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On Easton's South Side, calls to pump life back into the business scene

Sean Ziller, stands and holds up a map of south side business locations.jpg
Photo | Olivia Richardson
Sean Ziller, Easton's community and economic development administrator, holds a map of South Side business locations during a meeting of the South Side Civic Association on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.

EASTON, Pa. – How to bring back businesses to South Side was the main question posed at a meeting of the South Side Civic Association on Tuesday night.

The subject was sparked after word came two weeks ago that South Side's only bank, Fulton Bank, would be closing in the spring, according to Melody Rogers, president of the association.

The neighborhood's only drugstore also recently reduced pharmacy hours.

  • The South Side Civic Association hosted a meeting Tuesday night to discuss ways to attract businesses to the area
  • The neighborhood has seen a loss of businesses over the years such as a bank, coffee shops and taverns
  • Residents called for more eateries and city council members suggested promoting the area

A sense that existing businesses aren't seeing enough traffic and a need for more marketing emerged as themes of the night. The meeting was attended by Mayor Sal Panto Jr. and city council members.

A South Side resident noted that Isabella’s Pizza and Italian Cuisine at the top of Smith Street Hill could use more customers. Panto, who lives on South Side, and audience members both lamented the potential loss of a business like Isabella’s.

Residents also noted how the area has lost neighborhood taverns over the years — places that served as a connecting space.

Another factor: Downtown Easton’s concentration of restaurants and services successfully draws people from outside of town as a destination — something South Side doesn’t have.

“I think people have the perception that it’s all about Downtown and it's just not true,” said Easton Councilman Ken Brown, who was in attendance. “But meetings like this will open dialogue to get you to understand why it's that way and we need to do things better on promoting the West Ward mom-and-pop shops and South Side mom-and-pop shops.”

Coupled with business visibility came the idea to generate more interest in opening small businesses.

Frank Pintabone, a member of the Easton Planning Commission and a candidate for city council, suggested finding ways potential proprietors could test the popularity of services and products. He suggested days and a place where folks could shop, and if business participants found success, they could consider opening a brick-and-mortar store.

Another city council candidate, Crystal Stoneback Rose, suggested marketing could help the area. She also said hosting events on South Side could highlight the area and enhance demand for products and services there.

"There is no defined business district, which is something we probably want to talk about over time.”
John Kingsley, community and economic development director

Last week, the planning commission heard a proposal for a Dollar General market for the second phase of The Mill at Easton, the new apartment complex at 620 Coal St. and former site of Black Diamond Enterprises.

South Side differs from other Easton neighborhoods in that it doesn’t have a central business area, said Sean Ziller, the city's community and economic development administrator.

Downtown has a commercial district and Centre Square, the West Ward sees business concentration on Northampton Street and College Hill’s Cattell Street has commerce clusters around Lafayette College.

“The businesses are so sporadic,” said John Kingsley, director of community and economic development. “They’re kind of all over the South Side. There is no defined business district, which is something we probably want to talk about over time.”

Ziller said seeking out areas for a commerce zone for South Side could play a role in attracting more small businesses.

Patti Montague said she would love to see a breakfast spot open.

“That’s the consensus of South Side, we want a breakfast nook,” Montague said.

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct attribution of a quote to John Kingsley that was attributed to someone else.