Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. Additionally, Pride celebrations are about creating a sense of belonging for people who may not have it. It’s about giving hope to people who may feel that life will never get better. We are fortunate that Bethlehem has a long history of being a progressive and open-minded community. From our Moravian founders who were among the first to embrace the idea of educating girls and women to our current mayor who actively supports and reaches out to the LGBT community.
Bethlehem is proud to be the home of a number of LGBT-owned, not to mention LGBT-friendly, businesses. While we can’t mention them all in this post, we would like to highlight a few LGBT-owned businesses in the city and why they decided to set-up shop in the Christmas City.
Derrick & Warren Clark moved to Bethlehem in the summer of 2013, and quickly identified an opportunity for a retail concept that had been in the backs of their minds for some time. While they were waiting for the right brick and mortar location to present itself, they launched their home furnishings and décor shop, Domaci, online in the winter of 2015. That was quickly followed by a pop-up location in downtown Easton featuring their carefully-curated collection of home goods. In the spring of 2016, they opened up their “Pop & Pop” shop on Main Street in historic downtown Bethlehem.
The couple always envisioned Domaci as a “community living room” where customers could come in and hang out, enjoy a complimentary beer or water while they shop, and take their time to leisurely stroll through the store and reminisce as they peruse the store’s vintage offerings. Warren & Derrick quickly realized they needed a larger location to make that dream a true reality, so they relocated to Bethlehem’s SouthSide Arts District in January of 2018. Their current shop at 21 E. Third Street is nearly three times the size of their original Main Street location, and has allowed them to host more in-store events, not to mention offering an expanded assortment of sustainably-sourced furniture and home accessories both new and vintage.
Derrick and Warren both grew up in conservative, small towns in the South where being gay was frowned upon . . . to say the least. They met in Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2005 and have been practically inseparable since. Legally-married since 2012, the couple have found they do their best work together. Each has their own individual strengths, but they will often bounce ideas off of each other, and together come up with a perfect (at least for them) solution.
They too have felt nothing but welcome in the community, and are appreciative to be doing business in a town that is mindful of its historic past, yet progressive in their ideology. “We don’t go out of our way to promote our sexual orientation, but we certainly don’t hide it either. We just are who we are. We think the best example that we can set for LGBT youth is to live an honest and open life and to show that you don’t have to suppress who you truly are to be accepted and successful.”
PostNet, a one stop shop for high-quality printing and shipping solutions, is locally-owned and operated by Marisa Lenci. She believes PostNet to be an interesting culmination of all her previous work experience in one operation. Very early in her career she was an Account Manager for Emery Worldwide (air freight shipping company). She did a short stint with UPS as a delivery driver, and then made her way (in the early 90s) into desktop publishing and digital pre-press. From there she worked for a printer and then an Internet company. Most recently she was a Director at Motorola in the service and support organization, providing her with 13 years of solid operations experience devising and executing strategy, developing people and performance, organizing processes and systems, and in general, honing my skills at running an operation.
Most PostNet centers are setup in strip malls, and Marisa, who works with her partner of 20 years, Tina Fritzinger, didn’t want her business to have that type of vibe. She wanted to locate in a small, quaint downtown area within a small business community. Downtown Bethlehem was perfectly suited to fulfill that vision. Her primary focus is for PostNet to be a recognized and well-liked contributor to the success of the downtown and surrounding business communities. She hopes every business in the downtown area has an opportunity to engage with them on some level for their printing and marketing needs.
Back Door Bakeshop is a women-owned business located in downtown Bethlehem. Owned and operated by Gail Lehman and Dina Hall, the bakeshop cafe offers morning and afternoon fare, all for take-out.
Since its origin in 2008, Back Door Bakeshop has been a community-oriented concept. What began as a tiny wholesale baking operation at 422 Center Street, grew into a “corner store” when it moved to 92 E. Broad Street in 2013.
Gail Lehman settled in Bethlehem right after college, and worked in child care, as well as a long stint at the former Confetti Cafe on Main Street. It was there that she learned the craft of cafe food preparation. Dina Hall has been a freelance graphic designer and musician for many years, and moved to Bethlehem from Pocono Lake in 2000. The pair have been together for 18 years, raising children, supporting each other in business endeavors, and fostering a sincere commitment to an excellent quality of life through service to the community.
Most people would say it’s not easy to work with your spouse six days a week, but they do their best to respect, honor and nurture each other’s growth as individuals. Hall says, “It’s important to recognize when your partner has done something fantastic, push them forward and then get out of the way.” Lehman adds, “From the moment we opened the door, we were greeted with overwhelming support from the neighborhood. Our customers are wonderful, and I just love coming to work every day.”
Bethlehem is proof that if you’re looking for tolerance, culture and diversity, you’re no longer limited to major metropolises. Times are changing, and now those seeking the more relaxed pace of life found in smaller cities and towns have options to both visit and in which to live and do business.