Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Tiny Wellsboro, PA's Oscars moment

Plus, Irish fight club.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

March 15, 2024
Inside this edition: PA at the Oscars, Irish martial arts, unusual home, LEGO takeover, and creative sledding. Cheers to the weekend! 
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED!
WE NEED YOUR HELP: Spotlight PA's nonprofit journalism — including our extensive investigative work and more light-hearted coverage here in PA Local — cannot continue without your support. Make a gift now in support of our unique coverage and it will be DOUBLED! Give now »
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Montgomery County native Jennifer Lame won “Best Film Editing” at the Oscars this week for which of the following films? 
A. The Holdovers
B. Poor Things
C. Anatomy of a Fall
D. Oppenheimer 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One class worth trying: A Pittsburgh-based martial arts dojo offers the ”fighting Irish” experience, via The Inquirer (paywall). Participants learn fighting techniques using weapons like the shillelagh. 

» One tax worth knowing: Sunday marks 88 years since the Johnstown flood of 1936, which gave rise to a tax on alcohol — earmarked for recovery efforts — that stayed long after the cleanup was done, per YDR.

» One home worth seeing: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) paid $1 for his home in a converted auto dealership in Braddock. You can live inside a converted commercial garage in Lehigh County for $699,900.

» One contest worth watching: Lego robots took over Hershey Middle School for the first Lego League Robotics Pennsylvania State Championship last Saturday. PennLive captured the action

» One story worth reading: Homemade sleds were dashing through the snow at one Pennsylvania ski resort's annual Cardboard Box Race on Sunday. Designs included a Lego brick and a Star Wars X-wing.

🗞️ KNOW YOUR NEWS? Prove it with this week's news quiz: Trump’s TikTok flip-flop, 2024 pollbooks, and the State Police motif.
The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Philly voting board gets messy before big election 

» Cybersecurity anxiety enters PA budget talks 

» Who's running to be PA's 'chief fiscal watchdog'?

» PA treasurer candidates spar over unclaimed property

» Spotlight PA celebrates Sunshine Week
Nikki York, right, pictured with daughter Willow at the Wellsboro Dunkin' location. (Courtesy of Dunkin')

Tiny Wellsboro found itself on one of the biggest stages in the world this week: An Oscars broadcast watched by 19.5 million people.

This year, the award show included a 30-second commercial — asking price $1.7 million to $2.2 million — starring the borough’s lone Dunkin’ and the family that has owned the location (formerly a Mister Donut) since the Carter administration.

Dunkin’ says the commercial is only airing once, but you can watch it here. It’s a glitzy spotlight for a Tioga County town the New York Times once described as a "quaint" place with "quiet things to do." And it has provided an indelible memory for the family featured.

Nikki York’s mother opened the shop in 1979. York remembers running around the store, napping on sacks of flour, sneaking donuts, and interacting with customers as a kid. It became a Dunkin’ Donuts (now just Dunkin’) in 1992, and York bought the business from her mom in 2004, later handing the keys off to her own daughter.

York spoke with PA Local about the town's reaction to the ad, what it meant to tell her family’s story on such a large platform, and when Ben Affleck is moving to Wellsboro and Pennsylvania's northern tier. 

The interview has been edited for clarity, flow, and length.

PA Local: What happened after the commercial aired?

York: My phone blew up with those people that were actually watching the Oscars saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what's going on? I just saw you on TV!’ 

The next day, when we were actually able to share the clip, that's when things really started blowing up. There's a lot of stuff on Facebook right now. My friend in Florida saw and texted. My friend in Michigan saw it. My friend in California saw it. It was just really exciting that it was national.

PA Local: Did you tell anyone ahead of time or surprise them? 

York: We were sworn to secrecy. We weren't allowed to tell anybody. 

We did have to share it with a few people. Of course, I told my mother.

She and my father live in Florida during the winter. They were very proud, you know, tears in their eyes.

PA Local: How long did the commercial take to shoot?

York: It took five days. They came in October for three days and followed us around everywhere, and then they came back in early November for another two days to get any shots they missed. It was such a shock, though, seeing a Hollywood crew come to my house and my business. There were so many people I did not expect. It was really exciting.

PA Local: What did this attention mean to you?

York: It makes me very proud. I've always been proud of my mother, even in the teenage years when I was maybe a little bit upset with the fact that this shop took up so much of her time. 

I've always been proud of her for the hard work that she has shown us and taught us, and I hope that I've taught the same thing to my four children.

PA Local: Was the exposure and the Oscars platform nerve-wracking? 

York: Boy was that scary. When I submitted our story to be accepted, it's like, ‘Oh my goodness, this could potentially be seen by everybody. Do I want to open up our lives to that?’ I made sure I asked all of the relevant people to make sure it was OK, and they all were in agreement.

PA Local: What does it mean to have that spotlight on Wellsboro?

York: It's just a very close-knit community. We're just one fiber in the thread of businesses of the community. I'm glad to give the people that come into the store and my staff the opportunity to see themselves. To see us and feel, you know, a little bit bigger. 

We have a lot of tourists come in because of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. If this helps with any of the commerce going on in town, I will be extremely thrilled.

PA Local: Will Ben Affleck be moving to Wellsboro now?

York: That's a great question. Unfortunately, it's one you'll have to ask him.

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer 

Get Spotlight PA's exclusive 'All Sun, No Shade' beach towel.

Our limited-edition "All Sun, No Shade" beach towel is selling fast. Look good this summer and support Spotlight PA's vital journalism by getting it now at shop.spotlightpa.org.
A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.

"It's nice to be part of something that you know will be bigger later.”

Dobbins High School junior Nia Mitchell on girls' flag football becoming a Philadelphia Public League sport for the first time in history

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
A grackle in South Williamsport, via @jackshollowphotography. Have a Pennsylvania photo you want to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
a black bird on a branch
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The correct answer is "D. Oppenheimer."

Lame, an Episcopal Academy grad, secured one of Oppenheimer’s seven wins Sunday night. The movie has other Pennsylvania ties: J. Robert Oppenheimer’s wife, Katherine, aka "Kitty," grew up in Aspinwall, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.
Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan & nonprofit newsroom producing investigative and public-service journalism that holds the powerful to account and drives positive change in Pennsylvania.

Copyright © Spotlight PA. All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
PO Box #11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Local.

This email was sent to: <<Email Address>>

Receiving too many emails from Spotlight PA?

To change your newsletter subscriptions and frequency, you can update your preferences.

To stop receiving fundraising messages, you can update your preferences and select "Opt out of Fundraising."

To stop receiving ALL EMAILS from Spotlight PA, including all of our investigations and newsletters, you can completely unsubscribe here.