“Why would you go to York? I grew up there, and there is nothing interesting about it.”
~ Unknown woman next to me in PT
Even if you’ve never been to or heard of York, Pennsylvania, chances are you have had your hands on something made in York. Known as the “Snack Food Capital of the World,” York has birthed everything from York Peppermint Patties and Animal Crackers to Snyders of Hanover Pretzels and Utz Potato Chips. Ever see a Harley Davidson? It’s from York. Pfaltzgraff Dinnerware? York. York Caskets? Yep.
The lady who made the “nothing interesting” about York comment to me moved to Florida some 40 years ago and doesn’t go back. Even after I showed her our four-day itinerary, she wrinkled her face and snipped, “Yeh, well, tell me if you like it once you return.”
I’m home now, and I can tell you that I loved York and almost every single thing we did while there. (Full disclosure: Four IFWTWA journalists were guests of Explore York, the area CVB.) I will admit that I liked some things better than others, but one would expect that. And, the fact that something made in York most likely touches all of us at some time or another just amazes me.
Have It Made Here
Explore York developed its brand identity— Have It Made Here —as a compilation of everything that is York County: the county, its residents, its visitors, its attractions, its history, and its reputation. According to Laura Guerreri, president of Explore York, “made” is a flexible word and can symbolize making an item or history or future or memories. Have It Made Here celebrates all of York, highlighting the independent businesses that help define the county.
As someone who owned a small retail business, I appreciate Explore York’s dedication to the smaller, locally owned businesses. Big box stores may be great for certain items, but the independently owned shops give you so much that you won’t find in the chains. I always wanted my store to be a place where customers could come and browse, talk and enjoy, and just feel comfortable. Many times someone would drop in to just chat with me. I often joked that I was like a bartender without the booze.
We enjoyed a peaceful afternoon at Nature’s Platter, a shop where the owner Marie Fisher handcrafts live-edge wood into beautiful and functional pieces of art. She takes all sizes of slabs of wood and repurposes them into boards that you can proudly use and display. She even does classes in how to stylize a charcuterie board. Yes, we all can put meat and cheese on a platter, but following Maria’s guidance makes the boards so much more appealing.
“Marie,” I asked her during our class, “what’s the largest charcuterie board you ever prepared?”
“Twelve feet,” she laughed. That’s a lot of meat and cheese, my friends.
Sunrise soap company
We spent an entire morning at Sunrise Soap Company, a body care shop founded by Christina Clark. The main shop is full of all sorts of soaps, lotions, lip balms, and more. Next door, though, is the Creation Station where Chris cooks up the magic. We watched as Chris and others worked on making soaps and bath bombs and then had the chance to make our own.
Yes, at Creation Station, you can make your own glycerin soaps, bath bombs, lotions, lip balms, scrubs and more. As the former owner of a craft store, I loved using my hands to make my own soap. It’s so easy (The hardest part for me was choosing the scent for my soaps.) that even younger children can join in the fun.
FYI: You can find Sunrise Soaps in a number of stores, including Whole Foods, in the Mid-Atlantic area.
Symmetry Holistic Collective
The brainchild of Leandra Witchwood, Symmetry Holistic Collective offers visitors a path to mind, body, and spiritual wellness. You’ll find everything from crystals and candles to books and art in the shop. My favorites, though, are the teas, which Leandra served us in a cozy space in the store. (Note: She offers free tea samples daily.)
Witchwood Teahouse teas are small-batch, hand-blended teas. You’ll find herbal and caffeine-free teas as well as wellness teas which help you fight off cold, flu, and sore throat or help you fall asleep more easily. My favorite of the four we tried was the white rose a delicate tea with lots of flavor and a wonderful floral scent.
Sweet Willows Creamery
Having grown up in northeast Ohio near Handel’s Ice Cream (considered by many to be the best ice cream in the country), I like to think I’m an ice cream pro. (Is there such a thing as an ice cream sommelier?) I was excited to visit Sweet Willows Creamery.
After taking courses in food science (and ice cream) at Penn State University, Brent Lebouitz founded Sweet Willows. He makes ice cream daily and offers a variety of frozen products that include yogurts, sorbets, and no-sugar-added and vegan ice creams. We watched while Brent made a batch of chocolate ice cream filled with Kit Kats.
Brent has a stable of flavors that he always offers, but he has seasonal specials, too.
“What’s the most popular flavor?” I wanted to know.
“Chocolate,” Brent laughed.