Retail Watch: Purr-fect for the holidays: Former Morning Call reporter opens store featuring cat gifts, supplies, adoption events and more – The Morning Call

Small Business Saturday is right around the corner, and whether you’re seeking a gift for your favorite cat or cat devotee, a new mom-and-pop shop in Emmaus is the purr-fect destination.
Purr Haus, offering “the best stuff for cats and the people who love them,” opened Saturday at 27 S. Seventh St. (across from CVS drive-thru).
Shoppers can find a curated selection of cat supplies such as beds, bowls, carriers and toys; cat-themed apparel and accessories such as T-shirts, leggings, dresses and winter hats; and other cat-centric items such as coloring books, glassware, greeting cards and umbrellas.
There are also natural cat treats like dried sardines and tuna flakes, as well as cat care products such as holistic flea-prevention solutions and shampoo.
Owner Laurie Mason, a lifelong cat lover, began planning Purr Haus in 2018 after she and her husband, Tim Schroeder, attended their first cat convention in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
“There was a long line outside the convention hall of people eager to get in, and all the vendors were doing brisk business,” Mason said. “I realized that there was a market for the small-batch cat supplies that were being sold there, and that ‘cat people’ like me enjoyed shopping alongside like-minded folks for products that were not only cool, but also supported a cause.”
Mason, who owns four cats and fosters a few others through the Lehigh Valley-based nonprofit Starting Over Animal Rescue, or SOAR, also has devoted a room to cat adoption events that she plans to host on weekends with SOAR and other animal rescue groups.
Mason has had a soft spot for homeless cats ever since she encountered a pregnant cat with three of her kittens in her yard in 2011.
“Even though I’d owned cats my entire life, I was unaware of how big the homeless cat problem was,” Mason said. “I was calling all these cat rescue organizations and hearing how their shelters were full and their bank accounts were empty.”
Mason, a former crime journalist who worked at The Morning Call for six years before retiring from the industry in June, channeled her newfound interest in cat rescue into a side beat there, frequently writing about the Lehigh Valley’s animal welfare organizations.
“I often joke that when I write my autobiography, I’m going to title it ‘From Murder to Meow,’” Mason said. “Being a reporter is very stressful, and there were some nights, especially after a covering a homicide trial with child victims, that the only thing that would allow me to decompress enough to sleep was holding a purring cat in my lap.”
Mason is not trying to compete with pet store chains or large online companies, she said, but rather offer a “one-of-a-kind mix of cat items — most made in the USA — that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Unique selections include matching blankets for your cat and you; cat-emblazoned onesies, scarves and handbags; organic catnip-filled toys adorned with images of popular TV shows like “The Golden Girls” and “Schitt’s Creek”; and a backpack cat carrier with a window, making your cat look like an astronaut while traveling to the veterinarian.
Several vendors, such as the California-based T-shirt company Kittees, donates a portion of its proceeds to animal rescue organizations.
The store, which also plays cat-themed songs such as “Kitty Kat” by Beyonce and “What’s New Pussycat” by Tom Jones, is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Info:
About a half mile east of Purr Haus, a longtime stylist has opened another new business in Emmaus.
Jessica Lang, a licensed hair stylist for 16 years, on Nov. 8 opened Alter Ego Salon and Spa at 500 Broad St., across the street from Volpe’s Sports Bar.
The corner space previously housed another salon, She Salon & Day Spa, for more than a decade, and before that, it was home to Broad Street Market and the longstanding Gabby’s Market.
Alter Ego, featuring eight styling stations, offers a wide array of hair care services, including haircuts, coloring, perms and updos.
The business sells hair care products from top brands like American Crew, Biolage and Redken, and it also plans to expand its services to include manicures, facials and skincare in the near future.
Lang is joined by another seasoned stylist, Danielle Fritchman, who has 11 years of experience in the hair care industry, and a few other stylists are set to start work in the coming weeks. Fritchman and Lang most recently worked together at a local Holiday Hair salon. Info: 610-421-8585.
Two businesses — eyewear retailer Warby Parker and pescatarian cafe Almost Vegan — are set to open at Lehigh Valley Mall in early 2022.
Almost Vegan, serving wild-caught seafood, plant-based dishes and organic smoothies, originally opened in July 2020 at 627 W. Liberty St. in Allentown.
Husband and wife co-owners Anthony and Nadia Alexander are planning to move the restaurant to the mall for more space and foot traffic “hopefully before February,” Nadia said.
The couple will continue operating the eatery out of the Allentown spot, a renovated space that previously housed a Yocco’s hot dog shop, until the move is complete, Nadia said.
Menu highlights include breakfast items such as quinoa grits, avocado spelt toast and wild blueberry pancakes; lunch options such as vegan pizza, Maryland-style crab cakes and a teriyaki grilled shrimp kabob salad; and vegan desserts such as vanilla walnut cake and apple caramel cheesecake. Tacos, featuring grain- and soy-free shells, are available in two varieties: salmon and fennel bean.
At the second-level mall space, which previously housed Subway, the Alexanders are planning to update the menu to include more vegan and seafood dishes. Staples will continue to be offered.
Warby Parker, offeringhigh-quality eyeglasses, sunglasses, contacts, and eye exams at an affordable price,” will open its first Lehigh Valley location at the mall’s outdoor lifestyle center. The space previously housed handbags and accessories brand Coach.
The forthcoming Whitehall store is hiring for more than a dozen positions, including optician, optical supervisor and sales manager, according to postings on the business’ website. The online listings also indicate the store is set to open in “spring 2022.”
Warby Parker, which originally launched online in 2010 and has since expanded to more than 150 locations across the United States and Canada, “pioneers ideas, designs products, and develops technologies that help people see” — from designer-quality prescription glasses (starting at $95) and contacts to eye exams and vision tests available online and in stores, according to a message on the business’ website.
The owners of a once-popular restaurant in Hellertown have found a new venue to serve diners in Lehigh County.
Husband and wife Russell and Kim Lebkuecher, who previously operated the now-closed Kasey Lynn’s Restaurant for more than 15 years on the borough’s Main Street, on Wednesday opened Kasey Lynn’s on Broadway at 1305 Broadway in Fountain Hill.
The building previously housed Matey’s Famous Steaks & Pizza, which owner Michael Matey closed last month after 33 years of business to focus on his flourishing frozen pizza operation, Matey’s American Pizza Company.
The Lebkuechers are serving up familiar Kasey Lynn’s favorites, including chili, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, rice pudding and omelettes. New offerings include pizza and a ribeye ultimate cheesesteak.
Only breakfast and lunch have been served during its soft opening, but starting this week, dinner service will be introduced on select days in conjunction with the following hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Following the original Kasey Lynn’s closure in the mid-2000s, the Lebkuechers operated a few other iterations of their business, named after their daughter, including Kasey Lynn’s Sweets & Catering a few blocks away on Main Street in Hellertown.
Most recently, they sold their upper Bucks County family restaurant, Kasey’s on the Delaware, which they operated from March 2017 through August of this year in Tinicum Township. Under its new ownership, the restaurant is known as Amanda’s Riverside Cafe.
The Lebkuechers also were co-owners of The Meadows banquet facility in Lower Saucon Township from 1991 until 2017, and their children continue to operate a sister business, Paragon Catering. Info:
Another delicious addition: Ice Cream Lounge, which opened in May 2019 at 1800 Sullivan Trail in Forks Township, on Friday opened its sister venture, Ice Cream Lounge & Caribbean Grill, in a nearby space in the same Park Plaza shopping center.
The fast-casual eatery, offering Caribbean dishes such as jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtails, will occupy a corner space that previously housed other food-centric businesses, including Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Red White & Que Smokehouse, American Heroes Smokehouse and, most recently, The Stone Soup.
Husband and wife owners Ricky and Cindy Smith have a Jamaican background and are excited to share some of their culture’s popular dishes with the Lehigh Valley community.
Platters, starting at $16, come with plantains, choice of white rice or rice and peas, and an additional side of your choosing such as steamed cabbage, potato salad or West Indian-style mac and cheese.
The couple plans to continue operating their stand-alone ice cream shop, but for the winter months, they are thinking of temporarily closing that venue and offering a slightly condensed menu — featuring Nelson’s hand-dipped ice cream, made-on-site rolled ice cream, select sundaes and milkshakes — at the restaurant. Info: 484-544-4694.
A final foodie tid-bit: Wayback Burgers, which bills itself as “America’s favorite hometown burger joint,” on Wednesday announced a lease signing to open a new restaurant in Lehigh County in mid-2022.
The eatery, at 5585 Hamilton Blvd. in Lower Macungie Township, will be the 16th Wayback Burgers location owned and operated by local franchisees in Pennsylvania and is projected to add approximately 30 new jobs to the local economy, according to a news release. It will supplement two other area locations in Bethlehem Township and North Whitehall Township.
Founded in 1991 in Newark, Delaware, Wayback Burgers is a Connecticut-based fast-casual franchise with a reputation for cooked-to-order burgers, available as a single patty or classic double patties, along with thick, hand-dipped milkshakes, served in an environment that hearkens back to a simpler place and time — “when customer service meant something and everyone felt the warmth of the community,” according to a company description.
The chain also offers cheesesteaks, chicken sandwiches, salads and more.
Retail Watch, appearing every weekend, keeps track of retail and restaurant news in the Lehigh Valley. Contact Ryan Kneller at 610-820-6597 or


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