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Collaborative Spirit Buoys Small Businesses in Easton, PA

Entrepreneurs unite through product collaboration and community.

By Heather Cherry on February 15, 2023

small business
Julia Amaral / iStock.com

Easton, Pennsylvania, has become a hotspot for urban professionals looking for a higher quality of life thanks both to its proximity to big cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as its charm and affordability.

With its revitalized business scene, culture, cuisine and nightlife, plus its family-friendly vibe and accessibility to nature, Easton is becoming the place to be for businesses.

If you’re looking to start a business, you’ll find a supportive community in Easton — indeed, businesses here support each other through creative collaborations. Bank Street Creamery, for example, crafts new ice cream flavors for dessert menus at local restaurants. Chocodiem, a Belgian chocolatier, uses Tolino Vineyards’ wine for an infused truffle filling. The Modern Crumb’s brioche rolls serve as a vessel for the Silvershell Counter + Kitchen’s lobster rolls. Terra Cafe routinely fills its walls with works for sale by local artists. And that’s just a few examples.

Brooks Minnick, president at Bank Street Creamery, says even though Easton is a city, it feels like a small town.

“The density of restaurants has increased in recent years and places and things to do have increased as well,” Minnick says. All these activities support each other. Easton was in decline for so long, but as we resurged as a city, everyone realized we had to work together, and it all panned out.”

Easton PA
Easton / Courtesy of Doug Kerr under a CC 2.0 license.

Product Collaborations

Businesses truly look out for each other — whether offering support as a customer or providing custom orders to create a more immersive experience for their clientele. Kathryn Gaffney, owner and chef of The Modern Crumb, says their wholesale programs are one way they collaborate with other businesses.

“We provide fresh baked goods to Three Birds Coffee House,” says Gaffney. “We have partners we make bread for, so their customers have the freshest bread possible — they are buying a sandwich at noon and the bread came out of the oven that morning.”

In turn, Gaffney says she frequents the Easton Public Market to buy fresh farm ingredients for her products.

The same is true for Jasmeet Bansal, partner at Aman’s Artisan and Indian Cuisine, who says they’ve found success collaborating with Sip and Play Transportation to do food tours in Easton. Bansal says they’ve also worked with wineries and distilleries to cross-promote their products. “The wineries and distilleries talk about their products and how it pairs with Indian food,” Bansal says. “From a culinary perspective, I always try to familiarize people unaware of Indian cuisine. It’s amazing to see the support and how we are a part of their business.”

Minnick has a similar viewpoint for his business. “When I bought the shop, there was already a wholesale business with local restaurants. Normally, we provide basic flavors (like vanilla), but sometimes we create a custom flavor for their shop,” says Minnick.

For Aman’s Artisan Indian Cuisine, Bank Street Creamery created custom ice cream flavors like pineapple pepper, vegan mango cake, and caramelized ginger to accompany their dessert menu.

“Working with Aman’s is a great collaboration that uses their ingredients and develops ice cream specifically for their dessert menu,” Minnick says. “(With all of our clients who request custom flavors), I work closely with the owner or head chef to deliver flavors. Most of them list my shop on their menu, so not only are they supporting me by purchasing my service, but they’re also helping to promote my business.”

commercial kitchen

Mutual Appreciation

The collaborative spirit extends beyond just customer service and product collaborations. As a newer business owner, Gaffney says she was inspired by fellow veteran business owners. “[Becoming a part of the business community] was an organic experience. I would shop at their stores and have conversations — we developed a mutual appreciation for each other,” Gaffney says. “Having the support of people that have been in business for more than 20 years here in Easton and having seen Easton go through many transformations — it’s been great. People come here and can’t believe the revitalization. But the business owners made it a place that is so welcoming and has grown to what it is today.”

Bansal agrees. “As a small business, you don’t have a board of directors with experience guiding you — you are pretty much it. And we’re making decisions as a family and learning from mistakes,” Bansal says. “Collaboration and working with other business owners is extremely helpful. We talk and hash it out — it puts things into a different perspective. We might be struggling with an aspect, they give us advice, and we adapt. We’re all a part of the same community and help each other as necessary.”

Community Investment

The reason these business owners continue to own and operate a business in Easton has as much to do with the community as it does it being their home.

“We are originally from Africa, and Easton is our hometown in the United States. We had the opportunity to migrate to the U.S. and landed in Easton through a family connection,” Bansal says. “Easton has become a part of who we are — Aman’s is Easton. When I talk about Easton, I don’t just say come for Aman’s — I say come for the experience. There is so much to do that has helped us in the region. It’s amazing to be a part of a community that has given us so much in this country and the ability to share our cuisine.”

Gaffney previously lived in Easton and was commuting an hour away to a job where she felt like her food wasn’t enriching the community. “I decided to open my business in Easton because I wanted to connect with the community and what’s going on around me,” Gaffney says.

If one word could describe the business community in Easton, Minnick says it’s teamwork. “Even though restaurants are competing for customers, they are helping each other out,” Minnick says. “One of my customers lost power in their freezer, and I brought their ice cream back to store it for them. The State Café and Grill had a fire that damaged their property, and businesses in town reached out to the owner and asked what they could do to help. So even though they’re a competitor, all the businesses are partners, and they root for each other. Easton has a tremendously collaborative business community ecosystem.” 

This article was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

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