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If you live in the greater Harrisburg area, you’ve likely heard all about the city debt and bankruptcy. Things seem to be headed in the wrong direction for this small city of 50,000 people.

Yet there is one bright spot- the Harrisburg Young Professionals.harrisburg young professionals

This group of active professionals has really lead the charge in the renaissance of the city; supporting local businesses and bringing people back into the city to live and play. Formed in 1998, the organization has grown rapidly, recently surpassing more than 750 members and corporate partnerships. Members come from Harrisburg law firms, banks, accounting companies, and many other local businesses to have fun and support the city.

Within the Harrisburg Young Professionals, there are numerous committees for members interested in marketing, city beautification, sports, and much more. Whatever your personal or professional interests might be, there is sure to be a place for you to contribute to the organization and grow the city. Besides the networking events at local restaurants and bars, the HYP sports league is extremely popular. Nearly year-round you can sign up for recreational sports like flag football, dodgeball, kickball and more. What could be more enjoyable then playing dodgeball against a team of Harrisburg tax attorneys?

HYP also hosts a number of special events throughout the year. They have both member-only events and also socials that are open to people interested in joining. One especially popular event hosted by the Harrisburg Young Professionals is the annual home tour, where members can visit beautiful homes and gardens of residents within the city. During the tour, attendees can see dozens of homes and enjoy an afterparty with food and drink as well. The idea is to showcase the city as a great place to live and this event surely succeeds! HYP has successfully attracted many new young professionals not only to visit the city, but actually move here. What an impact that has made!

The cost of joining HYP annually is just $40, quite cheap considering all of the benefits of membership! Along with great events and activities year-round members also enjoy a city passport entitling them to great discounts at local restaurants and businesses in Harrisburg. If you haven’t already joined, I hope you’re now sold on the benefits of HYP membership! Meet new people, have fun, and use your skills to support the city! There is certainly a lot of work to be done in Harrisburg, but you really can make the city a better place to live, work, and play by joining HYP. Visit HYP.org to learn more about the organization and how you can get involved!

Since moving to this area I’ve had a personal interest in seeing the region grow economically; after all, this is my home now! My personal commitment to growing the Harrisburg area is to invest my dollars locally as much as possible. I understand that may not always make sense, as some purchases are dependent upon convenience or price. Sometimes it’s also difficult to find the product or service you need locally.

My motto? Whenever possible, make your purchases local. That being said, start with the low hanging fruit (pun intended). The easiest products to shop locally for are fruits, vegetables, meats and milk. These items are as close as your nearest farm which in Central PA is usually just down the road. The next way to shop locally in the Harrisburg area is at restaurants. Next time you’re contemplating dining out, think to yourself, “is Applebees really deserving of my money?” Afterall, the company is headquartered in Kansas City, MO, and you know their food isn’t even good! Instead, look around and find a local substitute. The Central Pennsylvania area has an abundance of local ethnic restaurants, American restaurants, and standard diners by the dozens. These restaurants are owned by people who live and work here, who invest money locally and know their communities.

The importance of retaining dollars in your local economy cannot be overstated. According to StayLocal.org, “Your dollars spent in locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as dollars spent at national chains.” Yikes!

There are lots of statistics and studies that back up the importance of shopping locally. One of my biggest arguments is that chain stores are just boring. It’s a simple argument but it’s also true! Have you ever been to a brand new town that has only chain stores with nothing unique about them? How did that experience compare with going to an old city somewhere that has a countless number of those amazing hole in the wall places only locals can tell you about? The experience you had was surely better there for obvious reasons!

In my humble opinion, the Harrisburg region has a long, long way to go in so many ways. That being said, I’m doing my small part to make this place better by buying locally. I hope you will too!

While Carlisle, PA isn’t terribly far from my home I don’t often head down there outside of work. Sometimes the whirlwind of daily routine can keep you from finding great things that are right in front of your nose! After staying late one day to finish up some research on CIP Compliance (everybody loves security compliance regulations and standards right?), I was surprised to see quite a commotion in downtown Carlisle on my ride home. Lots of people were walking into the square of Carlisle to an area where a number of tents and vendors had been stationed. Out of curiosity, I stopped in to see what event was going on there. Well, it just so happens that Farmers on the Square has been meeting every Wednesday in downtown Carlisle for months!farmers on the square, carlisle

Yea, completely missed that memo.

At any rate, these local vendors are fantastic! At the farmer’s market you’ll find a number of options for organic, pesticide free produce and meat. Among other things, you’ll also find fresh cut fries, honey, homemade birch beer, cookies, hot sauces, and lots more. I was amazed at the sheer volume of vegetable varieties. You’ll find way more types of tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies at Farmers on the Square than in your local grocery.  After sampling a number of local cheeses, hot sauces, and pickles, I ended up with a few bags worth of organic foods that turned out to be delicious. All of the vendors at Farmers on the Square are friendly and ready to help with any questions you might have. What I like best about the whole event is the focus on local. Why buy meats and produce from companies located in the midwest and beyond when central Pennsylvania is full of family farms?

You don’t have to go far to find good food here! Take a trip to Carlisle and check out Farmers on the Square every Wednesday beginning in May. If you’d like to learn more about the vendors or even be a vendor yourself there is loads of info on their website. They also have a learning center page, news section, upcoming events, and even volunteer opportunities. Check out Farmers on the Square, you won’t be disappointed!

Residents across the greater Phoenix area are noticing a lot of product shipped from right here in Camp Hill on shelves of various health food stores. Dr. Frank Jackson, a retired Gastroenterologist and lifelong entrepreneur, has recently found success with his formula for a prebiotic fiber supplement called Prebiotin. Health food stores from New York to California are now selling his family of nutritional supplements.

dr-jackson

The locally developed formula is a daily fiber supplement that easily dissolves in water and is supported by as much research as you can handle! Prebiotics feed good bacteria in your colon, improving immunity and regulating overall digestive health. A few proven health benefits of natural prebiotics are stronger bones, bowel regularity, reduced risk of cancerous polyps, better control over appetite, and correction of ‘leaky gut’. These are just a few of the many health benefits that research has linked to adding prebiotics to your daily diet.

Dr. Frank Jackson has recently been featured in a number of publications and media outlets in health crazy Arizona, and his product continues to grow a loyal following here in Pennsylvania as well. For any Harrisburg locals, you can find the product on the shelves of The Healthy Grocer in Camp Hill. Better yet, order directly from Prebiotin.com and you’ll receive free shipping!

For anyone suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, or any other digestive issues, definitely give this product a try and support a local entrepreneur!

Executive trip summary: Hitched a ride with Bucks County Food Tours, I ate, I ate, I ate, I ate, I ate & I ate.

*Trip rocked.

Juicy detailed summary: We met up with our two local foodie experts, Lynn Goldman and Alan Brown at 10am on a bright and warm Saturday in July. After introductions, we piled into a rented van and began our adventure.

With Lynne at the wheel, we navigated a number of picturesque back roads around the greater Philadelphia suburbs in Bucks County. Our first stop – Birchwood Farms.

This all natural, all grass fed farm hosts a number of pigs and cows who live leisurely around 50 acres or so. We strapped on blue ‘booties’ and got up close and personal with the livestock. Being that the farm is all natural, the raw milk we tried was absolutely delicious and their passion for natural farming and farm products was over the top (in a good way!). The meats sold in their store are actually good for you, despite being red meat because of the natural lifestyle and feed of the cattle.

Fascinating tour, and wonderful local farm that I heartily recommend patronizing.

Soon after our farm tour, we landed at the Milk House Farm Market. The place was bustling with locals eager to try their immense variety of local produce. By my count, they had over 30 varieties of tomatoes alone!

Following this road side farm market, we rode the Bucks County Food Tours train (er, mini-van rather) to a long time Bucks County staple – Ely Farm. Let me just tell you, the meats at this family butchery are a cut above the rest! I’ve never had a better steak in my life than the one I bought here! They’ve got plenty of different cuts and meats, all to die for.

Now for something sweet, and what could be sweeter than local peaches in July! Manoff Market Gardens offers numerous varieties of peaches and nectarines among other fruits. Plenty of peach related products to buy as well, the cobbler was amazing!

At this point it was time for a lunch break, over to Lovin’ Oven! They were ready for our tour with a fantastic menu of sweet tea, fresh salad, tomato soup, and choice of an omelet or open faced sandwich. Let me just summarize our meal – I’ll be back! The omelet I had was laid over fresh peaches and goat cheese with arugula – outstanding combination of flavors! All ingredients were local, fresh, and creatively combined for a memorable meal.

Our final stop of the day was Stockton Farmers Market. Now I’ve been to a number of markets, and honestly this place was the most diverse indoor market I’ve ever seen! We’re talking produce, coffee, belgian waffles, bbq, olive oil, pickles, tamales, ice cream, and that’s just touching the surface! Needless to say, I left with a bag full of goodies and a huge grin on my face. This foodie got served!

All in all, my experience with Bucks County Food Tours was outstanding. I’d recommend the tours to anyone who enjoys good eats. Our guides were friendly and knowledgeable, and the trip was a relaxing and fun way to spend time with my wife and parents (the trip was a thank you gift to my parents from my wife and I).

The trip we went on was custom fit to what we wanted to do, but they’ve got a trip for any taste, and they’re just getting started. Find them on facebook to keep up the latest in Bucks County Food, or check out their website for specific tours currently available.

And remember, EAT LOCAL!

About a month after purchasing my new condo in the quiet neighborhood around Messiah College I received a rather nice surprise in the mail – one of those colorful treasury checks from uncle sam in the amount of $8,000. Well in all honesty it wasn’t really a surprise, the credit was the main reason I decided to buy the place to begin with, but holding that check in my hands I was indeed surprised at how easily the money came to me.

Most people have heard details about this popular program available to first time home buyers making that big decision at some point in 2009. That being said, I’m not so sure that people are really aware that this program is about to expire on December 1st, 2009. That doesn’t leave much time for interested home buyers to participate, as the closing process on a house can take well over a month from start to finish. What I’m really trying to say is; if you want to receive an $8,000 check from the government simply for buying your first house time is running out!

Sure there is strong emphasis on the free housing credit, (and for good reason) but how about historic low interest rates? I locked in my 30 year mortgage at 5%!My first place!

Just think about the numbers:

$100,000 home with 30 year 5% mortgage = about $500 monthly payment!

That should sound pretty affordable to most people, but add a roommate to that spare bedroom for $500 a month and buying a home never looked so enticing. It’s hard NOT to purchase a home right now.

Personally I was able to close on my condo with about $5,000 up front which was returned to me not a month after I closed and applied for the credit. And thanks to my realtor, the process was a breeze. Seriously, I know realtors depend on referrals and I’m happy to recommend mine, even if you’re just looking for some great resources and help getting started you can find a lot of fantastic tools on Keith Reilly’s homepage: KeithReillyRealEstate.com, check it out yourself sometime.

And for anyone even THINKING about buying their first place, don’t delay, this incentive is about to run out!

Whether you’re looking for last minute holiday gifts, stockpiling future birthday presents or just want to reward yourself for all that hard work you’ve put in lately (of course we believe you), you don’t have to settle with a boring best buy gift card. You honestly don’t have to try too hard or look too far for some creative gifts that are sure to please. I’m personally a huge proponent of the whole buy local movement, it’s just a smart way to support your local economy and get more for your money, gifts are no different. More likely than not, wherever you live there is a unique little gift shop or food store, a local winery, a mom and pop shop that makes something you’ve never seen at Walmart.

In the greater Harrisburg area there exists a number of unique shops that are sure to be enjoyed, remembered, and most importantly used. The National Retail Association estimates that nearly 20% of gift cards vanut-020are never even used- pity. Instead try the Virginia Nut Shop, a family owned nut and candy specialty store since 1959 offering the absolute tastiest varieties of snacks, along with their famoustarnation37s ‘blisters.’ How about some incredible sauces? Torchbearer Sauces have a number of unique flavors for any type of cooking or food that requires something sticky. Harry’s House of Heat is another local sauce shop that offers some intense hot sauces for that extra tough guy uncle of yours (he will cry, trust me).  You can even find international gifts right here in Central PA, Oxford Hall Celtic Shop and Josie’s German Food Market and Delicatessen both offer authentic ethnic groceries, baked goods, sweets, and much more. Sinful baked goods are never hard to find around Harrisburg, my personal favorite is Ciao! Bakery, bring some peanut-butter truffles from this shop and you’re guaranteed to make friends at that holiday party. Of course, you can never go wrong with the gift of award winning wine, West Hanover Winery is a local business that is worthy of sharing (responsibly of course).

The list can really go on and on, please feel free to add your own favorite specialty shop if I’ve missed it. The idea here is simple: give something that actually has some thought or meaning behind it, give something that represents your locale, give anything besides that boring best buy gift card.

It has recently occurred to me after randomly stumbling upon a few wonderful ethnic grocery stores that Harrisburg has quite a few shops unfortunately existing under the radar for most people. As such, I’m starting a list of the shops that I’ve visited personally or am aware of around Harrisburg, please feel free to leave a comment with any additions you might have as I know I have probably missed a few. These places are truly unique and well worth trying for something new or unusual.

Choe’s Oriental Food Market, 829 State Street, Lemoyne. (Asian)

Dong My Asian Special Foods, Westshore Farmer’s Market, 900 Market Street, Lemoyne. 21

European Restaurant and Food Market, 5202 Simpson Ferry Road, Camp Hill. (Eastern Europe)

Fraulie’s German Delicatessen and Import Shop, 224 S 3rd Sreet, Lemoyne.

Fuji Do Japanese Market, 1701 Paxton Street, Harrisburg.

Goldy Market, 110 Old York Road, New Cumberland. (Eastern European)

Hampden Grocer – Asian Indian Grocery, 4704 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg.

India Groceries and Fashion, 2650 Walnut Street, Harrisburg.

Josie’s German Food & Deli, 5238 East Trindle Road, Mechanicsburg.

Kim’s Oriental Food, 2501 Paxton Street, Harrisburg. (Asian)

La Kasbah Deli, 913 North 2nd Street, Harrisburg. (Moroccan)

Landau Jewelers & Antiques, Asian American Market, 3507 Simpson Ferry Road, Camp Hill. (Vietnamese/Asian)

Little Saigon Food Market, 2800 Paxton Street, Harrisburg. (Vietnamese/Asian)

Madina Halal Meat and Grocery, 407 North Front Street, Harrisburg. (Middle Eastern/North African)

Mid East Market, 829 State Street, Lemoyne. l2

Oxford Hall Celtic Shop, 315 Bridge Street, New Cumberland. (Brittish Isles)

Saint Thomas Village Store and Oriental Market, 5978 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg. (Filipino/Asian)

Shab’s Pita Stroller, 2269 Paxton Church Road, Harrisburg. (Mediterranean)

Tu Do Food and Gift, 2223 Derry Street, Harrisburg. (Vietnamese/Asian)

Tres Hermanos Taqueria, 216 N Front Street, Steelton. (Mexican/Latino)



Like coupons? Enjoy freebies? Why not have them dropped directly into your inbox? You may already get a few from the bigger restaurants, but even the smaller shops and eateries in your area most likely have become attuned to the advantages of email marketing. I personally subscribe to a number of customer reward/e-alerts/fan clubs etc. around the Harrisburg area that you might have interest in, I’ve linked them up for easy viewing below:

-To name a few. Other businesses such as Masala Bistro have printable coupons right on their website, easy. And really, most any business nowadays has a web presence, so look up your favorite restaurant and check to see if they have a rewards program of some sort, they most likely will have something to entice your patronage.

This Thursday there’s a  good reason to take a personal day from work – Mechanicsburg’s 80th Annual Jubilee Day. Here’s a tasty tidbit of trivia about the event; it’s the biggest one day street festival on the entire east coast and anticipates over 60,000 people to be in attendance this year. Wow! It’s hard for me to picture that many people fitting into little Mechanicsburg. This year’s event will take place from 10am-9pm and boasts over 50 food vendors, 2 live music/entertainment stages, amusement rides, and plenty of vendors selling various arts and crafts.

I’m not sure where the best place to park would be as this will be my first year at Jubilee Day, but from the event website: “There will be free shuttle bus service from the following locations. Mechanicsburg Senior High School, off Williams Grove Road, and Immanuel Alliance Church at 800 South Market Street.”