Lehigh Valley

The changing south side of Bethlehem

VIDEO The changing South Side of...

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The always-evolving south side of Bethlehem has been changing more than usual lately, and that's especially true in the business community.

Downtown Bethlehem, for instance, just lost a furniture store to its neighbors across the bridge. 

"We're headed to the south side," said Domaci co-founder Derrick Clark. 

Clark told 69 News the store wants more space, but he also likes the feel on the south side. It reminds him of his hometown of Austin, Texas, the way it was 20 years ago.

"That same feel of younger generation and kind of more hip, if you will, I kind of see that for the shop as well," he said. 

"This is a perfect fit. This is like made for them," said Cleo Leslie Smith, Domaci's new landlord and the former owner of Cleo's Silversmith Studio and Gallery. 

Domaci will move into her space in January. 

"I've been here 20 years, and I've seen a lot of change," she told 69 News. "The south side has its own particular vibe, its own flavor, very artistic. Anything that sits still long enough gets painted."

She has high hopes for the neighborhood's new blood.

"We have new buildings being built, a new parking garage, which is awesome," she said. 

It's not just Cleo's, of course. It's hard to walk through the south side without seeing big changes afoot.

The massive construction where Third Street meets the Fahy Bridge dominates most of a whole block, and several new restaurants are also injecting their own flavor into the neighborhood.  

One of them is Playa Bowls on Third Street, which has been open just 10 days.

"It's crazy. Usually, there's lines out the door," said owner Jim Dale. 

It's impossible to imagine a place like this here even a few years ago.

Dale learned about the franchise while visiting a beach in New Jersey. It sells bowls of unique fruits, mixed with granola and other toppings.

He carefully picked his location.

"Being here and building this store, it's really a great spot," he said. 

Time will tell how Playa Bowls and Domaci do; as Cleo Smith points out, new businesses have come and gone for decades. Overall, though, she likes the trajectory of the south side.

"I wish I had come here in this day and age rather than 20 years ago. I think it has nowhere to go but up," she said. 

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