Two noteworthy souls that brought elegance, intelligence and entertainment, with and a dash of discreet debauchery, to New Hope, were Joseph Anthony Meo and Joseph L. Wiley, Jr. They were partners in business and life and they both had a special plan that cannot be replicated today. They were simply known as the “Two Joes” and so many people in the area were thrilled to be invited to their home for great fun and chic entertainment. Joe Meo made his way to New Hope in the late 1950s where he and Joe opened an old-fashioned general store called Now and Then, first located at Ferry and Stockton Streets, then relocated to East Bridge St. Later, they added a general store on Mechanics Street for children called the Gingerbread House, which sold tons of miniatures and where the clerk would be dressed as the witch from Hansel & Gretel.
Their great slogan was “Penny candy, 2 Cents”. Joe Wiley came to New Hope after a career as a professional dancer in New York City and stayed partners with Joe Meo until the latter’s death in 1994. Together they opened the Crystal Palace, a Victorian ice cream parlor and restaurant located by New Hope/Lambertville Bridge, in 1960. Due to the location and the late hours of operation, celebrities visiting or working in the area would be spotted. Some of his patrons included Ethel Merman, Merv Griffin Grace Kelly, and Robert Redford. At one point or another most of the area’s teenagers worked there. Joe Wiley was in charge of personnel where he promptly earned the name “The Whipper” because he would put up with no-nonsense from the kids. Joe Meo (along with other partners) also opened the River’s Edge restaurant in Lambertville in the early seventies. Joe Wiley, given the title of The Best Dressed Man in New Hope, added to their businesses by running a kooky gift shop on North Main Street called Kaleidoscope and having a permanent store at Rice’s Market selling interesting and funny signs and novelties.
They were active engrossed members of the New Hope business community. They bought Odette Myrtle’s house on Covered Bridge Road when they first came to town. Christened “Dancing Meadows”, the house was in constant entertainment mode, especially when Joe Meo wasn’t traveling. In addition to hosting endless dinner parties, they would host “after-the-bar”. parties. Many of those parties would involve the pool and tons of newly made friends. They were filled with more drinking, lots of dancing, and totally wild fun. I usually left the boy’s house earlier than some, after all, a lady knows when to leave a party. Swimsuits being optional and all.
Wiley, who outlived his partner Joe, was an avid student of the human condition. He wrote a column for The New Hope Gazette called Pandora’s Box, recalling the early days in New Hope and some of his many adventures. He was witty and funny and had an interesting opinion about most things. He liked to laugh and was usually the center of attention wherever he went.
The Two Joes both led lives well lived, enjoyed a busy business and social life, and carried on the tradition of entertaining often and well. They were formidable life-forces in New Hope and going out “downtown” hasn’t been as fun since they left us.
Read the Book – An Enlightened Community 20th Century LGBT Stories of New Hope, Pennsylvania