The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Valley

June 1, 2014

A stroll through Elizabethville

ELIZABETHVILLE - Elizabethville is the kind of out-of-the-way town that, after visiting for the first time, makes you think, “I should have come sooner.” Nestled in the Lykens Valley between spacious mountain ranges, it has gorgeous views all around, and its citizens welcome you with matter-of-fact friendliness.

“I grew up here,” said Peggy Malone, a cashier at Koppy’s on the Square. “My kids all went to the same school. They graduated from the same school I did. My family’s been living here for years and years.”

Koppy’s is a convenience store/coffee shop where locals gather to joke and gossip.

“If you don’t get the local paper, you can always stop in at Koppy’s and get the news right from the horse’s mouth,” said Mayor Tim Matter.

Indeed, Koppy’s cashier Shelly Fenicchia moved in just a month ago from Hershey, but was laughing and joking with co-workers like she’s been there for years.

“I like that (Elizabethville) is so quiet. No traffic. No tourists,” she said, although she admitted the quiet can take some getting used to. “I bought a sleep machine for white noise,” she said with a laugh. “I really did.”

Chris Franki moved from Williamsport to the borough and along with his wife opened Elizabethville Furniture in 2000.

“People really, really accepted us and supported us right from the beginning,” he said, sitting on a couch on the second floor of his enormous, gleaming showroom. “This is a friendly batch of people, really.”

History touches the borough today: Franki located his furniture business in the former Weaver Whiskey distillery, a one-time huge Elizabethville employer. And just down the block, Stuart Margerum and his family run Swab Wagon Company, Inc., which was founded by his great-great-grandfather, Jonas Swab, in 1868. The company evolved from making wagons to truck bodies, primarily for rescue and animal control vehicles.

“If you watch Animal Channel you might see some of our trucks on there,” Margerum said. He noted the relative safety and low traffic of his hometown and, because he lives right next to Swab, added with a chuckle, “I can’t complain about my commute, that’s for sure.”

Borough secretary Peggy Kahler pointed out that Elizabethville will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2017.

“Everybody’s excited about that,” said Dr. Louise Jones-Todd, co-owner with her husband, Dr. Howard Todd, of Elizabethville Veterinary Hospital, Inc., which is adjacent to its own piece of history: the Todds live in the beautiful brick home built in 1854 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandfather. The President visited the home when he and his wife were looking for a permanent residence after his retirement.

But Elizabethville citizens don’t let their Presidential association go to their heads. Code enforcement officer Matthew Roberts, born and raised in Kentucky, said he was readily accepted by the townspeople when he moved to Elizabethville and is impressed at how neighbors look out for each other. He pointed out a tragic accident involving a teen driver who was killed and a married couple who were badly injured. In an “outpouring of support,” neighbors helped with things like delivering meals and mowing the lawn.

“It absolutely amazed me to watch the community come together,” Roberts said.

“It’s a close-knit community,” said Nick Condello, owner of Jo-Jo’s Pizza & Pasta. “We’ve known generations. The kids that used to come here to eat now bring their kids. It’s nice to see them grow up.”

While LeeAnn Siemanski styled Smantha Kelson’s hair at New Edge beauty shop, she explained that she had moved to the area after working in Harrisburg, drawn by her family homestead and the slower pace.

“And I love my customers,” Siemanski added. “They’re wonderful.”

Kelson agreed with her on Elizabethville’s tranquility. “Everyone’s easy to get along with,” Kelson said. “It’s a good family place.”

“You get to know people,” said Matt Schaffner, borough maintenance employee. “You get to know them by name.”

 

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