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NextFab Studio expands to massive former ironwork shop on Washington Ave. on heels of growth

It is fitting that the upcoming expansion of NextFab Studio, the two year-old "gym for innovators" that features digital fabrication tools and the opportunity for most anyone to create most anything, will bring it to a new flagship location at a former custom ironwork shop run by old-world craftsmen.

NextFab announced last week it will be growing in a big way from its original space in the University City Science Center at 3711 Market Street, where it has doubled membership in the last six months and tripled revenue between 2010 and 2011.

And inside its new facility, expected to open by early July, NextFab2 will look to create the latest edition of the creative economy, just like when slabs of iron were being shaped decades ago at the new site at 2025 Washington Ave.

"As our members increase in number and skill and the reputation of our design, engineering and custom fabrication services has grown, an increasing number of members and clients want to take on projects that fall outside of that size range, or which need more privacy or more intense around-the-clock effort," says NextFab president and founder Evan Malone.

Indeed, the new facility in Southwest Center City/Graduate Hospital should provide ample space: 21,000 square feet of equipment, expert staff, classes, workshops and accessible design, engineering and custom fabrication services.

Media-based architecture and design firm inHabit has reconfigured the building, which will provide private studios with 24/7 access, 14-foot ceilings, CNC water-jet cutter, CNC machining center, CNC router, more advanced 3D printers and a chemistry and micro-fabrication lab.

According to Malone, NextFab2 will have the layout and space for the big tools necessary for massive projects. There will be drive-in loading/unloading, a forklift and crane, a vehicle lift and facilities for car and motorcycle customization and electric-fuel conversion. There are also plenty of lighter touches, like a street-level cafe, space for exhibition and sales of products and art, and dedicated classroom spaces.

NextFab has come a long way in a short time. Revenue in 2011 was almost $500,000 with a membership that numbers 150. Full-time teaching and consulting staff has more than doubled to 17 professional artists, engineers and designers. Classes, of which there are 30 and range from Digital Embroidery to using a CNC Plasma Cutter, often fill up a month in advance.

"Our members are now successfully selling book scanners, laser-cut home decor and fashion products, custom speakers and more that they make at NextFab," says Malone.

Part of NextFab's aim is to reduce the learning curve associated with digital fabrication and foster an environment of innovation that transcends culture and education backgrounds.

"In traditional mass production you build an expensive factory to cheaply make millions of identical products," says Malone. "Digital Fabrication is an economic game changer because each thing you make can be unique for the cost of changing the picture on the computer screen."

Memberships will be available at the current rate until May 1, when rates will go up to help fund the expansion.

Source: Evan Malone, NextFab Studio
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Liberty Bike Share builds support, strategy to introduce long-awaited bike sharing program

What do New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, Spartanburg SC, and Hollywood FL all have in common? Hopefully you’ll have an answer by the time I’m finished with this sentence. If you don’t, these are all East Coast cities that offer bike sharing. Notice that Philadelphia is not in there. With this in mind, a team from the University of Pennsylvania is looking to put our city on par with the likes of Spartanburg by establishing Liberty Bike Share, which aims to bring bike sharing to Center City, University City, South Philly, and the Temple University-area.

Liberty Bike Share is the product of three Masters degree candidates at UPenn who closely analyzed the 2010 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) “Philadelphia Bike Share Concept Study,” says Dylan Hayden, who’s helping to organize the bike share concept. Hayden says Liberty is hoping to make 2,500-2,700 bicycles available to be shared at a cost of abougt $15 million. He adds that Liberty has the support of the Center City District and certain members of City Council. At this point, his group is waiting for the city’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) to issue an RFP. 

As is usually the case, the cost of setting up operations is one of the biggest challenges Liberty faces. Hayden emphasizes that his team is looking to solicit pledges from local hospitals, universities, insurance companies, and other private sector entities willing to chip in. He does admit that securing financial contributions in the Philadelphia-area can be “like squeezing a turnip.” On this note, MOTU has identified the up-front costs of bike sharing as one of its biggest worries. 

Hayden says his team hopes to implement Liberty Bike Share in two phases, with the first concentrating on Center and University Cities and the second extending the program up to Temple. Liberty has two companies in mind, Alta and B-Cycle, to operate the bike share. Alta operates the bike sharing programs in New York City, D.C., and Boston, while B-Cycle is responsible for bike sharing in Spartanburg, Chicago, Denver, and elsewhere. Hayden envisions charging members an annual fee of anywhere between $75 and $90.

The UPenn team hopes Liberty Bike Share will complement mass transit in Philadelphia. “We’re looking to deal with last-mile issues,” says Hayden, who’s talking about the distance between a transit or rail stop and someone’s final destination. Indeed, the Penn senior envisions a future where someone can (as an example) take a train to Market East Station and share a bike to get to their final destination. Hayden hopes to work with SEPTA to incorporate bike sharing in with their upcoming New Payment Technology.

Locally, only one borough offers bike sharing. That would be Pottstown, a borough with around 22,000 people in Western Montgomery County. Bike Pottstown, Pottstown's bike sharing program, is run by Zagster, which launched its bike sharing consultancy in Philadelphia under the name CityRyde before moving to Cambridge, Mass last year. Bike Pottstown is a free bike share, which has filled the streets of the borough with 15 eye-snatching yellow bicycles. 

Hayden is unequivocal about the benefits of bike sharing. “Bike sharing is a policy Swiss army knife,” he says. By this, he means it ameliorates a host of policy issues, including healthcare, sustainability, and mobility. He also says that the city already has much of the infrastructure in place to support bike sharing, including the 215 miles of bike lanes he cites. Bike sharing would provide Philadelphia an opportunity to catch up to other American cities, large and small.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dylan Hayden, Liberty Bike Share

New Manayunk coworking space for woodworkers is first of its kind in Philadelphia

The Delaware Valley's first coworking space for woodworkers opened earlier this month, and is already proving quite popular. Philadelphia Woodworks is a membership-based co-working arena and educational facility across from the Ivy Ridge train station on Umbria St. in Manayunk. According to Emily Duncan, the business manager at Woodworks, the facility already boasts twenty members, sixteen of which are certified in woodworking. Along with coworking, Duncan says classes are expected to begin in a few weeks.

Philadelphia Woodworks emphasizes that anyone can become a member, as long as they don't have an inordinate fear of splinters. The center is indeed welcoming to professionals and novices alike. "You can do it and we can help you," coaxes Duncan. This is one reason why the workshop will hold classes. Duncan continues by saying members and other people interested in woodworking can even suggest classes. Michael Vogel, who's the founder and president of Woodworks, also emphasizes that classes are run with their students' schedules in mind.  

The woodworker's paradise is concentrating on partnering with local businesses that work with wood. For example, Duncan gives a shout-out to Provenance Architectural Salvage in Northern Liberties, who she says will stock re-used materials. Vogel also points out that some classes will be affiliated with other relevant organizations, including the Center for Art in Wood and the Wharton-Esherick Museum in Valley Forge. The Independence Seaport Museum has even expressed interest in helping with education at Philadelphia Woodworks.

This "gym for woodworking," as Vogel puts it, has all of the latest woodworking tools throughout the 6,600-square foot facility. 4,500 of which are devoted to shop space, which includes professional industrial grade power and hand tools; milling machines that can smooth wood; sanding, shaping, and edging stations; dust collection; and air filters. In addition, the space comes equipped with Golden Boy, the shop manager's adorable pug, who can be found strutting around the shop. Finally, Duncan adds that there will be plentiful locker and cubby space for tool storage.

Vogel and Duncan both stress that the woodworking space is truly unique for Southeastern Pennsylvania. Duncan says the closest place of its kind is all the way down in Rockville, Md. The next closest is a long ride north in Connecticut. Because of this, Vogel chose the location because of its convenience to the entire region. "You can get from Cherry Hill to West Chester in a half hour [depending on traffic] because of our proximity to 76," he mentions. As Duncan points out, not only is it easily accessible by car, but it's also in propinquity to the Schuylkill River Bike Trail and the train.

To complement the shop, Philadelphia Woodworks also features a member's lounge, with a kitchen, TVs, and a "clubhouse atmosphere," says Duncan. There is also a lumberyard and sheetwood store on site. If you're interested in becoming a member, you'll want to act fast as space is filling up. There's currently no cap on the amount of members that can be accommodated, but Duncan and Vogel agree they'll eventually have to find one. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Michael Vogel, Emily Duncan, and Golden Boy the pug, Philadelphia Woodworks

Not much snow, but a revived historic lodge at Montco's Spring Mountain

A half-century ago, Schwenksville was considered a destinations for vacationers from the Delaware Valley, along with the Jersey Shore and Poconos, thanks to Spring Mountain skiing and the Perkiomen Creek. Quite a bit has changed since then, as Schwenksville isn't exactly a household name any longer. However, Rick and Gayle Buckman, co-owners of Schwenksville's Spring Mountain ski resort, are hoping to revive the area's appeal to visitors. To do this, they recently renovated and re-opened the historic Woodside Lodge, formerly known as the Woodside Inn and Woodside Manor. 

The Woodside Lodge began accepting visitors again at the end of January. According to Gayle Buckman, the inn features mostly two-room suites with fireplaces. The Buckmans are clearly proud of their lodge's legacy, which dates to 1923. In the midst of the $1.5 million renovation, "we were able to uncover some of the historical elements,” says Gayle Buckman. This includes the building's porches, which, with the exception of one, were opened up like they were decades ago. Buckman is also proud that she was able to preserve the inn's original staircase, although it had to be enclosed due to the fire code.

Spring Mountain was also able to maintain most of the wooden floors on the first level of the lodge. The Buckmans added transoms, which are wooden crosspieces separating doors from windows above them, to add to the historic mystique of the lodge. After all, transoms were prevalent before air conditioning was commonly used because they facilitated cross ventilation. For those of you visiting Spring Mountain during the summer, there's no need to fret, as the lodge is air-conditioned. 

The Buckmans believe the re-opening of Woodside means great things are in store for Spring Mountain. The lodge makes the mountain "a destination,” points out Gayle Buckman. During the winter (assuming it's cold enough), visitors can enjoy a day crammed with skiing and a night relaxing at the Woodside. During the summer, tourists can take advantage of the mountain's one-of-a-kind zip-line canopy, which Buckman says attracts people from across the country, and retire to the inn. The inn is also convenient to the Perkiomen Trail, which is popular among bicyclists.

The lodge also features the Buckman Tavern, whose chef Michael Kenney has experience as Will Smith's personal chef and as a cook at the Four Seasons Hotel. Currently, the tavern is open for dinner, and serves American comfort food. Entree prices range from $15 to $26. Along with entrees, the tavern serves soup, salads, "starters,” and sandwiches. It is generally open between 4:30 and 9 p.m., with later hours on Thursdays and weekends. Kenney also prepares breakfast for overnight guests. 

Woodside's re-opening open house in late January proved to be a big hit. Gayle Buckman says between 800 and 1,000 people showed up to christen the historic lodge. Among them were the grandson of the original architect and the co-owner of the Woodside in the 1940s, the latter of which is now in her late 90s. Needless to say, there were plenty of pictures of the inn and manor from when Schwenksville enjoyed its heyday. With the lodge re-opened, the Buckmans hope for similar pictures in the future.  

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Gayle and Rick Buckman

Roxborough emerging from Northwest's shadows with new businesses, preservation and improvements

For decades, Manayunk and Chestnut Hill have dominated Northwest Philly’s business development scene with their vibrant commercial corridors. However, a new player is emerging as a destination for shoppers and diners: Roxborough, and the burgeoning Ridge Ave. corridor, is seeing an influx of new businesses, streetscape improvements, and historic preservation in its surrounding neighborhood.

The Roxborough Development Corporation (RDC) has played a vital role in the resurgence of Ridge Ave. James Calamia, the operations manager at the RDC, is excited about the new businesses that are slated to open this year. Most notably, the popular beer distributor and gourmet deli The Foodery just purchased the RDC’s erstwhile office on the avenue west of Green Lane. Calamia is proud to report that this will be The Foodery’s largest location yet. He says the current drawings, which are always subject to change, have fridges filled with beer wrapping around the entire store and plentiful seating.

While The Foodery won’t open until May at the earliest, a number of new businesses have opened in the past three months or will be opening shortly. Calamia says that Blackbird House Antiques at Ridge and Shawmont, Giovanni’s Child Care at Ridge and Leverington, and TD Bank at Ridge and Hermit have all opened in the past three months. Another new business, Kitch-N Collectibles, is planning on opening very shortly across from RDC’s old office. Kitch-N Collectibles is actually re-locating to Roxborough from Manayunk.

While business development is a massive part of the equation in Roxborough, the RDC points out that the neighborhood is also benefitting from historic preservation efforts. Calamia relays that the community was just awarded a $30,000 grant from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia to rehabilitate “gothic houses” on Lyceum Ave. and Green Ln, only a block away from the Ridge corridor. This is a means to “help build and grow Roxborough’s unique persona,” says Calamia.

Roxborough is also benefiting from a $2.2 million grant from the city to make streetscape enhancements along Ridge Ave. According to Calamia, this will result in smoother sidewalks, better lighting, and new planters. He believes these improvements will lead to a “new foundation for Roxborough and the whole area.” “It will make the area more walkable and improve aesthetics,” Calamia adds. Depending on weather conditions, he anticipates the streetscape enhancements will be finished during the summer.

The RDC alludes to more exciting development along Ridge Ave. in the years to come. Calamia says Planet Fitness has expressed interest in the shuttered Golden Chrysler dealership, which would be the discount gym’s first location in Northwest Philadelphia. He also says the RDC might be looking to add a park around the intersection of Ridge and Leverington Aves. Finally, the operations director intimates that the former bank at Ridge and Green Ln. might soon be re-developed. He says someone just purchased the historic building, which is known for the sculpted owls on its roof. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: James Calamia, Roxborough Development Corporation

A sip and taste of Spain comes to 13th St. as dynamic duo grows Midtown Village vision

Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have just expanded their empire on 13th St. in Midtown Village with the opening of Jamonera, a Spanish tapas bar, this past Sunday. Jamonera, located between Chestnut and Sansom Sts., will serve small and medium-sized plates, wines, and sherries, inspired by the duo's recent travel to Southern Spain. The restaurant will be open for dinner and post-dinner patrons.  

The opening of Jamonera at 105 S. 13th St. solidifies Turney and Safran's imprint on the entire block. They began with a home and gift store called Open House at 107 S. 13th back in 2002. Since then, their passion for the street and Midtown Village has gushed forward with the opening of five other stores and restaurants. At 101, there's Grocery market and catering, while 106 houses Lolita, a Mexican dining option. 108 is home to Verde, a jewelry and gift shop, while 110 finds Barbuzzo, a Mediterranean bar.

Jamonera offers a wealth of culinary options, with all the flair you'd expect from Spain. "Guests can expect to enjoy banderillas of olives, boquerones and guindilla peppers, and crispy calasparra rice with heirloom pumpkin," says Valerie Safran. Other menu items include lamb skewers and cucina. Safran says the tapas plates run from $4 to $36, and are all meant to be shared. 

While the food options are sure to elicit salivation, the drink options are equally impressive. "We've selected a group of wines that we believe are the best expression of Spain's terroir, with earthy reds and bright, crisp whites ideally suited to sipping alongside the varied flavors of the food," describes Safran. Along with the wines, Jamonera serves an enviable selection of sherries.

Both Safran and Turney bemoan the former lack of a genuine tapas restaurant in Midtown Village. They highlight the rich flavors and relaxed atmosphere that accompany tapas restaurants. To best mimic the vibe of a Spanish tapas bar, the entrepreneurs teamed up with Urban Space Development. Together, they decided to festoon the tapas bar with Rioja-colored wood and reddish lighting. They also installed old-fashioned mirrors and intricate wood chandeliers.

The owners are proud of all the work they've done for their block of 13th St. "We love that we've helped transform 13th Street into a destination for the city," says Safran. She points out that the neighborhood was deemed far from appealing by many when she and her business partner opened their first business, but has come a long way. The entrepreneurs' love of their street is palpable on-line as well, where they run a website called "We love 13th Street," which helps link their panoply of stores and restaurants.

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Sources: Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, Jamonera

Metro Impact Homes is building up Southwest Center City

Whether you call the neighborhood Southwest Center City, Graduate Hospital, or G-Ho, one thing that’s not debatable about the blocks immediately to the southwest of Center City is the amount of new and rehabilitated housing that has sprung up in the past few years. Metro Impact Homes is a large reason why this neighborhood’s housing stock has improved. Metro Impact has been building rowhouses and condominiums between 16th St. and Grays Ferry Ave and between Fitzwater and Kimball Sts. for the past few years, and is getting bolder with its scope.

One intriguing project that Metro Impact is currently working on is Montrose Court around 25th and Grays Ferry, mentions Steve Shklovsky, the head of the development firm. Here, Metro is hoping to construct 11 luxury rowhomes with roof decks, green roofs, and garages. "My goal is to transform what is now the worst block in the neighborhood into one of the nicest," says Shklovsky. As development is rarely easy, some neighbors are protesting because of the proposed size of the rowhome yards. This means Metro will need a zoning hearing in a couple of weeks. The new development should start around $400,000.

Another planned Metro Impact development that’s brewing a lot of buzz is the opulent Fitz4 on Fitzwater St. betwixt 16th and 17th. Like the previous development, Fitz4 will feature roof decks and garages, and will be built on what currently is a forsaken intersection. According to Shklovsky, A total of four homes are being drawn up for Fitz4, with two being corner properties. The homes will be far from cheap, as prices are expected to begin in the $700,000 range.

Metro’s proposed new development should only serve to add an exclamation point to the firm’s existing development in Southwest Center City. One of Shklovsky’s proudest developments is at 1910 Christian St., which is a six-unit condominium development. What makes the developer so proud? "The south side of that block is one of the only in the (neighborhood) which had all matching facades and heights," exclaims Shklovsky. Perhaps it was this attention to blending in with the rest of the block that resulted in every condo unit being put under contract within 30 days.

Shklovsky is very content with developing in Southwest Center City, even though his office is in Southampton, Bucks County. He cites the neighborhood’s proximal location to the Rittenhouse Square area and University City as a reason why he’s so enamored. He quickly adds that many of his buyers are doctors and medical students who can appreciate the convenient access to the Penn health system. His primary complaint about the neighborhood is that there isn’t enough commercial space. The developer is sure to mention that he hopes to eventually move his offices to the city. 

Source: Steve Shklovsky, Metro Impact Homes
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Reading Terminal Market expansion will include more vendors, demo kitchen and event space

Philadelphia's most notable farmer's market will get a little bigger in 2012. Come April, the Reading Terminal Market will be ready to unveil space for four to five new vendors, a demonstration kitchen, multi-functional event space, and expanded restrooms, according to general manager Paul Steinke. The expansion will catapult the back of the market, known as the eastern end, into the spotlight. It comes on the heels of the opening of Molly Malloy's, which has proven a popular gastropub.  

Steinke is quick to point out the cornerstone of the soon-to-be expanded market, the Rick Nichols Room. This event space "will feature a permanent, museum-quality exhibit on the history of the market," promises Steinke. The space is named in honor of recently retired local food critic Rick Nichols, who wrote about all things edible in Philadelphia for 15 years. The space is being created in conjunction with the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. The space will double as a meeting and party zone, available for rental by groups.

Reading Terminal currently has no shortage of applications from businesses that want to take advantage of the new vendor space, assures Steinke. He says the market is looking for businesses that complement the "culinary and ethnic diversity." It looks like no decision has yet been made on new vendors. The market also promises to double its restroom capacity and provide cooking classes and chef presentations when it finalizes its expansion.

One of the greatest challenges in expanding the market has been maintaining the building's historical character. To make sure this happens, the market put the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia's Eugene LeFevre in charge of the renovation. LeFevre has specialized in renovating classic buildings, including the Mellon Independence Center and the Morris House Hotel, for 25 years. Steinke underscores the added difficulty of working on a historic building. "You never know what you're going to find when you work on a historic building," he says.

While the current expansion of the eastern portion of the market is indeed exciting, many would like to see the Reading Terminal expand on the other side of Filbert St. Steinke recognizes this, and says the market has been in talks about taking over the property across Filbert. The property is owned by the city's Redevelopment Authority. Despite these talks, there are no solid plans for the market to venture across the street at this time. It looks like the Reading Terminal Market will have to conduct one expansion at a time. From now until April, that expansion will be the eastern wing.  

Source: Paul Steinke, Reading Terminal Market
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Brewerytown continues to be a hot neighborhood for new businesses

After a frenetic year-and-a half that has witnessed the emergence of twelve new businesses in Brewerytown, Girard Ave. is expected to get some more fresh additions. Businesses planning to open in Brewerytown include a taqueria, a pop-up art, jewelry, and clothing store, and a Bottom Dollar food market. 

According to David Waxman and Aaron Smith of Brewerytown developer MM Partners, plans to build a Bottom Dollar food market in front of Brewerytown Square at 31st and Girard are generating the most buzz. While the site remains an empty lot, Waxman, a co-managing partner at MM Partners, says work on the site should start soon. The project was first presented months ago, but has been slowed by the location‘s history as a brownfield. Bottom Dollar is looking to build an 18,279 sq. ft. market with 94 parking spots. 

The next shop to open will be the pop-up store Amazulu, which will be ready for business this holiday season. Smith, the director of property management at MM, sings the praise of Amazulu, which will sell a panoply of African influenced items. These crafts include clothes and jewelry for all ages and sexes, paintings, sculptures, furniture, and even masks. Amazulu currently has a location in the Reading Terminal Market. 

Another welcome addition to Brewerytown will be a taqueria. Smith says that the Mexican restaurant will be "very authentic, relatively affordable, and healthy." Smith and Waxman say this taqueria will serve as a contrast to some of the other restaurants on Girard Ave. in terms of offering a scrumptious and healthy dining option. MM Partners predicts that this taqueria will open during late winter or spring next year.

While locals are largely happy with the recent influx of new businesses, some still hope for more. Waxman and Smith say a neighborhood named Brewerytown really deserves a brewery. Specifically, MM Partners would like to see a nanobrewery make its home around Girard Ave. To back up their words, the developers say they’d be willing to help extensively with zoning and other issues.  

Sources: David Waxman and Aaron Smith, MM Partners
Writer: Andy Sharpe

From housedresses to seafood to lamps, Chestnut Hill sees a rash of new business development

After seeing a good deal of businesses close, and an influx of banks open, it looks like the Chestnut Hill section of the city is back on the road to retail and dining diversity. In fact, a number of new businesses have opened along Germantown Ave. so far this year, with many more planned. It even looks like the crown jewel at the top of the Hill, the former Borders Books, might soon open a new chapter.

Eileen Reilly, the Chestnut Hill Business Association's retail recruiter, is pumped to talk about the new businesses opening along the avenue. Earth, an eclectic store that sells garden-infused jewelry, candles, and even garden supplies tilled the soil when it opened in March. The owner of Earth, Doug Reinke, proceeded to open Linen, a bedding, bath and baby supply store in May. Not satisfied, Reinke opened a rug and lighting store called "Room Service" earlier this month, a few blocks away from the other two stores.

Reilly also boasts about a couple of "pop-up" stores that will set up shop at the old Magarity Ford dealership in time for the holiday season. One such store is Fete Noel, which is a one-of-a-kind store that vends everything from antique furniture, to toys, to prestigious jewelry, to photography. This "pop-up" store will be open for six days, beginning on Nov. 10th. Another "pop-up" store is Bali to Bala, which returns after an ultra successful debut in Chestnut Hill last year. Bali to Bala features Indonesian arts and crafts, and aims to spread awareness about Indonesian culture.

Yet, according to Reilly the list of stores and restaurants slated to open in Chestnut Hill in the next few months is even more comprehensive. The Iron Hill Brewery is currently being built where clothing stores used to be, with Reilly saying it will open right before New Year's Eve. With this in mind, the big story in Chestnut Hill will continue to be the local independent stores that are opening. A woman's apparel store called Indigo Schuy is expected to open within the next few months, while a locally themed fine dining establishment called Heirloom will begin serving up duck, seafood, and other items.

What many are anxiously looking at is the old Border's Books site at the intersection of Germantown Ave. and Bethlehem Pike. Reilly reveals that a deal is close to being reached between the seller and a client of this parcel, and that it will have an institutional use. Greg Welsh, the owner of the Chestnut Grill and a loud voice on the Business Association, went a step further and said the building will soon become a childcare center for Children of America.

For residents, shoppers, and diners in Chestnut Hill, this new flurry of business openings is surely welcome news. This is remarkable because of the lower sales tax in the surrounding suburbs. "Even though the climate is tough, the energy has changed," says Eileen Reilly. "We're on entrepreneurs brainwaves." While main streets across the region are still mired in a recession, Chestnut Hill's main street seems to have emerged from it.

Source: Eileen Reilly, Chestnut Hill Business Association
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Get your donuts and fried chicken in Pennsport, while you can

Federal Donuts opened last week to a frenzied following in the Pennsport neighborhood of South Philadelphia. It's an eclectic restaurant that specializes in donuts, fried chicken, and coffee. That is, if you can get in early enough to get your hands on their food and drink.

The opening week was an important lesson in just how hungry Pennsport denizens, Philadelphians, and even suburbanites are for fried chicken and donuts. Astonishingly, Federal Donuts ran out of chicken by 12:55 p.m. every day during their first week, even though they originally planned to be open until 8 p.m. each day. The donuts also proved ultra popular, as both the hot sugared and filled donuts sold out before noon most days last week.

The new restaurant generally sells the hot sugared donuts between 7 and 10 a.m. Monday through Sunday, if they don't run out. Flavors include Indian cinnamon and vanilla-lavender. They sell the filled, or "fancy," donuts all day, until they run out. These flavors are comprised of key lime, nutella-pomegranate, and chocolate-raspberry, to name a few. They start selling fried chicken around noon, which includes Korean-style glazed chicken and crispy chicken. The chicken is prepared by renowned chef Michael Solomonov.

According to Bob Logue, one of the owners of Federal Donuts and Bodhi Coffee, the restaurant fills a void in Pennsport and the city. "The neighborhood was dying for something great," explains Logue. He adds that an establishment combining donuts, fried chicken, and coffee in the city was "elusive" before his shop opened. Logue justifies the crazed popularity of Federal during its first week by saying that it appeals to long-time Pennsport residents, yuppies, and people all across the city and even suburbs.

So far, it seems like things have calmed down to some degree this week. On Monday, fried chicken was still being offered until 1 p.m., which gave famished customers a little more time. Also, donuts lasted a little longer on Monday. "We're still selling out, but at a nicer pace," says a less frenetic Logue. Absent were the long lines of the previous week, although a steady stream of new and returning customers enlivened the shop.

Given the enormous success of Federal Donuts so far, Logue has dreams of expanding. "Federal Donuts is dedicated to the growth of a new industry in Philadelphia," he asserts. Logue says he would like to expand, although it will take some time. He's especially hopeful to add some fryers, since that's currently the biggest limitation to making more donuts and chicken. The fact that talk of expansion has come up so quickly is a great sign for the shop. In just a week, Federal Donuts has become a hit in Pennsport and Philadelphia.        

Source: Bob Logue
Writer: Andy Sharpe

PHOTOS: MICHAEL PERSCIO

Art gallery and store purchase the former downtown location of the Please Touch Museum

The I. Brewster and Company art gallery and store will be moving from its current location at 2200 Market St. into the former site of the Please Touch Museum on the 200 block of N. 21st St. This will put the gallery and store close to the museum district on the Ben Franklin Parkway. When they do move shop, the store expects to be an interesting addition to the neighborhood.

The listing agents for the erstwhile Please Touch Museum site were Joe Muldoon and Chris Lange of Binswanger. Muldoon says the gallery and store will be fitting in its new location. "The use is similar to other Museums on and around the Parkway," praises Muldoon. He adds that the gallery will be much smaller than the Parkway museums. The realtor fully expects the neighborhood to appreciate the new use of the property.

I. Brewster is notable for its gargantuan inventory of Louis Icart paintings. Icart is a famed fashion sketcher who drew during the French Art Deco period. I. Brewster’s owner, Nathan Isen, actually wrote a book about Icart, which is now in its fourth printing. The gallery and store also features work from Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall, Jasper Johns, and a host of other artists. Altogether, I. Brewster contains over 40,000 works of art.

Muldoon says that the owners of the Please Touch Museum were a pleasure to work with. Even through a tough economy, which resulted in far less interest in the property, the museum remained helpful and supportive. Museum leadership was also cognizant that certain uses would be rejected by neighborhood groups, which made it even more difficult to sell the space.

The bottom line is I. Brewster’s move has the realtor and the museum upbeat. "This is one of those situations where everyone involved appears to have won," says Muldoon.  No word yet on when they will open, although they already have "moving" signs in the windows at their current outlet. What’s clear is that it is likely only a short matter of time before the Parkway area sees some more art.

Source: Joe Muldoon, Binswanger Real Estate
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Carrotmob to storm West Phillie Produce and show importance of a neighborhood produce store

If you’re going to be around the 63rd St. El stop this-coming Friday evening, you might witness a Carrotmob. However, you have nothing to worry about, even if you don’t like carrots.

This Carrotmob will be drawing attention to a struggling independent produce store by raising money through a mass purchase of its items. West Phillie Produce, which has struggled to find business since its opening in mid-2009 despite being located in a food desert at 62nd and Ludlow Sts., will be the beneficiary of the Carrotmob.

Former City Council candidate Andy Toy, who is now the director of the Retail Resource Network at West Philadelphia’s Enterprise Center, is one of the biggest promoters of West Phillie Produce. Toy heaps praise on the owner of West Phillie Produce, Arnett Woodall, who is really trying to make a difference in the neighborhood’s diet. Regrettably, Woodall has only had varying success in doing this. "Arnett continues to encourage neighbors to improve their nutrition habits, but old habits die hard," says Toy. "Some neighbors have still not visited (in) over 2 years."

To address West Phillie’s lack of business, various groups, led by the Enterprise Center, decided to team up and unleash a Carrotmob in the store. According to Toy, a Carrotmob is a "buycott" where a bunch of people shop at a given time from a particular business that has a sustainable, local, or socially conscious mission. The proceeds from a Carrotmob go toward the business, or toward some project that the business is embarking on.

In the case of West Phillie Produce, Toy says money raised from the Carrotmob will help finance new equipment and allow the store to continue giving away fresh fruit salads to local almsgivers. In addition, the Carrotmob will enable like-minded people a chance to network with each other and discuss how to encourage local, independent businesses and neighborhood nutrition.

The Enterprise Center has no qualms about aiding a local produce store against the threat posed by distant supermarkets. Toy points out that West Phillie Produce hires from the immediate neighborhood, is easy to access without a car, and is owned by someone who resides in the area. It also opened on what used to be an unsightly abandoned lot. The store doesn’t just sell produce either, as it offers nutritional smoothies, water ice, and juices.

This is the first Carrotmob to inundate Philadelphia, although an attempt was made in the past. The Carrotmob concept began in California, and has spread across the world. In addition to the Enterprise Center, participating organizations include the Food Trust, the Merchants Fund, and Sayre Health Clinic.

Toy is happy to assist the Carrotmob effort in Philadelphia. "We like the Carrotmob concept because it results in a real tangible outcome that benefits a worthy business," he proclaims. "We hope to replicate this effort in other neighborhoods across the City." As for the Carrotmob at West Phillie Produce, it’s scheduled to run from 4-7 PM this Friday.

Source: Andy Toy, the Enterprise Center
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Northern Delaware burger icon expanding all over Philadelphia area

If you're jonesing for a hamburger, you may soon have a new fix nearby. Jake's Wayback Burgers, which started in 1991 as a few ultra-popular burger shacks in Northern Delaware, recently opened locations in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, and plans to open its first location in Philadelphia soon.

These locations include Northeast Philadelphia, West Chester, and Chadds Ford. Northeast Philadelphia will be the business' first foray into the city, and will be located at Welsh Rd. and Roosevelt Boulevard. According to Jake's the target opening for the Northeast location will be in two to three weeks.

Jake's Burgers has been a staple in New Castle County, Delaware, consistently garnering local awards. As Gillian Maffeo, the marketing director at Jake's, puts it, the restaurant has a "cult following" in the First State. The original location in Newark hasn't changed very much, as it still has just four tables inside, picnic tables outside, and the original hand-made burgers and milkshakes. These burgers and milkshakes have attracted the accolades of Delawareans, as they have repeatedly been voted the "best burger" and  "best milkshake" in the state by Delaware Today and Delaware News Journal readers. This is despite stiff competition from another old-fashioned burger joint, The Charcoal Pit.  

The restaurant is currently flipping burgers in Wayne, Willow Grove, Springfield (Delaware County), Exton, Kennett Square, and Pottstown. Some of these locations have only been open a few months, while others have been open for a couple of years. With this in mind, there are a number of locations that will be opening in the coming months.

Maffeo is most enthusiastic about the role Jake's plays in the surrounding communities. Individual restaurants do everything from "fundraising events to cancer and diabetes walks," said Maffeo. The marketing director added that some Jake's locations will be serving turkey burger dinners at local homeless shelters for Thanksgiving. She was also especially proud of the diabetes walk that employees at the Exton location participated in.

To emphasize the popularity of Jake's burgers and milkshakes, the restaurant has begun to feature a "burger of the month" and a "milkshake of the month." While hamburgers and milkshakes will always be Jake's most notable offerings, the restaurant has expanded its menu beyond just those. The burger joint now sells all-beef hotdogs, turkey burgers, various sandwiches, and salads.

Source: Gillian Maffeo, Jake's Wayback Burgers
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Art gallery with ambitious plans opens in heart of Camden this week

The opening of a new business in highly impoverished Camden is considered a notable accomplishment. The opening of a new art gallery in Camden is almost unheard of. That makes this week's opening of Gallery Eleven One, a "contemporary art studio and gallery," at 339 N. Front St. on Rutgers University’s Camden campus, such a noteworthy event. Gallery Eleven One is the product of artist William Butler, and his socially aware art, design, and clothing company, Thomas Lift, LLC.

Coming from Des Moines, Iowa, Butler deliberately chose to open his gallery in such a low-income city. After all, one of the main missions of his company is to help poor people of the inner city. To this end, Butler plans to donate at least 10 percent of Gallery Eleven One’s profits to socially conscious causes. Many of these beneficiaries are located within Camden, including Heart of Camden, which builds homes for financially destitute people, the Nehemiah Project, which focuses on removing blight through education and other means, as well as charter schools. Butler puts it succinctly when he says he wants his gallery to be "a small conduit causing a spark."

Gallery Eleven One is seen as a resource for Camden residents and Rutgers students alike. Butler is ardent about enabling everyone in Camden to be able to view his artwork. He has dreams of reaching out to charter schools to spread his art’s message to youth, and he also aspires to collaborate with other artists in Camden. Given the outcry about Camden’s shuttering of fire stations, it is a brush of irony that Butler opted to locate his gallery in a fully restored 1906 firehouse.

It is important to note that Butler is also looking to attract non-Camden residents and non-students to his gallery. Ads for Eleven One’s opening make prominent mention of how close the gallery is to Camden’s waterfront, making prominent mention of its proximity to Campbell’s Field and the River Line.

Butler gives some insight into what kind of artwork will be available at his gallery. He plans on featuring contemporary, abstract, and figurative pieces.

“There will be quite a variation in size, color, and feel,” says the artist. He gives a rough estimate of the range in size, which goes from 24x24 inches at the small end to 5x7 feet at the large end.

The buzz around Gallery Eleven One not withstanding, Butler and Thomas Lift, LLC plan to expand in the future. He’s looking at another abandoned firehouse in South Camden as a potential creative space for Camden residents. This would be a contrast with the Rutgers location, as South Camden is an exponentially rougher and lower-income neighborhood. Butler’s goal is to give "residents and visitors a number of access points" to art. However, this might be as far as a year away from opening. For now, Gallery Eleven One opens on Friday, with the opening reception spanning Friday and Saturday. 

Source: William Butler, Thomas Lift, LLC
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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