Pokemoto Hawaiian Poke restaurant to open in Allentown

Pokemoto, Muscle Maker Inc.’s expanding Hawaiian poke bowl restaurant concept, announced the signing of a new franchise agreement in Allentown, its third in Pennsylvania.

Last week, the first Pokemoto Hawaiian Poke eatery in the Northeast Philadelphia market held a grand opening, to go along with a previously announced franchise agreement also signed for Philadelphia.

A release noted that Allentown has amenities that are “a draw for Pokemoto’s core audience of millennials and Gen-Zs. The brand’s trendy, fully customizable menu is anticipated to be a hot new offering in the market.”

Pokemoto’s strategy focuses on growing through both company owned and franchise locations. Each franchise location sold generates up to $25,000 per agreement as well as an ongoing royalty up to 6% of net sales.

CEO Mike Roper said, “We’re casting a wider net in the Pennsylvania market with the two signed agreements – the first for Philadelphia … and the second for Allentown … . Pokemoto is making big strides with new agreements signed, locations under construction and, of course, grand openings. With 45 agreements signed, the brand has been busy executing against our growth strategy of opening franchise and corporate locations in key markets. Our hub and spoke model is coming to fruition via our strategically placed ‘seed’ locations.”

“We believe we are gaining visibility with each Pokemoto opening with the goal of providing more opportunities to get more Pokemoto locations on the map via franchise sales,” he continued. “We’re looking forward to making a splash in Allentown when we announce the location’s details!”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Women’s fashion store opens in downtown Allentown

Phoenix Fashion in Allentown –

A Phoenix has risen in Allentown. 

Phoenix Fashion, a new women’s fashion store held a grand opening Thursday at 17 N. 6th St.  

The store is run by Hanna Issa, who is opening the shop next door to her husband, Rawad Almir’s cell phone store. 

“My Wife loves fashion, and she was having issues finding really nice event dresses in Allentown,” Almir said. 

The store specializes in women’s event gowns, most of which range from $300 to $700 and are imported from Italy and Turkey. Sizes range from small through XXL. 

Almir said the store does have lower priced street wear clothing such as track suits pants and jackets as well. 

The store is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. 

Apartment rents in Allentown up 5% over last year

Rent growth in Allentown has slowed considerably, although it still stands at 5% year over year.

That’s according to the most recent report from Apartment List, which showed that median rents in Allentown are $1,101 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,400 for a two-bedroom unit.

Year-over-year rent growth in Allentown is well under the state average of 8.3% and the national average of 10%.

“Allentown was once a city experiencing some of the fastest rent growth in the country,” Rob Warnock, senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email.

“Last September, annual rent growth stood at 20%. But since then, the market has slowed dramatically and annual rent growth in Allentown has decelerated to just 5%. This is half the national average … and lower than other large Pennsylvania cities like Philadelphia (7.7%) and Pittsburgh (7.3%). This means prices are still rising, but they are rising at a much slower rate than they were a year ago, and they’re rising at a rate that looks much closer to pre-pandemic patterns.”

Allentown’s rents are easier to afford than those in many large U.S. cities. For example, metropolises like Miami, New York and Dallas have seen rents skyrocket 18.7%, 16.6% and 13.8%, respectively, over the past year.

San Francisco has a median rent of $2,680 for a two-bedroom unit, almost 1.5 times that of Allentown.

Nationally, the Apartment List rent index rose 0.5% in August, half the rate of growth in July.

“This year, rents have risen slightly faster than they did before the pandemic, but significantly slower than they did in 2021 when rent inflation was at its peak,” the report said. “So far in 2022, rents are up 7.2%, compared (with) 14.8% at this point in 2021. The year-over-year growth of 10% is down from a (peak) of nearly 18% at the beginning of the year.”

But this year’s pace remains faster than the years prior to 2021. For example, rent growth from January to August was 4.8% in 2018, 4.2% in 2019 and minus 0.2% in 2020.

Meanwhile, the nationwide vacancy rate for rentals is climbing. Apartment List’s most recent vacancy index is 5.1%, gradually easing from a low of 4.1% last fall.

Shift4 CEO, SpaceX astronaut sponsors new science institute

Jared Isaacman in his SpaceX suit. PHOTO/FILE –

Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments in Allentown, and his wife Monica, have sponsored a new program to encourage science learning through the Da Vinci Science Center. 

Isaacman, besides being a successful businessman, was recently commander of the first all civilian human spaceflight to orbit the Earth on SpaceX. 

Isaacman said he knew he wanted to travel to space ever since he was a young boy, but he didn’t take a direct or clear path to achieve his goal.  

“I’m proud to support educational efforts that encourage students to explore the world around them, to make connections that aren’t always obvious, and to ask, ‘What If?’,” he said. “This is the kind of thinking that will create solutions to challenges humanity faces here on earth today and make progress for the future we all want to live in for tomorrow.” 

The Isaacman Next Generation Science Institute will officially launch on Saturday. 

Designed in partnership with area school districts and national experts to provide learning opportunities for teachers, students, parents, families, administrators, and school board members to prepare for next-generation science teaching and learning,  

 “We can’t thank Jared and Monica enough for their investment,” said Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO for Da Vinci Science Center. “Not only does the financial support help ensure that this new initiative will achieve its goals, but Jared’s personal journey also exemplifies what we want children, and adults, everywhere to aspire to do – to embrace bold thinking and reach for the star.” 

The development of the Isaacman Next Generation Science Institute is in response to the need for new teaching strategies that enable students to explain natural phenomena and design solutions to problems that are important to them.  

When students use the same practices that professional scientists and engineers use, the emphasis is on “figuring out,” rather than simply “learning about,” and they become better equipped with transferable knowledge and skills that can be applied in all facets of their lives. Earth and Space Science, one of the disciplinary core ideas in the new standards, promotes interdisciplinary learning across the major fields of science and engineering.  

Evonik donates $100K to support STEM education for girls

The Da Vinci Science Center of Allentown said it recently received a $100,000 sponsorship from Evonik Corp. in support of its Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Initiative. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The Da Vinci Science Center of Allentown said it recently received a $100,000 sponsorship from Evonik Corp. in support of its Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Initiative.  

“We can’t thank Evonik enough for their ongoing support of the WISE initiative,” said Lin Erickson, executive director and CEO of Da Vinci Science Center. “In addition to their generous financial support, it is important to note that many of Evonik’s employees give their time and expertise to WISE, ensuring its continued success and growth.”  

Evonik Corp., a leader in specialty chemicals with a significant footprint in the Lehigh Valley, is dedicated to gender equality in the workplace and recognizes the importance of supporting community partners with the same commitment, said Jean Vincent, a senior vice president at Evonik. 

“Evonik is committed to supporting programs that help remove barriers for women as well as those that encourage girls to consider STEM careers. Da Vinci Science Center’s WISE Initiative focuses on both of those areas,” Vincent said.  

The WISE Initiative is dedicated to creating a supportive community of women employed in STEM fields and encouraging girls who aspire to follow a STEM career path. Through a federally funded research study, the Science Center has worked to identify barriers for girls and women in STEM and redefine how the Science Center offers and markets opportunities to girls.  

CrossAmerica Partners expands fuel business in New England market

Allentown-based CrossAmerica Partners LP has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Community Service Stations’ wholesale fuel supply portfolio in the greater Boston area.

That includes the wholesale fuel supply contracts to 39 dealer-owned locations, 34 subjobber accounts and two commission locations (one fee-based and one lease) totaling approximately 75 million gallons of fuel annually through such brands as Exxon Mobil, Shell and Gulf.

With a footprint in 34 states, CrossAmerica Partners LP is a major U.S. wholesale distributor of motor fuels; operator of seven convenience store brands; and and owner and lessee of real estate used in the retail distribution of motor fuels. It distributes branded and unbranded petroleum for motor vehicles to about 1,750 locations and owns or leases approximately 1,150 sites.

CrossAmerica Partners was formed in 2012 and has well-established relationships with several major oil brands.

“We are excited to acquire these attractive assets from one of the leading wholesale distributors in the Boston area,” CrossAmerica’s president and CEO, Charles Nifong, said in a release. “This acquisition expands our fuels business in the New England market with new dealers and strengthens our relationship with several of our major fuel supplier partners.”

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer