Women-Owned Businesses Are Powering & Empowering Hanover’s Revitalization
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Kelsey Kinard
Less than 15 miles from Gettysburg’s Lincoln Square—made famous by Abraham Lincoln’s visit in 1863, Hanover’s Center Square—laid out in 1763—is also steeped in history. Hanover’s growth was sparked by an industrial and entrepreneurial spirit. Although its flame—like many American towns—has flickered through the years, it’s shining bright again today, thanks in great part to a reignited downtown business district. And women-owned businesses are especially fanning the flame.
Justine Trucksess, Main Street Hanover, Inc.
At the heart of downtown Hanover’s revitalization story is the nonprofit organization Main Street Hanover (MSH). And at a time when women-owned businesses are surging, it’s appropriate to also find a woman at the helm of MSH.
Justine Trucksess, 34, began volunteering with the organization in its infancy in 2013. She progressed into a leadership role in 2015, followed by MSH achieving nonprofit status in 2018.
Downtown Hanover’s revitalization has been steady in the last five years, and Trucksess points to a key statistic: For every dollar invested in MSH, there’s an $8.50 return in investment in economic development activity. Many may think that’s impressive despite the pandemic, but Trucksess believes it may have actually happened because of the pandemic.
“COVID really shined a light on the importance of small businesses and the localization of our dollars. As much as we see chain establishments here, our community also supports small businesses,” she says.
But even she was surprised that seven new businesses opened in 2020.
“I think, anecdotally, we have less vacancies than ever,” she says. “I also think we have this entrepreneurial spirit here from Utz and Snyders and Hanover Foods, at the big level, to make products locally here in Hanover. And I’d like to think that Main Street Hanover has had an impact—people see our program is focused on improving the downtown … that their investment in the downtown will have some return.”
She’s also noticed the growing number of women-owned businesses in town.
“I think women who are starting businesses, or relocating, see the environment of women-owned businesses, and they realize it’s a great place where they can succeed,” says Trucksess. “It’s very cool to see such a great group of women working so closely together and succeeding.”
And the range of businesses is also impressive, something Trucksess says she doesn’t see in other Pennsylvania communities or even across the country. She cites the high concentration of wellness, spa and beauty services, along with breweries, and a host of truly unique women-owned businesses—a rock climbing gym, fair trade gift shop, cake bar, tattoo studio, bridal shop, and art studio, to name a few.
“It’s an exciting diversity of businesses that can attract different customers,” says Trucksess.
MSH not only aids in the recruitment of downtown businesses, but the retention and support of existing businesses through downtown enhancement programs and relationship-building collaborations, including downtown events. The organization has facilitated $1.6 million in downtown grants since 2015.
“We have weathered the COVID storm, and we’re very proud to be a thriving nonprofit organization, but over the next five years, our goals include financial sustainability,” Trucksess says. “We see a lot of growth on the horizon including tourism, small business support, fun events building into signature events, and we also see ourselves as a family-friendly community—we’re trying to lean into that.”
And that family-friendly feel is something Trucksess wanted in her personal life, too. “I really wanted to have a downtown I could enjoy, a place I could be proud of, in the community where I choose to live and start a family … I think that’s one of my biggest rewards—I have three boys, and I love bringing them into the community to enjoy the small-town life that downtown businesses can offer.”
Main Street Hanover
40 York St., Hanover
A Reason to Rise:
Stasha van Niekerk, Ikigai Coffee
Ask anyone what gets them out of bed in the morning, and coffee is bound to be one of the answers. But there are lots of other ‘reasons to rise.’ And that’s the translation of ‘ikigai,’ a Japanese term that describes the motivation to rise in the morning when your passion, mission, vocation, and profession all align.
“I just felt like it was a meaningful good name that goes well with coffee,” says Stasha van Niekerk, 29, owner of Hanover’s Ikigai Coffee.
Although you’ll see the coffee shop’s signage at street-level along York Street and the McAllister Hotel, visitors discover the shop is tucked down a flight of steps, underground. The brick industrial space is glammed up with a silvery feather-motif décor, and the delicious scents of coffee and baked goods waft through the air.
“We tried to create a space that feels modern and arty. It was really about bringing life to the old building,” says van Niekerk, who opened the business amid the pandemic in June 2020. “Honestly it had its challenges, but we were very surprised at how the community supported us—it’s been a great experience.”
And, speaking of experience, this isn’t her first coffee shop.
She owned and operated a successful café with her husband in their native South Africa before his job brought them to the States. And that explains the shop’s international flavor, including delicious traditional South African treats, such as Malva Pudding. Every cup of coffee, roasted in nearby Lancaster, is freshly ground and brewed. Smoothies, frappes, even bubble tea are also on the menu.
Van Niekerk is grateful to be part of Hanover’s growing community of women-owned businesses.
“It’s really encouraging to see women rising up all over Hanover,” she says. “For me, personally, it gives me something to do other than being a mom and wife—it’s my breathing space, and it gives me a different feeling of achievement. Even though I love my kids and I love being with them, the shop gives me that feeling that I’m capable of more.”
And she hopes every visitor is inspired by their own personal ‘ikigai.’
“We want to give people a reason to get up in the morning,” says van Niekerk, “and when they leave the shop, we hope they’re inspired to keep going through the day—that is our vision.”
11 York St., Suite 602 C Basement, Hanover
Brewing Up Business:
Sandy Bialek, Fat Bat Brewing Company
Owning a business was always Sandy Bialek’s dream. With a background in finance and program management, she worked on multimillion-dollar programs as a defense contractor and dedicated more than 10 years to being a stay-at-home mom. All the while, her brother Kevin Smith developed a passion for homebrewing.
“It dawned on me all of a sudden—I could own a brewery. I’ve always loved beer,” says Bialek. “Our cousin owns Waverly Brewing Company in Baltimore, so we brewed with him a few times, then started our own planning in March 2018.”
And that date, for Bialek, marks a milestone.
“It’s significant because I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and I thought, ‘What am I waiting for? This is not a dress rehearsal—we gotta get moving,’” says Bialek, who realized her dream at the age of 58 when she opened the doors to Fat Bat Brewing Company in May 2021.
“We have a wide range of beers,” Bialek says, “but we have four core beers—Wingman [a pale ale], Knockout Stout [which relies on Eight Count coffee beans sourced from Hanover roaster Ghouls and Grinds], Pigeon Pils, and our Vibe Seltzer. They’re all really good workhorses.”
Located in a former Railroad Street industrial building, Fat Bat’s brewery is in half of the building, with a neighborhood pub atmosphere in the other half. Original brick walls are flanked with beer poster art around a gleaming wooden bar constructed by Smith as a pandemic project.
“I always say you need four legs of the table to have a successful business—and that’s the four of us,” says Bialek. “There are great operations with my husband Dave, great marketing—our daughter Samantha does all the online work, great beer—that’s my brother, and great administration.”
Not only does Smith concoct all the beer, but he also designs every beer art label, featuring the brewery’s namesake fat bat comic-style character. It’s inspired by one of Smith’s chubby little pugs that resembles a cute “fat bat” when she lays on her back.
“People thank us for bringing a different vibe to Hanover,” says Bialek. “We look like a brewery—not a bar, and we only sell what we brew. We want to be a brewery destination—that’s how we roll.”
Bialek recently hosted her 60th birthday party at the brewery, and there was definitely cause for celebration.
“Since we opened, I was diagnosed again—this time with breast cancer,” explains Bialek, who is cancer-free today. Comeback Queen, Fat Bat’s hazy IPA, is named in her honor, with $1 from every sale donated to the American Cancer Society.
While Hanover is gaining a reputation for its growing collection of outstanding breweries, Fat Bat is the only one that’s woman-owned.
“Less than three percent of breweries are female-owned,” says Bialek, “so it’s awesome to be part of that.”
In fact, she was one of 30 people chosen for the nationwide Brewers Association’s inaugural minority owners’ training cohort, comprised of females and people of color. Bialek complete the year-long program the week before her opening.
“It’s funny,” Bialek says. “I don’t know if ‘judged’ is the word, but people think my husband is the owner or co-owner all the time, and while he’s really good at operations, owning a brewery is really my dream.”
Fat Bat Brewing Company
10 N. Railroad St., Hanover
A Foundation of Success:
Talitha Collado, Collado Cosmetic Lab
In four years, Talitha Collado’s customized cosmetics have not only launched—but launched around the globe.
“The whole thing is so wild—we keep expanding our service menu, and the referrals have been fantastic,” says Collado, 28, owner of Collado Cosmetic Lab. “It’s been a lot of luck, and a lot of hard work, with a lot of support from the community—and I’m thankful for all of it.”
Collado, an East Berlin native, was pursuing a college degree in archeology when she took a part-time job that changed her life. It was a position at Hanover’s then-new Ulta Beauty. At the time, she knew nothing about makeup, but she needed a job.
She not only fell in love with makeup, but she was intrigued by the seemingly magical process of creating customized makeup at a New York City makeup lab. Inspired, she brought that big city experience home to Hanover.
“Our entire experience is really formulated per person. It’s individualized—everybody deserves that,” says Collado. “A lot of people come here as a result of referrals, but we also have people walk in off the street—and when you explain they can have customized makeup created just for them, their eyes just light up.”
It’s a process that never grows old for Collado. She whips up custom lipsticks and glosses, creamy foundations and concealers, highlighters and bronzers. For the eyes, there are brow services, lash lifts and tints, and, coming soon, lash extensions. Half Puerto Rican, she understands the importance of customized products for every unique skin tone.
Even though she’s amazed at the custom makeup orders she sends worldwide—her name on every tube and container—she says it couldn’t happen from a better home base than Hanover.
“We are in a unique spot—about an hour from multiple big cities. And I love that Hanover is becoming its own little city with a lot of life—more cultural foods, art studios—it’s becoming a place where people want to go,” Collado says. “Before, we were just known for snacks.”
Since Collado is an expert on formulas, does she have a theory about Hanover’s influx of women-owned businesses?
“It’s our time to shine, and it gives me goosebumps, because I’m so honored to be part of this,” Collado says. “People can come to Hanover for a full salon experience, from Maven Beauty Group, to Cara at Face to Face Hanover, and hair salons—there’s enough business to go around. It’s really about community over competition.”
Collado Cosmetic Lab
9 Carlisle St., Hanover
Jessica Wolf, Oak
Eight years ago, Jessica Wolf became a Hanover-area business owner in partnership with her husband Shaun at Artisans & Oak. But their wood-fired Italian pizzas will soon be leaving the Markets at Hanover.
“While it may be sad to close Artisans & Oak, it’s necessary for us to fulfill our dreams,” says Wolf, 40. “Our new building is one of the pillars of downtown Hanover—150 years old—and we’re coining it a wood-fired American restaurant, a place where people can feel equally comfortable having pizza and wine on a Tuesday night or a four-course dinner on a Friday night.”
Located at 40 Broadway, diagonal to the revived McAllister Hotel, the name of the new restaurant will simply be “Oak.”
“The name has a dual meaning,” Wolf explains. “Oak is our primary source of fuel—we cook everything with red or white oak because it has a long, consistent burn. But the other part comes from our business plan—my husband wrote about the mighty oak having strong roots and being a strong, sturdy tree. That’s what we want our restaurant to be for downtown Hanover.”
It’s not the first time Wolf has made a career transition; her background is in accounting.
“We were working at Pamona’s Café [in Biglerville], and that’s where I became enamored with the culinary industry. I was watching my husband and the baker, and seeing the whole service part of it,” Wolf remembers. “At the time, I wasn’t very happy sitting at a desk eight hours a day doing accounting work, and I realized there was a creative part of me that needed to be fulfilled.”
Attending pastry school, then completing an externship in San Francisco gave her the skills needed to head Artisans & Oak (and soon Oak’s) pizza dough production.
Wolf says it’s an exciting time, not only for her new business, but for downtown Hanover.
“I know it’s trendy to say, but Hanover is up-and-coming. It’s needed a lot of businesses to believe in downtown Hanover,” Wolf says. “It was bustling at one time, and now the resurgence is bringing the downtown back—that’s what our generation is doing. We want to bring it back to its former glory.”
The fact that many of those businesses are women-owned doesn’t surprise Wolf.
“Women business owners in Hanover have a great support system I haven’t seen anywhere else,” Wolf says. “They’re 100 percent supportive—not competitive. They just want to help each other; they’re open-hearted.”
Oak (coming soon), 40 Broadway, Hanover
Cara Ayres, Face to Face Hanover
A licensed esthetician and acne specialist, Cara Ayres enjoys working with each and every client on a one-on-one basis—because she understands what it’s like not being comfortable in your own skin.
“I always struggled with acne, and when I was 30, I decided to go to esthetic school,” says Ayres, 35, previously a bartender. “I really wanted to help people with the same kind of skin issues I dealt with.”
She launched Face to Face Hanover in January 2018 and quickly outgrew the tiny space. Taking what she called “a leap of faith,” she left bartending last year to transition her full attention to Face to Face Hanover, and relocated to a larger space on Center Square. She offers a menu of spa-like services, including facials, lash lifting, and tinting.
“Self-care is more of a focal point today, but it can also be overwhelming. A lot of people forget our skin is as closely linked to our health as our internal health,” Ayres explains. “There are a lot of misconceptions about skin care.”
She enjoys building relationships with clients and teaching them about skin care to overcome those misconceptions.
“Diagnosing and working with clients to help them achieve their goals, then seeing them walk outside without makeup, feeling comfortable in their own skin is a huge thing,” Ayres says. “It’s the most rewarding part of my job.”
Another reward is the sense of community Ayres feels in her hometown of Hanover—especially among other women-owned businesses.
“We’re very good about supporting each other, trading each other’s services,” she says. “They’re my biggest source of referrals, along with health care professionals from Gettysburg to York, even Baltimore.”
Ayres credits two factors to Hanover’s successful women: Main Street Hanover’s efforts, as well as the creative seed of an idea behind each business.
“We all had ideas—we all came out driven,” says Ayres, “and it bloomed from there.”
Face to Face Hanover
9 Center Square, Suite 1, Hanover
Green Thumb Discovered:
Shannon Strevig, The Succulent Hippie
It was purely by accident—literally—that Shannon Strevig discovered her love of plants. One month away from her nursing degree, Strevig fell down a flight of stairs and shattered her knee.
Bed-bound, with a cast on her leg, Strevig needed an outlet—and a side hustle.
“I thought of succulents. I loved the colors, I loved the arrangements, and I thought it would be something fun to do,” remembers Strevig, 25. “I started posting them on Facebook [to sell], and that was the start. After I got my cast off, I was going to stop, because nursing was still my dream.”
But after she got her cast off, there was another setback.
“They told me my hip had actually broken, too, and that I’d need surgery,” says Strevig. “They said I wouldn’t be able to work for another year. By this time, I had gone through my savings. But I realized I could complain about it, or I could do something about it.”
She decided to grow her plant business.
“I was already doing well with succulents, selling them to friends and family, so I created a Facebook group, and it just blew up,” Strevig says. “My mom would deliver supplies to me, in bed.”
Through her recovery, Strevig learned that plants cultivated much more than an income.
“Plants are what helped me through my depression—because I got real depressed, I couldn’t walk, I was bed-bound and couldn’t work—and I’m a go-getter,” Strevig says. “But caring for something helps you—that’s the nursing side of it.”
After healing, Strevig launched a brick-and-mortar business in her native Hanover. She opened the doors to The Succulent Hippie in January. Stocked with hundreds of succulents as well as houseplants—including about 100 rare varieties—along with soil, planters, and know-how, the shop is a popular downtown destination. Groups, such as bridal parties or employers looking for team-building events, can even book plant workshops.
“When I opened this store, a lot of the other downtown women business owners welcomed me,” Strevig says. “It’s definitely a lot of support, and I think it’s contagious. That’s why Hanover keeps growing and growing—and Hanover needed that.”
Although The Succulent Hippie has taken root in Hanover, Strevig opened an offshoot, second location in Lancaster, in August. So what’s the story behind her business name.
“The Succulent Hippie is so comical because I don’t know what the heck I was thinking,” Strevig says with a laugh, remembering back to the day she named the business. “I was wearing tie-dye, and I wouldn’t say I’m representing hippies, but it’s definitely the atmosphere I want to give—the peace, the calm, the welcoming open arms, for so many communities. To feel comfortable, feel loved, walking in—people say it’s a breath of fresh air.”
The Succulent Hippie
131 Broadway, Hanover
Samantha Morris, Breakdown Rage Room
When the pandemic hit, Samantha Morris—like many people—was forced to pivot. Her antique store was inside a facility that closed, and her musician husband’s gigs dried up.
“We lived off our savings, and at 50, that’s not a good feeling,” Morris explains. “I’d been quietly planning a business in my head for a few years, but it took me a couple months to find a landlord who didn’t think I was insane.”
That’s because her idea was a rage room—a place where people go to basically destroy things—and release anger, grief, or trauma in the process. Morris knew how popular rage rooms were in Japan, where she had many contacts, thanks to her specialty in Asian antiques.
“At some point, I think all my contacts in Japan messaged me and asked if I’d thought about opening a rage room—it was my personality, plus I was a borderline hoarder. I needed to get rid of some stuff, and that could be my answer,” Morris says.
Plus, she had a good foundation of business experience after 25 years in customer service, then 10 years in food service—and she thought the time was right.
“I knew people needed stress relief—it was taking a toll on their health,” Morris explains.
She opened Breakdown Rage Room in June 2020.
“We set up a variety of breakables for people to smash, scream, throw—whatever they need to do to work out their frustrations and stress—and then we clean it up. It’s kinda simple,” she says. “We do fun events like parties, birthdays and bachelorettes, but the main focus is on people with catastrophic trauma. Therapists often come, so they can recommend it to their clients, and we give 100 percent confidentiality. We don’t take any photos or videos.”
During the busiest weeks, about 75 clients come through her doors into her four rooms. Morris sets up breakables, from furniture and electronics to dishes, paintings, and candlesticks, often including requested items, and always working with Hanover Borough officials to follow disposal protocols.
The concept brings up a lot of questions:
Does her facility ever get damaged? “It was originally a foundry, so it can take some shots,” Morris explains.
How much china does she go through? “Tons,” she says simply. She also accepts donations of breakables people no longer want.
How are visitors changed by the experience? “It runs the gamut,” Morris says. “We have people who come out so relieved, they’re crying. Others come out, and you can’t wipe the grin off their face.”
Why has Hanover embraced her business, two years and counting?
“I give a lot of credit to the borough administration for being so friendly to small businesses. I don’t know why women-owned businesses are doing so well, but I’m happy they are,” Morris says. “Hanover is a community that is extremely supportive of small businesses—Hanover embraces the little guy.”
Breakdown Rage Room
218 E. Chestnut St., Hanover
Baring Her Hometown Soul:
Theresa Haggerty, bare Skin Care and Laser Center
Although Theresa Haggerty’s business is new to downtown Hanover, she’s owned bare Skin Care and Laser Center since 2009.
And she couldn’t be happier to relocate her business to the heart of Hanover last summer.
“I feel great pride, being a Hanoverian, and I’m excited for the potential and for the future,” says Haggerty, who turns 61 in September. “Now that we’ve relocated to the downtown, to be a part of the vibe and pulse down here, I can’t wait to join the festivities and events.”
Not only was the timing right for her business expansion, but Haggerty says Hanover’s time has come.
“I think the efforts with Hanover’s revitalization feel like a community that has come together to support each other. I think people are more passionate and proud to own their own businesses than ever before,” she observes. “We’re married to the career of choice as entrepreneurs.”
A medical esthetic spa, bare provides laser hair removal, injectibles, medical grade skin care, massage, and a variety of additional spa services such as eyelash extensions, microblading, and acne treatments.
“We help people accomplish any skin issue,” Haggerty explains, “from helping teens learn how to wash and exfoliate to prevent acne, to anti-aging, and being able to relate to women and men. We are one million percent here for our clients.”
Seeing her clients’ results is the best part of the job.
“It’s a variety of emotions, being so happy for them,” Haggerty explains, “how we take them from the beginning and hold their hand through the process. Our clients know they can reach out to us with any questions—we really do commit ourselves, and when they see progress … what bigger joy can there be?”
bare Skin Care and Laser Center
17 Carlisle St., Hanover
Painting a Bright Future for the Next Generation:
Maddison Hamme, Finishing Touches Paint and Renovation
Maddison Hamme isn’t scared of a hard day’s work. And at the age of 19, she’s already a entrepreneur. Hamme, a Bermudian Springs High School grad and New Oxford resident, founded her business, Finishing Touches Paint and Renovation, earlier this year.
“I do residential repainting, and I like to do mostly interiors, but lately I’ve been doing a lot of exteriors—bricks, metal sidings, exterior garages, and houses—I even repainted a pig barn,” says Hamme, who’s been booked out for months at a time, ever since she launched—all by word of mouth, friends’ and family recommendations.
Seeing a project’s progress appeals to Hamme. “I like seeing the before and after—and being able to see the difference,” she explains. “I can’t imagine working in an office—I’ve never been the kind of person who can sit and work. I like to see progress being made.”
But painting isn’t her only gig. Hamme has a full-time day job—then she comes home to gear up for her nightly painting jobs. It’s not unusual for her to continue painting through weekends. Laboring by her side at both jobs is boyfriend Owen Leatherman. Her work ethic isn’t anything new; she previously did factory work aside her father, and she held down several jobs through high school. Mostly, she enjoys defying stereotypes.
“People aren’t used to seeing a woman in these roles—you get underestimated a lot,” says Hamme. “I’ve talked to plenty of people who say there are some people who won’t hire me because I’m a woman, but then some people hire me because I am a woman. I like to prove people wrong. That’s probably one of my favorite things because it helps people learn—it changes their perspective.”
What’s her advice to other young people with entrepreneurial dreams?
“I tell them it’s so much easier than you think to start a business,” says Hamme. “It’s so worth it to be your own boss, to decide when you’re going to work, and what you’re going to do, to set your own priorities—it’s so rewarding at the end of day.”
And exactly where does she find the energy to power through her long days?
“I try to take small breaks, like a day off in between painting jobs,” Hamme explains. “But the way I think of it is: If I work hard when I’m young, hopefully in 20 years I’ll have crews to paint for me.”
Finishing Touches Paint and Renovation
The Lowdown on Setting Up Shop
“If you really want to do it, take baby steps toward it. I tell my kids this all the time—have your long-term goal in your head—how you see yourself in the future—and it’ll eventually happen.”
Sandy Bialek, Fat Bat Brewing Company
“If someone’s working full time, my advice is—if you can, cut back your hours and then split your time to build your business because it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Shannon Strevig, The Succulent Hippie
“I think a lot of us are trying to find that work-life balance. For me personally, as much as I liked bartending, I wanted the flexibility of having a career and still being able to take care of my kids.”
Cara Ayres, Face to Face Hanover
“Follow your dreams, and make it happen. Be your own best advocate.”
Talitha Collado, Collado Cosmetic Lab
“I wish I would have done it 10 years earlier. If you’ve got a great idea, write the business plan and take the steps you need to take.”
Samantha Morris, Breakdown Rage Room
“Make sure your commitment is a million percent because no one’s going to work harder or have more passion than you. Do your research—how are you going to be the best? Because if you’re not, someone else will be. Find committed team members who are going to work with you. And choose the business of your dreams, because then you’ll enjoy going to work every day.”
Theresa Haggerty, bare Skin Care and Laser Center
“Two things come to mind: Seek out resources, connect with people you admire, businesses owners you aspire to be like, and ask questions, take classes, be humble enough and open enough to ask for guidance and support. And secondly, if you’re pursuing something, you already have that drive, so believe in yourself enough to continue that. I have found that business owners are a special kind of passionate people who want to leave a mark on their community.”
Justine Trucksess, executive director, Main Street Hanover, Inc.