HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — It has been a concern of Hagerstown city leaders: revitalizing south Hagerstown neighborhoods. There may just be an entrepreneur who is leading the way.
In south Hagerstown, crime is a serious concern — as well as trash, deteriorating buildings and drug trafficking. So what will it take to revitalize this community? Jessica Peteranecz has the answer: Start a business. Hire good people. Make an emotional commitment to your product and service. Love what you’re doing. The neighborhood will come around.
Then, a little more than a year ago, said Peteranecz, “actually during COVID, when everybody had nothing better to do than eat, everybody started making cakes. So I was making 10 to 12 cakes a day by myself.”
That’s a lot of cake. Jessica needed help. She recruited a student from the elite Culinary Institute of America in New York. What does Keyona Keys think of working with Jessica in south Hagerstown?
“All I can say is this is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Keys. “I really love it here. I don’t see myself being anywhere else but here. I could be here everyday.”
With that kind of attitude Jessica hopes to create more jobs. Hire more people like Keyona. Attract more customers to the neighborhood.
“We’re also bringing more downtown traffic,” said Peteranecz. “People are coming down here. They’re wanting to come to this side of town because they want to come get baked goods.”
City officials can juggle policing and lighting and zoning – address the homeless problem and blighted structures. Prevent loitering. Clean up alleyways. All that will help, but as far as Jessica and Keyona see things, build a business with a soul that customers love. That spirit will go a long way to bringing the neighborhood and south Hagerstown community around.
“They gave me the opportunity to work here and learn running the basics of a bake shop,” Keys said. “I’m just so grateful.”
Meanwhile, the city is adopting a new policy of having police officers do their paperwork in their parked cruisers in the downtown neighborhood as a way to increase their visibility. Another thing the city is doing to improve conditions in south Hagerstown is improve street lighting, especially in alleyways.