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New workshop for ‘dying art’ of upholstery gets Allentown zoning board approval

Allentown City Hall
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board on Monday, June 3, unanimously approved relief for JET Upholstery's plans to open in a vacant warehouse on Third Street.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A Bucks County upholstery business soon could open a new location in Allentown to be closer to its employees.

Shannon Lelli was unanimously granted relief by Allentown Zoning Hearing Board to convert a vacant warehouse into JET Upholstery' new work space. The business will maintain its showroom in Bedminster Township.

“If you had a place in Allentown, we would love to teach the next generation."
JET Upholstery owner Shannon Lelli, quoting her employees

Most of JET’s skilled upholsters live in Allentown, so opening a new workshop in the city just makes sense, Lelli said.

“Upholstery is kind of a dying art,” she said. “So in our area [Bedminster] … you put an ad out for an upholster, and it’s like, ‘Forget about it.’”

The Allentown location also will give two of JET’s long-term upholsters — who are soon to retire — a chance to pass down their skills, Lelli said.

“If you had a place in Allentown, we would love to teach the next generation,” she said her employees told her.

The building at 33-37 N. Third St. is a trash-filled warehouse that will take a lot of work to clean, Lelli said.

“It’s currently a dumpster,” Lelli said. “It's literally filled to the ceiling with trash. It's horrible.”

JET Upholstery’s Allentown workshop is set to operate from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

Upholstery is “a lot of hand labor and not a lot of machinery,” Lelli said.

“It's sewing machines and staple guns,” she said.

Lelli said she expects to employ eight people at the Allentown workshop, where they will “bring the furniture in, make it beautiful and then take it back out” to the Bedminster showroom.

No new furniture will be made at the workshop on Third Street, she said.