By Geri Gibbons
The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
A Wyoming Valley native who returned home after working in New York City has opened a new type of business.
It combines a cafe, retail store and an area for children to explore their creativity.
The business is the brainchild of Lillian “Elly” Feibus, who realized the area was a treasure trove of personalities, history and education.
After working at the Carriage House Children’s Center in Pittsburgh and the Preschool of America and Avenues: The World School in New York City, fate brought her back to the area.
“At first, coming home wasn’t the plan,” said Feibus. “But, it has become the plan and I couldn’t be happier.”
The value of making bagels from scratch, of teaching children one-on-one according to their needs, of providing a community center to interject a positivity and motivation into the life of area residents, she said, is priceless.
Feibus, a graduate of Wyoming Seminary and Chatham College for Women, operates The Academy for Early Learning, an afternoon enrichment program, and a pre-school prep program, for those preparing to enter preschool and their parents.
Classes offered for the younger set range from yoga to reading to homework help.
As customers pass through a set of lavender doors at Elly’s House on Wyoming Avenue, they are not just entering a business, but engaging in an experience that both reaches back to the past and looks to the future.
Greeted by the Lavender Poulette Boutique with colorful clothing and accessories arranged carefully, almost artistically, customers are transported back in history to a time when clothing was simply yet excellently crafted.
A few more steps brings customers into the café, with a decor that reminds customers of their grandmother’s kitchen, with food items such as bagels and pierogies made from scratch.
A few more steps brings visitors into the Academy for Early Learning, complete with a library, open area and art room, readied for youngsters to investigate, create and reach their unique potential.
Focused on the community
Both Feibus’ food and her attitude are rooted in a love for family, friendship and community combined with a dose of forward-thinking business savvy that makes the business work.
Committed to local businesses, Feibus is looking forward to establishing a farmers market that will showcase products of local vendors, emphasizing home-grown and home-crafted items.
“We purists,” she said, “with grit.”
She also makes space available for birthday parties, showers and other social events.
“We work around the people that we serve,” she said. “Whatever people want, we do our best to make it happen.”
Feibus said what makes the food served at the café healthy isn’t necessarily the fat or calorie content of any item, but the quality of ingredients and the care taken in its preparation.
Portion control, she said, encourages the enjoyment of each item.
“For example, many of our customers really appreciate our lavender cookies, with each bite providing a burst of flavor,” she said.
Coffees and teas offered are also simply but carefully prepared, cup by cup according to each customer’s request, sometimes in a delicate tea cup, but sometimes in a giant paper cup “to go.”
“I remember my father bringing me coffee from a doughnut shop and loving the simplicity of drinking a simple cup of coffee with my dad,” Feibus said. “I want to bring a little bit of that feeling into that cup, into my cafe.”
Feibus looks back fondly on her family history as a motivation for both her entrepreneurial spirit and her love of teaching.
Her mother has taught at Wyoming Seminary for over thirty years.
“My mom said if she can’t get up from the floor after spending time with the children she will think about retiring,” she said. “just think about it.”
Her father passed away last year but not without sharing Feibus’ vision for her business.
“My father made that,” she said, looking at a handcrafted white table carefully placed by a window in the café. “It needs to be updated, but I’m keeping it just the way it is for now, because my father made it.”
Successful, unique business model
Feibus emphasizes partnering with other small businesses, rather than competing with them. A model, she said, that works.
“For example, I just had lunch with the owner of another eatery from Wilkes-Barre,” she said. “He makes his own tortillas. I’m hoping to buy them from him to introduce a new breakfast item on Sunday.”
She’s not worried either about corporate chains, big businesses or similar business on the street.
“I’m not worried about the bakery down the street,” she said. “Maybe I can work with them on something or buy something from them. My vision is on working with other small businesses so that we can all succeed.”
Both sides of the family she said, came from simple beginnings to successfully own supermarkets and work in the food sales business.
Feibus rents out space in the business’s 3,000 square feet of space to other family oriented entities offering such services as teaching crafts, yoga or other positive skills for adults, kids and families.
The business, she said, is still in its infancy, but is steadily growing.
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“We’re doing all the things that we need to do,” she said. “We’re continuing to look forward.”