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Enterprise Center's culinary incubator opens in West Philadelphia

Food ventures officially returned to 310 S. 48th Street in West Philly when the much anticipated Center for Culinary Enterprises (CCE) had a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday to celebrate the pending opening of their new space - a former grocery store that had sat vacant for over 10 years. 

Backed by local business accelerator The Enterprise Center, CCE is being billed as one of the nation’s premiere commercial kitchen centers.  Essentially, it is a culinary incubator aimed to help jumpstart Philly food entrepreneurs by providing them space, resources and contacts in the industry.  To meet those ends, the space will include four state-of-the-art commercial kitchens for rent to culinary entrepreneurs, an eKitchen Multimedia Learning Center and retail spaces.

Since we last reported on this project, a lot of positive progress has been made.  First off, CCE was able to leverage an initial $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) into millions more in state and local grants, private funding, and corporation funding to really jumpstart the commercial kitchen aspect of the project.

CCE also helped initialize a business incubator program called Philly Food Ventures, where CCE’s entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to receive technical assistance for their culinary endeavors. The center has also developed a key partnership with Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania. The food service management company will purchase roughly $500,000 of products from CCE entrepreneurs each year.
Through these successes, attracting entrepreneurs and retailers to the Center has been relatively easy.  According to Delilah Winder,  Director of the Center, 30 clients have officially committed to being part of the Center, with hundreds more expressing interest.  And according to Naked Philly, Desi Kitchen, an Indian/Pakistani restaurant, will occupy one of the retail spaces, with coffee shop Café Injera taking the other.
With so many milestones achieved over the past few years, the CCE has begun to receive national acclaim, creating interest from other cities around the country who are interested in starting something similar in their respective cities.      
But the work doesn’t stop there -  Winder expects the Center to officially open in the next two weeks.  From there, she expects the incubator to launch or move forward 10 businesses each year.  Additionally, they expect anywhere from 54 to 81 full-time jobs will be created in its first year of operation, and nearly 150 over three years.

Source: Delilah Winder, Director, Center for Culinary Enterprises
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Flying Fish Brewery moves into new digs, quadruples in size

On July 10, after 15 years, 11 months, and 1 week, New Jersey's own Flying Fish Brewery officially shut down production at its Cherry Hill digs in preparation for their move into a new high tech brewery in Somerdale, Camden County.  The relocation quadruples the brewery’s size and will allow them to meet demand, something they haven’t been able to do in Cherry Hill.  Driving this demand are a number of specialty brews the company has become known for over the years, none moreso than their popular “Exit Series” brews that are named for New Jersey Turnpike exits.   

After announcing their move late last year, the brewery has been busy building out their new space, with efficiency and sustainability in mind.  First off, according to he building is a great example of adaptive reuse.  "It was built in the late 1960s and was originally a pressing plant for Motown records," explains owner Gene Muller.  Plus, the building is outfitted with a solar panel farm on the roof that will supply a good portion of the structure's electric.  Rain gardens have been installed on the grounds and will capture 15% of the storm water off the roof and funnel it to the garden, allow it to slowly seep into the water table instead of running into the nearby Cooper River.  "Everything with the building has a focus on sustainability," Muller suggests.   

Other site features include a state-of-the-art 50 barrel German-manufactured brewhouse, 150 barrel fermenters, and upgrades in virtually every aspect of the brewery.  Comparatively, the Cherry Hill brewery only contained 25 barrels and 50 barrel fermenters.   

Once Flying Fish is up and running, owners have indicated plans to reinstate their popular brewery tours.  Muller isn't sure when the tours will start up again, but says "not before October" due to impending legislation regarding strict state laws limiting how companys like Flying Fish can sell alcohol.  For example, laws, some of which have been on the books since Prohibition, state that New Jersey microbrewers are not allowed to offer product samples outside their brewery, something Flying Fish and other believe has to be amended.

Recently, the company has been active in getting these laws repealed, and supported a bill that just passed in the New Jersey state legislature.  It now sits on Governor Christie’s desk, awaiting his approval.  The way Flying Fish sees it, passing this bill will help small brewers improve tourism opportunities and cut needless red tape that hinders their ability to expand in the future.  And perhaps more importantly, Muller indicates if the legislation passes, more jobs will be created too.   "If it passes, we would hire staff so that we could be open to the public for tours several days a week."  

Writer: Greg Meckstroth
Source: Gene Muller, Owner, Flying Fish Brewery

AIA PHILADELPHIA YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM: How Quorum merged urban loft feel with technology

Name: George Poulin
Age:  29
Firm / Title:  UJMN Architects + Designers / Project Architect
Education:  B. Arch, Drexel University, 2007
Project Name:  Quorum
What's the location and investment in this project?  
3711 Market Street, 8th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104.  Construction cost $642,200.
Why is your project important to the neighborhood or the city at large?  
The University City Science Center, which forms and funds life science and technology companies, is a powerful economic engine for the city and surrounding region. Although the Science Center encompasses over two million square feet of real estate including 15 buildings, it lacked a physical space where scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs could gather, exchange information and ideas, and nurture partnerships.  This was the impetus for Quorum. 
The high-tech gathering space was designed with flexibility in mind to accelerate the transfer of ideas to the marketplace by accommodating a wide variety of programs, configurations, networking tools, and touch-down spaces.  In the first year since the Quorum opened, it has hosted more than 170 events, attended by over 8,000 people.  In this short period of time, it has established itself as a regional asset, fostering innovation, growing companies and creating jobs.  
What was the biggest obstacle in completing this project?  
Creating a flexible environment that could just as easily accommodate a group of five as it could 200 without the more austere aesthetics of a hotel conference room.
Did you have any key partners or collaborators in making this project a reality?
The Science Center identified the need for a dynamic gathering space and proposed the concept of "a clubhouse for innovation." More than 28 area financial sponsors helped make the Quorum a reality.   The project team was comprised of:
Architect:  UJMN Architects + Designers
Mechanical and Electrical Engineering:  Vinokur Pace Engineering
Multimedia Design:  FutureSys
General Contractor:  Gardner/Fox Associates
Multimedia Installation:  IMS Audio Visual
How do you feel like your personal stamp, or that of your firm, is placed on this project?  
The Science Center recognized the need for a flexible gathering space and came to us with the initial concept. After reviewing the program, we recognized the potential to raise the profile of the Science Center even further by designing a space unlike any other in the region. Quorum is very open with moveable partitions and furniture, and integrated technology that foster meetings at any scale and make it a comfortable and inviting connecting point to form alliances. 
What is the most innovative or distinctive part of this project?  
The character of the Quorum is quite distinct from the majority of spaces in the 3711 Market Street building, which are more corporate in nature. Quorum takes its cues from urban loft space and integrates interior glass garage doors, swinging partitions, folding glass walls and plug & play stations that create a truly interactive, reconfigurable environment, where ideas and collaboration can flourish.

Photos by: Paul Bartholomew
AIA PHILADELPHIA was founded in 1869 and is among the oldest and most distinguished of AIA Chapters, with a long history of service to members and the public. AIA Philadelphia organizes architects in the region for the purpose of advancing their influence in shaping the built environment, and their ability to effectively practice architecture in an ever-changing society and competitive marketplace. The YOUNG ARCHITECTS FORUM provides a place for young architects to network and communicate with one another, the College of Fellows, and Associate Members regarding mentorship, leadership, and fellowship.

Manayunk lease falls through, but thirst for Juice Box, coworking space for parents, lives on

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be just for the young and mobile or the empty nester looking for new beginnings.  Parents with young ones, who don’t want to choose between work and family, are increasingly looking for ways to explore their entrepreneurial spirit.  Enter the appropriately named Juice Box, a Philly coworking space that will support a community of entrepreneurs looking to get their creative juices jumping; most of whom also happen to be parents.
“Our goal is create an environment where you can be more productive than at home, collaborate and socialize with others, experience those serendipitous moments that coworking communities are known for, and still stay connected to your children,” explains Aliza Schlabach, founder of Juice Box.      

Schlabach and her husband, Kevin Schlabach, are still looking for a physical location to carry out the mission of Juice Box after a recent lease in Manayunk fell through due to unforeseen circumstances. And having worked on this concept since January, the couple is extremely disappointed by this recent turn of events. Undeterred, they remain confident and eager to move forward, citing a significant demand for this type of space from people who live in Center City, Mt. Airy, Manayunk, along the Main Line and beyond.  “We're anxious to get a space open so that our community of entrepreneurial and work-from-home parents can get out of their houses, grow, and succeed together.” 
According to Schlabach, the space will be similar to Indy Hall, the popular coworking space in Old City, but with a slightly different demographic.  Yes, the space will have the typical facilities: WiFi, desks, conference rooms, coffee, etc., but will be equipped with an added bonus any entrepreneurial parent will enjoy - an adjacent but separate area for drop-in or scheduled childcare.  
Schlabach hopes the facility will become well integrated into Philly’s entrepreneurial scene, and expects to hold “lots of community events” at Juice Box. “That means hosting events in our space as well as encouraging our members to attend other events in and around Philadelphia.”
But Schlabach’s goals go far beyond hopes for just the physical space. Ultimately, helping parents’ achieve a work-life balance is what Juice Box is all about. In an effort to achieve these lofty ambitions, the facility will offer member perks such as end-of-day grocery delivery and task and errand services.  
Additionally, all members of the community, including non-parents, are welcome into Juice Box fold, hoping they can add vitality and vigor to the space’s mission and something Schlabach deems especially critical. “Growing a community of individuals with their own unique stories, experiences, and knowledge is what will allow Juice Box to truly thrive.”  

Source: Aliza Schlabach, Juice Box
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

Amid major renovation, Weavers Way Co-Op pops-up with summer of fun in Mt Airy

Attention Northwest Philly residents: Weavers Way Co-op’s Mt. Airy location at 559 Carpenter Lane is undergoing a significant renovation this summer. Here’s the good news: the space overhaul will bring an expanded pet supply store and a new wellness store at 608/610 Carpenter Lane.  Part of the renovation also involves a greatly expanded bulk section. Store operators believe it will be the biggest in the city with hundreds of bulk items – nuts, grains, snacks, and other dried goods, as well as oils and vinegars, and even cleaning supplies.  
And now for the even better news: for those loyal Weavers Way customers who rely on the store’s convenient location for their grocery needs, not to worry. This past week, Weavers Way moved operations from its main store to a pop-up shop in the Co-op’s community meeting room nearby at 555 Carpenter Lane. The shop will include a selection of groceries from every department and an outdoor produce market.  
“We decided that by opening the pop-up shop, with a big outdoor produce component, we could meet most shoppers’ everyday needs,” says Jonathan McGoran, communications director for the Weavers Way Co-op. “We are also providing a shoppers’ shuttle van between our Mt. Airy store and our Chestnut Hill store, so our shoppers who are used to walking to the Mt. Airy store to do their shopping can still do so.”
Convenience seems to be the Co-op’s main priority; the shuttle will run every 20 to 30 minutes, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2–7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to–1 p.m.  
But just in case the renovation deters otherwise loyal customers, Weavers Way has arranged a variety of events including music, crafts, food truck nights, kids’ events, and parties to keep foot traffic at healthy levels. “A big consideration was to minimize any negative impact on our neighboring businesses,” McGoran clarified. “The pop-up shop will help maintain some of our foot traffic that businesses like the Highpoint Café and Big Blue Marble Bookstore depend on.”
Billed as the Weavers Way Co-op’s Mt. Airy Summer of Fun, events officially began this past weekend on July 13 with a Kick-Off Event that featured live music, a large selection of dinners and desserts from popular Philly food trucks, and a beer and wine tasting that showcased the region’s best alcoholic beverages.  For a full list of planned events throughout the summer, visit www.weaversway.coop to learn more.    
On top of this, and to keep things popping, Weavers Way is sponsoring a Mt. Airy Village Loyalty card program, raffling $5 off Weavers Way purchases of $50 or more for every ten purchases of $5 or more at the Mt. Airy Village businesses.
During construction, hours for the Pop-Up will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Construction at the existing Weavers Way will began in full on July 16 and is anticipated to last until the end of August.  Once the renovated co-op space opens, the pop-up will close up shop for the time being.    
And as for any other pop-up shops for other Weavers Way sites throughout Philly, that has yet to be determined.  “Right now, there are no plans for other Pop-up shops, but I wouldn’t want to rule it out,” explained McGoran.  “But we frequently have outdoor events, both in Mt. Airy and in Chestnut Hill, and we will certainly continue to do so.”

Source: Jonathan McGoran, Weavers Way Co-op
Writer: Greg Meckstroth

ON THE GROUND: Wolf Cycles howls at history with new ownership on Lancaster Ave.

New Wolf Cycles manager Sofi Courtney was greeted by boxes and trash bags full of stuff when she ventured upstairs at the shop's recently revived location at 4311 Lancaster Ave.
"We pulled everything out, and right at the bottom there’s a bunch of hats," says Courtney. "Two of them were signed by Eddy Merckx."
Merckx won the Tour de France five times and is considered the "greatest cyclist of all time." One of those hats now hangs in a frame on the shop’s wall.
In operation since 1932, Wolf Cycles is the city’s oldest continuing bike shop with a rich history - and some treasures. In 1976, Carl Miller bought Wolff Cycles from Frank Neumann and Herman Wolf.  Although it took Miller over an hour to get to the shop from his Northeast Philadelphia home, he "loved every minute of it."  During Wolff Cycle’s later years, his time at the shop began to dwindle.  After over 30 years of ownership, he realized it was time to retire. 
"My age caught up to me," Miller said. 
When he was ready to sell, Miller wanted the business to remain as a bike shop. He was adamant. 
"I feel it’s an institution," Miller said. "It’s for the young and old and it should be there. It’s an establishment that that can’t go away."
In November 2011, Sam Davis and Monica Pasquinelli, owners of Firehouse Bicycles on Baltimore Avenue, purchased Wolff Cycles (and dropped the last "f" when it reopened shortly thereafter)
When the new staff arrived, its history began to emerge through old receipts, found objects, and customers. They quickly recognized how much the shop meant to those who grew up in the neighborhood.
"I love that it’s such a neighborhood shop. Everybody has a connection to it," Courtney said. "Everybody’s been coming here their entire lives at least. Or their parent’s lives, their grandparent’s lives. It’s just an incredible community shop." 
Courtney said the location of Wolf Cycles "feels very familiar" to its sister shop. The major difference between the two?  Wolf Cycles sells a lot of children’s bikes.  
"Like everyone bought their bikes here when they were kids," said Cortney. "A lot of it is because people are like, ‘I got my first bike here and I want mine to get theirs here.’" 
Wolf Cycles is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. They offer bicycle repairs and services; sell accessories, parts and new and refurbished bikes. 
"Right now, we’re serving the immediate local community and students," Courtney said. "We are going for reliable, affordable." 
On Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. (weather permitting), a bike ride to the Belmont Plateau is open to all. If someone does not have a bike for the ride, they can borrow one from the shop. 
This summer, Courtney said Wolf Cycles wants to gain visibility in the community and let people know they are there all year round.
Miller said he misses the shop very much. But he is comforted knowing that its history will go on.  
"I like seeing the tradition of Wolff Cycles continue," Miller said. "It feels great." 

Source: Sofi Courtney, Carl Miller, Wolf Cycles
Writer: Zenovia Campbell

ON THE GROUND: Chic Afrique moves natural cosmetics store west to expanded shop on Lancaster Ave.

Chic Afrique has moved to a location that's double in size, but what customers see is only the tip of the company's business. "Ninety percent of our sales are online," reports Victoria Onwuchekwa, founder/chief cook and bottle filler at the natural cosmetics store now located at 3943 Lancaster Avenue.
Now offering over 30 products in its cosmetics line, Chic Afrique began as a kiosk at the Echelon Mall nearly three decades ago. Onwuchekwa had just completed her Master's degree in pharmacology at Long Island University, where she became fascinated by the chemistry of cosmetics. While in search of a dissertation topic, Onwuchekwa's mother, who is a pharmacist, suggested she pick a topic near home, and Onwuchekwa embarked on a study of shea butter, a common ointment in Africa that's been growing in popularity here in the US.

"Science, chemistry and pharmacology came easy to me," says Onwuchekwa. "I decided to do something extra on the side." Combining art and science, she developed simple emulsions that are still the basis for an extensive offering that includes body butter, souffle, lotion, soap, hair oil and butter, shampoo, conditioner and even candles.
Onwuchekwa's philosophy in developing products comes from the life cycle. Watoto has ingredients gentle enough for a baby; Karite is meant for a growing child's scrapes and rashes; Okuma is for a young girl who wants to smell nice; Saronia has a potent scent meant to attract suitors, and Ife, which means love, contains turai, a Senegalese aphrodisiac. Onwuchekwa counts all ethnicities among her loyal patrons, and also offers custom labeling for business to business sales locally, nationally and internationally.
Chic Afrique moved from the Echelon Mall to The Gallery at Market East, first in a kiosk and then in a retail shop. Onwuchekwa then expanded to 7th and Walnut streets for a decade; after a brief period doing only wholesale, she opened up another retail spot at 3874 Lancaster just last year. 
Less than two months ago, Onwuchekwa's landlord called to offer the much more spacious storefront a block west. It allows shoppers a peek into Onwuchekwa's open kitchen/laboratory, which occupies the entire back half of the expansive space. The business also has three employees.
The building was previously occupied by Grace Church and Community Center, as evidenced by the sign that still hangs above the door. Business hours are Monday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m.

Source: Victoria Onwuchekwa, Chic Afrique
Writer: Sue Spolan

University City District will be encouraging neighborhood composting through The Dirt Factory

Composting in University City is catching on. In just a couple weeks, the University City District (UCD) will be opening The Dirt Factory composting facility at 43rd and Market, a partnership between UCD and the Pedal Coop, a bicycle-powered disposal service that serves West (like Plotland at 44th and Locust) and South Philly (like Mercy Edible Park) and Center City.

The Dirt Factory represents the most permanent composting facility the Pedal Coop’s ever had, according to Seth Budick, the manager of policy and research at UCD, who says the cooperative is currently forced to compost at community gardens and other short-lived sites, which quickly hit capacity, forcing the disposers to find other sites. The facility will also have limited hours when other University City residents can use it.

"Our hope is that this facility will have sufficient capacity to allow (Pedal Coop) to expand their collection, increasing the number of residents and businesses that are able to compost," says Budick. This will enable Pedal Coop to handle large university functions at UPenn, Drexel, USciences, and other institutions.

West Philly businesses seem excited about the large-scale local composting option, whether or not they contract to the Pedal Coop. Budick says that Pedal Coop clients Metropolitan and Four Worlds Bakeries, both of which serve bread in West Philly, are especially thrilled about The Dirt Factory. Along with that, he adds that an increasing number of local businesses, affiliated and unaffiliated with the Coop, are asking how they can compost at 43rd and Market. 

The Dirt Factory will also have limited hours when University City businesses, non-profits, and residents can compost.

"We hope to begin by opening the site once a week for drop-offs of small quantities of compostables," says Budick. Eventually, the space could open to the public more if the need exists.

The UCD is also planning compost, food, and sustainability workshops for the summer months to be held on-site, says Budick, who promises more details will be announced soon.  Also, the site will have smaller composting classrooms where members of the community can learn techniques for composting at home. Additionally, the Walnut Hill Farm recently planted fruits and vegetables at The Factory using neighborhood compost. 

Other partners in the composting effort include the owners of the property at 4308 Market St. who offered up the parcel, and the University of Pennsylvania, which sold its used "Earth Tub" composting machines at a greatly reduced rate. The public grand opening for the Dirt Factory will be on June 20, and will feature complimentary refreshments by Four Worlds, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, and Dock St. Brewing Company.  

Source: Seth Budick, University City District
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Like the Pike: Lower Gwynedd launches campaign to attract attention to Bethlehem Pike

It’s a sleepy stretch of Bethlehem Pike that winds through Spring House, a small Montgomery County suburb between Ambler and Montgomeryville. A great deal of through traffic forsakes Bethlehem Pike to use the far faster Route 309 bypass, while too few people who do drive the Pike get out of their vehicles. With this in mind, Lower Gwynedd Township has embarked on a new campaign called “I like the Pike” to draw attention to Bethlehem Pike’s potential for redevelopment and build a sense of community among existing businesses.

One goal of “I like the Pike” is to highlight the recent streetscape improvements that are designed to make the Bethlehem Pike-corridor more walkable and green. So far, sidewalks and enhanced lighting have been installed on roughly half of the corridor, as part of a $1.5 million project, says Kathleen Hunsicker, the chairwoman of the Lower Gwynedd Board of Supervisors. Also, “walking paths have been built to connect adjacent residential neighborhoods to the Pike so residents can walk to eat and shop,” says Hunsicker.

Lower Gwynedd is also looking to make the community more sustainable by expanding Veterans Memorial Park, which can be found at the intersection of Bethlehem and Penllyn Pikes. As of now, a stone wall has been constructed that will include a sign welcoming drivers to Lower Gwynedd. Hunsicker adds that benches, a water fountain, flagpoles, and a rain garden will make the park a much more appealing place for those strolling along the Pike. It is expected to be completed by autumn of this year.

While walkability and parkland are important components to improving the corridor, attracting businesses is paramount. The Supervisors are most hopeful that restaurants and service businesses will be interested in moving into Spring House. As it always does, zoning plays an enormous role in the ability to lure commercial facilities. “The Township understands that developers might need some flexibility with zoning to brings projects to life,” says Hunsicker. In support of this idea, an ordinance is currently in front of the township planning commission that would provide some leeway in zoning.

“I like the Pike” also seeks to retain existing businesses that dot Bethlehem Pike, and create a semblance of community among them. Hunsicker says she hopes that a Lower Gwynedd Business Association will be formed as a result of the campaign. The campaign also looks to impel locals and visitors to frequent the businesses, such as Spring House Tavern, The Flower Shop of Spring House, and Born to Run shoes, along the corridor through the website. In other words, the campaign is intended to create “a buzz in the community” that lets everyone know “we are open for business,” Hunsicker says. 

Source: Kathleen Hunsicker, Lower Gwynedd Twp. Supervisors  
Writer: Andy Sharpe

Spiga gives growing culinary hotspot Midtown Village an Italian dining option

Thanks to the work of Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, Midtown Village is quickly becoming a dining destination. Earlier this year, we told you about their newest restaurant, Jamonera, which is a Spanish-style tapas bar on 13th St., just south of Chestnut. Now, this gastronomical blitz is extending to Locust St. in Midtown, as the casual Italian restaurant Spiga opened this past weekend. Spiga is co-owned by Anthony Masapollo, who is also know for Le Castagne in Rittenhouse and La Famiglia in Old City, and the executive chef is Brian Wilson.

Masapollo is elated to be a part of the Midtown Village community. “We sat outside El Vez, and I thought to myself, ‘this is where I want to be’,” says Masapollo. He adds that he loves the community feeling in Midtown. He made sure to join the Midtown Village Merchants Association last week. The partner is also planning on working with other businesses, such as the 12th St. Gym, to do outreach. Masapollo says that another perk of being in the neighborhood is that it connects Le Castagne and La Famiglia by providing a midpoint. 

Spiga, which translates to stalk or stem, can best be described as a casual Italian restaurant. Chef Wilson’s menu items include pasta, pizza, burgers, and steak, fish, and pork chop from the eatery’s two wood-burning grills. Masapollo is especially proud of the wood-fired grills. “It’s like cooking outdoors,” he says. For those with wheat allergies, gluten-free items are also available. Patrons are encouraged to share menu items. Spiga also has a bar on the premises, which serves up wine and cocktails. 

The restaurant is located at 1305 Locust St., which is convenient to PATCO, the Broad St. Subway, and a parking lot. Before Spiga, the location housed a few LGBT-themed lounges, the last of which was JR’s Lounge. Masapollo says he and his business partners had been looking to create Spiga for quite a while. He says they first set their sights on the Locust St. location last summer. 

Spiga seats 70 people between the main dining room and the bar. They are generally open until 10 PM on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends, although they are closed on Mondays and close early on Sundays. In addition to Masapollo and Wilson, Skip DiMassa and Giuseppe Sena are co-owners. Entrees generally cost between $12 and $30, while some appetizers cost as little as $4. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Anthony Masapollo

Photo courtesy of Spiga

Frankford businesses get the chance to show off for those merely passing through

Frankford is an important gateway between Center City and Northeast Philadelphia, as it is home to the Frankford Transportation Center. But this doesn't help local businesses in Frankford, as travelers have little reason to hop off in a neighborhood that has suffered from its share of crime and blight. That's why the Frankford CDC is partnering with Aria Health to highlight shops along the Frankford Ave. commercial corridor and elsewhere in the neighborhood.

The Frankford CDC anticipates beginning its campaign in late-May, says Michelle Feldman, the commercial corridor manager at the CDC. Each quarter, four new businesses will set up shop inside the cafeteria of Aria Health's Frankford campus. Feldman says she has received interest "from a whole range of institutions and businesses" in participating. These businesses include Gilbert's Upholstery and Antiques, which has graced Frankford Ave. for more than 30 years, Frankford Friends School, Cramer's Uniforms, Mezalick Design Studio, and Denby's Sweet Sensations pastries.  

Feldman says that outreach to local businesses about the chance to be featured was done via e-mail and shop-to-shop canvassing. The latter was made much easier by the fact that Feldman is used to walking up and down Frankford Ave. and interacting with shopkeepers and employees as part of her role with the CDC. While she says the CDC focuses on businesses along the Avenue, some of the participating businesses are on Griscom St., Orthodox St., and elsewhere off of the main commercial corridor. "We're here to help all businesses," says Feldman.

Community leaders in Frankford are quick to laud Aria Health for allowing businesses to market themselves. Feldman says the idea for this campaign came from the realization that many Aria employees merely drove or walked past businesses on Frankford Ave. without actually going inside any of them. This is quite similar to the scads of El commuters who ride, drive, or walk through Frankford, but would probably have trouble naming even a few shops. The CDC hopes to generate interest in shopping and eating locally among Aria employees through this. 

Along with the marketing campaign for local businesses, there are a few other exciting things happening in Frankford. Feldman mentions the Mural Arts Program recently held two public meetings to determine the designs of the upcoming "Imagining Frankford" murals by artist Cesar Viveros. Also, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez recently spearheaded a grant for targeted facade improvements on the 4600-block of Frankford Ave. Finally, the CDC inaugurated a new computer lab for the community, which was made possible by Philly Rising and Temple University's Computer Recycling Center

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Michelle Feldman, Frankford CDC

Neighborhood Foods' CSA delivers West Philly's freshest to rest of region

Greater Philadelphia is rapidly becoming more of a hub for urban farming and community-supported agriculture (CSA). Just look at the recently expanded Mariposa food co-op on Baltimore Ave., the active Kensington Community Food Co-op, and the Creekside Co-op groundbreaking in Montgomery County. Another organization that hasn’t received as much publicity is West Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Foods, which is transitioning from just an urban farm to a CSA and is teaming up with other local food venders at Rittenhouse Square.

Neighborhood Foods will be using three different sites in West Philadelphia this year to cultivate fresh food. The main site is Polselli Farm, a two-thirds acre lot at 53rd and Wyalusing at which the group has been farming snce 2010, according to Dylan Baird, the business manager. He adds that his organization annexed two smaller farm sites last year, and will be growing from them starting this year. One site is the popular Walnut Hill Farm, which thrives in the shadows of SEPTA's 46th St. El stop. 

Baird is excited to announce that his urban farm will also feature a CSA this year, which he claims is the city’s first urban farm-based CSA. Members of this CSA will enjoy locally-cultivated fruits, vegetables, and grains, with all proceeds being returned to Haddington, Walnut Hill, and other sections of West Philly. According to Baird, the CSA will run for 22 weeks from the middle of May to October, and more include very affordable prices. Neighborhood Foods is currently looking for members.  

The CSA is now working with other local food sellers at the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market every Saturday. "We are broadening beyond just urban farmed produce and we will be incorporating all kinds of Philly produced products," says Baird. Some examples of this include canned goods from South Philly’s Green Aisle Grocery, bread from West Philly’s Four Worlds Bakery, and jellies from Fifth of a Farm Jams

Proceeds from the Rittenhouse stand enable Neighborhood Foods to continue to grow and sell fresh food at a steep discount in West Philly. "Our business model is such that we sell our food at a premium around the city so that we can subsidize the price of food at our community farmers market as well as our community programs," says Baird.  

Neighborhood Foods is a product of The Enterprise Center CDC and Urban Tree Connection, and features produce that is grown naturally and without chemicals. Baird says that the urban farm benefits from a large local population of senior citizens, who understand the value of fresh vegetables from their early years in the South. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Dylan Baird, Neighborhood Foods

Photo courtesy Neighborhood Foods     

A 10-pin workout: Combination Sweat gym-BYOB bowling alley coming to East Falls

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to knock down pins and lose pounds at the same time? If so, you might want to head over to East Falls starting next month. This is when Sweat Fitness will open their first fitness center and BYOB bowling alley in One Falls Center on Henry Ave. This will soon be Philadelphia’s first combination gym and bowling alley and Sweat Fitness’ 10th location in the city and its suburbs. It will be called Sweat Fitness and Frames.

Sweat Fitness hopes to intertwine bowling and working out, according to Scott Caplan, the owner of the gym. To do this, Caplan plans to allow members who use any Sweat gym to bowl for free during off-peak hours, which fall on weekdays in the bowling sphere. The facility will feature 10 bowling lanes with room for private parties. Exercisers can unwind not just from a round of bowling, but also with a drink. Indeed, unlike many bowling alleys, Sweat Fitness and Frames will be BYOB.

While bowling is a unique bedfellow to fitness, Caplan previously owned the Stripes bowling alley at 40th and Locust Sts. in West Philly. Stripes closed in April 2010, but Caplan’s affinity for bowling did not go away. Caplan explains that bowling helps “solidify” relationships, which is important because “fitness is a very social business.” 

Caplan hopes that Fitness and Frames will become an integral part of the East Falls community. For one thing, Sweat will take advantage of a free shuttle that carries Philadelphia University students between their school and housing around One Falls Center. He’s also encountered strong support for the gym alley among the East Falls Development Corporation (EFDC) and other community groups. “So far they’ve been very happy to have us,” says Caplan, who adds that Sweat has become a “focal point” in other communities. 

If Sweat Fitness and Frames proves successful, the gym may open additional bowling fitness centers in the future. Caplan divulges that Sweat is looking to open a few more fitness facilities in the Delaware Valley in 2013, although no word yet if they’ll offer bowling.  

If you’re interested in joining Sweat’s upcoming East Falls location, Caplan says there are still around a hundred pre-sale membership slots available. While the owner can’t give an exact date as to when Sweat Fitness and Frames will open, he says it will likely be in late-April. This means only a month until you can enjoy a vigorous work-out, a round of bowling, and a frosty drink in one location.   

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Scott Caplan, Sweat Fitness  

Illustration Courtesy of Sweat Fitness

Greene Street Consignment to open its seventh location in Chestnut Hill

Greene Street Consignment has been a fixture among those looking to purchase designer clothing labels at cheap prices. So much so that they have branched out from their original location on South Street and opened six locations, ranging from Princeton to West Chester. It’s soon to be seven locations, as Greene Street will become the latest business to set up shop along Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill by the end of the month.

The consignment store will open on the 8500-block of Germantown Ave., near Penzeys Spices, The Paperia gift store, and Chestnut Hill West Station. It wasn’t hard for Greene Street to decide to open in the Northwest Philly enclave.

"Chestnut Hill is such a great community of families, shops and new shops that are opening,” says Casey Drucquer, a marketing director at the consignment shop. Drucquer quickly adds that Greene Street’s owner recently moved back to Chestnut Hill herself.

While Greene Street Consignment is a used clothing store, it’s one with exacting standards. Drucquer reports that her store won’t accept any articles of clothing that are older than two years, and demands that everything sold be in immaculate condition. The store carries adult’s clothing in every size from small to extra large. Drucquer says that the store typically offers Gap, Gucci, Prada, and Anthropologie clothes. For those looking to sell clothes, Greene Street doesn’t require appointments and rewards a 40% commission on items that are sold.  

Drucquer emphasizes that a portion of Greene St.’s proceeds go to a good cause. As a matter of fact, the owner of the store's sister recently founded a fourteen-acre farm in Chester County, called the Greene Street Animal Rescue, dedicated to sick pets.

"Since the opening a few months ago, they have taken in eleven dogs which normally would have been euthanized,” she says. Part of the consignment shop’s profit goes to this, and the store also solicits tax-deductible donations. 

Writer: Andy Sharpe
Source: Casey Drucquer, Greene St. Consignment  

Photo courtesy of Greene Street Consignment 

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
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