By Dawn Warden
As many new mothers do, Emily Lucking jumped into post-pregnancy imbibing with gusto. Being able to drink with friends again felt fun and celebratory. And, well, normal.
“I was used to being the life of the party,” says Lucking. “I missed being the ‘fun friend.’”
Then one night, the Villanova mom over-indulged just enough to feel out of control.
And the next day, after a not-so-great-feeling morning, she asked herself a painful question: Was being the popular party girl more important than being her best self for her three-month-old daughter?
She didn’t consider herself an alcoholic but vowed to abstain for a while “just to see what it was like.” She’d just gone nine months without drinking. How hard could it be?
Pretty darn hard, it turns out. Pregnancy had made abstinence easy, Lucking soon realized. “No one asks why you’re not drinking.”
Three-and-a-half years later she’s still alcohol-free, now comfortably bellying up to bars for fresh-squeezed “faujitos” and fizzy juices at places like Enoteca Tredici in Bryn Mawr and Estia in Radnor.
Lucking is hardly alone. Across the Main Line and around the country, opting out of alcohol is catching on. For some, it’s about adopting a healthier lifestyle or simply cutting calories. For others, it’s about mental clarity and peak performance. Whatever the reason for joining, the sober-curious movement is slowly changing the way society views drinking, one fruity mocktail at a time.
An attorney who’s found a second career as a life coach, Lucking is so committed to her alcohol-free lifestyle, she now facilitates 30-Day Sober PowerGroups for people ready to press pause on drinking.
Discussions, which take place virtually via Zoom to preserve privacy, often center around social anxiety and attitudes toward alcohol, Lucking says. “Outside of AA and rehab facilities, there’s no place to discuss alcohol use.”
The goal is to support people wherever they are in their abstinence journey.
“Society puts alcohol all around us,” says another conscientious abstainer, Berwyn’s Laura Taylor. Her former sales job involved frequent travel and multiple functions. “Let’s just say it was a very drink-y crowd … You could be drinking for hours. It was exhausting and the furthest thing from modern-day wellness imaginable.”
Half the time she’d drink only because the alternatives simply weren’t as festive. “When you’re out, you want to feel like you’re at a party, sipping a pretty cocktail, not drinking soda all night long.”
Inspired by her girlfriends’ rejuvenating juice cleanses, Taylor decided to try a no-alcohol cleanse herself. “I wasn’t on the bandwagon until I started to notice their skin looking fresh and beautiful. They seemed happier and more energetic; I wanted the same things.”
It was an easy sell but a hard few weeks. Then one day Taylor realized she was sleeping better and accomplishing more.
“I felt like I found a new super power.”
She also found a new career: manufacturing and marketing Mingle Mocktails, a sophisticated line of healthy, alcohol-free mixers, now sold online and in 38 stores and served at local country clubs like Merion Golf, Waynesborough and Chester Valley.
Though she started with a selfish purpose, Taylor says she hit on a real need.
“It’s astounding how left out nondrinkers still feel,” she says. Her mocktails “make it easier to avoid awkward questions. They allow nondrinkers to feel like they’re part of the party, too.”
Personal stylist and Main Line Wardrobe founder Monica DeSanctis gave up drinking more than a decade ago and has never felt better. She says she’s lost 15 pounds, her core is stronger, her complexion more radiant. “You look and feel younger. The clock stops the day you stop drinking.”
DeSanctis calls drinking “a social crutch … I was always ordering doubles … Cosmos, wine. I wanted to get buzzed quickly. Get into my comfort zone.” Like Taylor, she worked in an industry where alcohol played a leading role at company events and happy hours.
Outside of work, the Gladwynite found herself drinking while she was getting ready to go out, drinking while she was cooking, drinking anytime she had a “pause.” When she stopped she had to teach herself how to live – and socialize – without it.
Alcohol “dulls down social anxiety,” DeSanctis says. “People are afraid to open up and be themselves without a drink in their hand. If they say something that is vulnerable, they can always blame it on having a little too much to drink and move on. [There’s] less risk, less accountability.”
Her friend, sober coach Emily Lucking couldn’t agree more. She points out that people “let it all hang out on social media” but struggle to be open when they’re face-to-face.
“There is more than one way to enjoy a happy life,” says Lucking. “Choosing not to drink isn’t shameful or lonely. It’s not always a sad consequence; it can be an empowered, joyful choice.”
Thinking of joining the ranks of the Sober Curious? Try these tips, courtesy of Emily Lucking and Monica DeSanctis:
- It might feel uncomfortable for the first half-hour at a social event, but it’s like a muscle – you will get stronger the more you work it.
- Fake it. Ordering a mocktail or a dressed-up glass of club soda minimizes questions.
- Have an answer ready. “I don’t drink” is good enough.
- Befriend other non-drinkers. Social support is not only helpful, it’s fun. If you’re struggling, consider avoiding people who regularly abuse alcohol.
- Try exercising or meditating to relieve social anxiety before a party.
- Believe in yourself. Know that you have the courage to change, make empowered decisions, and buck societal norms. True friends will understand and respect your choice.
Seismic rumblings in Berwyn Village, that charming hamlet, dotted with cool stuff but interspersed with – let’s face it – a whole lotta ugly.
Two developers plan to bulldoze and build on two particularly woebegone stretches of Lancaster Ave.
The first parcel is the old Fritz Lumber yard, which just got a new owner. Sadly, the years have not been kind and the property’s in even worse shape than it was three years ago when Eadeh Enterprises bought it from the Fritz family.
Eadeh had hoped to build a mixed-use complex but hit a snag over township parking regs and decided to unload, Eadeh President Stacey Ballard tells SAVVY. In June, the 1.7-acre tract was sold to DP Partners for just under $3 million. Eadah paid $2,650,000 for the parcel in 2016.
(Coincidentally, DP is also redeveloping The Grove in Malvern. The full scoop in our story below.)
No word yet on what’s coming. DP Principal Jason Dempsey tells us he’s “evaluating the opportunities” but whatever he proposes – retail, residential or a mix – “won’t be a monstrosity. It’s going to fit in and enhance the Village of Berwyn.” To avoid tangles with the township and neighbors, his proposal will also be “as close to a by right use as possible,” Dempsey says.
Kicking up more dust are the second developer’s plans, which we’ll call Handel’s Corner, a 2.5-acre hexagonal parcel that includes:
- Handel’s, perennially popular ice cream purveyor and Berwyn’s unoffical town square at the corner of Lancaster and Midland Aves. for the last 15 years.
- A neglected old strip center fronting Lancaster Ave., just west of Handel’s
- A blighted-beyond-salvage warehouse on Woodside Ave.
- And somewhat dated retail/office building at Midland and Berwyn Ave., current home to Sir Speedy and Village Play Space.
J. W. Fell owns the first three properties, including Handel’s, which he leases to Buck Buchanan. The Sir Speedy building is owned by Buchanan, who tells us he bought it in late 2016 (for $1.3 million) for three reasons: to ease the parking crunch next door at Handel’s, to serve as a “safety net” for Handel’s (meaning he could eventually move his ice cream shop there or raze the building and build a new Handel’s in its place), and to help a friend, the building’s then-owner Linda DeLuca.
Partners on the Handel’s Corner redevelopment proposal are two locals: home builder Todd Pohlig and Villanova developer David Della Porta, principal at Cornerstone Tracy.
Their plan is to turn Handel’s Corner into four-story Berwyn Square: retail and a public plaza with clock tower, planters and benches at ground level; 120 high-end apartments above. Parking would be on-site, on two interior levels that would be covered by a green-roof lounge area with plunge pool.
Key to the plan: Handel’s move into 2,000 sq. ft. of the 5,000 sq. ft. retail space. The other retail tenant is TBD. “Something that doesn’t exist in Berwyn Village” – a spa, fitness center or home-goods store, perhaps, Della Porta tells SAVVY.
With its public plaza and somewhat traditional brick look, Della Porta believes Berwyn Square “would revive that blighted area and create a real anchor for the village of Berwyn that would support surrounding businesses with new residents.”
The mixed-use project is a by right use in Berwyn’s “Village Business” district and parking conforms to code. But current blueprints require a few zoning variances, the most controversial of which is the building’s height: 7 feet and one story higher than zoning regs.
Code allows 42 feet and three stories. Berwyn Square, as currently configured, would be 49 feet and four stories.
But four floors wasn’t the original plan, apparently. Earlier drafts had all parking underground and only went up three stories. But they were scrapped when engineers determined the groundwater under the J. W. Fell parcel was contaminated by gas stations that once operated on the property, Della Porta says. So as not to disturb the contamination, they couldn’t dig as deep. The revised plan shows three quarters of the parking above grade and adds seven feet.
Easttown’s Planning Commission first reviewed the plans June 4. Two members recused and two of the remaining three recommended a green light for the height variance. There was no public comment at that meeting but, as word has gotten around, there’s been plenty since.
About 30 concerned neighbors showed up for the first zoning board meeting July 17. About 100 people packed Hilltop House for a second meeting Monday night. After more than three hours of discussion – which included multiple complaints and questions from neighbors – the meeting was adjourned and the discussion was tabled until August 26.
Among those opposing the plan is John Leone who’s lived on Woodside Road since 2015. “Our neighborhood is a special place,” Leone tells SAVVY. “We never thought we’d walk out our front doors and see a 50-ft. tall building there.” Leone worries about traffic and safety. He agrees that the existing buildings are “in decline” and “an eyesore” but contends they’re not “hurting anyone” or “affecting traffic patterns.” He says he’s all for creating a “little downtown for Berwyn” – just not one with a four-story building in it.
Always a concern: potential impact on T/E Schools. While a demographer projects six new students coming from Berwyn Square as currently drawn, Della Porta has his doubts. Sixty percent of the units will be studios and one-bedrooms; the balance will be two-bedrooms. Like his Chestnut Square project in West Chester borough, he expects residents will be singles, divorcées and couples without kids, likely in the 25 to 45 age range. If he had to set them today, rents would be roughly $1,500 to $3,000. Units would range in size from 700 to 1,400 square feet.
“Families don’t want to live in apartments like these,” Della Porta says. In his much larger Chestnut Square complex (which Berwyn Square is modeled after), “we had long periods where there were zero children.”
To be clear, this is not a case of big bad developers pushing out a mom-and-pop shop like Handel’s. Although the ice cream store’s owner is not an equity partner and in fact says he’s fine with whatever the township decides, Buchanan is pals with Pohlig and has been privy to the plans from Day One.
“This is the last chance for Berwyn to do something with that eyesore,” Buchanan tells SAVVY, referring, presumably, to the outmoded strip center and warehouse owned by J.W. Fell. “No one else is going to go in there and do the environmental clean-up.” Buchanan says the project would help Berwyn become the vibrant, walkable village people say they want – more like Wayne or West Chester.
Della Porta estimates the process – from township approvals through construction – will take at least three years. We’ll see.
If the project shrinks a bit, well, it would hardly be a first for Easttown. Devon Yard bears little resemblance to the plans the developer first floated to the township.
With a big overhaul of the Fritz property on the horizon, single-family homes coming to the old Mack Oil site, and Berwyn Square looming, one thing seems sure: Berwyn Village circa 2025 will look nothing like the hodgepodge it is today.
The dumpy old Shops at Great Valley – just off Rte. 29 in Malvern – will soon be reborn as The Grove, a hip, 21st-century lifestyle center. Think King of Prussia Town Center, but cozier and with plenty of parking.
Almost fully leased and due to debut in the fall and early winter, The Grove’s lineup will be cutting-edge casual – “a discerning mix,” according to its developer.
So no ho-hum Hair Cutterys or T-Mobiles here. No pricey Davio’s or Fogo de Chao either. And there isn’t a traditional store or boutique in the bunch.
Nope, the focus here is on fun: saluting the sun at the area’s second bulldog yoga, throwing down with your pals at Splitting Edge Axe Throwing, or throwing back a cold one at Sly Fox Brewery or BOMBA Tacos and Rum.
Sitting between the two anchor eateries is the project’s centerpiece, at least in nice weather: a 9,000-sq. ft. gathering space with lawn, benches, Adirondack chairs, fountains and a 200-inch TV. A “picnic grove” – albeit one that’s man made – for kicking back and special events, like Eagles games, concerts, movie nights and fitness classes.
“We want people to say: ‘Let’s go see what’s going on at the Grove,’” says the center’s developer, Jason Dempsey of DP Partners, who lives in Malvern. “It’s the whole suburban-urban effect. We wanted to create a place to hang out.”
Dempsey bought the Shops at Great Valley for $5 million in 2017 and is investing another $22 million to transform it.
Most of the bones of the 33,000-sq. ft. shopping center remain, but they’re largely incognito, cloaked in cool new facades like reclaimed barn wood, corrugated metal and whitewashed brick.
Also coming to The Grove:
- Shaving Grace Barber, a retro-cool spot for straight-edge shaves and men’s haircuts.
- Clean Juice, the area’s fifth outpost for acai bowls, smoothies, avocado toast and such.
- Nudy’s Café, the Wayne-based chain’s second Malvern address and its 10th café overall. (Or its 11th, if the new Nudy’s at the old Shangri-la in Devon opens first.)
- The Simple Greek, fresh, fast-casual Mediterranean fare, from the same Malvern dad who owns the Wayne location.
- The Philly area’s third Sublime Cupcakes.
DP had been searching far and wide for a workout studio and ended up finding one in its own backyard. Signed just this week, bulldog yoga offers music-driven, “rebooted” yoga classes in three branded styles at airy studios in Villanova and Boulder.
Bulldog owner Jon Cummins, a dedicated yogi who lives in Villanova, tells us he’s psyched to expand to The Grove. His fellow tenants are all “first class,” he says. “I love the growth and activity going on in Malvern and surrounding towns. We’re excited to be part of that energy.” His 2,800 sq. ft. studio will open in early 2020.
As for parking, Dempsey says there will be plenty: 7.79 spaces for every 1,000 sq. ft. while the KOP Town Center has 5.5 per 1,000.
Booming with office workers, hotels, single and multi-family homes, highly-ranked schools, a growing trail system and convenient turnpike slip-ramp, Great Valley area is “underserved” and ripe for an updated lifestyle center like The Grove, says Dempsey.
The guy’s clearly bullish on the area. He just built a Starbucks and a Chick-Fil-A, due to open in September, right across the street.
Surprise kitchen caper: Williams Sonoma to exit the mall
SAVVY has learned that Williams Sonoma will close its mall store shortly after Christmas and will move to a primo spot at the KOP Town Center in early February. The store is taking the space (shown below) across from Wegmans at the corner of Market & Main opposite Mission Taco.
It’s no secret WS has been squeezed by online shoppers and food superstores like, well, its future neighbor, Wegmans. Count on the new emporium to be even more interactive and “experiential” than the current mall store. No doubt the Town Center was thrilled to reel in a big fish like Williams Sonoma, which should draw even more people to the popular lifestyle center.
Other KOP Town Center newcomers: A second outpost of West Chester’s sleek and semi-space-age Kooma will serve up sushi and Asian fusion in the former MidiCi space. And luxury day-spa chain Spavia will open its first PA location this fall next to Pearl Vision.
Ardmore’s new beauty co-op: My Salon Suite
Good to see the lights on again at the old Jay Michael’s building in Suburban Square. It’s only been, what, nine years?
Gutted and totally redone, the two-story space is still a salon and spa. Actually, it’s a couple dozen mini-salons and spas.
It’s the second Philly-area location for My Salon Suite, a national franchisor that’s turning the traditional salon model on its head. Instead of a large salon that employs a bunch of commission-based stylists, My Salon Suite turns individual stylists into business owners.
Each rents a fully-equipped mini-salon, which they can personalize with wallcoverings, lighting and such.
With single suites beginning at around $300 weekly, busy beauty professionals can make six figures, the company claims.
“This isn’t for someone straight out of beauty school,” says Villanova mom Jenn Navarro, who, along with her husband Andrew, opened the Ardmore location July 8, a few weeks after launching one in Broomall.
Navarro says her suite tenants are all established stylists, massage therapists and estheticians who quit working for larger salons so they can work for themselves.
People like Kaila Loren (below), who left Ardmore’s Salon 31 because she wanted to run a vegan and cruelty-free salon. “I get to express myself here,” Loren says. “I wanted to get away from the chemical side of things.”
Or Joseph Ferrer, an award-winning stylist who’s resurrecting his former Wayne salon, Opal Designs, in Ardmore. “This is my rebirth,” Ferrer says. “This place supplied me with a gift.”
The co-op concept is catching on because clients tend to be loyal to their stylists, not their salons. Your favorite stylist leaves; you follow.
Each suite owner has 24/7 access to the building, so they can take clients off-hours if need be.
With all but a few of the 24 suites leased, Ardmore is off and running. Most owners style hair; others offer massage, body contouring, waxing, facials, lash tinting, brow microshading and microblading.
In the seven years since its founding, 150 My Salon Suite franchises have opened in 28 states.
Seems beauty co-ops are a thing. A similar concept – Image Studios 360 – is headed to Rosemont and then Berwyn in the fall.
Your Instagram-worthy Happy Place
When a sun-dappled beach or the Tuscan countryside simply won’t do, may we suggest your new Happy Place, a traveling, eye-popping extravaganza en route to a mall near you?
Raved about by celebs like Hilary Duff, Kerry Washington, Diplo and Jojo Siwa, the playful popup was created expressly to help spread Insta happiness. Simply wander into one of a dozen wacky rooms, then pose, snap and share.
Opening Oct. 5 for a three-month run in the vacant JC Penney’s at the King of Prussia Mall, a $30 Happy Place ticket buys you a series of selfie inspirations: a plunge in the Pot of Happiness, a dip in the Rubber Ducky Bathtub of Fun, a dance in the Confetti dome, a chance to smell 40,000 flowers in Super Bloom room or fresh-baked goodies in the Cookie Room, a trippy time in the Upside Down room (below), and more.
Jared Paul founded Happy Place in LA in 2017 as an “oasis for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and embrace moments of happiness in their everyday lives.” An extravagant gimmick, perhaps, but so far, it’s been money. Recent runs in Chicago, Boston, LA and Toronto have all sold out. Tickets go on sale Aug. 9.
A warrior Mom’s exhausting week
Rocked by the rat-tat-tat of deadly shootings here, there and everywhere of late, our thoughts turn to a singular voice sprung from our own Main Line backyard.
Trained to persuade, former Malvern litigator Marybeth Christiansen retired from the practice of law a while back, only to find herself, somewhat unexpectedly, back in the advocacy arena. Only now she’s not commanding courtrooms but pressing her case on public stages and in the halls of power near and far. Ask her what she’s been up to, and, more often than not, she’ll reply, nonchalantly: “Gun stuff.”
Gun stuff, indeed. Christiansen now leads the PA Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, aka “The Moms,” a fired-up and growing group that’s making waves – and giving the NRA fits – in all 50 states. Sort of like Mothers Against Drunk Driving did in the 80s.
And like Forest Gump or maybe Waldo, Christiansen pops up everywhere. In the past week alone, she appeared on a PHL17 show about gun-violence prevention; represented PA at Moms Demand Action’s national convention in Washington, DC; stood with El Paso in silent vigil outside the White House then marched to the U. S. Capitol; met with Senator Toomey to urge passage of red flag and background-check gun laws; spoke at a vigil in Philly’s Love Park alongside Senator Casey, Attorney General Shapiro, and U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon; and joined Governor Wolf in a bi-partisan call-to-action in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.
An accidental activist she may be, but Christiansen is relentless, indefatigable, fearless – like the ace attorney she once was. Thanks to post-partisan crusaders like her, our world will surely be safer one day. (She invites those who’d like to join her fight to text READY to 644-33 or visit momsdemandaction.org.)
Disturbing arrest in Chesterbrook
Proving, tragically, that book smarts don’t guarantee a happy, well-adjusted life, Chesterbrook resident Frank Wang (above), an academic standout in the Conestoga Class of 2017, spent the last week in the county jail, charged with making terroristic threats against his family and Haverford College, which he no longer attends.
According to the Delco DA’s office, authorities received a tip on July 26 that Wang wanted to kill his parents and “shoot up” Haverford’s campus. A search of his family’s home on Elan Lane in Chesterbrook’s Duportail Village turned up no weapons but investigators are examining his computer, cell phone and flash drives.
At Conestoga, Wang was a National Merit Semifinalist, a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and member of the crew team.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Haverford College spokesman Chris Mills couldn’t say when and why Wang left the college.
Haverford and Tredyffrin police and the Haverford College Public Safety Office assisted the Delco DA’s investigation. Bail, set at 10 percent of $1 million, was not posted and Wang was taken to the county prison in Concord.
Berwyn CPA charged with attempted strangulation, thanks to alert neighbor
If you hear something, say something. Former Berwyn accountant John Michael Swirsding, 47, is now awaiting sentencing and his battered ex-girlfriend is alive and safe, thanks, in large part, to an alert neighbor. When Brian Walker was awakened on May 3 by shouting at Swirsding’s home next door, he didn’t just roll over, hoping it would stop. He called 9-1-1.
Easttown police rushed to the Waterloo Avenue home where, according to court records, they found Swirsding strangling his then-girlfriend Kelly Donahue, who was still living at his home but sleeping in a separate, locked bedroom because the two had been fighting. Last week, Donahue testified that Swirsding, who’d been out drinking that night, had straddled her while she was lying in bed and squeezed his hands around her throat, saying “you’re getting a lesson this time.” She says she couldn’t breathe and didn’t know if he would stop.
The jury deliberated five hours before finding Swirsding (who now lists an Ardmore residence) guilty of felony strangulation, simple assault and making terroristic threats. Although it’s not uncommon in domestic abuse cases, felony strangulation didn’t become a standalone charge in PA until 2016, thanks the efforts of Assistant DA Michelle Frei and former Chesco PA Rep. Becky Corwin. It carries a maximum sentence of 5 to 10 years.
Still another month to expose rammy kids and out-of-town guests to a little culture in Philly. The two-for-one “Art & Revolution” deal is on through Labor Day. Adults get a combined ticket to the Art Museum and the Museum of the American Revolution for $30, saving $11. Families of four – two adults and two kids under 12 – pay $12, a savings of $25. The joint tickets can be used on any two days through Sept. 2. Buy on site or at philamuseum.org.
It’s never too early to grab gifts and home decor for the holidays. Valley Forge Flowers in Wayne currently has bargains by the bushel at its annual summer sale with select merch half off retail. Among the finds (some shown below): Barbara King Home & Garden items, candles, vases, area rugs, table top and garden accessories. Sale ends Aug. 19.
This and That
Western Main Liners will surely miss always chipper Martha Philpott, who retired her fashion boutique, Nota Bene, after a 10-year run in Malvern Shopping Center. But there’s a silver lining. Linda Orff has taken the space, re-christened it Silver Linings (she’s a glass half-full kind of girl) and will welcome her first shoppers next Wed., Aug. 14, in time for her first Malvern Stroll the next night. The full scoop on her store and its grand opening in the Sept. 12 SAVVY.
Brutally slain, Ardmore model Christina Carlin-Kraft can’t defend her reputation. But her boyfriend can. And that’s just what Alex Ciccotelli did in a Montgomery County courtroom this week. At the sentencing hearing for convicted killer Jonathan Harris, Ciccotelli told Harris that he had “slandered” his girlfriend and that in the 14 years he knew Carlin-Kraft, she had never used drugs. (Little known fact: Authorities found no drugs in the model’s apartment or in her bloodstream.) “What we know and what we truly believe is that when she told him to leave, he refused to go, he became irate, he knocked her out and he raped her. And when she came to, he strangled her to silence her forever. That’s what happened.” Harris was sentenced to life in prison plus 221.5 to 45 years of consecutive time on kidnapping and strangulation charges.
The BYOB that helped put Phoenixville on the culinary map is calling it quits. Majolica will close for good on its 15th anniversary, Dec. 7. Chef/owner Andrew Deery, 49, told the Inky’s Michael Klein he simply “hit the wall” and wants to see what else is out there. Deery announced the closure early so customers can use gift certificates and get their final meals in. The restaurant threatened to close 10 years ago but Deery changed his mind and cut operating hours instead.
Chester County Republicans this week unanimously endorsed longtime First Assistant DA Mike Noone to replace his boss, Tom Hogan. After running unopposed in the May primary, DA Hogan pulled a shocker last month, quitting his bid for a third term last month via a Facebook announcement. Handpicked by Hogan, Noone, 44, is a Villanova law grad who’s spent 11 years, on and off, as a county prosecutor handling a range of crimes and co-chairing Chesco’s Overdose Prevention Task Force. With surging support for Democratic women candidates in the county, Noone faces a tough opponent in Deb Ryan, a former colleague in the DA’s office.
A SAVVY salute to the PTO and parents at T/E’s New Eagle Elementary, who stepped up big time this summer for their school’s beloved custodian, Rob Snyder, after he lost his pregnant daughter, Pam, 31, and grandson Preston, 9, in flash floods. More than 120 heartsick families chipped in $6,420, along with countless cards and drawings, to help Snyder through the tragedy.
A fixture at the school for 20 years, Snyder is no clock puncher. “He knows every child by name,” longtime NEES parent Laura Yancoskie tells SAVVY. “He is kind and compassionate … a sweet, soft spoken man who is always willing to help with any event or activity at the school.” A separate GoFundMe helped Snyder with funeral expenses. In his online message of gratitude, Snyder was characteristically upbeat: “People hope God will bless us but he did bless us with 30-plus years with Pam and 9 amazing years with Preston.” What a peach.
With so many shootings in Philly, it’s easy for we suburbanites to forget the families picking up the pieces. Out of sight, and, sadly, out of mind. But not for rising Harriton freshman Zach Bookbinder. Though their lives were worlds apart and they’d never met, Zach couldn’t stop thinking about Azir Harris, 18, paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot near his South Philly home in February of 2019. Caring for Azir upended his family. His mother had to quit her job, medical bills were astronomical, and their home wasn’t wheelchair accessible. Azir was often stuck on on a floor, waiting for his father to come home from work so he could be carried up or down the steps. To help the Harrises with Azir’s medical bills, Zach is hosting “Hoops of Hope for Azir,” a charity basketball tournament at Narberth Borough Park on Sept. 14. For registration details, e-mail ZachBBall4Good@gmail or message him on Instagram. Not a hoops head? A GoFundMe for the family has raised $2,000 of its $5,000 goal.
Intrigue in the fine art world. A collector and onetime pal of Andy Warhol is suing Barnes Foundation board member, arts patron and scion of a prominent Main Line family, John Howard McFadden, over a Brancusi sculpture, Mademoiselle Pogany II. The collector, Stuart Piver, who’s known to be litigious, claims McFadden tricked him into turning over the valuable sculpture for a mere $100K when it’s worth millions. According to Piver, McFadden convinced him he could more easily broker its sale to the Philadelphia Museum of Art if he could show he owned the statue. Arrangements were made for McFadden to “pay” $100K and receive the provenance papers. McFadden then called the $100K sale final, Piver says, and has since gone dark with Mademoiselle. Piver is suing McFadden for $200 million.
Bring back the boards! Seems hundreds of folks want Margate to rebuild the boardwalk it lost to a hurricane 75 years ago. Those busy bees at the Margate Boardwalk Committee collected more than 500 petition signatures in just four days for a petition urging a public referendum on the boardwalk issue.
Why resurrect the wooden walkway they lived happily without for so long? In a word, the dunes. The massive dune project, installed to safeguard shore properties, has marred Margate’s once pristine beachscape with ugly outflow pipes and long schleps through dead space between the bulkhead and beach.
Boardwalk boosters say a new boardwalk will make it easier for families, the handicapped and the elderly to make their way to the waves, and get walkers and cyclists off busy Atlantic Ave. No amusement piers and fudge joints, just a simple walkway like Ventnor’s with a view of the ocean and perhaps a bike lane, restrooms and showers.
Organizers say the project’s $14 – $19 million price tag could be paid for with a long-term bond issue, an estimated $130 – $190 homeowner tax hike, grants and perhaps an angel investor or two.
Meanwhile, over in Ocean City, they’re fighting birds with birds. The Jersey shore town is so fed up with aggressive seagulls dive-bombing beachgoers, they’re bringing in falcons, hawks and owls to scare them away. No joke. According to the Inky, the city is paying East Coast Falcons $2,100 per day (or $65,000 total through Labor Day) to release seven raptors from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The raptors don’t attack the gulls. Instead, they chase them away from the boardwalk and beaches back to where they belong: preying on crabs and fish in the ocean. Launched last Saturday, it’s the first program of its kind on the East Coast.
After more than two decades at the Bellevue, Nicole Miller has left the building. Faced with the hotel’s redesign and attendant construction hassles, Nicole Miller boutique owner Mary K. Dougherty decided not to renew her lease and says, for now, she’ll focus on her Manayunk store.
Tredyffrin’s libraries are getting in the golf business. Sort of. They’re teeing up the first-ever “Penn Medicine Charity Golf Classic” Sept. 26 at St. David’s Golf Club. If hospitals and nonprofits can host golf fundraisers, so can libraries, right? First person to take a swing at the idea was Tredyffrin Library Foundation Board Member Jennifer Whip, who’s also a member at St. David’s. And seeing all the sponsors already on board, we’d say she smoked it. The event hopes to gross $50K for the libraries’ endowment fund. Organizers say it’s also a good excuse for library trustees, foundation board members and staff to hang out together.
And while we’re on fundraisers, two more caught our eye…
The plight of refugees is all over the news. On Sept. 7, it will take center stage closer to home when Paoli Presbyterian Church stages its third annual Race for Refugees. Inspired by the assistant pastor’s Middle-Eastern travels, the event raises money and awareness for Word Vision which helps families fleeing crisis. There’s a 5K walk/run, a 1-mile walk, a Kiddie K, a chance to assemble personal-care kits for families in refugee camps, and a hands-on “Refugee Experience,” during which participants learn the harrowing journeys of people and children fleeing their native lands. Races for Refugees in 2017 and 2018 raised a combined $100K.
In polarized times, we’re loving the sound of Love ALL, a tennis fundraiser led by one of the Main Line’s top teachers of respect for diversity, on court and off. Fazal Syed (below), a Chesterbrook father of four, played for his native India in the Davis Cup, was a star player at Temple, and was internationally ranked. In 2014 he quit real estate to return to his first love, founding Level 7 Tennis Academy in Malvern.
At Level 7, teaching seven life virtues is as crucial as perfecting a killer backhand. Proceeds from Love ALL, set for Sept. 15 at Westtown School, supports Interfaith Philadelphia, a nonprofit that promotes inclusion and acceptance among faiths and cultures. The day includes clinics for youth ($50) and adults ($75) and a pro exhibition ($30 for spectators only).