Aug 20, 201208:52 AMDaily News
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How well do you know Hummelstown?
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles on small towns in Central Pennsylvania. We know how many families are on the go with traveling sports and other activities that take them far and wide. In each installment, assistant editor Kurt Bopp will visit a local town and let you know what family-friendly things he discovers—unique places to shop, great places to eat and things kids might enjoy.
If you know of a great small town he should visit, email your suggestion to email@example.com.
As a former sports writer, I spent many shifts covering events at the “Sweetest Place on Earth.”
Each spring, I would drive from Mechanicsburg to Hershey (sometimes three times a week) to cover soccer. I knew I was almost there when I passed Lower Dauphin High School, which sits alongside Route 322.
Despite covering a few games at LD, I’d never visited Hummelstown before. But last week, I decided to change that.
I took a detour for a few hours to Hershey’s neighboring community and there I found a slice of small-town America at its finest.
On the advice of a friend, my first stop was Rhoads Pharmacy and Gift Shop, 17 W. Main Street. As I imagined CVS or RiteAid, I originally wondered why a pharmacy would be a place to see in a town. It must be like an old-fashioned one in a historic building, I figured.
I pulled in to see a mix of Ashcombe’s, Hallmark and a craft fair—oh, and of course some rows of meds leading to a pharmacist. I loved the feel of Rhoads and how it had such a wide range of products.
It still offers DVD rental, which is rare in the era of Netflix and Hulu, but it didn’t have an old, falling-apart feel to it. It was old, but clean and organized and neat. There were greeting cards, Christmas ornaments, crafts, decorations and a section dedicated to dogs and cats memorabilia.
I spoke with the owner’s grandson who’s spent all 25 years of his life in Hummelstown. His grandparents bought the store from the original owners in the early 1970s and have owned it ever since. He told me many things have stayed the same in the area, and there are many staples of a small American town. There’s the flower store across the street and the eye doctor next door and the toy store down the road.
Before I left—after wandering around a while looking at the neat crafts and decorations—he told me to check out the upstairs. I took the elevator to the second floor and felt like I was in an art gallery. Fancy decorations, clocks and figures perfect for autumn filled the small second floor. This winter, they’re planning to put up nine Christmas trees. I’m stoked to check it out during the holiday season, because it was very festive for autumn in the middle of August; I can only imagine how Christmas will look.
It was suggested I dine at the Warwick Hotel across the street (or “the Wick” as it’s known locally) or the Gas Station, a pub-style restaurant. I checked out the Gas Station but it wasn’t open. On the way I saw Toys on the Square, 22 E. Main St.
The independent shop boasts “unique toys and pottery painting,” which is done in a room in the back. I spoke with the clerk and learned this year is the 250th anniversary of Hummelstown, which explained the signs on the light posts commemorating the event. She also told me to come back during Arts Fest in September, which is apparently a great event to see.
The store had toys for all ages ranging from LEGOs to models to toys for babies and toddlers. I resisted the urge to buy some toy animals and left for the Olde Factory Antique Store.
The store was built in 1898 as the Hummelstown Shoe Factory. Through the years it was a silk mill, dress uniform company and children’s clothing factory. In 1996, it opened as an antique and crafts store.
The Olde Factory now features three floors of antiques and crafts with more than 100 dealers. The store also sells jewelry, books, glassware and decorations and it reminded me of a place American Pickers would check out. The store has huge rows of old stuff that some may see as junk, but others may treasure.
Next door—and of more interest to kids—is the Sugar Shack, an old place with wooden stairs out front that sells candy by the pound or individually, and even has some wrapped up in great deals like four boxes of Nerds.
I then walked around the square at the intersection of Hanover and Main streets and looked at the independent pizza shops, Chinese restaurant and other stores. I enjoyed just walking around a quiet town that didn’t have a McDonald’s or Walmart in sight.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent. He's lived in more than a dozen places throughout his life, and Hummelstown reminded him of living on post at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.