For years, downtown Wayne’s movie theater has been slugging it out with the big boys: the Regals, the AMCs, the Movie Taverns, and, to a lesser degree, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.
Slugging it out and, er, losing.
But the tide may turn yet.
Because dear old Anthony Wayne – built in 1928 and sagging with age – is making his last stand.
The theater’s operator, Reel Cinemas, just launched a “Save the Anthony Wayne” campaign and the stakes couldn’t be higher: Raise $2 million to modernize, compete and fill the seats.
Or raise the white flag and go dark for good.
Don’t think it can’t happen.
Three years ago, Reel Cinemas owner Greg Wax closed the equally historic Bala theater after its 90-year run. Wax is still tied up in court with his Bala landlord, who reportedly shut off the heat and air, turning this classic theater gem into a moldy oldie – literally.
To save his Wayne theater from a similar fate, Wax has created a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit (“Reel Cinemas Theatre Development Fund”) and is accepting tax-deductible donations online. (Wax did not return multiple requests for comment but we verified the charity’s existence on Guidestar.) According to the campaign website, patrons can chip in any amount but if you give $100 or more, you get 15% back in a Reel Cinemas gift card, also good in Reel’s other location in Narberth.
“People want all the amenities – the leather reclining seats, the diverse concessions, the 3D, the enhanced experience,” Reel Cinemas Anthony Wayne manager Newt Wallen tells SAVVY. “As soon as other theaters made drastic changes a few years ago, we knew we had to modernize to compete.”
Wallen says he’s worked his tail off since Wax hired him to run his Wayne operation in early 2015: upgrading snacks (adding Dippin Dots, canola-oil popcorn, better nachos), improving sound quality, bringing in a better mix of films and fielding a better-trained staff.
He’s also kept prices a few bucks below the chains to appeal to his bread-and-butter audiences: families and seniors. But “you can only shine a turd so much,” Wallen says. “We’re behind the eight ball on so many things.” Clearly, Wallen was exaggerating but you get his point.
To right his listing ship, Wax has spent two years putting together a rejuvenation plan that melds the theater’s historic charms with modern niceties, Wallen says. The lobby and any remaining historic flourishes would be restored to their original Art Deco grandeur but with fresh carpets, paint, a new box office and concession stands.
Everything else goes 21st century: cushy reclining seats, state-of-the art sound and lighting, new drapes, reserved seating, renovated (and ADA compliant) restrooms, healthier food, and perhaps even one day – gulp – beer, wine and cocktails.
Only thing not on their to-do list: a parking fix. Although Wallen is quick to point out that metered spaces are free after 6 and there’s a nice big, 10-hour lot across from Anthropologie.
Seems Wax and Wallen are on their own here. Building owner Steve Bajus tells SAVVY he’s not involved in the campaign, nor should he be.
Bajus says when he first bought the building 20 years ago, he was offered $20/sq. ft. from a national retailer who wanted to gut the closed theater and turn it into a store. Instead, he leased to Clearview Cinemas at a heavily discounted rate so a theater would stay in the retail mix in downtown Wayne. As part of the deal, Bajus says he “spent a lot of money to get it up to snuff.” He restored the façade and replaced the roof and HVAC system, among other improvements.
Clearview was replaced by Bow Tie Cinemas, which was quickly replaced by Wax’s Reel Cinemas in 2014. Bajus tells us he rents to Wax for “less than half the market” rate: $3.25/sq. ft. Bajus wants the theater to survive, he says, but he won’t “subsidize” the place any more than he already is. “If [Wax] wants to retool it, it’s up to him. As a landlord, you stay out of your tenant’s business.”
When Wax took over and told Bajus about his renovation plans, Bajus says he agreed to redo the restrooms – and even got a township permit to do the work. But when Reel didn’t follow through on other improvements, he let the permit expire. If the new fundraising campaign is successful, Bajus says he’ll gladly redo the bathrooms.
So, they won’t be Bajus’ but here’s hoping other deep pockets – or lots of shallow ones – rescue old Anthony Wayne from the wrecking ball.
It’s happened around here before – either by popular demand (in the case of Strafford’s Covered Wagon Inn) or by brilliant civic organizing (in the case of the thriving Bryn Mawr Film Institute).
Come to think of it, maybe all that’s needed is another ‘good friend’ to rally the troops – someone like BMFI’s aptly named and fearless founder, Juliet Goodfriend.
Click here to donate to the Campaign to Save Anthony Wayne.
Brother of Berwyn murder victim pleads for public’s help
Eighteen months after Denise Barger was beaten to death in her Berwyn home, her killer is still out there.
No arrests; no named suspects.
Before the case gets any colder, the victim’s brother, Mike McDonald, who found the slain body of his 62-year-old sister, is asking for the public’s help.
Desperate to catch her killer, he’s tripled the Citizen’s Crime Commission reward – from $35,000 to $100,000 – for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
“We’re hoping that the bigger dollars will stir something up; get someone to report something,“ McDonald tells SAVVY. “You might think it’s inconsequential, a minor detail, but please, just tell the police. Let them decide.”
McDonald calls his late sister – and only sibling – his “best friend” and “a wonderful woman … She was absolutely terrific to my kids. She really took them under her wing.”
Widowed three months before her death, McDonald says his sister had just sold her home in Daylesford Estates and was about to downsize to a townhouse around the corner in Daylesford Lakes.
Denise Barger had retired from her state job the previous year and worked from home. She also took care of the McDonalds’ dog each day.
At 9 a.m. on June 17, 2016, when he was dropping off his dog, Mike McDonald called out to his sister but she didn’t answer. He searched the house and found her body on the floor upstairs. “Whoever did this was really a coward; It’s wrong that he’s still walking the street,” he says.
Authorities have been clear from the start: this was a targeted attack. Denise Barger knew her killer. Not only was her home on a secluded street, but it wasn’t ransacked and nothing appeared to have been taken. Indeed, McDonald says his sister led a “modest” life. “She didn’t own much jewelry and didn’t have a lot of cash sitting around.”
McDonald says he checks in with Tredyffrin Police every month.
And each month, Detective McFadden assures him he’s “still working it, still following leads.”
Through it all, McDonald stays hopeful but his heart is heavy. “I can never get rid of what I saw and my sister being gone … If you know something, anything, please call.”
Call 215-546-TIPS. (All calls remain anonymous.)
Sparks fly as T/E School Board approves elementary redistricting plan
Nothing stirs the pot like school redistricting.
So it’s no surprise that parents gave the T/E School Board an earful about a plan to shift kids out of overpopulated Devon Elementary. About 30 spoke at special meeting last Thursday and another 20 voiced their concerns at the board’s regular Monday night meeting. (Others sent emails and letters.)
With 600 students at Devon and just 400 – give or take – at Hillside and Beaumont, nobody disputed that the maps needed a rewrite. The issue was how they were redrawn.
Among Monday night’s speakers was longtime Devon parent (and SAVVY Team member) Kate Miller, who’s doubly affected by the plan. Not only will her kindergartner start first grade in a new school (Hillside) – “He’ll be fine,” she says – but the plan effectively puts her out of a job, albeit the nonpaying (and sometimes thankless) job of PTO President. (For the record, she’s fine about that, too.)
Still, Kate spoke out against the plan. She says all but two of Monday’s speakers “begged the board to hold off on its vote.”
Concerns reportedly centered around the Devon Elementary kids who live in Devon Home Properties apartments. Parents signed a petition asking the board to “address these students” in their redistricting plan, Kate says. The new map – unanimously approved Monday night – keeps all those kids together at Devon.
Some parents questioned whether the wishes of property owners should come before renters. Others wondered if the district was spreading out its diversity population equitably among schools.
The district’s response? T/E School Board President Scott Dorsey tells SAVVY that splitting the Devon Home Props kids “wasn’t a workable plan when you look at the enrollment numbers across all schools projected out to 2021 by our demographer.”
And as for the rights of homeowners vs. renters, he says, “The reality is that renters are residents. They pay taxes through their rent.”
As an aside, Dorsey notes that rents at Devon Home Properties are $1,300 to $1,800/month, which, incidentally is what he says he paid for his mortgage when he moved to Chesterbrook.
Enrollment is rising at every level, he says, and “diversity enrollment is similar across elementary schools, except for Beaumont.” He also offers that Devon Elementary’s test scores were tops in the district last year (although he admits the schools were neck and neck.)
And what was Dorsey’s response to parents’ frustration that almost every board member read written statements explaining their votes. Had members made up their minds before parents even spoke Monday night? “I can’t speak for other board members,” Dorsey says. “I certainly didn’t have a written statement.” He said the board had weighed hours of input – both in person and via e-mail – before Monday’s meeting. And he’s confident that the redistricting committee (made up of four parents from the three affected schools, a district official and a community advisor) had worked hard to come up with “the best possible plan that fit the criteria they were given,” i.e. balanced enrollment, minimal disruption, sensible bus routes, contiguous neighborhoods and proximity to schools.
“Parents want what’s best for their children. They’re going to be outspoken; I can’t blame them for that,” Dorsey says. “The Board tried to be as sensitive as possible while still trying to do the right thing. Do we make a decision based on who makes the loudest noise or what’s right?”
The new map sends a roughly equal number of current Devon students to Hillside and Beaumont and projects all five schools will balance out with around 500 students each. Like it or lump it, it’s a done deal and takes effect in August.
Refined new ‘Choice’ BYOB in Bryn Mawr
We tried Bryn Mawr’s newest BYOB, The Choice, last week.
And a most interesting choice it was.
The décor’s decidedly pedestrian; the food is anything but.
The Ukranian-born chef/owner clearly knows his way around a kitchen. He’s trained in some of London and NYC’s finest, including Le Cirque and Nobu.
“European fusion” is how he’s characterizing his cuisine, but, frankly, his food is all over the map – in a good way. “Eclectic, global fusion” perhaps?
On the menu: lots of raw appetizers (sashimi, tartare, carpaccio), seafood salads, and fish and meat entrées – dishes worlds away from those offered at the casual vegetarian café that last occupied the space.
We tried the seafood soup ($8), chicken pate ($9), branzino with ponzu salsa ($21) and the Peruvian-sauced rack of lamb ($28). Richly flavored and quite delicious all. And the presentations were uniformly lovely.
(Seems we whiffed on our choices, however; we learned later that the house faves are the black cod with miso, the Canton duck and the whole grilled lobster. Next time.)
An ordering tip: many entrées don’t come with veggies, so best spring for apps and sides if you’re at all hungry.
Owners are two Ukranian couples: Chef Vladimir Hyvel, his wife, Irina, and Maryna and Igor Hanushchak.
They’re hands-on and do it all: Vlad cooks while Irina and Maryna wait on the dining room’s ten tables. The night we visited, Igor was home in Chalfont, minding the two couples’ kids.
“It was our dream to have our own restaurant,” Irina says. The two couples who moved from the Ukraine last spring and spent months scouting locations.
Clearly, they’ve put their heart, soul, sweat and savings into the place. If only the ambiance could be as refined as the food.
The Choice BYOB, 845 W. Lancaster Ave. (Between Tiffin and El Limon), is open daily for lunch and dinner, Call 484-383-3230 to reserve.
Political bombs blast the Seventh Congressional District; Meehan won’t seek re-election
Could U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan have had a worse week?
On Saturday – the day of Women’s Marches – the New York Times reported that the Congressman used thousands of taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by a female aide. Citing 10 unnamed sources, the Times story claims Meehan, who’s 62, married and has three sons, professed romantic desires with a young female staffer, then treated her with hostility when she spurned him.
Until Speaker Ryan booted him off when the story broke, Meehan had been serving on the House Ethics Committee – the very group that’s been investigating sexual malfeasance among politicians. The Committee announced Monday that it’s investigating Meehan now, too.
On Tuesday, the Congressman pushed back. He denied that he harassed the aide but admitted that, after working closely with her for seven years, he started to have romantic feelings for her, feelings he never acted on sexually. He was hurt when she filed suit against him, he said, and yes, he did arrange a “severance” payment to her. In an intimate handwritten letter he shared with the public (no doubt, to his profound embarrassment), Meehan called his accuser “a complete partner” to him. He told reporters she had “invited” him to speak intimately (not in a sexual sense) with her. If the House Ethics Committee finds him guilty of harassment, he says he’ll repay the public funds used in the settlement.
And Thursday, two days later, Meehan discloses this decision not to run for reelection.. His letter to his campaign chair, obtained by the Inquirer, reads: “After consultation with my wife, Carolyn, and my three sons, and after prayerful reflection, I write to inform you that I will not seek reelection … in 2018.”
Then, back up a bit. Just two days after the Times bombshell: more misery for Meehan. The PA Supreme Court ruled Monday that our state’s congressional map is an overtly partisan gerrymander which “clearly, plainly and palpably” violates the state constitution. They’ve ordered a new map drawn ASAP. In time for the May primaries and no later than mid-February or, get this, the justice will sit down and draw it themselves, they said.
And guess whose district is widely viewed as one of the most rigged – not just in PA but in the whole USA?
Democrats have long claimed the lines of Meehan’s Seventh Congressional District were drawn to keep Republicans in power. Indeed, his district spreads across five counties and is so cartoonishly misshapen, some say it looks like Goofy kicking Donald Duck.
The case – League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of PA – was brought by the Public Interest Law Center. Republicans say they’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. They’ve already asked for a stay of the court’s decision, saying its ruling will cause voter chaos.
But the Supreme Court justices (5 Dems, 2 Rs) ruled along party lines and most experts think they’ll deny the stay.
BTW, PA is one of only seven states with elected justices. So, yup, we’re big on gerrymandering AND we don’t have merit-based judicial appointments. Partisans R Us.
Even if #TimesNotUp for Meehan and he survives the firestorm and finishes out his term, looks like his Goofy Kicking Donald district is history.
Main Liner is Delco’s second female DA
Delco has a new Top Kat. Longtime Bryn Mawr resident Katayoun “Kat” Copeland was sworn in last Friday as county DA.
An alumna of Baldwin, Bryn Mawr College and Temple Law and a registered Republican, Copeland, 50, has quite the backstory.
She lived in Iran for seven years as a kid – her mother is Iranian – where her American father was arrested and tried on espionage charges. (An award-winning book by her big brother, Haverford School/Haverford College/Villanova alum Cyrus Copeland tells the family’s tale.)
To defend their father in Iran, their mother, Shahin, became an attorney, the first female attorney in the Islamic Republic.
Copeland is Delco’s second female DA. She was appointed to finish out the term of John Whelan, who left to became a judge. She says she’ll run for the post – which pays $172K/year – in 2019.
Topping Copeland’s to-do list in the meantime: finding new ways to fight the opioid crisis and cyber crimes against kids and the elderly.
Her role model? Former Montco DA Risa Vetri Ferman, who, incidentally, tells SAVVY she’s loving her new life as a judge.
And while we’re on women in politics…
Devon resident Chrissy Houlahan just made the cover of TIME magazine. Alas, she’s sharing the spotlight with 47 other women in this week’s TIME cover story, “The Avengers: First they marched. Now they’re running.”
Houlahan, a Democrat who’s never held office, is running to unseat Chesco Republican U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello. (Not-so-fun fact: PA is the most populous U.S. state that doesn’t have a single female in its congressional delegation.)
She may have an uphill fight but Houlahan’s no lightweight. Whatever your politics, you gotta respect the resumé:
* B.S in engineering at Stanford on a ROTC scholarship and a master’s in Technology and Policy at MIT.
*Daughter of a Holocaust survivor and career naval officer and the mother of a daughter in the LGBT community.
*Former captain in the Air Force Reserve and Teach for America corps member in N. Philly.
*Former president and COO of a national nonprofit that focused on early childhood literacy in underserved communities.
*As COO of AND1, she created 250 jobs and helped grow the company to $250 million in revenue, turning the sneaker startup into a major brand.
*Current COO of B Lab, a nonprofit that promotes good business practices through B Corporations.
Should be one helluva race, don’t you think?
And speaking of Chesco politicos…
The county’s top prosecutor let his (facial) hair down this month.
As he does each December, DA Tom Hogan let his beard grow in. “Keeps me warm and aggravates my wife and kids,” according to the Facebook post he ran with this pic.
He then asked Facebook pals to vote for the mustache look he should wear before he shaves the beard completely off, assigning a charity to each of three looks and pledging $5/vote to the top vote earner. With 369 votes, the winning look was the circa ’75 police officer ‘stache (below left), making Chesco’s Crime Victim’s and Domestic Violence centers the winning nonprofits. He rounded up ($5 X 369 = $1845), then doubled it, giving $2000 to both charities.
Natural Lands Trust and the Hero Fund – the designated charities for the losing looks – did OK too. Each got consolation prizes of $500 each
Seems Hogan shaved in the nick of time. Incognito under all that scruff, he says his beard threw off reporters and even caused him to be booted from a crime scene.
On the block: Dodo Hamilton’s personal trove
You can learn a lot about a person by the things they leave behind.
Take, for example, the late great Main Line philanthropist Dodo Hamilton. Judging from the personal effects Freeman’s is auctioning off, the Campbell’s Soup heiress was more interested in surrounding herself with lovely views – out her windows and on her walls – than she was in acquiring treasures to turn a profit.
Her collecting philosophy was simple, says her son, Matt. “If she liked it, she bought it.”
She liked art that “pertained to the area,” Matt tells SAVVY: seascapes for her home in Newport, country scenes for her estate in Strafford, and seashells in Florida. (So many that her Boca Grande home was dubbed “The Shell House.”)
Matt has “no idea” when his mother’s property behind Wayne’s Eagle Village Shops will go on the market. (Fingers crossed it’s not carved up by a developer.) Her Newport house has been listed since summer; four of his mother’s six Boca homes have sold. The other two are staying in the family, he says.
As for the homes’ contents, “everyone took a pass at something they wanted to remind them of mom or granny,” Matt says.
The rest – 320 pieces in all – will be auctioned by Freeman’s in Philly on April 29. (Jewelry will be auctioned May 9.)
Tops on the block: this small Cezanne, valued at up to $1.8 million, that Dodo loaned to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for its blockbuster 1996 Cezanne show.
Also up for bid: a 16.56-carat diamond-and-platinum ring worth @ $500K. BTW, it wasn’t his mom’s engagement ring. “it just appeared one day.” Matt says.
Rounding out the offerings: her collection of American Impressionist paintings, two Audubon bird plates, Cartier and Tiffany jewelry, and furniture.
Freeman’s Chairman Alasdair Nichol says the whole lot should fetch at least $3.8 million. Not a trifling but not a gold rush either, considering Forbes put the heiress’ net worth at $1.1 billion in 2006. No, it seems clear that dear Dodo delighted in charitable, cultural and civic causes – her real and lasting legacy – at least as much as she doted on her hats, homes and horticulture. Maybe more. Definitely more.
A SAVVY shoutout to Father Domenic Rossi
The former pastor of St. Norbert in Paoli was just elected Abbot of nearby Daylesford Abbey.
In no particular order, Father Domenic is best known for his stirring sermons, his fondness for pasta, his lovely singing voice, and his abiding compassion for the least among us. In 1989 he founded Bethesda Project, a game-changing network of shelters and services for the homeless in Philly.
When he was named to a nine-year term as Abbot, he pulled a Pope Francis – humbly asking his Facebook friends to pray for him.
Welcome back to the Main Line, Father Domenic. You’ve been missed.
This and That
Now in its 132nd year, The Saturday Club of Wayne is pulsing with new members. The philanthropic and social group just inducted its largest “freshman class” in years, welcoming 25 women into the ranks of active members, which now total 73. (Another 65 are inactive.)
“We’re definitely on the upswing,” says club spokeswoman Meredith Rovine, who lists several reasons for the resurgence. Among them: a new website and a great mix of signature & new events like fall and spring consignment sales, Handbag Bingo, and a 5K Shuffle & Kids Race.
Connoisseurs alert: Two big art shows are in the offing. The Academy of Notre Dame will host its 45th Annual Fine Art Show & Sale from its Jan. 26 preview party right through Super Bowl Sunday. Featured artist is Rachel Brown (shown below with NDA President Dr. Judith Dwyer and show co-chair Denick Herin). Click here for party tickets and more info.
And the Malvern Retreat House is taking over where the Immaculata art show – a Main Line institution in its day – left off. A slew of former Immaculata volunteers have moved over to plan the Malvern Retreat House Art Show, now in its 7th year. The juried show features 100 artists and 2,000 works, including paintings, photography, sculpture, and fine crafts. The show and sale runs Feb. 7 – 11 with a free wine-and-cheese meet-the-artists party Feb. 8, 5 – 8 p.m.
Wait. ANOTHER Nova basketball player has a broken hand this season? Collin Gillespie, then Jermaine Samuels, and now Phil(ly) Booooooooth? Nuts.
Not that the hand casts have kept the #1 TEAM IN THE NATION from rollin’ right along. From where we sittin’, sure looks like our boys in blue will ride the J train (Jay/Jalen) right to – and through – the Big March Dance. Just sayin’…
So what do you do when you can’t score tix to the NFC Championship game? You do what Paoli’s Ed Morris, Berwyn’s Mark Mullen and a bunch of buddies did before the Vikings game: Pack a picnic, head to the Linc, and tailgate up a storm anyway. (Then hightail it home in time for kickoff.)
Hard to say which the Kundas love more: Beer or the Birds? Call it a tossup.
The Main Line family has owned Kunda Beverage, big-time beer merchants in King of Prussia, since 1920.
And they’ve been Eagles season ticket holders for 57 years, following Gang Green from Franklin Field to the Vet to the Linc. They were diehards when Super Bowl tickets were $40 in 1981, when they were $450 in 2004, and this week, when the League announced tickets to the Feb. 4 game were $1250.
So ferocious is Kevin Kunda’s allegiance that he flew back and forth from his winter home in Florida TWICE for the last two playoff games, keeping his perfect playoff attendance streak intact (and his airline rewards soaring).
Alas, looks like his wings will be clipped for the Super Bowl. The Kundas, per usual, won two Supe tix in the season-ticket lottery. But since Kevin went to Jacksonville 13 years ago, Skip gets the seats. Sorry, Kevin, but here at superstitious SAVVY, we’re thinking a new Kunda taking his turn in the stands might just turn our luck. #flyEaglesfly #takemewithyouSkip
And finally, the Times Building in Ardmore’s Suburban Square is showing its true colors. Nicely done.