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Innovation in the Cumberland Valley

Cumberland Valley’s business community has responded to the changing economic climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic with innovative approaches to help generate income, stay connected to consumers, and ensure that customers feel safe when visiting. These stories reflect their creative spirit as they adjusted to rapidly changing conditions. Has your company found an inventive and unique way to maintain business during COVID-19? Contact Lauren Yinger with your story.

Save Our Smalls Logo

Destination Carlisle (a merchant-led organization seeking to increase awareness of downtown Carlisle) created an initiative to support small businesses, thank frontline workers, and help local charities. Called “S.O.S.: Save our Smalls”, this three-month program is designed to help businesses get through the slowest part of the year while they await new rounds of PPP and other possible aid. The unique idea has a simple but effective premise: individuals and organizations are encouraged to donate money via PayPal. As donations accrue, S.O.S. picks a different local Carlisle business from which to purchase $300 worth of gift cards or products, providing them with a quick infusion of cash. The purchases are then donated to frontline workers or local charities, benefiting the larger community.

The goal is to raise $20,000 in donations in three months to support 65 local Carlisle businesses. After only two weeks, the program has raised over $12,000, meaning support for at least 40 local businesses. To date, purchases have been made at more than 30 businesses, putting $9,000+ directly into the business economy of downtown Carlisle.

Even better, S.O.S. has already donated some of those purchases including to UPMC Carlisle, treating 158 frontline workers to cookies and cupcakes, and to Cumberland Goodwill, treating 42 EMTs to $10 gift cards. Other donations are planned for nursing homes and local charities.

To learn more or to donate.

Follow the progress of this program and hear more about how some of the businesses have used the money.

Operation Restaurant Rescue

Verber Dental Group, located in Hampden Township, recently partnered with Members 1st to launch Operation Restaurant Rescue. This initiative is designed to provide income to restaurants effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hundreds of meals purchased from these local restaurants are distributed to organizations, individuals, and families in need.

According to the December 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million nationally, or 23.2%, since February 2020. In December alone, employment in leisure and hospitality declined by 498,000, with three-quarters of the decrease in food services and drinking places (-372,000).

Recently, Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ took this innovative approach one step further by providing the meals for free as a way to give back to the community for their support throughout the pandemic.

If you’re a local restaurant owner or general manager that would like to participate in Operation Restaurant Rescue, please complete this form.

Cumberland Drive In

Coming off a blockbuster season in 2019, Cumberland Drive-In Theatre saw their revenue decrease by up to 60% when Hollywood limited releases to second-run titles in the summer of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Looking for creative ways to generate income, the drive-in, which has been in business for almost 60 years, transitioned to hosting events such as a classic car show, an investment firm’s annual meeting, and a wedding.


THEA offers guests 10 heated outdoor dining bubbles for a unique and safe dining experience. To add to the ambience, each bubble features mood lighting and a Bluetooth speaker. Between uses the bubbles are cleaned with a medical-grade spray that sits for 10 minutes. Staff then wipes down everything with sanitizer wipes and the vents are opened to allow fresh air to circulate. Reservations are $15 during the week and $25 on the weekend.

Carlisle Theatre Puppet Bongo

The historic art deco theatre in the heart of downtown Carlisle has proudly offered cultural events to the community since 1939. When staff realized that the theatre might be closed for an unknown amount of time due to COVID-19, they began brainstorming new ideas to reach the community. They came up with a video series called “Storytelling with Bongo,” a monkey sock puppet who provides children with some fun book readings and silly conversations (accompanied by his friend, Players on High Artistic Director, Ashley). Filmed at home, the theatre’s first virtual education opportunity was a success with about 20,000 hits in a few weeks.

Grand Illusion

Prior to COVID-19, the owner of Grand Illusion Hard Cider had renovated their third-floor space in anticipation of opening an escape room. The updates created two spacious rooms, a gathering area, and half bathroom and included new HVAC and security cameras. Unable to open the escape room due to COVID-19, and wanting to see the new space put to good use, the owners offered it as a POP UP SHOP for local artists and businesses to sell their products during the holiday season.

Brought to you by the creators of The Millworks in Harrisburg, The Watershed Pub serves delicious food, craft beverages, and artisan cocktails in a building that dates back to the 1830s and has been carefully renovated and restored. While still retaining many of its unique architectural features, the owners have added modern amenities that elevated their safety standards including the installation of a special UV virus filtration system in the HVAC system.

Meadowbrooke Gourds Event

Molly Pitcher Brewing Company and Meadowbrooke Gourds partnered together over the summer to offer socially-distanced outdoor live entertainment for the entire family. Several Live on the Farm events included great music, delicious food, and awesome craft beer all enjoyed in 16’ x 16’ areas at Meadowbrooke Gourds reserved just for your party. For an additional cost, the space also included a tent.


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