7 Pa. cities that make it easy to support small businesses

Downtown Bethlehem

Downtown Bethlehem (Photo: Shutterstock)

By Patrick Berkery, Kalena Thomhave

May 9, 2024

Life’s too short for crowded metroplexes and Amazon boxes piling up on your doorstep. Get out and patronize some of these great shopping districts in Pennsylvania, featuring locally-owned shops catering to many tastes.

Neighborhood shopping districts in Pennsylvania’s big cities and small towns are a tremendous source of civic pride. Each area features a diverse array of local businesses with deep roots in the communities they serve.

Sure, there’s efficiency to online shopping and killing many shopping list birds with one trip to your local metroplex. But the impact that shopping locally has on a community is significant.

According to a 2023 report from NerdWallet, when you spend $100 at an independent neighborhood business it creates $68 in additional local economic activity, whereas spending $100 at a chain store generates only $43 worth of local impact. The report found that more than $9.3 billion would be directly returned to our economy if every US family spent just $10 a month at a local business.

Beyond the financial benefits, supporting Pennsylvania’s small businesses can strengthen community bonds by creating opportunities for socialization and connection. It also gives community members a chance to monetize a craft, skill, or passion.

In these seven Pennsylvania cities, you’ll find some of the best small business shopping districts the state has to offer.

Pittsburgh

There are a multitude of neighborhoods within the city where you can support small businesses, but we especially like Garfield and the Strip District.

Garfield has several vintage stores, thrift stores, and cool gift shops. One, Workshop PGH, also holds community maker classes in case you want to pick up a gift at the store (fun stickers, lush plants) and then purchase a gift certificate to go towards a loved one taking a workshop. Adda Coffee & Teahouse has a few coffee shop locations around the city, but the Garfield location also has a small grocery and gift selection, with goods like fancy chocolate or artsy tea towels.

Closer to downtown Pittsburgh, the Strip District is well-known for its Saturday markets and large number of specialty grocery stores.

The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, for example, sells imported pantry ingredients for the Italian food lover in your life. And PA Libations — the only liquor store besides Fine Wine and Good Spirits in the state — only sells liquor made in Pennsylvania.

Erie

Like a number of cities across Pennsylvania, Erie has a downtown district that’s largely made up of small businesses providing local goods and services to the community.

In Erie, you can visit an art gallery like D’Hopkins Denniston Gallery of Fine Art or City Gallery, a clothing shop open since 1850, Isaac Baker Menswear, and the unique action figure and toy store Actiontoyman.

Gettysburg

Gettysburg is not merely a popular destination for the Civil War-obsessed — it is also home to dozens of unique small businesses.

Antique lovers can crawl the Antique Center of Gettysburg, which has more than 100 showcases to view. There’s also Nerd Herd for lovers of board games, Play Like a Girl for retro toys, Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers, a store entirely devoted to miniature soldiers, and Carver’s Toy Trains, a store entirely devoted to toy trains.

Of course, for those shoppers interested in Civil War history, you might want to swing by the Union Drummer Boy or military bookstore For the Historian.

Harrisburg

On any given Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you can visit the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg not only for your groceries, but also for quality gifts like specialty coffee beans from Elementary Coffee Co., natural skincare products from NūBorn Skin, and even gourmet dog treats at Doggie Delights. A fire last July destroyed the market’s brick building, but some of the displaced merchants will soon be back in business at a temporary tent structure expected to open May 23.

The exterior of buildings at Honesdale.

The exterior of buildings in downtown Honesdale. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Philadelphia

The biggest city in the state of course has some of the best small business shopping. Philly is so chock-full of cool and unique independent shops that it would be impossible to cover each and every neighborhood that deserves a shopping trip. But we’ll try our best by recommending you at least stop to shop in the city’s northwestern neighborhoods.

Along Germantown Avenue, you’ll have dozens of local businesses to choose from, like Germantown’s Black-owned Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, where you can sip on a cup of joe while browsing books, games, and other items. You could also shop for plants at Pomelo.

Still on G-town Avenue in neighboring Mt. Airy, you can visit shops like Queenie’s Pets and Ruby Mountain Goods boutique.

Another option for a day of shopping is Manayunk. Neighborhood businesses we love include Urbanburb Furniture and the highly regarded record store Main Street Music, one of the longest-standing businesses along Manayunk’s Main Street.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem’s Historic Moravian Shopping District is not only a National Historic Landmark District, but it’s also the home of the oldest bookstore in the country and the oldest continuously operating bookshop in the world: Moravian Book Shop. Also in the historic shopping district is the Celtic shop Donegal Square as well as a wine store from nearby Franklin Hill Vineyards.

You can also pop by Bethlehem’s SouthSide Arts District for a different shopping vibe. Take a look inside Martin’s Furniture, Wadsworth & Co. Antiques, and Cutter’s Bike Shop, as well as a number of specialty clothing boutiques and art galleries.

Honesdale

Big chain stores and Honesdale just don’t mix. Within the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pa., the charming town of Honesdale has a lively downtown area that’s teeming with fantastic small businesses to patronize. This sort of community-rich shopping experience can’t be found just anywhere.

Visit Mount Pleasant Herbary for soaps, teas and salves; Gather for clothes and home décor for the whole family; Ghiggeri’s Fine Olive Oils & Balsamics for quality oil and vinegar; Jennings Jewelers for classic jewelry; A Picker’s Find for antiques; and Dyberry Mercantile for all sorts of gifts, including sweet treats, home decorations, vintage goods, books, art, stationary, and even more.

Authors

CATEGORIES: LOCAL BUSINESS

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This