By Cindy O. Herman
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — “There are a lot of hidden treasures here,” said Judy Spiegel, co-owner of J. Kleinbauer apparel.
Her appreciation of her hometown sharpens when seeing it through others’ eyes, like the Canadian customers who visited after finding J. Kleinbauer online. With typical Susquehanna Valley hospitality, Spiegel picked them up at Penn Valley Airport and gave them a tour of her town.
“I think in this area we take a lot of pride in our craft,” she said, mentioning Kleinbauer’s own men’s sales associate Barry Kobel, who is “just incredible” at fitting suits. “People work really hard here to attract people to the town.”
“The people of Snyder County are pleasant and hardworking,” said Ed Auman, owner of Rine’s Florist, just across Pine Street Bridge on the Isle of Que.
“It’s a town that constantly wants to improve,” said Margaret Shaloka, a Shamokin resident who taught in Selinsgrove and volunteers at The Mustard Seed thrift shop. “Residents are interested in their young people, and I saw that up close and personal.”
“The town is very beautiful,” said Stacey Martin, owner of The Post and Lintel art gallery and shop. “I think the community just embraces it and loves it. They’re just always trying to make it a better place.”
“People really seem to care,” said State Farm Insurance agent Chris Kenawell.
He mentioned a young client whose older neighbors helped him with yard work and snow shoveling. Now the tables are turned: the older couple is in their 80s and the younger man helps them. Kenawell also mentioned his 11-year-old neighbor, Katie Bucher, who voluntarily shoveled his driveway when he and his family were away over New Year’s.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens in a small town, where people really know each other and look out for each other,” he said.
Jay Muller, director of Re-Creation, a group that sings in veterans’ hospitals, graduated from both Selinsgrove Area High School and Susquehanna University.
“There’s a really big desire to excel here,” he said. “I support downtown (businesses) as much as possible.”
Small-town businesses must support each other, said Julia Grubb, manager of the Kind Café.
“I think small towns are just the coolest things,” she said. “It really shouldn’t be about competition all the time. It should be about the synergy. You need small towns to give your town some character and uniqueness. That’s why we’ve become a destination for people to come to. I don’t know if people understand what’s cool about Selinsgrove. It’s the small businesses.”
“What’s great about Selinsgrove,” said Jennifer Balinsky, a Kutztown University student interning at Peppers: The Artisans’ Collective, “is we have a lot of shops that are very unique that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Including Peppers, because everything here is Pennsylvania-made.”
“You have all the plazas and the mall,” said Kelsy Clark, owner of the Pink Pin Up Resale Boutique. “But then you get to the town and you have that unique part, too. It’s also nice because it has the college, too. The college girls love (Pink Pin Up). They can trade in their clothes and get a new wardrobe.”
Selinsgrove recently celebrated the opening of the Rudy Gelnett Memorial Library, named after a lifelong resident who bequeathed his fortune to the town. The beautiful brick building stands as a testament to Gelnett’s generosity and the town’s community spirit.
“Residents value their community and what it has to offer,” said Jennifer Johnston, library director.
“I always refer to Selinsgrove as a volunteer community,” said Mayor Sean Christine, citing the volunteer borough council, local chamber and shade tree committee members, and the many others who serve the town in various capacities. “It’s amazing what gets done.”
D.J. Ernst Books benefited from the community’s spirit when the building next door burned to the ground in 1990.
“We had about 20 minutes to get things out of the shop,” Ernst said. Firefighters and passersby sprang into action. “Just people off the street.”
Shane Ulrich, owner of the Country Squire, grew to appreciate that sense of community.
“When you were growing up here you were never left dangling,” he said. “You were never really on your own.”
Unique shops and a strong sense of community — treasures any town would prize.