BETHLEHEM, Pa. – A longstanding tenant of Bethlehem’s Westgate Mall has found a new home amid the shopping center’s ongoing redevelopment.
Amateur Athlete, a popular retailer selling skateboards, longboards, casual wear, swimwear, shoes and accessories like sunglasses, is planning to move to Bethlehem’s Lehigh Shopping Center, 2100 W. Union Blvd., the business announced on its Instagram page.
The store will continue to operate at Westgate, its home for for more than 35 years, through the end of March.
“We now have the fun task of building out a new shop and moving 36 years of stuff!” the online announcement reads. “Thank you to everyone who has stopped in to show love! We can’t wait for what we got in the works! It’s hard saying good bye to our long time home, but it’s time for a upgrade!”
Since news of Amateur Athlete’s upcoming departure from Westgate first broke a couple of months ago, business has “actually been better than normal” due to many customers coming in to extend warm wishes, owner Joseph Yoo said.
“It’s been a confusing time, but what’s been consoling is the amount of people who’ve come in and offered their help and warm wishes,” Yoo said. “We’ve always had a very loyal clientele, and it’s been really heartwarming to see how much people care.”
Amateur Athlete is one of several businesses that are being forced out of Westgate amid the shopping center’s redevelopment.
Two businesses – Holiday Hair and Fashion Nails – have already vacated the Schoenersville Road property, and three others – Hawk Music, Subway and Westgate Jewelers and Repairs – are in their final weeks at the 50-year-old shopping center.
The business’ owners received notifications a few months ago to vacate their spaces from mall owner Onyx Equities, which is planning to raze about 50,000 square feet of the shopping center’s interior in order to construct about 8,000 square feet of new retail structures.
An Onyx Equities representative has not returned messages seeking comment on the vacating tenants.
Salon chain Holiday Hair was the first to leave, merging with a nearby location about three miles away in the Pointe North shopping center, 5510 Crawford Drive, Hanover Township, Northampton County, in late January.
The chain’s Westgate outpost had been operation at the mall since the 1970s.
“All of our stylists went to Pointe North,” manager Sue Repsher said. “It’s really sad because we were one of the first businesses in Westgate. And it’s the people who live in this immediate area who I really feel sorry for. A lot of them drive here to get their hair done and then they go grocery shopping. When I tell them that there’s another salon six minutes away, they say, ‘I can’t drive that far!'”
Cuong Nguyen, owner of nail salon Fashion Nails, purchased Nail Trix in South Whitehall Township and is continuing business at the 1536 N. Cedar Crest Blvd. site as of late February.
“We can’t thank you enough for the endless support at Fashion Nails over the past 9 years,” a message on the business’ Facebook page reads. “We are so fortunate to have developed relationships with so many people, not only as our clients but as our friends. We hope that you will continue to support us at our new location, which is about 11 mins west on [Route] 22.”
Businesses that are set to vacate the mall by the end of the month include Hawk Music and Westgate Jewelers and Repairs.
Hawk Music, which has been at the mall since its debut in 1973, is set to close on March 31.
The store, offering sales of drums, guitars and other musical instruments along with instrument rentals and repairs, operates at the northernmost part of the mall’s interior. However, its longtime home was at the center of the mall (currently home to Sky Zone Trampoline Park), co-owner Pat Paulus said.
Paulus and her brother, Phil Hawk, operate the music business that their late father, Bill Hawk, started 50 years ago.
Paulus said her brother may continue to operate a music store at another location, but she’s planning to retire after the Westgate shop closes.
“I’ve been here since the beginning, and I’m ready to watch the grandkids now,” Paulus said. “My brother is five years younger, and he’s the one who’s really into music. That’s his life. He plays guitar and bass professionally and can fix any instrument that you bring to him.”
On the business’ website, the siblings offered more hope, noting that they are currently in talks with some local residents who are interested in starting a new music shop for the community.
“Hopefully we get this done,” they wrote.
Hawk Music is planning a customer appreciation event, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 25. The sibling operators encourage customers, family and friends to stop by one last time before they close the business’ doors.
“Hopefully by then we will have sold most of our stock,” they wrote on the Facebook event’s page. “Please bring your instrument so we can jam!”
A few doors down from Hawk Music, Westgate Jewelers and Repairs is holding its annual sidewalk sale – featuring heavily discounted jewelry along with other items such as toys, dolls and home decor – through March 26 ahead of its store relocation next month.
Owner Laurel DiFelice is planning to move the longstanding jewelry business to another Bethlehem location, but she cannot disclose its exact address until the new store’s security system is set up.
“We’re really excited about the move,” DiFelice said. “I’ve always been a designer jeweler, but I’m branding myself now as a private professional jeweler. So, you’ll be able to come in, sit down with me and talk about exactly what you want, and we’ll make it happen.”
To give back to the community ahead of the store’s relocation, DiFelice has partnered with Bobby Gunther Walsh of NewsRadio 790 WAEB to host a “Guess Where We’re Moving” charity contest, where $500 will be donated to the winner’s charity of choice.
The winner also will receive a $200 Westgate Jewelers gift certificate, DiFelice said.
Additionally, the community has the chance to win $25 gift certificates to Mink’s Candies at the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market in the weeks leading up to to store’s relocation.
“People are really excited about our move, and we’re having a lot of fun with it,” DiFelice said. “I think it’s really important to support the community because the community supports us.”
The next business to vacate Westgate Mall will be sandwich chain Subway, which is set to leave mid-April.
Franchisee Nick Ferrani is searching for a new location for the eatery nearby.
As soon as a suitable spot is nailed down, Ferrani plans to post announcements at the shop and online.
“We’re trying to move to a new site as close to the mall as possible,” Ferrani said.
Onyx Equities, a New Jersey real estate investment and property services firm, purchased Westgate in 2018, with several rounds of renovations taking place over the ensuing years.
The latest phases of redevelopment include the demolition of part of the mall’s interior and the construction of two new structures: a freestanding bank with a drive-thru (next to relocated Weis Markets) and a strip mall that will be home to Jersey Mike’s Subs, QDOBA Mexican Eats and Starbucks restaurants along with a yet-to-be-announced retailer. A drive-thru is planned for the Starbucks.
One of the center’s biggest changes occurred in 2021, when Weis moved from its 32,000-square-foot store near the middle of the center to a remodeled, 63,000-square-foot store in part of the former Bon-Ton department store at the north end of the shopping center.
Other recent changes include Lehigh Valley Health Network opening a 27,000-square-foot medical equipment processing facility at the back of the former Bon-Ton; California-based tools and hardware chain Harbor Freight Tools opening in part of the former Weis space (neighboring space is yet to be leased); and an Oak Street Health primary care medical facility planning to open in a portion of the former Rite Aid space at the south end of the center.
Additionally, a Fine Wine & Good Spirits store is operating out of a temporary location next to Amateur Athlete while its original location is being expanded near the south end of the center.
Other planned additions include an international quick-service hamburger chain at the northern end of the center (in front of Weis) and a financial institution at the site of the former Dempsey’s restaurant at the south end of the center.
Built in 1973, Westgate Mall has been home to many businesses over the years, including prominent former tenants like Art & Drafting Connection, Beef House, Bookarama, Candy Carousel, Hourglass Hallmark, McCrory and Toy Tunnel.
More than a dozen businesses continue to operate at the mall, including Country Rose Florist, Grand China Buffet & Grill, Johnny’s Bagels & Deli, Outlooks for Hair and Panda Cleaners, among others.