Carts clatter bringing food back and forth. Knives slice and cut and spread. People in casual clothes, work clothes, and workout clothes bite into their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, while holding their little conversations with the chefs and servers and cashiers in front of them. A bakery displays pieces of chocolate shaped like feet and ears and noses with captions on white cards such as “one step at a time” or “open mouth insert foot”.
Vibrant, neon, colorful lights. Fresh fruit. The smell of juicy pounds of deli meat. Lumps of cheeses in yellows, whites, oranges, and browns. Rick Nichols knuckle bumping with all 106 merchants (he does have his own room here after all). Thai food, Japanese food, Chinese food. An oyster bar. Candy and chocolate galore.
And amidst it all, here on a September afternoon at the 125-year-old Reading Terminal Market, exemplifying Anuj’s priority of “diversity through the customers, foods, and employees alike”, in the right back corner and showcasing its chocolate goodness for its 30-year anniversary, stands the Pennsylvania General Store.
What makes this store so special? According to Melissa, the sweet, young, brunette cashier giving the tour, “is that everything is made right here in Pennsylvania, which makes both the employers and customers proud and happy.” And what’s her favorite part? “That every food and product sold has a story behind it.” Don’t believe her? You’ll soon see what she means, especially with her favorite benefit of her job— free chocolate.
One product they have is Hope’s Cookies, which was started by a college student, Hope, who wanted to recreate the taste of home baked cookies to sell in store (it’s way better than David and his Famous 4th St. Cookie Company by the way). They have The Goldenberg’s Original Peanut Chews, which began in 1917 specifically for the World War I military and wasn’t available to civilians until 1921. They also have the famous Wilbur Buds made in Lititz PA. Never heard of it? Well you’ve probably eaten it, whether in Famous Amos cookies or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. And guess what, Wilbur was around way before Hershey went ahead and stole both his chocolate and design.
Have you ever had John and Kira’s chocolate, sourced from urban gardens here in Pennsylvania? What about fourth generation Asher’s Chocolate? At their manufacturing site, you can take a free Willy Wonka-esque factory tour inspired by a Scottish farm boy in Canada who had a sweet tooth. If you haven’t had any of these, you can taste them all at the Pennsylvania General Store.
Besides the stories behind the chocolate, Melissa has one last tip for customers to take away: “In order to experience the full effect of the chocolate, you must put the chocolate on the roof of your tongue for the full chocolatey experience.”
She states most people, including her, love the Wilbur Buds best. As the tall blonde ponytail woman in her black sweater dress and fall riding boots with her one raised eyebrow puts the tiny kiss on her tongue and closes her mouth to follow the technique, she nods, hands Melissa $5, and smiles contently. “Agreed.”
Written by Marina Gialanella
Feature Image from Let’s RV