The Main Line has a new treasure. Dusted off, spruced up, and ready for our viewing pleasure. 42 glorious green acres.
“Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden” makes its public debut on Mother’s Day.
Join the lawn games or pick a quieter day to meander its paths and soak in its charms.
There’s no rush; the garden’s not going anywhere.
It’s ours. Forever.
And it’s free.
When you visit, just be sure to lift your gaze skyward and salute the good folks who gave us this place: the late John and Chara Haas (Rohm & Haas heirs), who raised five children here and put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.
Bulldozers and subdivisions? Not on their land. Not ever.
Thank, too, the Haas children, who, when their parents passed, deeded the estate to Natural Lands, nonprofit conservators of open space. A Haas family endowment will allow Stoneleigh to be maintained and open to the public “in perpetuity.”
(That is, assuming Lower Merion School District doesn’t claim eminent domain and swipe a few acres for playing fields for a possible new school at the nearby Islamic education center. We’re now hearing there may be a move afoot to seize the whole place and district officials plan to revisit/size up the property up next week. But Natural Lands says nothing doing and invites the public to make its feelings known. #SaveStoneleigh could soon be trending. Should you care to weigh in, there’s a Lower Merion School Board meeting May 21.)
In the two years since it took over, a fistful of green thumbs has planned and built, pruned and planted.
Some 200 native species have been introduced.
A mile-and-a-half of walking trails – in eco-friendly “forest pave” and wheelchair friendly – have been laid.
Charming “garden follies,” like this pergola, have been restored.
New buildings that look old, complementing original structures, have risen.
“Natural Lands thinks in forever,” says media relations director Mae Axelrod, who showed us around last week. “We wanted to keep the character of a Main Line country estate, but we also want to show people how native plants can be used in a formalized setting. We’re giving them ideas to take to their home gardens.”
Theatrical performances may one day grace an Olmstead-designed circle garden. A covered pavilion welcomes picnickers. To assist visitors, a fleet of docents has been trained; small signs will point out noteworthy flora, like a majestic cucumber magnolia tree, a PA state champion. To further spread the gospel of native plants, Natural Lands plans to host garden workshops and school groups.
“This is what happens when a land conservation group takes over a formal garden,” says Axelrod, explaining that Stoneleigh is Natural Lands’ first public garden. “We’re bringing the values of a nature preserve – sustainability, conservation and joy in nature – into this space.”
Space that, by the way, couldn’t be better located: smack dab in the center of the Main Line, accessible by train and easier to find than say, Chanticleer in Wayne and Jenkins Arboretum in Devon. (For the record, those two measure 48 acres each, compared to Stoneleigh’s 42.)
The former Haas home, a turn-of-the-century Tudor Revival mansion, has also undergone extensive renovations and will be open for tours by prior arrangement. The Organ Historical Society is now headquartered there; a grand pipe organ has been installed and concerts are planned.
Truly, from County Line to Montgomery Ave., Stoneleigh is a splendid achievement; forward in its conservation, sensitive to its past.
And Natural Lands’ decision to debut on Mother’s Day, keeping alive the Haas family’s “Stoneleigh Stroll About” tradition? Bloomin’ brilliant.
Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden opens Sunday, May 13 for Mother’s Day, then Tues. – Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission. Entrance and free parking off County Line Rd. Click here for info on special events and ways to support Natural Lands.
Meet Parc’s Main Line cousin, The Bercy
The Bercy opened – no, exploded – into Ardmore a few weeks ago.
A tsunami of customers overran the French brasserie, formerly Primavera Pizza Kitchen, on opening weekend.
“Feel like I’ve been through a war,” co-owner Justin Weathers confided to SAVVY that Sunday night.
Draggy and downright pokey at times that first Friday and Saturday, service was swift by Sunday, our second visit.
The place itself is quite the looker. A total “gut job”, Weathers says, of the 100-year-old Lancaster Ave. bank building that he and his partner labored over, like a baby, these last nine months. Designer is White Dog Café/Autograph Brasserie conjurer Barbara Balongue, who served up her usual eyeful: twenty-foot windows, sketches of moody temptresses adorning a curvy bar,
mammoth chandeliers, empty gilt frames assembled as sculptural wall mural and such.
Menu’s mostly tried-and-true French bistro fare and includes charcuterie, plats du jour, a selection of steak frites, and raw bar with counter seating.
On opening weekend, some items were a tad drab, notably the Fire Roasted Shrimp Salad ($15), Moules Frites (mussels) ($16) and the Rotisserie Duck a l’Orange ($27).
But much was quite fab: the French Onion Soup ($12), the Asparagus and Mushroom Tart ($13), the Duroc Pork Chop $26, the Rotisserie Chicken ($23), although it could have stood some browning, and the Bavette Steak Frites. At $28, Bavette, akin to hanger steak, was cheapest cut on the dry-aged Angus-beef steak frites menu.
Desserts are to die for, particularly the profiteroles with house-made chocolate ice cream. Ooh la la.
Of course, it’s WAY too early to pick nits. With 240-plus seats, the kitchen – and service staff – is still finding its groove.
And we’re pretty sure these guys know what they’re doing. Co-owners Justin Weathers and Joe Monnich, both CIA-trained chefs, met at Parc in Rittenhouse Square, where Monnnich started as Exec. Sous Chef and Weathers was manager. The partners also own Al Pastor, a modern Mexican eatery in Exton, and Stove and Tap, an American pub that sparked the revival of Lansdale’s Main Street.
Why go French in our neck of the woods?
“We have 10,000 square feet here. We knew it needed to be busy,” says Weathers. Parc is Stephen Starr’s busiest spot in Philly and there was nothing quite like it on the eastern Main Line, he says. Plus, despite Ardmore’s abundance of casual joints, “we knew there were people here who want to dress up and go out and have a fancy dinner.”
The Bercy shows flourishes of grandeur but Monnich and Weathers also wanted a family-friendly “community restaurant” with a focus on value. “There’ a lot of price gauging on the Main Line,” Weathers says.
Hence, The Bercy’s $15 cheeseburgers, $11 omelets, $8.50 glasses of house wine and $30 carafes.
A first name, “Banque Brasserie” was passed over for “The Bercy,” a Parisian neighborhood once home to the largest wine market in the world. The Bercy’s wine program is but a drop by comparison. Still, Weathers claims his wine guys really know their stuff: a consultant from Philly’s Tria wine bars and sommelier Steven Gullo, formerly of Wayne’s Paramour. “We tasted a thousand wines” before settling on Bercy’s French/American list.
The Bercy, 7 Lancaster Ave. Ardmore, 610-589-0500, is open 365 days a year. Happy Hour Mon. – Fri. 4 – 6 p.m. Weekend brunch from 10 a.m. begins May 19. (Open for prix-fix Mother’s Day brunch May 13). Lunch from 11 a.m. to start in the next few weeks.
Imbibe Food & Drink now open in Conshy
It’s tippling time at Imbibe, an eclectic new eatery in the former Stella Blu space.
Unlike The Bercy, Imbibe practically tiptoed into Conshy last week, with a super-soft opening over a string of nights.
Owner is Sean Weinberg, who brought us Restaurant Alba in Malvern and Biga Pizza + Beer in Bryn Mawr. Straying from his Italian roots, he’s stayed closer to home this time out, with elevated versions of old-timey American goodies like hush puppies and pork bellies.
Nothing’s too pricey. Snacks and starters run $6 – $13; pastas and plates $18 – $25. Among the winners we tried: chickpea fritters ($6) and smoked trout toast ($12). A paper menu explains that items may change depending on availability.
Booze includes a nice selection of well-priced craft cocktails, brews and wines by the glass.
Décor didn’t strike us as especially different – maybe a tad sleeker and brighter.
Imbibe Food and Drink, 101 Ford St. Conshohocken, 484-368-3330. Dinner Tues. – Sat. from 5 p.m. Lunch coming soon.
Not sure whom to choose in Tuesday’s primaries? Or even which Congressional district you’re in these days?
A couple Main Line guys hope you’ll cast your vote with VOHTE.
A new, non-partisan web app, VOHTE tells you which names you’ll see on your ballot and offers a roundup of “authentic” (neither extreme left or right) news articles about those candidates.
Because how many of us go into the voting booth and, well, wing it?
With VOHTE, you don’t have to study up or even glance at those obnoxious campaign mailers. Pull up VOHTE.com on your phone or tablet, tell them your location (and for the primaries, your party), do a little reading, then hit the polls. Informed.
Plus, your personal info stays personal. No selling; no sharing.
VOHTE was created Wynnewood’s Dafan Zhang, 41, and Merion’s Sean Danowski, 39, who met in a Wharton class on entrepreneurship.
Both have rather unconventional backstories. Zhang went to the Haverford School, dropped out of college, and tells us he was even homeless for a while due to “family issues.” He became a professional motorcycle racer, a job he held for ten years before returning to school and earning a Penn law degree. VOHTE was partly inspired by Zhang’s unsuccessful run for a PA House seat when he was a law student.
Danowski was a navy pilot and Top Gun instructor with 12 years of active service before he got his Wharton MBA.
They’d been toying with the idea of a user-friendly mobile election platform and when the PA congressional district lines were redrawn, they ran with it. Their thinking, according to Danowski: “Let’s crank this thing out so people can figure out what district they’re in and who they can vote for [in the May 15 primary.]”
Right now, all PA candidates for state and U.S. seats are included. The two plan a national rollout – to include all local/municipal races – in time for the November general election.
BTW, VOHTE is a for-profit enterprise. For less than the cost of one mailer, candidates can pay to use the platform for the whole election cycle. On the site, politicians respond to articles, post videos and stories about themselves, and directly engage with voters. And they can call out their opponents.
But you, dear voter, cannot. VOHTE’s not a social media platform so there’s no public commenting – and no trolling. Instead, it’s meant to function like an ongoing digital debate (once candidates start enrolling).
“VOHTE lets you ignore the noise and focus on what a candidate can do for them in their lives,’ Danowski says.
Refreshing idea, right?
By Rebecca Adler
Peonies the size of grapefruits.
Stainless-steel pruners sheathed in walnut.
Handmade dragonfly jewelry crafted of tiny, shimmering sequins and beads.
Just a few of the fab finds at The Argyle Bouquet’s new outpost in Haverford.
Loved Argyle’s flower stand at the Ardmore Farmer’s Market? You’ll flip for her two-story digs at the old Saxby’s coffee shop.
“People thought Argyle was just a farm stand,” owner Heather King tells SAVVY. “Although we were putting out quality work comparable to Robertson’s and Valley Forge Flowers, we weren’t really projecting that we do 500-person events.”
And with Albrecht’s leaving down the road, the time seemed ripe for an upscale flower shop in the area, King says. A Terrain with a personal touch.
Argyle will populate the oversized urns on your front step or fly in rare flower species. “I get [flowers] from Japan and Morocco and Israel,” says King. “Someone comes in and they want peonies or lilac and it’s just not in season here. We find it somewhere else.”
The new store will also offer workshops (think wreaths, succulents, arrangements), private event space and a wider array of home décor, art and accessories handpicked by King.
King’s affinity for florals was born in Malvern, where she grew up on a farm. She launched the business out of her garage seven years ago, as a stay-at-home mom. Her first big jobs: an aunt’s wedding and a nephew’s bar mitzvah.
Why Argyle? It’s borrowed from the Berwyn street she lived on with her husband and three kids. And it embodies King’s design aesthetic. “Argyle is different shapes and colors and textures combined together to create this whimsical pattern.”
Price points – like her wares’ origins – are all over the place.
“You’ll find me wearing something from Neiman Marcus with a pair of Target shoes,” she says, pointing out a very convincing $25 faux-tulip bouquet tucked next to a spectacular $850 silver box dotted with chunks of turquoise. “If it goes together, so be it.”
Argyle Floral-Home-Garden, 346 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, 484-422-8553, is open Mon. – Sat. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
In a sea of Main Line workout studios comes the new MovementRx in Wynnewood, swimming strongly against the tide.
And possibly ahead of the curve.
Its founding philosophy: meet clients where they are – nursing an injury, recovering from surgery, weak from chemo, or in good shape but wise enough to know they’re just a swing away from tennis elbow, a bad back or sore knees.
Movement – expertly taught and properly executed – is medicine, after all. An Rx for infirmities of body, mind and spirit.
The studio’s primary instructor and co-owner is Christine Sturgis, mother of five Reiss Conestoga grads. A former marketing executive and volunteer EMT, Sturgis is a certified yoga instructor and outdoor enthusiast with a physical therapy assistant’s associate’s degree and certifications in FMS (Functional Movement Systems) and SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment).
She created her own workout: Phytoga, branding it “yoga’s sturdier cousin” and started teaching private clients and classes around the Main Line. MovementRx, in Wynnewood – near the old Whole Foods – is her first studio.
Christine and her handpicked crew of experienced, diverse teachers lead classes she feels best address stability/balance, mobility, strength and flexibility issues: Phytoga I and II, Beginner Yoga, Yoga Strong, Yoga Pilates Fusion, Tai Chi and Qigong, Vinyasa Flow, Meditation and LaBlast Dance Fitness.
The point? Keep your body moving as nature intended – through midlife and beyond. So you can, say, pick up your grandchild and travel like a trooper.
Note to anyone who’s recently had a joint replaced or spinal surgery: this studio’s for you.
“A lot of people post-physical therapy are delicate,” Sturgis says. “They don’t believe fitness classes will keep them safe. We wanted to create a bridge between PT and other classes, here or elsewhere.”
On the radar at MovementRx: classes and workshops for people dealing with MS, stroke, Alzheimer’s and cancer. For people with Parkinson’s, Rock Steady Boxing Main Line starts this summer.
MovementRx Studio, 333 E. Lancaster Ave., near Tepper’s Pharmacy in Wynnewood, 610-896-1575, is open weekdays 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Twenty-percent off class cards/memberships for new students. Students, seniors and veterans discounts.
Mercy spirit questioned at Merion Mercy
Turbulent times at Merion Mercy Academy.
The independent Catholic girls high school is looking for a new Head of School after Sister Barbara Buckley, 64, abruptly – and sorrowfully – announced her resignation last week.
Her departure comes after senior Zenia Nasevich posted an explosive “open letter” and online petition April 25, signed by about 1,000. (But view it now and it lists only 12 signatures.)
The letter claims that former Waldron Mercy religion teacher Margie Winters, whom you may recall from her controversial firing in 2015 because she was married to a woman, was “escorted out of the [high school] building” April 25.
According to Nasevich, Winters had been invited to be interviewed by Merion juniors for a school project about homelessness. She had a visitor’s pass and permission from the theology department chair, Nasevich wrote. “The project had nothing to do with her sexuality, and the harshness with which she was treated is uncharacteristic of what one would expect from an accredited Mercy school.”
Winters’ eviction was “the breaking point” for Nasevich, whose letter alleges other incidents of administrative non-action re: threatened violence and racially-tinged incidents on campus. “Our school is so focused on keeping students, parents and faculty in the dark,” the letter reads. “To deliberately choose not to discuss these social issues undermines the very principles upon which Merion is founded.”
In her resignation letter eight days later, Sister Barbara Buckley, a Merion alum who served the school for 25 years, acknowledged “many complex issues” that “have arisen” and said she was “deeply saddened by any hurt I have inadvertently caused.”
Nasevich followed with this written statement, posted on the petition page. “My petition was rooted in love for my school. I definitely didn’t expect it to blow up like this, and I didn’t know what was going to happen as a result. I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you who signed. I am hopeful that a new change in leadership will make MMA a better place for past, present, and future students.”
Un-Friendly federal suit filed against Friends’ Central
Remember when Friends’ Central fired those two teachers after the brouhaha over their invitation to a Palestinian professor to speak to the school’s Palestinian peace club last year?
Well, the two teachers sure haven’t forgotten. Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa this week brought a federal lawsuit against Friends’ Central and its top officials.
The 59-page suit, filed by attorney Mark Schwartz, claims the termination violated the teachers’ civil rights. It also alleges that the Head of School and select board members engaged in a defamation campaign against the two. The suit says Eure, who is gay and African American, and Helwa, who is gay and Muslim, felt they were pushed to get involved with students on matters of sexuality and race and that the two “came to resent this racist, ‘You are one of them, so you deal with it,’ attitude.”
The teachers seek punitive damages, back pay and other compensation.
Friends’ Central attorney David Fryman released a statement, saying the school “engaged in a thorough and thoughtful Quaker process before deciding not to renew [the teachers’] contracts. We expect the court will agree.”
Hints for homeowners who are downsizing
Team SAVVY picked up some tips for downsizers from Your Organizing Consultants’ Anna Sicalides at Valley Forge Flowers last week. Among them:
- Expect it to be emotional – we’re attached to our belongings and change is hard.
- Schedule an appointment with yourself once a week to start purging.
- Tackle the garage first because you’ll need it as a marshalling area for trash, donations, recycling and give always.
- Set hard deadlines for your adult kids to remove their stuff.
Conestoga junior making serious waves
The Upper Main Line Y swimmer Brendan Burns just broke three national records at the YMCA Short Course Nationals.
Four months ago, he recorded the second fastest time in history for his age group in the butterfly.
Only guy ever faster? Uh, Michael Phelps.
This and That
Hope Chest has folded its Wayne store. The fancy underpantsy and lingerie store that serves A to G cups is happy to size you up – and help you shop for Mother’s Day – in its original outpost in Haverford Square.
Bryn Mawr families are still mourning the loss of Bertucci’s, closed last month when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Maybe drive to Wayne? It’s still open, one of 59 Bertucci’s still standing.
Keystone Shops, operators of one of PA’s first medical marijuana dispensaries in Devon, just opened another location on Henderson Rd. in King of Prussia. Meanwhile, TerraVida Holistic Centers is set to open a dispensary at 249 Planebrook Rd. in Malvern on May 20.
Mini-golf – that’s not especially mini – is coming to Margate. Congo Falls Adventure Golf says it will open on Ventnor Ave. next to Wawa in time for the July 4 hordes. Margate businessman Ed Blumenthal sued to stop Congo Falls, calling it a “monstrosity.” He claimed the zoning change that allowed the course would open the door to tacky businesses. Blumenthal dropped his suit after he got 18 inches shaved off the height of the two-story course and a won a promise to keep a tight rein on hours.
Call it The Clooney Effect. The 2019 PA Women’s Conference set for Oct. 12 at the Convention Center is already SOLD OUT. Amazing what a keynote speaker named Amal Clooney can do for ticket sales.
Never content to sit on its considerable laurels, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne is growing again. On May 11, the Church will christen The Art Gallery at St. David’s, a permanent offshoot of its nifty gift shop, with a cocktail reception and inaugural show by landscape artist Anne Leith. Like the gift shop, all profits from the gallery will benefit the Church’s outreach ministries in Uganda, Guatemala and Haiti.
A SAVVY shoutout to Episcopal Academy do-gooder Parneeth Alla who just got a pat on the back from Olympic skier Lindsay Vonn at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in DC. The EA junior was singled out for creating a computer program to help track and raise funds for a nonprofit serving India’s rural poor.
Have a child with autism? There’s a huge conference for parents at Penn State Great Valley May 11-12: “Listen, Learn and Take Action for Your Child With Autism.” Top medical minds will offer the latest on seizures; cannabis for autism; Lyme disease; teen hormones, rage and aggression; improving language and behavior, mitochondrial disorders, diet and autism, and much more. Tickets are $100 at the door; $150 for couples.
Still stumped for Mother’s Day? May we suggest revisiting our shop-local gift guide in the last SAVVY. It’s a legit list; no kickbacks:-)
Sometimes feel like you’ve got S#%T for brains? Well, so do we. That’s why we’ve tapped some SERIOUS CRANIUM – like Penn Med’s Neurology Chair – for our next SAVVY Gathering. Hope you’ll put a big fat star on your calendar for Tuesday, June 19. Your brain will thank you later. Plus, it’ll be fun. Promise.
(P.S. Contact [email protected] to talk about becoming a local biz partner at the event.)
An artisanal aesthetic born on the Main Line and housed in a rehabbed historic building?
No, not the world’s first Anthropologie in Wayne but what might be its 21st-century successor, KingsHaven in Paoli.
Bespoke furnishings showroom, distinctive décor store and nifty gift shop – all bundled into smashing quarters across from the train station and tied with a tasteful Tudor bow.
And on a serious roll.
Its signature lighting won KingsHaven a much-coveted booth at this year’s Architectural Digest Design Show in NYC.
And a jolly good show it was, with KingsHaven-created fixtures earning raves for their versatility, clean lines and intriguing mix of exotic woods and elegant iron.
Piggybacking off its NYC triumph, KingsHaven also plans splashy spreads in Architectural Digest and other glossies.
And heading to a bookstore near you (likely in 2019): a gorgeous new coffee table tome, At Home With KingsHaven.
Still, national presence aside, here at SAVVY we like to keep it local. So, what makes KingsHaven’s flagship so worth your visit?
For homeowners and interior designers: Look-at-me lighting, furniture and accessories.
In the running for a prestigious national design award, KingsHaven-crafted lighting is a revelation: sophisticated, timeless but on trend in its geometric lines, almost always customizable, and sold at prices that aren’t stratospheric.
The company also makes distinctive mirrors, occasional tables and vanities. And carries soft seating from quality names like Sherrill. A conference room is lined with upholstery fabrics, ripe for the picking. Buy off the floor or place an order.
The reigning aesthetic: classic with an edge.
“We love to put something modern next to something antique,” says KingsHaven CEO Lauren Wylonis, a Newtown Square native who lives in Berwyn. In a nod to Main Line tastes, her Paoli showroom leans transitional. But many of KingsHaven’s California, Florida and New York clients swing contemporary, she says.
For collectors: original paintings, hand-painted pottery and other artists’ wares.
“We believe in the eclectic: using what you love to decorate your space,” Wylonis says. “We help people choose art and fixtures that make their creative spirit come alive.”
There’s hand-painted Talavera pottery from Mexico; “Oil and Light,” a local painters’ show, runs until May 16.
And for last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers: a surprisingly affordable array we haven’t seen anywhere.
Like Himalayan Soy Candles ($32- $64) and hummingbirds handcrafted in the mountains of Ecuador ($32 – $39).
Next time you’re in, ask Wylonis about her five-hour trek through the jungle to reach Ecuadoran village artisans. Yowza.
“I go to the ends of the earth to find craftspeople. It’s my favorite part of the job,” says Wylonis, who takes eight buying trips a year, foraging for aboriginal art from Australia, Wounaan baskets from Panama, and alpaca blankets from Argentina, among other finds.
Remarkably, KingsHaven is a second career for Wylonis, a Johns Hopkins-trained forensic psychiatrist who’s been painting, throwing pottery, and making and refinishing furniture since childhood.
To better accommodate her kids’ schedules and because she adored design, she launched all things KingsHaven: a real estate redevelopment company, KingsHaven Properties, in 2012; an interior design firm, KingsHaven Design, in 2013; and KingsHaven, a retail and to-the-trade lighting and home furnishings store, in December of 2016.
Wylonis’ end game: make “KingsHaven a national and international design company that started in Paoli.”
From where we’re sitting, it’s well on its way.
KingsHaven, 10 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli, Open Tues. – Sat. 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. or by appointment, 844-546-4799.
Devon Horse Show – and its splashy hat contest – are heading our way (from SAVVY Sponsor Devon Horse Show and Country Fair)
You’ll have to hold your horses a few more months for Devon Yard.
Urban Outfitters tells us the Terrain/Anthropologie/Amis complex is on track to open in mid to late August.
But Devon – the horse show – is just a gallop away. T-minus-12 days (give or take) and counting.
Which means a cast of colorful characters will soon descend on Dorset Ave. Among them: some the world’s finest horse handlers and riders, shopkeepers on the show circuit, the local horsey/society set, and a chipper volunteer army that keeps the burgers frying and the Ferris wheel flying.
With the royal wedding around the bend, we thought it high time you met a Devon regular with, shall we say, a more genteel assignment.
She’s a perennial Ladies Day hat contest judge who happens to have a direct line to the House of Windsor.
Each spring, milliner Brenda Waites Bolling trains in from NYC to help TV fashionista Carson Kressley, yours truly and others choose the year’s most splendid chapeaux.
Like Devon’s riders, Bolling is world class.
Brush up against her and you’re practically brushing with royalty.
We can’t reveal the name of the person she’s dealing with from across the pond – those Brits insist on tight lips. But know this: she’s “conversing“ with a member of the royal family (at the very highest level) about creating a wardrobe for a post-wedding trip to the U.S.
High falutin’ stuff, right? And it’s not even her first royal rodeo.
Queen Elizabeth wore one of Bolling’s creations during her diamond jubilee in 2012. A blue number – the Queen’s fave color – with gold “ecclesiastical” accents.
Bolling also supplied hats for the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The milliner’s father is from England, enabling her to comply with the Crown’s insistence that all designers be British.
Bolling jokingly calls herself Meghan Markle, a reference to their shared African American/British Isles heritage.
She also designed hats for the wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco and served on a committee for the Princess Grace Foundation.
Other exalted clients: Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga (who went gaga for a fedora), Sharon Stone and socialites galore. Safe to say Bolling has turned many a head at The Royal Ascot, the elite Central Park Conservancy Hat Luncheon, The Kentucky Derby, Page Six weddings and the like.
A Chicago native, she parlayed early design work in macramé and furs to high-end hats. An equestrian herself, she began selling hats in Bob Ermilio‘s shop behind the Devon grandstand in 1998. The next year she rode in – and dressed heads – in Don Rosato’s carriage at Devon.
But her biggest break came when she opened a hat shop at the iconic Plaza Hotel in 2009.
Owned by a Saudi family, The Plaza was a “mecca for celebrities,” Bolling says. “And word got out that you just had to see the hat store. Hordes of people would come in.” Among them: stars and their stylists. She made toppers for men and children, too. and developed lines for American Girl dolls and the Eloise At The Plaza shop. From 2009 until 2013 (when her store was replaced by a food hall), Bolling says she worked seven days a week, taking off only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
These days, she works out of the stylish Redbury New York Hotel, once the iconic Martha Washington Hotel for women.
Bolling’s signature hat is the English jockey, designed as an answer to the “helmet head” she’d get after riding horses in Central Park.
Custom-designed hats for “luxury lifestyle” clients run around $1,200.
An investment, yes. But one that’s meant to be worn forever. Her bespoke hats are made with waterproof and crush-proof crinoline. Most adornments are removable for easy transport and for dressing up or down. Lots of women wear her hats to parties AND to the beach, she says.
Personally partial to large, sun-shielding brims, Bolling also designs fabulous fascinators.
Her advice for the scores of women who will sashay before her on Ladies Day morning at Devon? “We look for originality and creativity but it should be neat and tasteful. And the whole outfit matters.”
Not feeling especially creative? There’s still time to order a Bolling beauty for Devon. Check out her Instagram (@brendawaitesbolling) or give her a buzz at 212-935-9500.
Themed “Rosé All Day,” Devon Horse Show Ladies Day is May 30. Tickets ($65) include cocktail reception, light hors d’oeuvres and participation in the hat contest. Click here to join the festivities and see judging categories.
The Devon Horse Show & Country Fair kicks off with First Night at the Devon Art Gallery on May 23. Family Day, Community Night and THE Dog Show at the Horse Show follow on May 24, with reams of special events after that. LOOK FOR OUR FULL PREVIEW OF THE 2018 DEVON HORSE SHOW AND COUNTRY FAIR IN THE NEXT SAVVY!