A tall chain-link fence recently appeared dividing the narrow walkway between two buildings on Germantown Avenue in the posh Chestnut Hill shopping district in northwest Philadelphia. And now, next to it a sign that reads "Snowden's Spite Fence." George Hobe says the fence went up between his antiques store and a building owned by Richard Snowden/ Bowman Properties after Hobe refused to sell his building to Snowden. Hobe maintains the walkway has long been a public thoroughfare, that the fence is illegal and that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has not addressed complaints against the fence. During our interview Hobe retrieved a working Monopoly boardgame from inside his store called "The Game of Chestnut Hill." Snowden, who owns a large and ever growing proportion of the properties along the corridor, is presumably the inspiration for the unique Chestnut Hill version of Monopoly. Watch video interview here.
Bee Boy Ryan Williamson is happy for any technology advancement that raises the profile of beekeeping but has reservations about the so called flow hive with preformed plastic combs. New beekeepers who think all they have to do is turn the handle and out will come honey risk harming the bees. He also believes that comb building is in the bees' genetic coding and something that they are meant to do and is good for them. The Bee Boys are organic beekeepers whose simple mission, according to their website is to support the honeybees! At the right in photo is Bee Boy Kevin O'Connor. Watch Video here.
Anita Chhantyal didn't know why the Nirvana Indian restaurant she and her husband had just relocated to Lafayette HIll from Conshohocken was filling up this opening night. But she suspected that others like your correspondent and his wife, had simply seen the "Nirvana" and "Open" signs draped over the old sign, "The Lucky Dog." The dog's luck must have run out.
Natives of Nepal, Chhantyal and her chef husband, are donating 20% of proceeds the first few days to the Nepalese earthquake relief effort. More than 10000 people died in the disaster, Chhantyal reports, and a niece of hers is recovering from leg injuries.
When they were not pausing for impromptu interviews,two young American waitresses with enthusiasm for Indian food, bustled around filling orders from eager first night patrons.
Adil Tijer, an immigrant from Morocco, drives a “black car” for Uber, a service which connects riders with drivers through its mobile apps. On your correspondent’s first trip with Uber, Tijer explained driver licensing, passenger insurance and Uber’s rating system. But for the occasional late night drunk, Tijer’s rating might be a perfect 5-star. The rating system works both ways. Uber drivers get to rate their riders, too, and drivers can refuse to accept a fare. Watch video ride and interview here.
Tijer worked previously as a medical assistant and pizza deliveryman. He visits friends and family back home every year and describes his country as a democracy, tolerant of different religious practices, where the people love their king. Tijer, now an American citizen, came to the U.S. as one of the quota-set 2500 Moroccans who won the lottery some years ago and hopes to own his own store one day. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia where he says there is a sizable Moroccan community. Watch video interview here.
Helen Ambrose watches construction progress of The Fresh Market store and condominium complex in Chestnut Hill with mixed feelings. A few years ago Ambrose and her neighbors were commiserating about how dead the Germantown Avenue corridor seemed. She is worried now about the increased traffic the development will bring but still welcomes it. She patronized The Fresh Market store when she lived in North Carolina. “They have amazing meats, seafood and specialty foods,” she says and welcomes more shopping options. She also shops at Trader Joes and Weavers Way Coop and really likes the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market (now “Market at the Fareway”) which she hopes can “hang in there.” Watch video interview here.
Your correspondent took his wife’s car to Dr. Ralph’s Automotive Services Center in Roxborough after she discovered one morning that it had been bashed overnight. While a technician was dusting off the last traces of the repair job, body shop manager John Klimowicz began explaining the business. While high strength steel is still used in car construction, thermoset plastics are becoming more common. To point out the strength of the repair work, Klimowicz relates that the same epoxies used to weld airplane panels are employed for car panel bonding repairs. If repaired properly, according to manufacturer specifications, “you can hit it with a sledge hammer and it will not break.” As to a future when driverless cars are expected to reduce collisions? “That remains to be seen.” In the meantime, Klimowicz believes there is plenty of work for Dr. Ralph’s and for the other nine or so car repair shops tightly spaced alongside this industrial stretch of Umbria Avenue. Watch video interview here.
Four homeschooled girls are selling snacks and cold drinks four days a week outside the Andorra Shopping Center in Roxborough, Philadelphia. They have been doing this for the last ten weeks. Watch video interview here.
The images on "ReAnimator Coffee Roasters" bags of a skeleton reaching up with a bony hand to perhaps clasp a flask containing some potion held high up by a priestlike figure come from old wood etchings. The name "ReAnimator" is taken from the HP Lovecraft story, "Herbert West - Reanimator," about a doctor who experiments with bringing the dead back to life through ingestion of reagents. Sleep, a state akin to unconsciousness may be an analog for death, a barista at the outdoor Clover Market in Chestnut Hill philosophizes and a workmate adds that coffee drinkers love the revitalizing effect of caffeine. Coffee "reanimates" them.
After 40 years in the police department Avon "Crazy Ed" Wilson now sells plants outside his home on Chew Ave in Germantown. He had seen enough murder and war in the last twenty of his police years working in CSI. Now, four years running, he's been doing "something nice" for the neighbors. He buys plants at Home Depot and Produce Junction and makes arrangements of them in pots. He will bargain with customers but not if they disparage his plants. Wilson's not out to make a profit because he has a pension but tries to break even nonetheless. With his steady customers he tells a running joke: "The thing about my plants - you can't eat 'em and you can't smoke 'em."
Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)