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On boarded up Chestnut Hill storefronts, store owner writes messages of hope

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."

No boards pie paintsJoe 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.

Boarded fresh marketOutside 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."

Boarded black lives matterLarge, 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.

Ocarroll chalking boards

On the Tailored Home store, O'Carroll's message is simply "This is home"

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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. "

Shoe repair apprentice is enthusiastic

Shoe repair apprentice
Janae Davis, an apprentice at Ace Shoe Repair shop in Mount Airy was outside the store on a fine summer day cleaning boots and shoes sitting at a low wall which served as her work table. Asked about her favorite job she answered unhesitatingly it was dyeing a pair of shoes dark brown. It involved cleaning the shoes first, stripping the original color, then applying dye, which sometimes requires several layers to get the perfect effect, she added. Davis would love to learn how to fix heels. Of Ace Shoe Repair she glowed. "They do a lot of great work." Watch video of shoe repair apprentice cleaning boots, talking about her aspirations.


Heavy rains heave gas tank out of ground

Diesel gas tank heaves service station
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.


Will Trump shoot young South Korean visitor who pokes fun at him?

Trump shoots young korean woman
On New Year’s eve day, four young women newly arrived from South Korea for government-sponsored internships in Washington, DC browsed the "America" store in Alexandria Virginia with bemusement Your correspondent asked if they were interested in purchasing any of the merchandise - a jolly mix of seriously patriotic and comically political clothing, accessories and knickknacks. People don't buy or wear such things in South Korea they explained. When one jokingly vamped with a patriotic T-shirt emblazoned with Donald Trump's face against an American flag background, I asked what she thought of our dear leader. "If I say frankly, Trump will shoot me." To be honest? "I think he’s crazy.“ Watch video of young Korean women browsing "America" patriotic and parody store.


Free coffee draws crowd on National Coffee Day

National coffee day free coffee
Hearing that WAWA convenience stores were giving out free coffee in celebration of International Coffee Day, on Friday morning your correspondent headed over to the Mt Airy store to grab a cup. The scene in the coffee area was crowded, festive- and a touch frenzied. The barista, who was refilling large coffee canisters non-stop, expected the store would serve about 4000 free cups that morning and said WAWA observes NATIONAL Coffee Day each year. He wasn't sure where WAWA coffee is sourced from but assured me all l needed to know was that it is the "best possible quality." It tasted just fine to me but, actually, I did want to know more so a little bit later that morning I visited the High Point Cafe in the Allen Lane train station Their barista wasn't acquainted with the unofficial holiday but quipped that every day is International Coffee day at High Point and comped me a delicious cup. He elaborated that High Point's "ethically sourced - locally roasted" coffee comes from small farms in Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sumatra and elsewhere. Watch customers crowd store for free coffee on National Coffee day and interviews.


Reverend offers free prayer for Starbucks customers

Reverend offers Starbucks customers free prayer

The Reverend Paul Adler, installed just last summer as rector at the Episcopal Church of Saint Alban in Roxborough, Philadelphia  prays for people who come across him seated and collared in the nearby Starbucks coffee shop. An occasional customer  is drawn to his table by the license plate size "FREE PRAYER" sign  atop it. When he's not engaged in an impromptu prayer session, he will address email correspondence or work on sermons. A medical student seeks God's help with medical exams about to begin. A young woman who has a newborn child and also a very ill, hospitalized mother-in-law seeks prayer for her family. Adler believes that prayer is a way of spending time with God and spending time with God is worthwhile, even if  prayer doesn't always work in the ways supplicants are expecting. Watch video here.


"Spite" fence goes up

Chestnut Hill Spite Fence

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.


Makes custom pewter gifts

Forges pewter giftware

Kyle Gerckin, head of the caster department at Wendell August: American Made Gifts in Grove City, PA shows how to pour pewter into a custom-made mold to create an ornament.  Next to its flagship store featuring hand-hammered metal gift items, the forge, in operation since 1923, is open to the public and offers tours. According to Gerckin, the pewter mixture Wendell August buys as ingots and melts down is composed of 90 percent tin, bismuth for its bonding properties, copper and a little bit of silver. The advantage of pewter, Gerckin says, is that it looks like silver but is less expensive and easy to work with.

Wendell August forge tours


The Fresh Market Rises in Chestnut Hill

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.