BELLEFONTE — There’s usually a reason why people pass through a small town and never leave. For some, it’s the charm of walking down the street and knowing everyone who passes by, but for Gary Landon, owner of Happy Wraps on High Street in Bellefonte, it’s the community outreach and support.
“Bellefonte is a bustling place … it’s beautiful, and a great town to be in, which makes coming into work every day easy,” he says.
Landon has had an extensive history in the food service industry; he started over 15 years ago at a franchise in State College. He launched Happy Wraps in the Nittany Mall in 2018. While he says business was strong, he saw the shift in traffic leaving the mall, and the business moved to High Street in Bellefonte at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
One thing that has allowed Landon’s business to ride out the COVID-19 restrictions is his willingness to innovate at the drop of a hat. He realized the importance of an easily navigable website almost immediately, especially in a climate where the majority of orders placed were shifting online.
“An employee of mine helped to redesign the website and make it really user-friendly for those who want to order through it,” he says.
The welcoming vibrant green site juxtaposed with colorful images of fresh wraps makes it easy for customers to find a satisfying menu option. In addition to its website, happywrapsbf.com, the business has a Facebook page and potentially an Instagram coming in the future, so customers can stay connected.
Landon and his wife, Sharon, who operate Happy Wraps together, have been better able to navigate their business by using Square, a platform that helps small businesses track analytics, process payments and more. Having accurate and feasible access to analytics of the business, Landon says they can continue to make better financial decisions on such matters as hours of operation.
For those looking to try something new, Landon recommends the Applejack Melt, filled with Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, basil mayo, and a generous layer of apple butter, creating the ultimate combination of sweet and savory. For those who need some more kick to their bite, the Spicy Chipotle is a great match, with pepper jack cheese, jalapeño, bacon, avocado, and a choice of meat.
Cranberries, stuffing, and fresh avocado are other unconventional ingredients that Happy Wraps offers for its sandwiches, keeping new and recurring customers alike coming back for more.
“Customers have the option to come in and customize whatever they would like for their wrap or melt … sometimes we come across a customer who requests a fearful combination, but we still create it,” Landon says with a laugh.
When customers place orders for delivery, Landon is the one executing those to avoid the percentages companies he could contract with, such as Grub Hub or Door Dash, would take from his earnings.
Landon is a firm believer in curating a small and well-planned menu to ensure freshness and consistency. Happy Wraps offers fresh fruit smoothies and salads, in addition to wraps, melts, and Hershey’s Ice Cream.
The move to Bellefonte this past spring prompted Happy Wraps to add an additional eight ice cream flavors to the menu.
“One night my wife and I wanted ice cream, and realized there weren’t that many options open late and close to (Talleyrand Park), so because of our proximity to the park, I thought it would be a good idea to add more flavors,” he says.
And a good idea it was, as ice cream was a driving force behind Happy Wraps’ summer success, even amid a pandemic.
Looking ahead, Landon hopes he can get his catering business that is adjunct with Happy Wraps up and running again. In fact, Landon says he finds the methodical process and planning of catering to be exhilarating.
“Getting paid to market your product is beautiful,” he explains. Landon finds catering to be not only a great marketing opportunity, but says it brings in a new customer base of people who have not previously heard of or tried the restaurant.
If there is any benefit to the restaurant industry from this past year, it would be how community members banded together for one another, he says.
“My wife and I have discovered a few new restaurants that we only used to go to occasionally, but now frequent way more often,” he adds. “What helps us, and I assume other local businesses, is the community support for local restaurants and businesses; they both are so important to one another.”
While many variables remain unknown, such as the next time there will be a filled dining room, one thing remains steady for Landon: his love for and thanks to the Bellefonte and surrounding communities.
Elizabeth Molek is a freelance writer.