In late 2017, the owner of Roadside America in Shartlesville decided it was time to retire. The exhibit, business and building were put up for sale and listed for $2.3 million in early 2018.
Now, three employees of Roadside America have launched a $750,000 Kickstarter online fundraising campaign to buy the display, move it and restore it.
Jon Jordan, village supervisor, Richard Peiffer, road foreman of tracks, trains and trolleys, and Jeff Marks, landscape and restoration artist, want to buy the display, relocate it to a more convenient Berks County location and restore the exhibit to its original beauty.
The potential buyers said the fundraising campaign is all or nothing, and if they don’t reach their goal, the effort is off.
“We obviously don’t want to collect funds for something, fall short of our goal, and then not be able to deliver,” Jordan said. “This way, backers aren’t charged, and we don’t receive funds unless our goal is reached.”
While the Kickstarter campaign is all or nothing, he said they have no plans of giving up even if the crowdfunding fails.
“We will keep working to find a new solution no matter how long it takes, until we either succeed or are beat to the punch of buying the business,” he said.
Dolores Heinsohn, granddaughter of Roadside America founder Laurence Gieringer, owns the attraction, a 6,000-square-foot miniature village in a building visible from Interstate 78.
The three men said they want to restore the exhibit to the way it was in the 1950s.
“Maintaining the integrity of the display is a top priority,” Jordan said. “We want to keep it as close to the original as humanly possible but with a fresher, more vibrant look and better operating condition.”
The purchase is only for the display. Jordan said the $2.3 million price for the building, display and business, along with the repairs the three believe the building needs, wasn’t viable for them.
“Our plan to relocate the display may not be favorable to some, and if it were viable for us to keep it in its current location, we would,” Jordan said. “Unfortunately, the numbers just don’t add up to a winning figure, and our priority is keeping this masterpiece alive and around here in the Berks County area for generations to come.”
They are looking for a location that would be closer to Reading, but not in Reading. Jordan said a space in a location such as a strip mall would be best because it already is a destination, plus it could accommodate buses for tours.
The three men have created tiered rewards for those who contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, from getting the donor’s name on the wall for $10 or more, to a special viewing and T-shirts for large donors.
There’s even an opportunity to have a miniature representation of yourself in the village.
There also are corporate sponsorships, which include discounts for employees.
Meanwhile, the three men are working with SCORE in Reading to solidify a business plan to keep Roadside America as a functioning business.
Jordan called it a passion for the three of them.
“We’ve all been fans of Roadside America since we were really young. … Working here has been a dream come true for each of us,” he said. “It’s extremely important to keep it open and to keep it operating in Berks County.”