Local Democrats are still pinching themselves – perhaps nowhere more so than in Tredyffrin, where the party’s candidates went 12 for 12 last Tuesday.
Three Democrats ran for township supervisor seats: incumbent Murph Wysocki plus Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell.
All three won.
Four Democrats ran for T/E school board: incumbent Scott Dorsey plus Kyle Boyer, Tina Whitlow and Heather Ward.
All four won. (Whitlow and Ward ousted current board president Doug Carlson and Virginia Lastner.)
So, for the first time in township history, three of seven supes and seven of nine school board directors will be Democrats. Unreal, really.
In another first for Chester County, 2,000 more Democrats voted the straight party ticket than Republicans.
And we won’t even get into the historic Democratic wins in Delco.
So was it just Trump backlash? Only partly, says Tredyffrin’s Wysocki. “Donald helped, but we had a great organization, wonderful volunteers, and a really good ground game.”
Whatever your politics, you gotta love the youth wave washing over T/E schools. Two new school board winners – both Stoga graduates – are still in their 20s.
Kyle Boyer, Conestoga ’06, an ordained minister and youth pastor with dual master’s degrees from Penn, is leaving his teaching job at Valley Forge Middle School to serve.
President of his class at Stoga and VP of the student body at GW, Kyle launched his education career at Teach for America. Conestoga classmates remember him saying he’d run for the White House one day. Seems he’s on his way.
Even younger: incoming school director Heather Ward, who’s just four-and-a-half years removed from her days as editor-in-chief of Conestoga’s newspaper. Now an auditor at Ernst and Young, Heather launched her campaign during her senior year at Villanova, knocking on 1,500 doors in the last 10 months. Persistence, thy name is Heather.
Boosting Boyer and Ward: an astounding 85 percent of eligible Conestoga seniors were registered to vote. (Props to Stoga senior Jahnavi Rao for leading a wildly successful, non-partisan voter registration drive.)
And speaking of Stoga-grown stars, remember the 2005 grad and TV news anchor Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend was fatally shot on live TV in Roanoke a couple years ago? Hoping to have a bigger impact on gun control and other issues, he quit TV news and just won a seat in the Virginia House, ousting a three-term incumbent Republican.
Other local races of note: In Radnor, Democrat Lisa Borowski will replace longtime Commissioner Elaine Schaefer while Republicans Richard Booker and Jake Abel narrowly defeated Democratic challengers in Wards 2 and 6, respectively. The Radnor School Board, however, swung back to the Democrats, 5-4.
The big election news in Lower Merion was the ousting of longtime Republican Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig by Democrat Andy Gavrin. Rosenzweig had represented the Rosemont/Villanova section of Lower Merion for 12 years. He blamed his loss on anti-Trump sentiment.
And Narberth, btw, just elected its first female mayor, Andrea Deutsch.
Main Line Health doc arrested
A longtime local ob-gyn is in serious hot water.
SAVVY has learned that Dr. Joseph Russino – who practiced at Paoli Hospital and Lankenau for some 30 years – was arrested Oct. 31 on 191 counts of felony theft, forgery and fraud.
He’s out on bail until his preliminary hearing on Dec. 13.
Willistown Police say Russino, 63, stole nearly $900,000 from his partners at Paoli Obstetrics/Gynecology Associates over five years, forging 72 checks and documents and using a bank account his partners thought had been closed as his personal slush fund.
Without his partners’ knowledge, he allegedly wrote company checks for a laundry list of personal expenses. Among them: $132,000 to buy and renovate a vacation home in Avalon, $160K to credit card companies; $6K for a patio table, $5.6K for his home’s Christmas party lights; $4,200 for his pets’ vet bills; $11K to a babysitter; $5.6K to maintain his pool; $3.3K for jewelry; $4.2K to a handyman; $3.3K to his Avalon house cleaner.
We could go on and on. The criminal complaint we obtained from the Chester County DA goes on for 17 pages.
After his partners confronted him in May of 2016, Russino resigned from Paoli OB-GYN to start a solo practice with offices on King St. in Malvern and at Lankenau. In a letter to patients, he explained it was “time to leave” the group he co-founded with Dr. Mark Chastenay so he can “practice quality care in a more personal setting.”
Looks like Russino will be well-armed for his day in court. According to Chesco Assistant DA Ryan Borchik, he’ll be defended by Jeff Miller and James Freeman, both hotshot criminal defense attorneys.
In addition to Chastenay, Russino’s former partners include Drs. Jennifer Gilbert, Nancy Hahn, Jennifer Stuck and Alex Anthopoulos.
Under PA law, Russino is still free to practice medicine in PA. His license doesn’t get revoked unless he’s convicted.
Another dispensary coming our way
Medical marijuana is coming to Malvern.
TerraVida Holistic Centers will put its third dispensary at 249 Planebrook Rd. in Malvern, just north of Lancaster Ave. and west of Rte. 352. The company had hoped to open in Mt. Airy but that plan was shot down because of the site’s proximity to a childcare center.
Meanwhile, work crews are busy turning the former Dairy Queen in Devon into the medicinal cannabis dispensary, Keystone Shops.
Two coups for Aronimink
The Newtown Square golf club just announced it will host the Men’s PGA Championship in 2027 and the Women’s KPMG Championship in 2020.
Not too shabby. The last time Aronimink hosted the PGA tourney was 55 years ago, when Gary Player won in 1962.
Hoping to attract more majors, the club’s been restoring greens and bunkers to their original, more challenging designs. Golf Digest ranks Aronimink the 78th best golf course in the country. Merion East is ranked 6th.
Even if you’re not a golf fan, you gotta love those tourism dollars. Last year’s championship in Charlotte generated $100 million for the region.
We’ll take it.
Ardmore approves Target
Lower Merion has given the A-OK to plans to put a Target at the busy corner of Lancaster and Ardmore Aves.
Plans call for five stories: a small-format Target on the first two floors, three floors of apartments above, with surface and below-ground parking.
Locals had circulated a petition opposing the plan, citing its potential impact on traffic, parking and jam-packed Lower Merion schools.
On Wednesday night, commissioners voted 8 to 4 to approve the plan. (Dissenters were Durbin, Gelber, Zelov and Bernheim.)
Devon Yard neighbors win again
Devon homeowners don’t mess around. Last year, they put the kibosh on a developer’s plans to put a multi-story apartment building and parking garage at URBN’s Devon Yard. Last week, they prevailed against another plan for new housing near the site – albeit MUCH smaller.
The owners of 133 Berkley Rd. want to knock down their house and build townhouses on their one-acre lot adjacent to Devon Yard. But they need a zoning change to make it happen.
Neighbors said nothing doing and started putting up lawn signs.
Last week, scores of them showed up at a township planning meeting, prepared to give officials an earful.
Turns out they didn’t have to. They’d already been heard loud and clear. Before the attorney for the Berkley Rd. homeowners could even put on his case, the planning commission voted unanimously against the zoning change.
Like we said, don’t mess with Devon.
Conestoga sexual-abuse case updates
A few nuggets of news related to last spring’s sexual abuse arrest at Conestoga and the subsequent civil suit against T/E Schools:
First, former Conestoga teacher’s aide Art Phillips, jailed since April for his alleged months-long affair with a student, has a court date. The DA’s office tells us his plea hearing is set for Nov. 21 before Judge Patrick Carmody.
Second, remember that Visual and Performing Arts teacher who allegedly knew about the improper relationship between the 67-year-old Phillips and the then-15-year-old student? The one who allegedly joined Phillips and the student at area restaurants after school and even once double dated with the two? She was let go last month. A school board source tells SAVVY her dismissal was delayed due to contractual issues.
Third, T/E School District has responded to the explosive federal suit filed against it and Conestoga Principal Meisinger with a 28-page “motion to dismiss.” The court has yet to rule on the district’s motion, filed Aug. 14.
And finally, staff at all eight schools received an email Oct. 25 with links to several policy updates – the most interesting of which is further clarification of Regulation 5461: “Maintaining Appropriate Boundaries with Students.” It spells out a series of don’ts for all “District Adults.” Prohibitions include a long list of Phillips’ alleged improprieties. Among them: text messaging or using private email with students, giving gifts and eating with/buying food for students, and – unless there is a legitimate educational reason for doing so – taking a student out of class, being alone with a student behind closed doors or in a car, extending contact with a student beyond the school day, etc.
The policy requires all “District Adults” who suspect inappropriate contact to report their concerns immediately and says they can’t be punished for doing so. You may recall that the civil suit claims multiple Stoga staffers turned a blind eye to Phillips’ conduct with the student.
Disgraced Radnor Commissioner calls it quits but may face more charges
Accused child pornography trafficker Phil Ahr last week resigned his seat on the Radnor Board of Commissioners “to focus on his own rehabilitation,” according to his resignation letter.
‘Bout time; he was arrested a month ago.
Ahr is facing 130 counts related to child porn but more may be coming.
When he handed in his township-issued iPad last Monday, a detective checked it and found “deeply concerning and disturbing” material. The laptop has since been turned over to the Delco DA.
In the past few years, we’ve fed you a steady diet of local restaurant openings.
Some longtime local restaurateurs sure are. They’re telling us privately that they’re getting squeezed by the new competition, much of it from chain operators. Folks are forgoing local haunts, they say, and heading to King of Prussia, where some 4,000 restaurant seats (!) have been added in the last 18 months.
Most are at the new KOP Town Center, where the hits just keep on coming. Founding Farmers, an ambitious breakfast-through-dinner-plus-café enterprise, opened Nov. 1 and the Neapolitan pizzeria, MidiCi, debuts Friday, with District Tacos not far behind. Also on site: Davio’s, Paladar, Fogo de Chao, City Works and a bunch of fast-casual spots. A buffet of options – once you find a place to put your car. Parking, particularly at lunch hour, has been dicey, to say the least.
Food choices are multiplying at the mall, too. Celebrated Latin chef Jose Garces will open a second outpost of his Baja-themed taqueria, Buena Onde (“Good Vibes”), in the new Savor food court Nov. 24. And a new seafood chain, Eddie V.’s will open in a pad in the mall parking lot next year. And those are on top of the newcomers Mistral, True Food Kitchen and Yard House.
Sure, it’s fun to check out the shiny new object. But here’s hoping you won’t forget your friendly neighborhood gem. It’s probably not corporate owned and its staff needs your business (and tips) now more than ever.
We all get jazzed up about shopping local and small, but this holiday season, let’s think about dining that way, too.
Chesco farm-to-table restaurant put on ice
Say it isn’t so. Chesco’s most authentic farm-to-table dining spot, Wyebrook Farm, is closing its popular restaurant and market indefinitely.
A victim of its own success, it seems.
Dean Carlson, owner of the Honey Brook hotspot, says the township wants infrastructure improvements, including more paved parking, to comply with zoning regs.
But the farm’s bigger headache is coming from state DEP officials who are questioning the adequacy of Wyebrooks’ septic system. Carlson says complying with state’s requirements – undertaking a “sewage planning module” and likely enlarging the sewage system – would come at a “ridiculous cost.”
The restaurant’s last day will be Sunday, Nov. 19. The farm market/butcher shop will be open the Tues. and Wed. of Thanksgiving week and after that, only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the year.
A silver lining: the farm will continue to operate and will still sell its meats at La Divisa in the Reading Terminal Market.
Main Line designer pops up in KOP
Wayne’s Paula Hian just opened her first pop-up boutique in the former Hermès space next to Neiman Marcus.
The site is strategic: Hian’s hoping luxury shoppers will wander over from Neiman’s to peruse her bold, timeless designs and fine-gauge knits. The label’s fans include TV stars Natalie Morales (“The Today Show”) and Dascha Polanco (“Orange is the New Black”).
The KOP boutique is the first leg of Hian’s new retail outreach strategy: she hopes to pop up in NYC and DC next year.
The designer, whose showroom is in Manayunk, has signed on through May 2018 at the mall.
Breaking legs in the Big Apple
A SAVVY shoutout to Meredith Antoian, Conestoga ’09, NYU ’13, for her smashing off-Broadway debut in the Bruce Willis-produced play, “MUST.” We caught her powerful performance as Billy the Kid’s girlfriend last weekend. Brava!
A second shoutout to Katie Johantgen, Conestoga ’10, Temple ’14, who’s playing Phoebe in “FRIENDS! The Musical Parody.” An off-Broadway hit, the show was just extended through March 31.
Hassle-free holiday shopping in Wayne (from this week’s SAVVY sponsor)
If holiday shopping gives you hives – the parking, the schlepping, the lines, the expense, the what-to-buy quandaries – may we suggest an alternative?
What if we were to tell you about a store that actually makes you feel good about opening your wallet?
Where the parking is free and easy, the staff is helpful and plentiful, the gifts are uniquely thoughtful, and the prices are more than reasonable?
A store where 100 percent of the profits go to children and families in need?
For 18 years this Shangri-La of a shop has flown largely under the radar at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne.
But no more.
The Gift Shop at St. David’s wants you to know it isn’t just for parishioners, or Episcopalians or even Christians, for that matter.
It’s open to the public, to anyone who wants to make a thoughtful purchase.
Because when you shop at The Gift Shop, you’re getting a three-fer:
- Your loved one gets a gift that no one else will have – a true conversation piece.
- You’re buying wares from a company that pays artisans a fair wage, uses upcycled/sustainable materials or is otherwise socially conscious.
- You’re directly supporting the church’s outreach ministry – programs that, among other things, feed, clothe and educate children in Uganda, Guatemala and Haiti.
Cliché but true: a gift from The Gift Shop keeps on giving.
Shop manager Margie Winters makes sure shelves are stocked with something for everyone.
You’re treasure hunting, not shopping, she says. “What’s neat is that everything has a story behind it.”
Among the goodies that caught our eye: tweed cashmere scarves from Nepal – a steal at $33.75; impossibly cute hand-knit baby booties for $28.50; fair-trade Peruvian pillows for $55; and Ecuadoran hand-blown glass nightlights for $21.25.
Also in store: fashion and fine jewelry, soaps, handbags, serving bowls, trays, garden accessories, wall art, Christmas ornaments, and much more.
Everything is priced to sell – at a fraction of the usual retail markup.
Why so cheap? Minimal overhead. There’s no rent and almost no payroll. (The shop is staffed by 34 volunteers; only Margie gets a small stipend.)
Now in its 18th year, The Gift Shop’s on a roll.
What started Harry Potterish in a cramped closet under the stairs now occupies bright and spacious quarters on the church’s renovated ground floor. The shop raised $15,000 in 2015. Last year, it brought in $21,000 and hopes to top that in 2017.
The public is invited to a Holiday Open House at The Gift Shop at St. David’s with wine, appetizers, desserts and 10 percent off storewide on Friday, Nov. 17, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. 763 S. Valley Rd., Wayne. The Gift Shop is open Mon. – Thurs. 10 – 4, Fri. – Sat. 10 – 1, Sun. 10:30 – noon or by appointment (call 484-580-8486).