Today, the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library opened their new bookstore, “Hilltop Books” at 84 Bethlehem Pike in Erdenheim. A handful of the 100 some volunteers were on hand to welcome customers. Trading as “Hilltop Books”, the beautifully restored, high ceiling-ed space offers rooms and bookcases divided by subject area, many curated by subject specialists! Initially, books are being sold at 1/3 of the price on the jacket. Today’s opening was to give people who had ordered “blind date” Valentine’s Day/“Galentine’s” Day books another chance to pick them up. Until the expected official opening in mid-March, the store will be open by appointment only. The Friends bookstore has big hopes. An outdoor patio is planned to accommodate 50 people and the store wishes to offer coffee and pastries. And there are all sorts of book clubs in the works- murder mystery, cooking, garden, storytelling, family game night, birthday..Something for everyone. Photo album here.
(The British Royalty collection is being curated by a subject of her Majesty)
Brothers Max and Zachary Frankel are scions of E J Frankel Enterprises started by their great grandfather. (Grandfather shown in picture courtesy of Legacy.com/Inquirer. ) The firm developed the Philadelphian and other properties of note and has diverse interests in Florida. They plan a dense development at the site of the former Sunoco station at the highest point in Philadelphia, Bethlehem Pike and Summit Avenue just off of Germantown Avenue in the tony Chestnut Hill Neighborhood. Doing business apparently as TPM LLC or 10 Bethlehem Pike, they plan a 4 or 5 story 34 unit luxury apartment building which their architect Sergio Coscia says will preserve sight lines of the historic Baptist Church of Chestnut Hill. Neighbors expressed alarm at the size of the project at a well attended community meeting on February 16. Chestnut Hill’s major property owner, Richard Snowden of Bowman Properties whose own multi-story residential complex a few blocks away had met similar community push back, expressed reservations about the aesthetics. See photos of building and site plans, elevations, schemes etc here.
According to Chestnut Hill Staples store manager on duty Scott Clark, the staff is scrambling to make up for the loss of Mark Carver, the store’s print Manager for over 10 years. Carver is well known in the community (and your correspondent) for his astounding service and commitment to customers. Testament to his dedication and laments about the restructuring that led to his severance have been steadily pouring in on the NextDoor platform. Clark says work is becoming difficult because the store’s general manager is being called to fill in the gap in the print department to make up for the work that Carver had been so ably managing. “Who’s going to manage the store when she does?” Clark asked rhetorically. Moreover, 75% of the print staff are new hires. He reports that a lot of people have been coming in to the store to express support for Carver. And he had no reservation about speaking publicly. In fact, he says, the staff has been actively and collectively pushing the clamoring of customers back to Staples management. Your correspondent is awaiting a response from Staples corporate communications
UPDATE TO DEVELOPING STORY: PHILADELPHIA GUIDELINES ABOUT SIX FOOT SPACING WERE INCONSISTENT WITH STATE, BECAME CONSISTENT and ARE NOW INCONSISTENT AGAIN, APPLYING A LOOSER STANDARD.
On July 23, Philadelphia issued revised guidelines to require 6 feet between passersby and tables in line with May 27 state requirements.
On October 9, Pennsylvania updated May 27 guidelines but still required 6 feet between passersby and diners.
On October 15, Philadelphia revised the guidelines again to only require a 6 foot passageway, not a 6 foot distance between diners and pedestrians. This is no longer consistent with state standards.
October 22, 2020 Several restaurants in Chestnut Hill appear compliant with state standards, more appear to exceed current city standards as shown in the photo on the left.
Documentation on extended pages.
BUT then at least one restaurant proprietor must have friends in high places. It blocks the sidewalk.
ORIGINAL STORY: Approximately July 21, 2020
Living a block and a half away from Germantown Avenue we like to stroll up and down. It's enjoyable and it's healthy. It's one of the reasons we live here.
We understand Chestnut Hill restaurants, several which we patronize (and now do more take out from) are just trying to stay financially afloat. Due to Covid19 many have added extra outdoor seating both next to the building and at the curb. But If you were to walk past a few of these restaurants you might be 2-3 feet away from open-mouthed diners, a delicious opportunity to spread the corona-virus.
In his July 17 Inquirer article,"Eating out during the pandemic is a dilemma. Outdoor dining appears to be the most safe," Craig LaBan writes "It’s nonetheless unrealistic to expect customers hungering for a taste of quarantine escape to consistently respect boundaries, just as it’s naive to expect restaurateurs, with so little guidance or oversight to suddenly become altruistic public health experts, and not try to squeeze in a few more seats than they should."
No, Mr. Laban, there may be little oversight but the guidance is clear. Pa Governor Wolf's Covid-19 *mandate* about outdoor restaurant seating is clear. "Spacing must also allow for physical distancing from areas outside of the facility’s control (i.e. such that pedestrians on a sidewalk can pass with at least six feet of distance to customer)." Source www.governor.pa.gov/covid-19/restaurant-industry-guidance
Here's the math. The average width of an adult is 1.25 feet so a pedestrian would need 6 feet distance from a table on their left side and 6 feet on the right for a restaurant to be in compliance: In other words the width of the walkway to keep both pedestrians and diners safe is *13.25* feet.
I conducted a little informal survey of how wide the pedestrian passage is at Chestnut Hill establishments with outdoor seating. The most ample passage was outside Iron Hill Brewery with a width of 9 or more feet and staggered tables. The general manager was kind enough to pose to provide a sense of scale. Outside Campbell's Place, the pedestrian passageway is 6 feet or less and similarly so at establishments at the top of the Hill. Without addressing the governor's 6 foot mandate, Campbell's owner Rob Mullen writes that according to the City's Health, L&I and Streets Department Campbell's outdoor seating is in complete compliance. (It is not clear what seating arrangement the inspectors saw when they made their inspections.) October 23, 2020 update: the city now appears to have been enforcing its own looser standards, inconsistent with state standards).
Perhaps we should just cross the street, as a friend suggests, to avoid the restaurants. Perhaps the restaurants could take away just a few tables to be closer in compliance with the law. Perhaps I should watch the next episode of "Breaking Bad" on our daughter's NetFlix account and sulk about how the only real thanks health care workers want is the one they're not getting- people and businesses uniformly embracing good public health practices and regulations. Photo gallery here Crowded outdoor restaurant seating puts diners and walkers in danger of catching Covid-19
Documentation follows about changing and conflicting Pennsylvania and Philadelphia 6 foot distancing requirement.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, most businesses along the Germantown Avenue business corridor (excluding some of the vacant ones ) had been securely boarded up in the wake of widespread protests and looting elsewhere in the city. The Weavers Way Coop market, which has a wide expanse of windows, was a notable exception. (The Coop's General Manager, Jon Roesser, explains its decision not to board up below.) When asked why he was boarding up the Wells Fargo Bank a workman replied "It's a job. Do you think I like doing this? It's sad."
Joe Pie of McNally's Tavern, was putting a new coat of dark green paint on the entrance door (No boarding up to do because the tavern hasn't had windows on the narrow facade for more than fifty years.) He said that businesses along the Avenue had been "cased" the day before and was very alarmed should any photos be posted on social media. Bohemian Pink owner Monika Schermer said her store was boarded up based on the advice of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and the 14th District Philadelphia Police. Schermer directed questions to the Business Association. Its Executive Director Phil Dawson could not be reached for comment.
Outside the Fresh Market at 7 pm, a market employee stood outside watching two workmen prepare to board up the doors. He relayed that the CVS, farther down the street, had been broken into. Talking on the phone, one of these workers could be heard saying he would be back at the store in the morning to take the boards off so the store could open for business. "Hopefully I'm going to be putting these boards on and off for a couple days."
Large, delicately lettered chalk messages have already appeared on some of the boards. "Love lives here" on one and "Community" on another. Hillary O'Carroll proprietress of Isabella Sparrow, captured in a photo in the below tweet, is behind the heartwarming words. She says she wanted to add non-political messages of love and home by writing on the the boards. The one shown above "Black Lives Matter - donate: NAACP.ORG & phillybailfund.org" she attributes to an employee of Caleb Meyer.
On the Tailored Home store, O'Carroll's message is simply "This is home"
Comments of John Roesser, GM of Weavers Way Cooperative Association
Driving down Gtown Ave this morning, it seems we're part of a vanishing minority of businesses who've chosen not to board up; lumber yards must be rejoicing.
For starters, please know I don't question the motives of other business owners. Whatever drove them to decide to board up, I'm sure it made sense for them. I understand PPD recommends boarding up businesses as a precaution. PPD would have no reason to recommend anything different. And they are busy and hard pressed and I'm sure not just a little tired by now.
Our principal reason for not boarding up was consideration of our staff and customers. Still in the midst of the pandemic, grocery shopping is already a stressful activity (working in a grocery store is even worse). The masks and the hand sanitizer and the social distancing and the 15 person customer cap, it's all disconcerting enough. Boarding up our windows would aggravate the stress. Our Chestnut Hill store is small. Boarding up the windows would block out the natural light and make it feel even smaller. Who wants to work in a plywood box?
In making this decision I had 100% support from the Co-op's management team and 100% support from our Chestnut Hill employees (at least the 25 or so with whom I spoke on Sunday and Monday). Last night I received 100% affirmation of the decision from our board of directors who, as you know, are democratically elected by the Co-op's 10,000 member households.
Having spent much of yesterday in Chestnut Hill chatting with customers (masked and 6 feet apart!) I received thumbs up from all of them. Many expressed dismay at the acres of plywood along the avenue. One out of four households in Chestnut Hill are member-owners of the Co-op. They patronize other businesses on the avenue too.
Yesterday's demonstrations were largely peaceful. Things could change but the folks who are out protesting the murder of George Floyd and demanding the end of institutional racism are not vandals or looters. PPD is as always hard at work tracking down the bad actors who are taking advantage of the demonstrations (and undermining the demonstrator's message) by causing mayhem. It is too early to say but we can perhaps be hopeful that the worst of the looting is over.
I have to say, again not questioning the motives - or the politics - of other business owners, the sight of all those boarded up buildings along the avenue is unnerving. And it can't be good for business. I do hope the other businesses along the avenue will consider taking the boards down sooner rather than later.
It will take one hooligan, armed with a brick and a strong arm, to make us look like fools. Maybe we are fools. "
After heavy weekend rains, Mohammad Bepary was on site at the Luk Oil gas station he operates through lease at Bethlehem Pike and Montgomery Avenue where a newly installed 10,000 gallon diesel tank had nosed upwards out of the soggy ground. The tank needs to be hoisted out and the ground re-excavated before it goes back in. Bepary expects the renovation of the mini-convenience store, which is being enlarged by conversion of two former garage bays, and addition of a diesel pump will be welcome by the community when he reopens, if all goes according to plan, in early March. Watch video interview about diesel tank excavation problem after heavy rain.
Charlie Gangloff of Top of the Hill market and a helper hoist the first Christmas tree of the season onto an upright the Monday before Thanksgiving. They expect to receive 1000 trees this season, all grown in Bloomsburg Pa, 90 miles northwest of the city. This one is a 9.5 foot Frasier Fir weighing from 75 to 100 pounds. At the end of the season, Gangloff says customers can drop off their trees through a program of the CH Business Association which will donate them to nature preserves where they provide shelter for animals. On the day after Thanksgiving, Gangloff and helpers were busily drilling holes in the bottom of the trees using a special drilling contraption that makes sure the tree will stand erect when mounted on a post. Drilling Christmas tree so it stands straight.
I finally got around to having my car's defective Takata airbag replaced and driving into the dealership, discovered that the service area had been completely renovated into a covered structure with multiple lances. Conicelli Honda in Conshohocken is one of the first in the nation to be equipped with new Hunter Engineering automated technology according to service advisor Russ Hauer. As explained by Hauer and demonstrated by Assistant Service Manager Marc Varallo, as you drive into the service area over a red plate, a laser in the device reads your tire tread depth. Simultaneously, a camera takes of a photo of your license plate; the system is tied in to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and brings up your Vehicle Identification Number so there is no need to present your car registration for manual entry. A valet takes your car and you then walk inside the waiting area where a service agent greets you and promptly presents you with a graphic printout of the condition of your tires and whether a tire rotation or replacement are recommended. See new auto tire laser reading technology and interview here.