Planned Allentown eatery asks nearby college students for input

Jay’s Local is expected to open by mid-September. (Photo submitted) –

When a local eatery is looking to target a specific group of customers, it makes sense to ask those customers what they want.

And that’s exactly what Lyell Scherline and his family did when they set about planning for Jay’s Local, a new café just off the campus of Muhlenberg College in Allentown. They went to the school’s students for advice.

Working with students in the college’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, the Scherlines talked directly to students about what they were looking for in an off-campus eatery.

“We wanted to get the students involved in our decision making,” he said.

The property at 2301 Liberty St. is already known to the student body. It was most recently an eatery called Café Frais and before that it was a small grocery store.

The venue’s newest owners were wondering, what did the students need most?

Scherline said the students seemed mostly to want convenience and affordability.

“They’re looking for affordable prices,” Scherline said. “They have a meal plan and they don’t have a lot of money to spend on food.”

They also wanted a place where they could go off campus and meet with friends or just grab a quick bite to eat between classes.

Jay’s Local will aim to fill that role by carrying a variety of sandwiches soups and salads for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But Scherline said his family also had an idea of what they wanted in the eatery. He’s operating the business with his mother, Lorrie, and brother, Justin. They wanted to honor his late father, attorney Jay Scherline, who was well-known and active in the community before passing away a few years ago.

“He loved being a part of Allentown,” Scherline said.

So in his father’s memory, the eatery not only bears Jay’s name, but will have a distinct “Allentown feel.”

“This will be a homey Lehigh Valley institution,” Scherline said. It will carry local products and use local produce, which is what Jay Scherline would have wanted, he said.

The family owns the entire building and is also working on some renovations on an attached storage facility and will be creating apartment space upstairs.

The eatery should be open by mid-September.

Writer Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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