County Line Market operating fully again after week in limbo

The County Line Market in Newmansville is back to selling hot food and ice cream after a week in bureaucratic limbo.

“The paperwork is done and the DEP and Department of Agriculture are on the same page that we can use our food license,” Connie Coppella, a co-owner of the business, said. “We are so happy to have it (an active retail food license) back,” she added.

Cappella purchased the business with her son, Bradley Coppella, in March, a week after Gov. Tom Wolf shut down “non-essential” businesses.

The store was granted a retail food license by the Department of Agriculture on June 24, before it opened, Connie Coppella said.

Bradley Coppella said they were granted the food license by the Department of Agriculture provided that water was tested by a private lab, which it was.

“We had a full go ahead from the Department of Agriculture,” Connie Coppella said. She added that to the best of their knowledge they were allowed to sell prepared food, hand dipped ice cream and coffee.

“No one has ever said our water was unsafe. It has been tested multiple times. We were not shut down because our water was unsafe,” Bradley Coppella said.

The required paperwork regarding the well that serves the store was submitted to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) in the spring but there was a delay in it being processed and rubber stamped by the DEP, the store owners said.

“Our water has never failed a test and it gets tested every month by two labs,” Connie Coppella said. She explained that County Line Market’s well water has always tested clean in every record they have of it being tested since it was dug in 1930.

The business opened its doors Aug. 1 and everything went smoothly until Aug. 25, Connie Coppella said.

On Aug. 25, the Coppellas received a letter from the DEP asking for testing that had already been done, so they did a second pump test, which the well passed, and sent it to the DEP, Connie Coppella said.

Three weeks after the testing, the DEP requested they make 10 minor corrections to their paperwork, which they made, Connie Coppella said. “On our end we have worked diligently with the DEP,” Coppella said.

On Oct. 1, a regional director with the Department of Agriculture came in person to the store during business hours and demanded the Coppellas ceases using their active retail food license and stop serving prepared food immediately.

The Coppellas reached out via social media to explain their situation and ask people to contact their local state representatives, Donna Oberlander and Kathy Rapp.

The owners then received calls from both Oberlander and Rapp’s offices saying they were looking into the matter and expediting the approval of the paperwork, Connie Cappella said.

The store remained open that week but wasn’t allowed to sell hot food, hand dipped ice cream or coffee, which came under the food license.

Connie Coppella said they were concerned about being able to make ends meet and keeping their seven local employees at their jobs.

The number of customers in the store decreased and the store lost about $3,000 in revenue, Bradley Coppella said.

After a week of uncertainty, the Coppellas were told their clean water application was processed and approved by the DEP so they were allowed to resume using their food license, the Coppellas said.

The owners stressed they have been trying to comply with the law and all the various regulations since they began their endeavor to re-open County Line Market, which had been closed for four years. But the process hasn’t been easy or cheap, they said.

“The process has been quite complicated. Agencies don’t give a clear path to compliance. There is not a checklist,” Bradley Coppella said.

“The whole situation was exacerbated by COVID,” Bradley Coppella added. “Now you can’t get the agencies on the phone because they don’t answer their land lines. It took a month to figure out how to reach them to get the paperwork. While the government is glad to enforce regulations, they are not proactive in helping people comply with them,” he said.