Village people Design: Developer Edward Stoudt is re-creating an old European village, with homes that have commercial space on the ground floor and living quarters above.


ADAMSTOWN, Pa. -- Edward Stoudt figured his German ancestors had it right four centuries ago. So he's doing his best to re-create a modern-day version of an Old European village -- where every homeowner is a merchant and every first-floor a shop.

Already, with just 18 of a planned 140 houses built, residents have come from as near as the next town and as far as California to buy into what is believed to be the first new community of its kind: houses with first floors dedicated to businesses.

Many of these "village pioneers," as Stoudt has dubbed them, have traded in long commutes and power lunches to go to work down the back stairs and walk no farther than the corner for a haircut, morning coffee or a loaf of bread.

On a tract where Black Angus cattle once grazed, Stoudt is building stucco houses with steep-pitched red roofs and wrought iron balconies along pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. Large picture windows at ground level offer views not into residents' living rooms, but into their shops, filled with antiques, Renaissance-style gowns, Swiss imports, artists' creations, rare stamps and postcards, china, candy and cappuccino.

For Stoudt, 56, developing his first community seemed a natural extension of ventures he has spent more than three decades building and expanding along Route 272 in his rural hometown, Pop. 1,008.

Thirty-four years ago, in what has become Lancaster County's antiques mecca, he opened Stoudt's Black Angus Restaurant. Then came Stoudt's Antiques Mall, Stoudt's beer garden and Stoudt's Microbrewery.

The entrepreneur's latest idea: Stoudtburg Village.

Down the road from the sprawling antiques mall (20 miles northeast of Lancaster and about a two-hour drive from Baltimore), the new villagers say they've found a slower pace, a sense of knowing their neighbors, a comaraderie stemming from a shared entrepreneurial spirit.

"My commute has gone from 28 miles to 28 feet," says Dick Lewis, one of two Maryland couples among the first wave of residents. "This is an opportunity to experience something different. It's the excitement of developing another way Americans can live."

But unlike the Amish farmers who still drive horse-drawn buggies in the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch farmland, these new home-and-business owners have hardly turned their backs on modern ways.

Living above the shops in three-story single-family or duplex houses, with as many as three bedrooms, residents have amenities that new-home buyers have come to expect: two-car garages, Jacuzzi tubs, walk-in closets, wood floors, fireplaces, skylights, finished basements and gourmet, if compact, kitchens.

Twenty-two years ago, Lewis and his wife, Rosemarie, might have been considered pioneers of another sort. Sold on the village concept in James Rouse's vision of planned community living, they moved to Columbia, then just six years old. In Long Reach, they raised a family. Mr. Lewis commuted to a sales management job in Washington, and five years ago, Mrs. Lewis started a chinaware matching service from the family's home.

But Columbia offered few options for a retired couple looking to scale down living quarters but expand their business, Dining Antiques. The couple had bought a condo in Columbia. But they decided against retiring there after discovering Stoudtburg Village.

It's a lifestyle that appealed as well to Vincent and Nydia Scarpari, who say they've lived in anonymous subdivisions and worked for others long enough. In September, the couple opened an antiques, collectibles and gift shop on the first floor of their new two-bedroom house.

For now, they run the shop on weekends and commute to work in New Jersey on weekdays. But they plan early retirements to work in the shop full-time.

"I wanted my own business," said Vincent Scarpari, a 48-year-old Bell Atlantic employee. "I hate taking orders. You have no input and nothing to say. Here, everyone looks for the support of their fellow merchants and neighbors. It's an old community spirit. In today's communities, you don't have that."

Eight years ago, Stoudt says he began thinking about developing the grounds adjacent to his other businesses. He decided to pattern a development after a 16th century, walled European village and market, a concept that has fascinated him since he and his wife, Carol, visited his ancestral home of Rothenburg, Germany, on their honeymoon 21 years ago.

"We loved the fact that everything is within walking distance, everything is self-sustaining," said Carol Stoudt, an Adamstown native. "It's the way Adamstown was years ago. You'd walk to get anything. We like that small, community feeling."

But winning the zoning to mix residential and commercial uses came slowly in a conservative area uncertain of change. Stoudt's "new" ideas gained acceptance eventually, and with a newly formed construction company, he started building a year ago.

"To me, anybody can build a house," Stoudt said. "We want to build an environment."

With the help of architect Jean de Vitry, who also designed Stoudt's restaurant, the developer laid out homes with public storefronts, accessible only on foot, and rear private entrances into private foyers. Residents drive along a road circling the site to get to their homes and garages.

From her rooftop balcony overlooking the village square fountain, Liselotte Sonderegger-Moser almost feels like she's home in her native Switzerland.

"I used to see people having stores downstairs and living upstairs," said Sonderegger-Moser, a real estate agent who runs Swiss Treasures Limited. "It gives you a totally different lifestyle. I hope to get to know everyone. That's the way it was in Europe."

Thus far, the concept has attracted buyers in a range of ages and professions. They include a doctor, a psychologist, an art teacher and a college professor.

Some are retired, or one spouse works outside of the home business.

Others, like Charles Krafczek, a 27-year-old attorney with a law firm in Reading, Pa., work during the week and run their shops on weekends. Krafczek, who spent a lot of time in coffee houses in Vienna while attending law school, discovered Stoudtburg while looking to buy his first house and thought it a perfect way to open a coffee shop as a weekend hobby.

For Lois A. Stober, the community offered a chance to restart a hair salon business she had run from her home years ago. After moving to Stoudtburg with her husband and daughter, a high school senior, she opened The Village Curler. Her husband, Spencer, meanwhile, is a college biology professor in Reading.

"We wanted to have a business at home and thought the German village was a great idea," she said. "You can step out your door and have something to do. In other developments, you don't always have the friendship with the neighbors because everyone is out working, but here we're all kind of working together for the same goals."

One new neighbor is Mary Stoudt, Ed Stoudt's sister, an artist who now lives in the village above Sisters' gallery which she runs with another sibling, Jean Cocuzza.

"The people that are here are interesting," Mary Stoudt said. "Already I can see they're not your typical couch potato types."

Ed Stoudt hopes the village will be the latest in a string of successful business ventures that started with the restaurant he opened at age 22. At first, he rented space to 10 antique dealers who catered to visitors to the town, where the biggest industry was a hat factory on Main Street.

His Sunday-only market has since swelled to 500 dealers, even more with booths outside in the summer, attracting thousands of shoppers on weekends. It has become one of the largest of the many centers and converted barns along Route 272 dealing in collectibles, furniture, jewelry, pine furniture and quilts.

Later, the Stoudts linked their restaurant and market with a German-style beer garden, where diners could relax over a beer and bratwurst and be entertained by traditional music.

It seemed only natural to add a brewery. After rejecting the idea of bringing in an established company to brew beer, the Stoudts decided to brew their own. Pennsylvania's first microbrewery opened in 1986, run by Carol Stoudt.

More recently, Ed Stoudt's interests have turned to baking. He personally bakes all the bread for his restaurant and plans to open a bakery in the village. Once the last of their five children have grown up and left their Main Street home, he and his wife will move in above the bakery, he says.

"The village will pull everything together," Carol Stoudt said. "I think it will be fun and rewarding to walk out the back door and pick up something in the market rather than getting in the car."

Stoudt began the village by building Clock Towers Antiques Center, a row of specialty antique shops. Just across a small access road, a four-story "gatehouse," two dwellings connected by a bridge, forms a gateway to the village.

When the last of three building phases is completed in about five years, he envisions the individual homes and shops, as well as a small inn, a marketplace with his bakery and possibly a produce stand, and some larger stores, with apartments above them.

He feels certain the development will evolve into a balanced mix of businesses, as potential new merchants see how they can complement others.

"We have few rules," he said. "The worst thing you could do is try to dictate, try to act like God. Economics will keep some out."

Indeed, buyers pay an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 more than they might for a comparable house because of amenities to draw customers -- such as two parking lots on the periphery.

Homes have from one to three bedrooms and offer such options as finished basements and kitchen and bath upgrades. All are pre-sold, then custom-built at starting prices ranging from $145,200 to 334,200. Monthly fees of $94 to $249 cover grounds maintenance and advertising.

Stoudt has offered flexibility within five floor plans, and residents have made changes such as knocking down walls, expanding rooms, raising ceilings, even moving the second-story master suite to the third floor. One homeowner had a dumbwaiter installed from the garage to an upstairs closet.

On a recent rainy Sunday, few shoppers drifted over to the new village, though crowds filled nearby antiques businesses.

But merchants say they expected limited business at first, until more shops open.

Nydia Scarpari isn't worried.

"You're not paying rent in a store," the Treasures owner said. "We own the building and the land. If you don't make any money, you still have your roof over your head."

Stoudt says he feels confident that the village businesses will thrive.

"A lot of people bought houses when there was nothing here," he said. "A year from now, I think people will be waiting in line to buy these houses."

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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