When Barney and Suzanne Reiley sold their three environmental services companies in 2015, the Manheim couple had the freedom to contemplate a new direction.
Barney Reiley had some ideas.
“I was thinking beaches and islands and cold drinks,” he says.
But instead of kicking back, the Reileys — with the assistance of their college-aged son — decided to move forward and become real estate developers in Manheim Borough.
“We love our town. We absolutely do,” said Reiley, who grew up in Pottsville and lived for a time in Lititz.
“They welcomed us with open arms when we moved here when (our son) Adam was just a little boy. It’s such a great sense of community here, so we wanted to do something for our town.”
Their way of giving back is creating REO Manheim Marketplace, a mixed-use complex at the former Bickel’s Snack Foods plant at 51 N. Main St.
Mill 72 Cafe & Bake Shop opened in March at the property while vendor marketplace Prussian Street Arcade opened Nov. 1. Two short-term apartment rentals are also available.
Mill 72 and Prussian Street Arcade occupy two of three buildings with entrances off the courtyard of the new complex, whose name harkens back to when a dealership for REO Motorcar Co. opened there in 1907.
For the third building off the courtyard, the Reileys think a brewpub will complete their vision and create a needed attraction in Manheim.
“If you do just one lone business, it’s so hard for it to stand on its own. But if you’re careful and deliberate about your selection, and you make a couple, now you’ve made a destination,” he said.
A native of Pottsville, Barney Reiley joined the Army after graduating from high school, serving as a combat engineer. He studied business and engineering at Penn State University and then got a job with an environmental services company.
After several years, Reiley became a partner in a new environmental consulting business, to which he eventually added another environmental services business and a waste-oil recycling concern.
The 2015 sale of those businesses to publicly traded energy company Covanta helped fund the couple’s real estate development company, a venture which leans on both their professional backgrounds.
With his experience in environmental mitigation, Barney Reiley says he wasn’t scared off by a property that once included a service station and where there were rumored to be up to 10 underground storage tanks.
And Suzanne Reiley’s financial background, which included a stint as chief financial officer of Lancaster EMS, gives her some acuity with the numbers.
The Reileys say they are making a “multi-million dollar” investment to redevelop the 1.4-acre property that originally had six buildings and now has 25,000 square feet of available space in four buildings.
The courtyard off Main Street was created by knocking one building down, and it was also the site of what turned out to be the only underground tank on the property.
Taking their time
Bickel’s stopped making chips at the plant in 2000, two years after Hanover Foods bought the company. But the former factory was still being used as a warehouse and distribution center when the Reileys bought it in 2016.
To build REO Manheim Marketplace, the Reileys tore down two buildings and then overhauled the former factory spaces while paying homage to history that extends back to when the buildings were part of the J. Harvey Spahr Garage.
As they seek a brewpub to finish off the courtyard businesses at REO Manheim Marketplace, the Reileys say they are taking their time.
“It’s more important for us to find that right fit,” Barney Reiley said. He said they’ve gotten offers to open a brewery on the property but are holding out for one that would also have a restaurant.
“We’re very selective,” he said.
They hope to have a brewpub tenant secured early next year, with a possible opening by early summer.
The Reileys say they were motivated by their neighbors, J.P. and Michelle Perron, who opened The Booking House wedding venue in 2014 at a former Manheim cigar factory less a mile away.
“Their project really inspired us to do something, and we’re hoping our project inspires someone else to do another property in town,” Barney Reiley said.
The Reileys said the Perrons nudged them to develop something that could get Booking House visitors to stay in town.
“We’re trying to do things that are pedestrian-driven, that get people to come in, to stop in Manheim to walk around and explore our little town and fall in love like we did,” Barney Reiley said.
And as they’ve taken on new roles as small town property developers, the couple, who are both in their early 50s, say they’ve come to appreciate the potential of the various Lancaster County communities.
“We both came from Lititz. Lititz is great, and we’re tremendously happy for them,” he said of Lititz’s thriving downtown. “We just want Manheim to be the best Manheim it can be.”