Target 24: Living and Working in Erie

- November 12, 2013 - Each day at work, Lea O'Connell, owner of Ye Ole Sweet Shoppe in downtown Erie, wakes up early, starts baking, and is busy selling cookies all day long.

Lea's been working there since she was a freshman at Penn State Behrend, and although she majored in communications, she fell in love with the shop, and everything about it.

"By the time I was a senior, I kind of knew everything about this place and knew all the customers and everything like that," said O’Connell.

So at age 23, she bought the business and it's been growing since, especially during this time of year.

"We are super busy around the holidays, and every year we get busier," she said.

Lea is one of many successful young adults working and making a living in Erie.

She says the city is a great place to have your own business.

"Erie is really good about supporting their own. They support their small businesses: they're proud of their small businesses and that’s a great thing," she said.

Shaun Rajewski is another young business owner in downtown Erie.

"There's an opportunity to do whatever you want in this area .. You just have to actually be willing to go out and explore it," said Rajewski.

He's the lead developer and partner at Epic Web Studios.
Shaun, 24, is an Edinboro native, who went to Edinboro University and started Epic Web Studios five years ago with his friend David Hunter.

While both Shaun and Lea stayed local for school, one young professional we caught up with went to school outside of Cleveland, but decided to come back to Erie build his career.

"I didn't know a lot of people when I came back to Erie, but I just kind of dived in and just shook a lot of hands and said ‘I need help,’" said Jeffrey Evans.

Jeffrey joined the Young Erie Professionals group, and before he knew it, he worked his way up to president.

He says he thought the Cleveland area would suit him better, but he says Erie is a better place for him to grow professionally.

"If you really want to showcase your capabilities and your ideas, a smaller city, like Erie which is a little big city, it gives you the perfect platform to really do whatever you like," said Evans.

Dr. Jim Kurre is an economics professor at Penn State Behrend and he says it's important young people like Lea, Shaun, and Jeff - who are all under age 30 - work and stay in the Erie area for the sake of Erie's future economy.

"If Erie gets known to be a place that's really good for senior citizens, it might be harder to bring in the younger people who will be senior citizens in 30-40 years when we need new ones," said Kurre.

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