Entrepreneurs, family-based businesses call Adams County “home”
By Karen Hendricks
Photography by Casey Martin
Launching and sustaining a successful business takes the right blend of creativity, hard work, a dash of good luck, and many other traits. Here in Adams County, we discovered many entrepreneurs establish family-based businesses or family cultures in the workplace. Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient in the recipe for a successful business.
Come along as we visit seven young Adams County entrepreneurs in many unique fields—including those who are starting out and others who have diversified long-standing businesses—to learn how the concept of “family” has guided and inspired them.
A Growing Legacy
Emma Lower laughs when asked if agriculture is in her family’s DNA.
The 33-year-old is a fifth-generation co-manager of Boyer Nurseries & Orchards in Biglerville.
“There are farmers on both sides of my family,” she says. “We have a healthy love for growing plants and quality fruit—it runs deep.”
Her great-great-grandfather founded the farm in 1907, specializing in propagating apple trees. His talents were passed down through the family tree, so to speak, to her great-grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and father.
Today, the tree nursery remains a mainstay. Five hundred of the farm’s 1,800 acres are in production; apples are a primary focus, along with popular pick-your-own cherries and blueberries. A garden center, fruit market, wine and cider tasting room, and evergreen hedge maze round out the attractions.
Lower, who earned a degree in landscape architecture, oversees Boyer’s business office. “I have two brothers, my father, and uncle in the business. We all have our niche and make up the pie that is Boyer Nurseries,” she says.
One of the benefits of owning your own business, she says, is turning your passion into a business. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to make a career out of it,” she says. “But you’ve also got to like solving problems—we’re all good creative problem solvers.”
Over the years, the business has diversified its crops to offer customers “different varieties that people can’t get at the supermarket,” says Lower.
The garden center was recently renovated to house the wine and cider tasting room, featuring Great Shoals Winery’s traditional red and white wines, plus ciders—many made with apples, pears, and cherries grown on the Boyer farm.
“It’s been great to add the winery to the business because it can bring people year-round, and it’s expanded our customer base,” says Lower.
The farm employs about 25 full-time workers; during apple harvest that number doubles and triples.
“The atmosphere here is like family,” says Dave Warner, who has worked part-time in Boyer’s nursery since 2003. “There’s something about the Lower family that resonates quality and customer service. I wouldn’t work for anybody else.”
Lower says the family works hard to maintain that work atmosphere. “Cultivating a family culture within a business is easier to do in your own business,” says Lower. “I consider it a blessing to work alongside family members. Not only are we intergenerational, but our employees and customers are too. With food, it’s easy to connect with people—we’re close to the ground and to people.”
Fun Fact: There are no Boyers to carry on the family name, although the business still does. The last living Boyer was Emma Lower’s great-great- aunt Mary. Emma says people often mistakenly call her Emma Boyer, but she takes it in stride.
Boyer Nurseries & Orchards Inc.
405 Boyer Nursery Road
Biglerville, PA 17307
Just down the road from Boyer Nurseries is an Adams County icon—The Historic Round Barn & Farm Market—and, across the road, Thirsty Farmer Brew Works. Both are owned by Knouse Fruitlands, Inc. and managed by six co-owners of the Knouse family.
“We are a fourth-generation family business rooted in tradition, thanks to my great-grandfather buying fruit farms in the ’30s,” says Jessica Knouse, 36. She recently joined the family business as manager of operations and outside sales. She’s focused on marketing both properties and their events, and she is working side-by-side with her aunt to begin managing the Round Barn’s weddings.
In addition to operating the two businesses, Knouse Fruitlands owns and farms more than 1,200 acres of land in Adams, Cumberland, and Franklin counties, including 600 acres of apples. The fresh produce supplies the Round Barn.
“We value family and farming—that is the core of our business strategy,”
It may be surprising to hear that for someone so focused on the family business’ mission, she wasn’t involved until this year. Her diverse background includes a planned career in the Air Force derailed by medical disqualification, a master’s degree in interdisciplinary humanities, and a background in higher education and leadership development. She even served as mayor of Arendtsville for three years.
“I took a year off to travel and do some soul-searching. Then, I worked at Thirsty Farmer part time last summer, and I realized I have a place in the family business,” she says. “I get to invest my time in my family’s well-being, which makes it more meaningful.”
Knouse says there’s mutual respect for each family member’s talents.
“I think the biggest thing is being humble and following the example of my cousin, Kevin [Knouse], who’s been in this business for more than 10 years,” she says.
Likewise, Kevin Knouse has high praise for her: “Jessica brings an added enthusiasm, excitement, and a new set of eyes, plus a skillset as far as promoting, marketing, and outreach,” he says.
Jessica Knouse is launching a new family venture—agricultural tours that comprehensively tell the story of the family business, beginning at the orchards, progressing to the barn, market, hops field, brewery, and tasting room.
“We have a unique story to tell through agritourism, and we want to help people develop a deep appreciation for agriculture,” she explains. “I see how the work we do now will make more room for the next generation to work with us—I joke with our fifth generation of children—but it would be neat to have that opportunity.”
Fun Fact: The Historic Round Barn, a barrel barn, was built in 1914, and it is one of the few existing round barns in the country.
The Historic Round Barn & Farm Market / Thirsty Farmer Brew Works
298/290 Cashtown Road
Biglerville, PA 17307
717-334-1984 and 717-334-3325
www.roundbarn.farm and www.thirstyfarmer.com
Jake Schindel was a business management major at Gettysburg College in 2001 when he jumped into real-world business experience. He purchased the Chambersburg Street coffeehouse that would become The Ragged Edge, in partnership with his parents and family friend Robert Lasco.
“I had always thoughts about owning a business,” says Schindel, now 40. “My grandparents owned a grocery store in Orrtanna and that planted the seed.”
The Ragged Edge’s concept is casual, Schindel says, with a menu comprised of sandwiches, salads, fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, plus pastries. And, of course, coffee.
Specializing in organic, direct trade, or fair-trade coffee, The Ragged Edge’s primary product is roasted by Chad Close, who runs Ragged Edge Roasting Company and Eighty-Two Cafe at
82 Steinwehr Ave.
Ensuring that Gettysburg’s coffee lovers can get their fix throughout Gettysburg, Schindel established satellite locations at the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County and then at HACC’s Gettysburg campus in the early 2000s and at Eighty-Two Cafe in 2012. Bags of roasted coffee are available in 25 locations, including Kennie’s Markets.
Schindel has faced numerous challenges as an entrepreneur—including two fires at neighboring properties in 2004 and 2010 that damaged the coffeehouse.
“The first fire was devastating and put us down for nine months. A lot of the building had to be reconstructed,” Schindel says. “But we learned a lot. Instead of challenges, we looked at the fires as opportunities to improve the building, making it handicapped-accessible, for example.”
Another challenge focused on traffic—both foot traffic and parking issues. Schindel says very few other businesses were located in the 100-block of Chambersburg Street when The Ragged Edge opened, but foot traffic has increased over the years as other businesses moved in.
Schindel is currently running for his third term as a Gettysburg Borough councilman, with seven years under his belt. “Being on council, I think I’ve helped to create a better business environment,” says Schindel. “Parking was one of my first big issues—how do we make parking better, more accessible, with all of our downtown businesses depending on it.”
As for future plans, Schindel says he’s working on retrofitting The Ragged Edge’s garage into a commercial space to better utilize the backyard patio garden.
It’s a space where his mother’s talents shine—she maintains the gardens. Schindel says he enjoys seeing and working with both of his parents every day.
And what would a coffeehouse be without coffee klatches? Schindel says it’s gratifying to see “regulars,” plus new faces every day, with plenty of conversations over coffee.
“It’s good to have that environment; people appreciate independent businesses,” he says.
Fun Fact: The name “The Ragged Edge” has a family connection. “Because we used money from my grandfather’s estate to purchase the coffee shop, we used the name of his house in Bermuda, ‘The Ragged Edge,’ which actually was named for the Ragged Edge Road in Orrtanna,” Schindel explains.
The Ragged Edge Coffee House
110 Chambersburg St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
By 11 a.m. every morning, Trish Sentz, 29, has baked 250 waffle cones at all three of Half Pint Creamery’s locations—McSherrystown, New Oxford, and Gettysburg. And her day is just starting. She personally decorates all ice cream cakes, manages 60 employees, creates schedules, handles the finances, and oversees ice cream production.
Creative flavors include apple pie, cinnamon roll, sweet heat—a chocolate-based ice cream flavored with crushed red pepper and cayenne pepper—plus traditional favorites like vanilla. The menu also includes milkshakes, dairy-free options, doggie treats, and more. Sentz insists on quality, natural ingredients.
You could say Sentz, standing 4 feet,
11 inches, is a pint-sized dynamo. Or, make that a “half-pint” sized dynamo, for which the business is named.
“I’m always moving; I don’t sit down,” says Sentz with a smile. “I grew up loving ice cream, working at Friendly’s, and I noticed that every time you gave someone ice cream, they were happy.”
After graduating from Upper Adams High School, she managed a Rita’s while attending college. But her heart wasn’t in either. She left to study ice cream production at Penn State and the National Ice Cream Retailers Association in Missouri. She gravitated toward Italian, gourmet-style ice cream.
By the age of 23, she opened her first shop in McSherrystown—on a shoestring budget.
“I bought all my equipment used, off eBay—that’s how I was able to afford it. I had to bring it back to life,” she says. “I heard about a Chinese restaurant pulling out their booths, sitting curbside in Washington, D.C. I picked them up at 2 a.m. with my dad in a U-Haul truck. He thought I was crazy, but I painted them, and they are the booths in McSherrystown.”
Two weeks after opening, she met a special customer—her future husband Travis Sentz.
“He came in with his mom, then he kept coming in with all these kids, nieces and nephews. He told me later he didn’t want to come in alone. He sent me a Facebook message asking me out on a date, but I said, ‘No, I’m too busy making ice cream.’ So he came into the shop instead—the first night he started fixing stuff for me,” Sentz recalls.
All the employees attended the couple’s wedding in 2017; the family now includes two young sons, and the couple enjoys a partnership both in marriage and business.
Travis Sentz, 33, maintains inventories and deliveries, and he is currently renovating Conewago Township’s iconic Little Red Schoolhouse into the creamery’s newest location.
“I was always around entrepreneurship because my parents owned a beer distributorship,” says Trish Sentz. “I saw their struggles … but my parents did it together. So Travis and I now have same thing.”
Fun Fact: If you look closely, you’ll see benches behind each of Half Pint Creamery’s display cases. That’s because Trish stands on the benches to see and help customers.
Half Pint Creamery
1101 Biglerville Road
Gettysburg, PA 17325
(Plus McSherrystown and New Oxford locations)
More than 2,100 double-decker bus tours rolled across the Gettysburg battlefield last year. Managed by Gettysburg Tours, the two-hour narrated battlefield tours are the company’s hallmark.
“The bus tour is just cool,” says Max Felty, Gettysburg Tours’ president. “It’s the perspective, the uninterrupted sights. It’s just you and the sky above you, looking out on an open battlefield—there’s nothing like it.”
The company, founded around 1955, first relied on Mercedes vans and converted school buses, then the iconic buses you see today.
Felty’s father, an accountant, became involved in the company during the ’70s, then part-owner in the ’80s.
“I got involved in 2008—the year I graduated college,” says Felty. “I started working the counter, doing retail, training for my CDL license, then driving buses. Having done all these different jobs, there’s no ‘I’m too good to do that’ attitude—it definitely builds your character.”
While father and son looked forward to working together, everything changed in 2009 when Felty’s father passed away. Felty had the opportunity to purchase the business from the remaining business partner and take a leadership role.
Now 33, Felty manages Gettysburg Tours’ 75 employees and annual revenues of $5 million. The company also operates
charter tours, NPS shuttles to the Eisenhower Farm, the Jennie Wade House, Ghostly Images of Gettysburg, and Gettysburg Group Reservations.
Felty says one of the most influential people in his life, besides his father, is Carol Metzler. She formerly worked with Felty’s father and currently serves as Gettysburg Tours’ vice president.
“I have never heard so many employees tell me what a great boss Max is,” she says. “He’s able to talk to people in all walks of life, from the maintenance staff to the superintendent of the National Park Service, with the same dignity.”
Perhaps Felty’s entrepreneurial spirit will be passed to the next generation.
“My son turns 3 in September. As soon as he could walk, I told my wife, he can use a hose to start cleaning the buses,” Felty said with a laugh. “He will certainly be learning about the business as soon as [it’s] appropriate.”
So when was the last time Felty drove one of the double-decker buses? “Just this morning—I still love driving buses,” he says. And, with that, he dashed out the door to fill in for a driver, getting behind the wheel for another tour.
Fun Fact: Gettysburg Tours isn’t the only business owned and operated by Max Felty. He also owns Felty Investments, which is transforming the Old Gettysburg Village’s former retail spaces into high-end apartments. Additionally, the company runs concessions such as tram tours and bike rentals in the Everglades.
Gettysburg Tours, Inc.
778 Baltimore St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Chris Kash and Brandon Staub are often mistaken for brothers. The childhood friends, both 34, always wanted to open a business together. Graduates of Littlestown High School and Shippensburg University, they kicked ideas around for years.
In spring 2017, they opened the doors of 1863 Escape, one of Gettysburg’s newest attractions.
“When Chris first mentioned an escape room, I didn’t even know what one was,” says Staub. “Being in Gettysburg, we figured there’s a lot we could do with a Civil War theme. And it would give people an alternative for night-time, family-time activities.”
The basic premise is this: Visitors work as teams to find clues and successfully solve a puzzle-based mission inside one of three “escape rooms” within a 60-minute time limit.
The flagship room, “Rebel Recon,” is outfitted to simulate a Confederate general’s war room. Your mission? As a Union spy, you need to find plans for day three of the Battle of Gettysburg.
“Spirited Study,” the second room, contains a murder mystery.
And the newest third room, “Gettysburg Gold Train Escape,” is loosely based on actual events. A train headed to Philadelphia from West Virginia never pulled into the station. According to legend, there was gold on the train. Your mission? To locate the treasure.
“It’s refreshing for people to get off their phones for an hour, communicate with friends, family, or co-workers, and use their brains,” Staub says. “People like to overcome challenges.”
The best friends say fellow Gettysburg business owners have been tremendously supportive. And they have a reciprocal relationship with a York escape room, referring business to each other.
“What makes our business unique is that we personally designed and built what you see in our rooms,” says Kash. “A lot of escape rooms are franchised or can purchase room build-outs, but we customized everything—and we’re one of the few Civil War-themed escape rooms.”
The entrepreneurs both work full-time jobs that allow them the flexibility to manage 1863 Escape. Kash is an intelligence consultant in the cybersecurity field. Staub manages
outside sales for a concrete construction products company; he also has a family and coaches Delone High School basketball. Staub’s love of history also serves the business well.
“A lot of time people say, ‘Don’t go into business with friends or family,’ but we trust each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Kash. “We have 25 years of trust built up, and we count on each other.”
Fun Fact: Corporate team building is growing increasingly popular at escape rooms, say Kash and Staub, because communication and organization skills can be put to the test.
344 Baltimore St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
A Family Culture of Agriculture
There’s a family tree proudly displayed inside Hollabaugh Bros., Inc.’s Farm Market. And you might need it to keep all the Hollabaughs straight. Bruce Hollabaugh and Ellie Hollabaugh Vranich, brother and sister, are two of the seven owners. So is their cousin Wayne Hollabaugh, and Wayne’s wife Rachael. They all represent the third generation of the family business.
“Our grandfather and his brother started the business in 1955,” explains Vranich, 35. “At the core, we all have a passion for what we do, for working together, that you can’t find in any other types of businesses.”
Each family member focuses on specific aspects of the business, assisted by as many as 60 employees in season. The Hollabaughs are quick to point out one another’s strengths.
“After Bruce’s graduation from Penn State, he diversified the farm,” says Vranich. “There’s asparagus in the spring, a variety of tree fruits, berries, and pears, a whole host of vegetables like tomatoes, beans, pumpkins—probably close to 50 products total—plus 50 varieties of apples.”
Vranich manages the retail market, which includes an in-house bakery, plus the website and social media accounts. “She’s constantly looking at new ways to market us in the community,” says Bruce Hollabaugh, 39.
Events pepper the farm market’s calendar, from blueberry and peach festivals, to cooking classes, children’s events, and farm tours. Teas are one of the newest events, thanks to Rachael Hollabaugh, 29, and her “creativity,” says Vranich.
Meantime, Wayne Hollabaugh, 34, focuses on the wholesale market. About 70 percent of the farm’s bounty is sold to grocery stores, farm markets, home delivery companies, and wholesale distributors from New England to Florida. And Hollabaugh Bros. Honeycrisp Applesauce jars are now available in eight states.
“Wayne can sell anything from old equipment to new commodities,” says Bruce Hollabaugh.
Being successful in agriculture requires a tough mindset, he says. “There’s a connection to the business that goes beyond dollars and cents. We’re connected through family. And the other layer is the ground on which we farm being passed down through generations—a piece of Adams County. We feel honored and passionate about taking care of it.”
Fun Fact: Hollabaugh’s future fruit production is guided by Bruce Hollabaugh. Right now he’s establishing new varieties of pears, plums, cherums (crosses between plums and cherries), and pluots (crosses between plums and apricots).
Hollabaugh Bros., Inc.
545 Carlisle Road
Biglerville, PA 17307