By Leah Fassnacht, Director of Communications & Marketing, GRCA
It all starts with the interview. All the important players in the company huddle around a table while questions are asked and recorded. Lots of coffee is sipped while we all not only share a few laughs, but also dive deep into the rich history of the business and what drives the passion in the people who run it.
This was the typical scene as Owners and Co-Founders of Bell Media Group Zach Bell and Kyra Denlinger along with their Social Media Specialist Danielle Bollinger, local photographer Lauren A. Little and I visited five Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA)-member businesses. All five had something amazing in common — each had stories of innovation and community investment to share. From now through 2023, these stories will be shared through a social media campaign and emails utilizing a multimedia and interactive storytelling platform called Shorthand, but not everything can make the story. Here are a few, fun tidbits from each business, and why they were chosen for this project.
In April, GRCA invited Zach and Kyra to share their expertise on TikTok, one of the newer social media platforms companies are using to promote their business and products, with GRCA members. Zach and Kyra started the session with a few icebreaker questions.
“Who here has ever had a TikTok go viral?” Kyra asked.
Only one of two people in the room raised their hands. One of them was Mason Ayres, Multimedia Brand Manager at Berks · Fire · Water Restorations, Inc. (BFW), who told the impressed room that BFW had a post with more than three million views, and the account had more than 9,500 followers.
“Wow!” I thought, “That’s crazy for a company that does restoration work!”
I knew we had to feature them and get to bottom of why owners Ted and Lisa Lavender had entrusted their business and brand to a fresh-out-of-college, Gen Z member.
Palo means success in Spanish. Success is what I associate when I hear the story behind Palo Magazine. Palo is a bilingual magazine with a mission on educating the community and embracing cultural diversity.
Rosa Julia Parra, CEO and owner of Palo Magazine, shared that Palo Magazine was the brainchild of her husband, Chamo King. Rosa took his idea and ran with it. While Palo is Rosa’s magazine and she leads the direction, Chamo completes the layout and design of the publication.
Palo Magazine has become a staple of the Greater Reading community. We joked when traveling around the community with Rosa that she was like a celebrity with paparazzi. Rosa’s personal mission is to make connections and learn from others. It was evident while on site that she has a lot of meaningful connections.
Fun fact about Reading Bakery Systems (RBS): Nothing is actually baked at its Robesonia-based location. Dulcie Freymoyer, Vice President of Marketing at RBS, Roseann Reinhold, the company’s Human Resources Manager, both said that when an interviewee comes to RBS and asks where the products are baked, it’s a sure-fire way to know he or she hasn’t researched the company at all.
Another fun fact: Think of every pretzel, cracker or cookie you’ve ever eaten. They were most likely made on machinery custom built at RBS. That is a lot of delicious snacks I can thank RBS for.
Stepping into America’s oldest hatmaker’s headquarters is a step back in time. Letters from World War II soldiers to Bollman employees line the walls, and hats dating back to the early 1900s and the following decades are lined up behind glass cases.
Black was a bad color choice for my outfit (who would’ve thought?) as the creamy colored wool that escaped the machinery clung to my leggings and shirt sleeves. I didn’t care as I was too enthralled with following the raw wool as it was cleaned, spun, shaped, sewn and customized into the most beautiful hats I had ever seen.
As CEO Don Rongione joked, the hats go from “ewe to you.”
Snapo Toys, Inc. had my inner child jumping for joy. Owner Tara Kennedy-Kline took us to her office that was full of — you may have guessed it — toys. From dolls to stacking cups to Mardi Gras beads, each item had a story and held importance to Tara.
Rows and rows of toy pieces, each organized by color lined the factory floor. None of us could resist running our hands through the large boxes of brightly colored pieces; it was a tactile dream. I would describe the pieces as LEGO®-like, but these, unlike LEGO® that can only connect on top or bottom, can connect on all sides. I started to imagine all the fun things my daughter and I could build with these colorful, versatile pieces.
Who knew Greater Reading was home to such a cool business? I didn’t, and I can’t wait for everyone to learn about this truly unique business and its owner.
Be sure to check out short, behind-the-scenes videos by following GRCA on Instagram.