at all as you know from Rich Fegley's comment on July 22nd. "The former public lot on 8th Street was not given over to the Fegleys. We paid fair market value, $2,000 per parking space for 22 parking spaces or $44,000."

I guess I dont know where your continued negativity comes from when in regards to the Fegleys. They are a successful business that has invested in downtown. Of course they received grants but they have invested millions more of their own money... once again Rich's words

"We have received just over $1 million dollars in grants that went towards our $7.5 million dollar project, the Allentown Brew Works, an investment in the City of Allentown."


Also calling Joe Clark a genius when he his a slumlord? I guess that is landlords sticking together.

michael molovinsky said...

future, i have nothing against the fegleys. i simply noted that they received public benefit never afforded to mr. clark. by your figures and statement, they were given $1million while clark was given nothing. they were allowed to purchase a lot for their use, while clark is denied even renting spaces, after normal authority hours. although he brought over 50,000 people to hamilton street in 2011, all you can do is call him a slumlord. you are one of the midgets.

Guy Williams said...

Joe Clark despite his history of struggles deserves more than the typical brush off from the city.What was the excuse from the Allentown Parking Authority,liability?Croc Rock is the most succesful nightclub in the city.Bill Daniels Rock Palace comes close but not in the city.Hamilton Street back in the day had some minor hits any many misses.The library disco,The Lounge and even before my time the Circlon come to mind.THe APA should rethink its position so as to provide even better security for parking along 6th.For someone that generates the business he does its the least the city can do.No excuses!

Anonymous said...

FDAA -

What makes you think the Fegley's have "have invested millions more of their own money"? The difference between the grant amount and what the Brew Works cost?

A quick study of the history of the Brew Works would show that in addition to the grants, it has received MILLIONS is government backed loans with sweetheart repayment terms.

Trust me, the taxpayers have more invested in that establishment than anyone else.

But all that is missing the point. The post is about Croc Rock and the fact that businesses can succeed by providing a product that people want. The government doesn't need to be involved in picking winners and losers - in Allentown or anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky, Did not the Mayor go after Mr. Clark ownership of the Hotel Traylor a few years ago.It seems this Mayor really goes after his enemies

Anonymous said...

M.M. Joe Clark and Billy Joe two names who have brought recognition to Allenown. With out them who would of hard of Allentown. We now have a minor league baseall team a hockey team and Mayor Pawlowski running for Governor of Pa.

Anonymous said...

Is it true the very day a certain mayor almost drove directly past Mack World Headquarters to present a new favorite business with a city check, Mack announced it was heading for a warmer climate?