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The New Lancaster

Photograhy by Cindy Ross

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ou won’t find any stamp that says “Made in China” on the wooden furniture sold in Lancaster’s Tellus 360 store. What you will find is a fascinating story about the former life of the lumber contained in the products.

Tellus’ small team of woodworkers creates furniture, kitchens, flooring and lighting from wood that was salvaged and saved from landfills.

These beautiful products contain lumber that was once pilings in the Boston Harbor, part of a high school in Massachusetts, a tobacco factory in Virginia or a grain mill in Maryland.

Wine racks came from wood from a local house that burned, balance boards came from a mushroom plant and scraps are made into one-of-a-kind electric guitars.

Owner and visionary Joe Devoy takes old wood from construction projects and repurposes and reuses it to create new items of use and beauty.

“Tellus” was a Roman earth goddess concerned with the productivity of the earth; “360” is cycling back to a simpler way of life. Some of the recycled wood is purchased from demolition companies; some comes from Devoy’s second business, ARA Construction, which de-constructs buildings.

Tellus 360 is just one of the leaders in Lancaster that is helping to create a new city – one that is a leader in living sustainably and a rewarding place to spend a weekend getaway. Lancaster helps you feel good about being a consumer, in every sense of the word – even shopping.  

Tellus 360 invites schools in for tours where they tell the repurposing wood story and educate the next generation on living sustainably. Devoy believes there is a better way to use our natural materials. Trashed wood can have new life, new hope.

Devoy continues telling me how he strives to make a difference in Lancaster and beyond. In the Glen Mill’s, Pa., Whole Foods, there is beautiful restaurant furniture that was built from a barn in the Poconos.

In a Staples store on NYC’s 5th Avenue, one of the most prominent streets in the world, there’s a wooden staircase made from repurposed wood. There are educational info plaques alongside the woodworks telling the story of the wood’s second life and the importance of recycling.

Besides handmade wooden products, Tellus 360 carries jewelry made from recycled flip flops, sneakers, skateboards, 100 percent Fair Trade goods and other items. Profits go to a foundation in Nepal for whom Tellus 360 is building a school.

Keeping in the same vein, Devoy decided to transform his 10,000-square-foot roof in the middle of downtown Lancaster and make it “green.”

With the help of a grant from the county, he transformed the unused space into a restful haven of green growing life. The 80 tons of soil was shot onto the prepared roof via a vacuum type hose out of a truck on the street. The roof collects 80 percent of the 420,000 gallons that annually rains on it, which otherwise would wash away into the bay.

Wine racks came from wood from a local house that burned, balance boards came from a mushroom plant and scraps are made into one-of-a-kind electric guitars.

An outdoor yoga studio, an organic garden, a performance space and a place for respite from the city below are all in the future plans.

Tellus 360 invites schools in for tours where they tell the repurposing wood story and educate the next generation on living sustainably. Devoy believes there is a better way to use our natural materials. Trashed wood can have new life, new hope.

The recycling leaders continue in Lancaster with Fresco Green. Rick Frescatore has a compact downtown store called Fresco Eco-Lifestyle Store where you can bring your container to the Refill Station and fill up on lotion, dishwashing liquid, soap, shampoo and other items. You can buy stylish computer bags and belts made from recycled truck inner tubes, drinking glasses cut from beer bottles and natural beauty products made by a local gal.

Frescatore is no newcomer to the green movement. For 26 years, he held the position of Director of Recycling for the state of PA. His second store, Fresco Green Building Supply Store outside of town, features recycled building products.

Hotels like The Cork Hotel and the Lancaster Arts Hotel took spent factories and old buildings and created works of art in which to spend the night.

There’s a company making insulation out of shredded denim jeans that has the same R value as fiberglass; cork flooring made from recycled wine bottle corks; counter tops made from ground-up recycled porcelain; sheeting made from bamboo; wall surfaces made from clay with zero toxins; counter tops made from recycled glass and concrete; and natural pigment paints and stains. Incorporating these products into your building project not only graces your home with beauty, it also keeps materials out of the landfill.

Frescatore conducts workshops and tours for homeowners and professionals, as well as fields trips for students wanting to learn about recycling and the “green” movement. He even provides a training facility for designers and builders.

The store Building Character in downtown Lancaster is a fun place to shop. It shelters 35 retailers under one monstrous 10,000-square-foot roof. Most of the independently owned shops specialize in vintage, recycled or handmade items.

Marty Hulse began the store as an outlet for architectural salvage, but the store  has expanded to include three warehouses and a front show room.

Sparkling cut glass bird feeders made from antique candy dishes; jewelry made out of Scrabble tiles; doors, windows and turnings to complete every creative building need; used furniture; and three large used clothing shops, make browsing here another feel-good shopping experience. 

It is not just about making money for these Lancaster shop owners. It is about doing the right thing for the planet, for the trees, for our conscience.

Hotels like The Cork Hotel and the Lancaster Arts Hotel took spent factories and old buildings and created works of art in which to spend the night.

Restaurants like John J. Jeffries and Penn Square Grille changed their menu up to include local, homegrown and organic food.

I see things in Lancaster’s shops to make my life better and help the planet at the same time.

In this great city, I get excited to be a consumer, as I don’t even believe in purchasing things I do not need. But I see things in Lancaster’s shops to make my life better and help the planet at the same time.  

These forward-thinking, caring-for-the-planet kinds of people are creating the kind of place in Lancaster in which almost anyone would want to live, or at the very least, spend some quality time.  

Accommodations don’t get any better nor unique in Lancaster than at The Cork Factory Hotel, listed in the Historic Hotels of America under the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An abandoned historic cork factory was recently converted into a hip mixed-use community renamed “The Urban Place.” This 300,000-square-foot site includes luxury apartments and retail and commercial space, the Cap & Cork Restaurant and the boutique Cork Factory Hotel with 77 luxury rooms. The rooms have the warmth of restored original brick interior walls and exposed wood ceilings. The wooden staircases are all original and the restaurant’s brick walls are decorated with cast machinery wheels, tools, ornate metal grates and pitch forks.

John J. Jeffries and the Penn Square Grille (located inside the Lancaster Marriot) both serve a farm-to-table sustainable cuisine including local, seasonal organic food. Even their seafood is gleaned from sustainable fisheries that practice healthful fish-farming practices.

There’s delicious and creative menu items like the Jim Bim Bop (a spicy pork, rice, kimchee and seasonal vegetable dish), maple bacon ice cream, roasted turkey from local farms, organic fair trade chocolate flour-less cake and sweet potato pizza pie.

After a great meal, you can stroll down Gallery Row and stop into a few of the nearly 100 galleries and artist co-ops, or take in a performance at the magnificently restored Fulton Theatre.

Lancaster is changing the way we live  in our cities here in Pennsylvania and how we look at our home.

The quality of life has increased in Lancaster. If I didn’t need wild spaces so much in my own personal life, I would definitely pick up and move away from the Appalachian Mountains and choose Lancaster as the town I would call my home. That’s saying a whole lot.

If you haven’t paid Lancaster a visit in a while, you will be quite surprised. Warning: You may find yourself stopping in at a realtor’s office before you leave town.

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