“The freedom and the space were a huge part of what really drew us to the area.”
For Rachele Harmuth and her family, NEPA was the perfect escape from the crowded Philly suburbs. They originally moved to the Poconos in search of a quiet, laidback place to raise their three children—the kind of place where the kids could play outside all day long and spend summer vacation by the lake.
As the kids grew older, Harmuth discovered a new opportunity in NEPA. She had noticed selfie studios popping up all over the country, yet the nearest one was three hours away in New Jersey. She asked herself—why not NEPA?
The Harmuths teamed up with another family to make the dream into a reality. It took months of hard work and top-notch DIY skills, but in October 2021, they officially opened Selfie Studio Scranton in the Viewmont Mall.
“I think my kids were really tired of sandpaper and paint at that point,” joked Harmuth. “Everybody chipped in to make this space happen.”
Located in the former Gap, this interactive photo studio is filled with over 45 backdrops for snapping pictures and filming videos. Harmuth, who has a background in toy design, tapped into her creativity to design Insta-worthy walls and fun, playful props. The old checkout areas became party rooms, and even the fitting rooms were transformed into mini photo booths.
We met Harmuth at the studio to hear her story. She shared why NEPA was such a great choice, both for her family and for her business.
How long have you lived in NEPA?
We moved up here in 2009, so about 12 or 13 years.
What brought you to NEPA?
We were in a suburb of Philly and were looking for a place that would be great to raise our kids. A friend of ours had said there was really great property in the Poconos, and there were lakes. I always wanted to live on a lake and have that experience. We started searching and looking at school districts. We found a school district that we loved. We found a community that we loved. We thought we could raise our kids here and give them a really great childhood experience with the outdoors, but not so far away from everything that you don’t have the cultural experiences.
Did anything surprise you about NEPA?
Again, we were focused on the lakes and the idea of the Poconos. What I didn’t expect was to find just really great people. I think there’s people from all over the place that sort of migrate here. We’ve met people who grew up here, but there are so many transplants who come here looking for the kind of thing we were looking for—a slower pace of life and a great experience for their kids. There’s this really great mix of cultures and influences from all around.
What do you love about your town?
I love the lifestyle. I love the fact that we’re surrounded by forests and wilderness and lakes. My kids all grew up boating and riding ATVs and golf carts. I think it’s a really great experience. It’s the kind of place where you can send your kids out to go play and come home when it gets dark. That’s precious because it doesn’t exist in a lot of the other places that we had looked at living. That’s really, really important to us. Coming from a suburb of Philly, it was very built up with lots of people in a lot less space. The freedom and the space were a huge part of what really drew us to the area.
What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?
There are a couple that we love. We love The Loading Dock, which is fantastic. We love Rossi’s. That’s for fancy occasions or celebrations—always Rossi’s. And then, we love the Greek American Grill. It’s fantastic. They have fabulous gyros.
What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
All of my kids ski. We started off skiing when they were little. Even though we tried all the different slopes in the area, hands down, we love Big Bear because it’s small enough that it’s comfortable to learn and the kids always know somebody on the hill. That’s been really fun. In the summertime, we really love that lake life experience. We also recently started tubing down the Delaware, going up, throwing tubes in and spending a day floating down the river with friends. That’s been fantastic and really fun.
What’s next for you?
I think we’re excited to launch this. For us, our real focus is trying to create a fun, social environment for the tweens and teens of the area. It’s great to have a birthday party venue that hits that age range. I’m excited to grow this. I’m excited to see where we can take it. And it’s great too because we get a lot of feedback from the kids and teens and from adults about what they’d like to see, so we’re trying to create events that really speak to the community. It’s just really fun.
Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?
I’m really excited about this area. It’s got great people. You can see a lot of investment and excitement building, but it still holds to the beauty of the area. There are a lot of places really utilizing that. You see a lot of these really great businesses coming in and starting to support the area. I’m excited to see how that grows and how that builds all the way around.
For us, it was all about the lifestyle that it provided for our family and creating a place where our kids could grow and develop that had freedoms, but that still had culture and a great school system. It gave them the chance to have so many great experiences before they launch into the world.