Ephrata is happening!
Did you ever wonder as you were walking around downtown Ephrata, or even while driving the streets &tstr; What goes on in that building? What do they sell in that store? or How long have they been there? I never noticed them before.
You say to yourself, “I should stop in,” but just as quickly as you walk or drive by you forget and go on to the next thought and end up never stopping in. Well, I am one those people but I am just a tad nosier then the average person, so I have to find out the scoop
It started with a typical walk that my husband and I take on Main Street. While window shopping at Parkhill Jewelry I noticed the building adjacent to them and realized it was a photography studio. Omni Lens by appointment only, was posted on the door. It actually looked pretty vacant and, being a part of the Ephrata Merchants, we are aware of a majority of the business and the storeowners. But I knew nothing. So just by chance at a meeting with another business, the store came up in discussion and my response to what was shared about the business was, “that sounds awesome, who knew that was happening in Ephrata!” contact was made and a visit was scheduled.
When I walked through the door into the waiting area, I felt like I had just entered a Victorian parlor or maybe even a scene from the movie “Clue,” adorned with an antique chaise with red velvet pillows, a wooden rocking horse and a hand carved gothic antique chair &tstr; all items that are a part of the tremendous $35,000 worth of set pieces that are on hand at the studio. Owners Chad Geist, lead photographer, and Bernadette Cachuela, photographer, and fine art designer, have taken the concept of portrait photography to a new, fun and innovative level.
Over the last several years Omni Lens has been creating memories for not just Little Leaguers, National Guard, Military members, and doing Cancer benefits but enhancing models’ portfolios, promos for musicians and even shot on the Red Carpet in Los Angeles. As I toured the building, each area was embellished with unusual props and hand painted backdrops. We came upon the set for Chad’s most recent photo shoot, where he borrowed a piece from Oley Valley Antiques and met with Award Winning Southern Rock Singer Doreen Taylor from LA to do her photo shoot. She is best known for hit singles “Last Call (for Alcohol),” “Heartbeat,” and “Another Rainy Night in Memphis.” Take a moment and Google her to see the amazing outcome. Chad and Bernadette agree that this was one of the biggest and most exciting projects that they have recently worked on.
As I continued my tour, I could not help but think how much fun it would be to get my book club friends together for a fun day of dress up and photos. We would have a choice of over 60 pairs of shoes from stream punk steel boots to pink and white polka dots, mink coats, straw hats, parasols, crowns and miniskirts. That being said, they have done Dress Up Birthday parties for little girls and Mommies. You could stage your photos along a steam punk backdrop, western theme, fit with hay bales, corn stalks and barn doors. Gargoyles, leopard striped chairs, clocks, gears, garden trellis with grapevines are just a few of the props you can use to create whatever type of mood you want.
The photos that Chad shared using the brick wall in the alley adjacent to his building are stunning; you do not even know you are in Ephrata! If you need makeup and hair or even temporary body art, Chad and Bernadette will arrange for a makeup and hair artist to be on hand or you are welcome to use their dressing rooms equipped with everything you might need. If you cannot find the right set design or backdrop, Bernadette is available to work with you on customizing a back drop to ensure your shoot makes the best memories. I could go on and on about how unique their photography is but seeing is believing! In a nutshell Omni Lens is not your typical JC Penny Portrait Studio.
Contact Omni Lens at 733-9221, 9 W. Main Street, Ephrata, and on Facebook.
The Leather Lair
The next store on my “scope it out list” is located in that shopping strip where we all have, at some point, seen the sign Leather Lair while heading back into Ephrata from 272 at the fork of State Street and Route 272. A leather shop it is, but not the usual Deerskin Shop you might find at the mall.
The Leather Lair takes the idea of leatherwear beyond unique and creative. In need of apparel for a Harley themed wedding, pirate party or fairy garden event, the Leather Lair is the place. Owner Suzanne Mayer has over 20 years experience in designing and fabricating leather garments and accessories.
Having only a leather jacket and pants for when we had a motorcycle, I did not have much knowledge or appreciation for leather. When I entered the Lair, Suzanne jumped right in with a barrage of choices from vintage Iron Man chest plates, bendable dragon wings, Tomb Raider tool belts, warrior vests, and pirate queen clothing to leather satchels and mail bags. And it’s not just for Halloween and the Renaissance Faire.
I had the opportunity to visit the work room, where I found all of Suzanne’s hand sketched original patterns suspended from hangers with large chip clips and all the patterns were drawn on fluorescent colored recycled paper purchased from Art of Recycle, on State Street. Beyond the two sewing machines, and bins filled with closures, trim pieces, metal rivets and interchangeable “Game of Thrones” fur shoulder pieces, is the Leather Room. The Leather Room, where you come to “pick a hide,” is filled from floor to ceiling with shelves stocked with deerskins from California. For your original piece you can choose from stamped, distressed and even metallic leather. Who knew that even existed?
Throughout the store you could find Suzanne’s most recent projects in various stages darning Batman wings, and superheroes in prep for the upcoming, Comic Com where you can stop by their booth as well as the Pa Renaissance Faire and Celtic Fling / Highland Games where they will be starting their 11th season.
Even if leather is not your thing, you will find some lace items among the other non-leather products. The Lair offers unique Mountain brand T-shirts, a great selection of costume jewelry that includes some of the best frog jewelry pieces I have seen. If you are in need of any steam punk glasses, waist cinctures, bracelets, a fairy house or dragon backpack, you will find one of the best selections there. Items range in price from around $20 to over $500 for some of the original one-of-a-kind designs. Suzanne will create special orders, but keep in mind because of them being custom-made, it may take longer depending on what you ordered.
Take a moment &tstr; more like several &tstr; and stop by. Suzanne is very willing to answer any questions and have you try on as many outfits as you would like; it is a great opportunity to step outside your closet!
Contact Leather Lair at theleatherlair.com, 1060C S. State St., Ephrata 466-6666.
Mennonite Material Resource Center
When I drive the back way to visit Ten Thousand Villages along Trout Run Road and the farm stands, I always see the Mennonite Material Resource Center, assuming it was a storage facility for MCC. Yes, that is how it started and mainly functioned as a distribution center, but several volunteers later and tons of unused donated fabrics, jeans, ties and various other donated textiles, grew the Care for Creation Gift Shop.
It is amazing what can be accomplished with fellowship, community and 100 percent volunteer time and talent. I arranged a meeting with Rachel Sommer, Communications Coordinator, and Mary Martin, master of all things happening in the sewing rooms, quilt rooms and production of items for the shop.
We started our tour in the actual Care for Creation Gift Shop, about the size of an average bedroom but filled with a unique variety of locally hand crafted items created by volunteers and used materials. They were upcycling way before it was vogue!
Mary remembers the first article she read about all of the items you find in landfills, including material scraps, and began thinking about ideas and ways to keep those items out of the landfills. With the connections through Mennonite Central Committee they began to receive donations of unwanted material and the creations began to flow. The walls and the shelves of the store offer an array of items to choose from. One of the biggest sellers is the market bags in almost every color combination you can think of.
Want to know where the Ephrata Merchants get the clothing for the yearly scarecrows? It’s the Resource Center. One of the most popular donated items is jeans. Mary and her volunteer sewers and weavers have worked on a variety of ways to reuse the jeans. The store showcases denim purses and aprons &tstr; all made by cutting off the bottoms, adding a few straps here and there and maybe a sash or two, and the results are one-of-a-kind adorable accessories.
One of my favorite items that I came across is the hand woven rag rugs. We passed the rug area where I had a moment to chat with the volunteer working the loom with such ease; he assured me anyone can do it. I thought it might be a fun way to learn a new craft while volunteering and giving back. Volunteers take anywhere from three to five days to complete one rug made from jeans, corduroy pants, neckties and even chenille spreads. The prices range from $20 to $50. If you would like to try your hand at quilting, you can purchase the jeans comforter kit and make your own denim patch blanket for only $18, they are great to use a sporting events and a perfect Girl Scout project.
Not much goes unused, even the boxes of donated T-shirts from past races or movie promos are used, the sleeves are cut up and sold as rags to local painters, mechanics and the general public, you can even purchase a rag bag made from mesh-like material they received and stuffed with rags for $4. Larger pieces of T-shirts are used to make scarves. Mary is always coming up with new patterns and ideas based on the materials they received. When you plan your visit to the store, do bring your checkbook or cash; they do not accept credit cards.
There is so much more that happens at the Resource Center, but I will save that for another article. Proceeds from the items sold in the nonprofit store go to benefit MCC’s International program and supports the continuation of the upcycle program. If you are interested in donating items or volunteering at the center, you can contact them at 733-2847. If you just want to shop or even have a tour with a group, (Mary would love to share her stories and excitement about the service projects that happen there), just stop by. The store is open Monday through Friday 8 am. through 4:30 p.m.
Contact Material Resource Center at EastCoastMRC@mcc.org, 517 W. Trout Run Road ,Ephrata, 733-2847
I would suggest next time you begin to wonder, just stop and visit. You have no idea what you could be missing!
Stephanie Harley is the proprietor of Intermezzo by Stephanie, a maker of locally handcrafted chocolates. She is also a member of the Ephrata Area Merchants Association.