Manheim couple redeveloping former Bickel’s building into REO Manheim Marketplace

By on August 15, 2018

Developers of the REO Manheim Marketplace (left to right) Barney and Suzanne Reiley, are transforming the former Bickel’s property into space to lease for retail and dining. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

The former Bickel’s Snack Foods facility at 51 N. Main St., Manheim, has been a beehive of activity since February. Manheim residents Bernard “Barney” and Suzanne Reiley are transforming the facility into the REO Manheim Marketplace with the vision of creating space for a craft brew pub and a retail/maker space to lease.

“We’re a local family with local roots. We were looking for a property in town that we could purchase and restore; we wanted to do our part in redeveloping Manheim; it’s a great place to raise a family. Plus there are a lot of things to draw people to the area such as the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, Kreider Farms Tours, and Spooky Nook Sports,” Barney Reiley said, “We were inspired by J.P. and Michele Perron’s transformation of a vacant building that had its roots as an 1880s cigar warehouse into The Booking House.”

The Reileys purchased the 1.4-acre tract in May 2016 from Hanover Foods, which acquired Bickel’s in October 1998. According to Manheim Historical Society’s archives, Bickel’s was founded in Lancaster in 1954 and moved to Manheim in 1963. According to a Nov. 7, 2000 LNP news article, production at the facility was shifted to York in Feb. 2001. Although production was idled at the Manheim facility, Barney Reiley said Hanover Foods was using the site as a storage and distribution facility until the time the couple purchased it.

“We spent some time looking at the entire facility and determining the best way to repurpose it,” he said. “We also looked at the types of uses the town needs — things like dining and retail.”

They announced their first tenant, Mill 72 Bake Shop & Café, at the end of July. The bake shop owners are Penryn residents Brian and Melanie Miller, who will operate it with the assistance of their four daughters. They plan to offer baked goods made on the premises as well as serve light fare breakfast and lunch items. A wide selection of coffee drinks and Kreider’s ice cream will also be available.

The bake shop and café will be located in a 2,800-square-foot space in the front corner near the parking lot. It is anticipated to open near the end of the year.

“We are trying to source as much as we can locally,” said Melanie Miller.

When the Reileys purchased the property, it had six separate buildings, two of which were demolished in February. The demolished buildings included a home that Barney Reiley described as “uninhabitable,” and the lower garage, which was structurally unsound. He said the project has involved a number of local contractors. The remaining four buildings offer nearly 25,000-square feet of space.

This is one of several concept drawings of what the new facade will look like. (Design by abSketches)

“A friend of ours is an architectural historian,” he said. “As we were showing him around the property, I looked back and found him lying flat out on the sidewalk and peering into the decorative grates (where the building met the sidewalk). We were really excited when he told us the original façade of the building was actually still there. We’ve carefully uncovered and restored it.”

A courtyard will be created in the area where the lower garage stood. It will provide a back entrance into the portion of the facility housing the bake shop and café. It could also be used as an entrance to the area the couple would like to lease to a brew pub.

A second story area above the former auto showroom has been remodeled. It houses two 1,400-square-foot apartments. The Reileys plan to seek zoning approval from the borough to use them as short-term rentals.

“There are businesses in town that may need short-term rentals for staff who are relocating to the area or are here on a short-term basis,” Barney Reiley said.

And while many remember the facility as Bickel’s, the building’s history goes back even further. Delving into the history was something Suzanne enjoyed. A self-professed history buff, she said she spent hours researching the property’s history at the Manheim Historical Society’s Heritage Center. Manheim Historical Society records indicate that one of the buildings on the property was once the site of one of Manheim’s oldest tavern/hotels — the King of Prussia, which later became the Eagle Hotel, and then the Globe Hotel.

Construction in progress in the “center building” of the REO Manheim Marketplace. The doors to the rear open onto North Wolf Street. Developers Barney and Suzanne Reiley are hoping this area will be leased for maker/retail space.

The name the couple chose for the facility, REO Manheim Marketplace, pays tribute to its heritage as an REO auto, and later truck, dealership. It was founded by E.S. Zimmerman as Zimmerman’s Garage and Repair Shop and became Manheim’s first auto dealer in 1907. The business was later purchased by Zimmerman’s brother-in-law J. Harvey Spahr and eventually renamed J. Harvey Spahr. Spahr’s remained an REO automobile dealership into the 1930s when REO began focusing on larger trucks; at that time, Spahr added an Oldsmobile dealership. (REO stood for Ransom Eli Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile.)

Mill 72 Baker Shop & Café will be located in what had been the showroom of the car dealership. Barney Reiley said large showroom-type windows have been installed and the 100-year-old maple flooring will be refinished. What the couple has dubbed as “the center building” (adjoining the former showroom and fronting on Main Street) is the 11,000-square-foot area they’re hoping to lease to someone who would use it as maker space. This area has been gutted to expose its basic structure —  including trusses and clerestory windows; the original windows have all been replaced.

The Reileys have been acting as general contractor for the project and are often found onsite.

“People stop by as we’re working and have asked about the project and shared memories of the buildings. We learned that a duckpin alley with a soda fountain and pinball machines was in the rear of the center building at one time,” Barney said.

It remains a work in progress, but the Reileys are looking for tenants to lease space.

“This is a great project. They’re helping Manheim move forward,” said Manheim Mayor Scot Funk.

“It is an amazing opportunity for our community and we are so grateful to the Reileys for their commitment to developing an important legacy property in Manheim Borough,” said Kelly Lauver of the Manheim Chamber. “I do think that this will help spur growth and encourage other developers to look at Manheim as a great place to develop.”

Information about the project is posted on the REO Manheim Marketplace Facebook page. For information about leasing space, call Bernard Reiley at 717-951-6351 or email breiley625@gmail.com.

This vintage ad for J. Harvey Spahr Oldmobile dealer ran in a June 6, 1952 newspaper. It shows what the facade looked like at the time. (Courtesy of the Manheim Historical Society)

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