By Dawn Warden
Life looks a lot different after you’re hit, dragged and pinned under a 20,000-pound truck. Just ask Bala Cynwyd’s Jennifer Robinson, who in 2008 nearly lost her life during a sunny stroll on Penn’s campus. In a blink, she went from newlywed, rock-star litigator to mangled victim, fully conscious and terrified as EMTs swarmed around her.
Fast forward to 2019 and a reborn Robinson, 46, is finally able to talk about her accident, about the devastating spiral that ensued and how she clawed her way back to daylight.
Engaging with her today, it’s hard to believe this confident, cheery and playful entrepreneur once dwelled in darkness – withdrawn from the world, wracked by anxiety and pain, wholly hopeless. But over time – and not unlike your favorite crusader – she rose up, finding superpower strength, even in her brokenness.
“Jen is one of the most inspirational and kindest people I know,” says her friend Jaimi Blackburn, a culinary publicist. “She would have every right to be bitter and unkind, but she is the opposite.”
While Robinson appreciates the kind words, she cautions that her recovery was long and ugly.
“I was a shell of myself,” she says. “I felt dangerously depressed and angry. I was not the woman my husband married.”
With each medical visit, she grew more despairing. Would her battered body and brain ever heal?
Defying her doctors’ orders, she tried returning to work part-time six months after the accident. She couldn’t handle a courtroom but she could at least work at her desk.
“I kept telling myself that if I had some part of my “old life” back, it would help me,” Robinson recalls. Instead, she felt even more isolated and depressed. Plus, she was exhausted from various surgeries and thrice weekly therapy sessions.
And life kept piling on. In early 2011, she lost her mother-in-law to a long illness and her mother – to passive suicide – in the same week. “I had a real break with reality,” Robinson says. “My therapist called it compounded trauma.”
An emotional and physical wreck, she quit the law for good and returned to her couch, overusing pain meds and becoming addicted to Ambien.
“For most of 2011,” she says. “I was lost. I gained about 50 pounds. Some days, I couldn’t even bear getting dressed.”
Within a month of the accident, she had begun therapy, first a psychologist, then several psychiatrists and a trauma-sleep psychologist for her PTSD. They helped but Jennifer says two realizations eventually brought her back to the land of the living.
First, she decided she wouldn’t let one event – her accident – define her life in the way that her parents’ divorce had defined and eventually destroyed her mother.
Second, she knew no one would get her up off the couch but herself.
“I had to make a decision to reinvent myself, my community, even my marriage,” says Robinson. “I had to get off of medications and learn to live with very serious chronic problems and pain that would never go away.”
She’s had four Achilles surgeries, has herniated discs in her neck and back, suffers from chronic migraines, insomnia, perception and balance issues, and has lingering pain and weakness in her once-shattered right arm, now held together with plates and screws.
To climb out of her black hole, Robinson began volunteering. Her dogs were a big part of her recovery so she got involved with Pals for Life. “Dogs can have an impact on even the most depressed and difficult patients.”
She volunteered with Manna, Art Reach, Finding Shelter and PACT for Animals.
She weaned herself off 30 medications and Ambien. She cut ties to naysayers, even some close friends and family. She – and only she – would decide who would be on her recovery team.
And ever so slowly, daylight dawned.
Once a standout student at Haverford College and Villanova Law School, Robinson’s mind had dulled; her memory was shot. “I was desperate to be back to normal, so I came up with things to retrain my brain,” she says.
Jeopardy became a go-to wellness barometer. Her ability to quickly recall information became a measure of improvement.
She started pushing herself physically, too, despite chronic pain and exhaustion.
After years of searching for a safe, effective workout, she’s become a fixture at Fuel Cycle Fitness in Ardmore, where “kick-ass” workouts have sharpened her memory and coordination and rebuilt her confidence and strength.
She’s also vowed to cross the finish line of the Broad Street Run before she’s 50 – even though she’s “not a runner” and is still waiting for clearance to train after her last Achilles surgery.
And she put herself back to work. In 2013, she founded her own company, “Purposeful Networking,” speaking and training people in the art of business networking.
Along the way, she discovered FemCity Philadelphia, embracing a community of female entrepreneurs who never knew the pre-accident Jennifer.
“I wasn’t the same brand of Jennifer Robinson I’d been. But I knew it was time to re-engage and reinvent myself through the business of connecting others,” Robinson says. “I wanted to help people understand the value of being good ‘at being you.’ In the process, I became a better version of me.”
After three years as FemCity Philadelphia’s president, she stepped down last month to focus on Purposeful Networking.
She’s spoken to scores of organizations, among them the PA Women’s Conference (she applied five times before winning a slot), Fox 29, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Philly Tech Week and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.
Her social datebook is jammed. She’s out and about most days and many nights – at charity galas, store openings and networking events.
The woman who hid in her home is now a social-media maven, posting a parade of radiant photos on Facebook and Instagram. She also serves as a style ambassador under the Instagram handle “Being Fancy in Philly.”
In her ever-widening Main Line circle, Robinson’s love for Lilly Pulitzer has become legend. She calls it “the HAPPY brand,” and loves Pulitzer’s “life is a party – dress for it” mantra.
“Since the accident, I’ve realized the importance of not saving things – using good china for pizza, wearing good jewelry to the grocery store. Life is too short.”
Only in the last year has Robinson opened up about her accident. “It’s a lot to re-live,” she admits. But as painful as it is to tell, she knows her story might inspire others. She looks in the mirror and likes the new Jennifer that smiles back, strong, assured, resilient.
Remarkably, the road to recovery, even for the Main Line’s most outgoing, networked woman, had to start from within. “I had to choose life and choose happiness. No one could do it for me.”
***Fear you’ll fumble at holiday functions? In this fun clip, Robinson shares her Top 5 Networking Tips for Introverts – courtesy of our cool video partner, OnUp Media.
T/E School District just voted to do what it threatened to do years ago: seize 13 green acres adjacent to Conestoga High School.
With enrollment ballooning and no end in sight, the district’s been planning a major expansion of the high school for the last two years on property it already owns.
But when it heard that Stoga’s longtime neighbor, Doyle & McDonnell Nursery, had agreed to sell to Toll Brothers a few weeks ago, it stepped in to take the land by eminent domain.
At a hastily-called meeting Thursday night, the school board unanimously approved the seizure. And 65 people came out for the pre-vote discussion.
Under PA law, a public entity can take private land and convert it to a needed public use – as long as it provides “estimated just compensation” to the property owners.
In this case, the owners are the Doyle/McDonnell family, which has operated a tree nursery and greenhouse on the site since 1903.
Conestoga, open since 1955, was built on property once owned by Doyles.
T/E has long coveted its neighbors’ land.
Plans were afoot to seize the nursery in the early 2000s during the last big Stoga expansion. The board thought it would need the land for parking.
But the nursery’s owners spiffed up their property and went door-to-door gathering neighborhood support, recalls former T/E School Board President and Facilities Committee Chair Andrea Felkins.
When the board hosted a “listening post” meeting, folks railed against the seizure. “T/E is destroying lives,” Doyle-McDonnell folks claimed, according to Felkins, who tells SAVVY she received a death threat at the time.
Tredyffrin let T/E slide on the parking requirement. So the board backed off on its plan to seize the nursery.
But Felkins says she struck a “handshake deal” with the McDonnells after a Facilities Committee meeting. If the family ever decided to sell the property, it promised to give the district the right of first refusal, Felkins says.
Fast forward 17 years or so. Doyle-McDonnell agrees to sell to a developer for $5 million, according to Terry McDonnell’s statement at Thursday night’s school board meeting. But apparently doesn’t alert the township. Toll Bros. files detailed plans with the township to build 85 townhomes on the 13-acre site (below) and reaches out to neighbors to set up a meeting to smooth the waters. T/E gets wind of Toll Bros. proposal. The board schedules a quick vote to condemn the property. Unwilling to fight City Hall, Toll moves on. (Btw, all real-estate agreements must be put in writing. The handshake deal was unenforceable.)Toll Bros. walked away because we have “no interest in being a bad neighbor,” Toll Bros. executive Brian Therrien, who lives a mile from the site, tells SAVVY.
Chances that Tredyffrin would OK the townhomes were slim to none, by the way. Naturally, Toll had two other plans in its back pocket: for carriage homes and for 15 single-family homes.
Eminent domain experts tell us the district can take the land relatively quickly but a dispute over price could go on for years.
So here’s the big question: Is $2,125,000, the price set by the school board, fair market value – or in PA legalese, EJC (“estimated just compensation”)? Certainly, T/E believes it is. According to T/E’s solicitor, McDonnell had his land appraised in November of 2018 and the value was set at $2,922,000.
But if the family thinks it’s being cheated – it did have a $5 million offer, after all – it can petition the Board of Viewers. If it doesn’t like that board’s ruling, it can take its case to the Chesco Court of Common Pleas. Terry McDonnell and his attorney both spoke at Thursday’s board meeting with McDonnell talking about losing his life and lifelihood. Sources tell us Terry McDonnell may not have wanted to sell but other forces had been brought to bear. Neither McDonnell nor his attorney tipped their hands about future action related to the seizure price.
What a difference a few decades can make.
Land has become scarce and expensive in T/E. And sustained academic success has students beating down the district’s doors.
Some of the same neighbors who fought the nursery’s seizure years ago are squarely in favor of it now, eager to maintain top-flight schools and high property values. Although, like good neighbors, many told the school board that they hope the Doyle/McDonnell family is justly compensated. And nobody wants to see T/E pounded the way Lower Merion School District was when it contemplated seizing Stoneleigh garden in 2018.
Meanwhile, for journalists at least, the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District, a public entity, remains vexingly opaque.
When we asked the superintendent, the solicitor, the business manager and the communications director for confirmation of the district’s proposal to seize the nursery last week, our email was not acknowledged. Not a peep. For four days. When we got a response, late last Friday afternoon, it was the usual prepared statement that was posted on the district’s page. End of discussion. Actually, the discussion never even started. In fairness, we realize these are sensitive matters. We know the district had to consult its lawyers. But a little “thanks-for-reaching-out-here’s-why-we-can’t-answer-you-right-now” response would have gone a long way. (P.S. Our offer stands, T/E. We’d love to sit down with you to chat about fostering more timely, open communications.)
After more than a week, we did receive detailed answers from T/E School Board Facilities Committee Chair Michele Burger. Her email reveals that T/E has no specific plans for the Doyle-McDonnell site and “will continue to evaluate facilities needs, such as athletic fields.” It will also use its next strategic plan (now in process) and its latest demographer’s report to determine short- and long-term needs.
One more issue worth noting – and it’s a big one for Conestoga High School’s neighbors.
In a statement announcing the seizure vote, T/E affirmed that it was going full speed ahead with its $40 million Stoga expansion. “The potential acquisition” is “not related to the longstanding plan to expand and renovate Conestoga High School and its parking capacity.”
Italics added by us because expanded “parking capacity” is what’s been giving folks agita.
T/E’s first parking plan was nixed by the township after the flood-prone, highly trafficked neighborhood (now organized as “Berwyn Stormwater”) cried foul. The first plan sacrificed 175 trees in the last wooded area in their ’hood – they were marked with ominous red dots. Did Conestoga really need all that extra parking? neighbors argued. Couldn’t students maybe ride those (mostly) empty school buses? Wasn’t there a more creative solution out there? they wondered.
On Oct. 31, T/E filed a new plan with the township, obtained by SAVVY under a Right to Know request. The new proposal shrinks the parking lot by 34 spaces and seeks swift approvals – at the Nov. 20 zoning hearing, and then at the next night’s planning commission meeting.
According to School Board Director Burger, the parking lot’s re-design solves everything. It “eliminates the need for a waiver” for disturbance of the woodlands and addresses “concerns regarding too many trees being cut down.” It also remediates “significantly more stormwater than is required by code.” The new, smaller lot will be used only by staff “during weekday school hours.” (Bigger school = bigger staff.)
Her email lists multiple T/E interactions with the Berwyn Stormwater group and summarizes: “The School Board, the District, the District’s consultants, and specifically myself, have had multiple engagement opportunities with the neighbors and the community at large.”
But neighbors tell us they’re not buying any of it. And they plan a show of force at the Nov. 21 Tredyffrin Planning Commission meeting. Oh boy.
Election 2019: A big fat blue coup
The Main Line’s been dipping a toe into Democratic waters for years now. Seems the water was warm.
Because last week, voters dove in completely. And there’s no sign they even held their noses first.
Talk about sea changes.
Come January – and for the first time ever – Dems will control all three county seats – Chesco, Delco and Montco.
Turnout was titanic. Forty percent of registered voters made it to the polls in Chesco alone, a 28% jump representing 30,000 more voters than the last off-year election in 2017. In Montco, nearly 20% more voters turned out and 5,000 more people asked for absentee ballots, as compared to 2016.
Over in Delco, about 33% more people voted in the DA’s race, where Democrat Jack Stollsteimer ousted Republican Kat Copeland by 5,231 votes.
Indeed, the blue deluge in Delco was positively historic. The old Matt Ryan days, when you had to be a Republican or hide in shame in Delco are ding-dong dead – at least for now.
For the first time since the Civil War, Democrats swept every county race in the former GOP-stronghold. All five county council seats will be occupied by Democrats, including one by former Radnor BOC President Elaine Schaefer, who won rather handily despite the GOP’s “protector of pedophile” charge for her handling of convicted felon Phil Ahr, her predecessor as Radnor BOC President. Also helping the Dems: The county’s Fraternal Order of Police, for the first time ever, backed the Democratic slate.
In the Chesco Board of Commissioners race, Democrats Marian Moskowitz (26%) and Josh Maxwell (25%) ousted 11-year Republican Commissioner Terence Farrell while Berwyn resident Michele Kichline will keep the third mandated minority-party seat (23%). She edged out Farrell by 492 votes. The last time Dems were the board’s majority party was … let’s see… oh, yeah: Never.
Chesco’s DA race was resounding, too. Democrat Deb Ryan beat current DA Tom Hogan’s handpicked successor, Mike Noone, by nine percentage points.
All four of the county’s court seats up for grabs went blue, too, as did every row office. And Fredda Maddox will become Chesco’s first black female sheriff, replacing longtime Republican Sheriff Bunny Welsh, who called it quits after 20 years.
In Tredyffrin, every single Democrat who appeared on the ballot was elected – as if an R next to your name were a bull’s eye.
For the first time since the township’s founding 312 years ago, all seven Tredyffrin supervisors will be Democrats. Yup, you read that right. All seven. It wasn’t that long ago that the election of even one D – Mark DiFeliciantonio and after him, Paul Drucker – was bombshell news.
“I never thought I’d see this change in my lifetime,” Board of Supervisors Chair Murph Wysocki, a longtime Democratic activist, tells SAVVY. “I remember a handful of us meeting in the basement of Tredyffrin Library. And to be in this position after all these years, it’s incredible.”
Wysocki insists Tredyffrin voters are motivated by more than distaste for Trump. “We’ve had a lot of young families moving in. They might be coming from places where Democrats are more accepted.” Joining Wysocki, Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell on the all-blue board will be Sharon Humble, Julie Goss and K.S. Bhaskar. And Mark Freed kept his seat.
Dems swept the field in once reliably red Easttown, too. Stoga grads Michael Wacy and Beth D’Antonio will become supervisors, winning handily, by 15 and 16 percentage points, respectively.
Dems also delivered the T/E School Board, which will be 100 percent Democratic when newcomers Sue Tiede and Stacy Stone – both former district employees – are sworn in. Republicans Ed Sweeney and Kate Murphy were ousted.
Over in Malvern Borough Council, every slot went to a Democrat.
Four out of six open seats on the Great Valley School Board went to Democrats with Rs Stephen Dittmann and Jennifer Armstrong only taking Region 2.
The story’s the same in Radnor, where every Democratic candidate claimed victory. John Larkin, Damien Enderle, Moira Mulroney (unopposed replacement for John Nagle) and Sean Farhy won seats on the Radnor Board of Commissioners. In the Radnor school board races, Republican incumbents Charles Madden and Mike Miller were shown the door, making way for Dems Amy Goldman, Liz Duffy, Nancy Monahan, Jeff Jubelirer and Bradley Moore.
The sweep continued in Lower Merion where five Dems – Shayna Kalish, Lucy Klain, Subha Robinson, Peter Lee and Shawn Mooring – trounced their Republican opponents for school board seats. In Lower Merion’s commissioner races, all seven seats on the ballot went to Democrats or candidates who cross-filed. No one ran as a Republican in Lower Merion.
At the county level, the only real suspense was which Republican would take the minority Montco commissioner seat. In a squeaker, it went to incumbent Joe Gale, the young buck who proudly keeps a MAGA hat in his office and ran as an independent conservative.
With such lopsided results, seems we suburban Philly folk are overnight rock stars. National press and talking heads can’t stop referencing us. We’re bellwethers, divining rods, weather vanes. PA’s presidential primaries are held too late to tip the scales, but, boy, did those Philly suburbs speak volumes just one year from 2020, they say.
Seems to us, though, that this skewed election only raises more questions: Will local Dems stay this energized? Will they govern as well as they appear to have campaigned? Is this deep-blue sea-change our new normal? Has the Republican brand been forever tarnished? Elections go in cycles. It’ll be fascinating to see how long this one lasts.
The Fall of our Discontent – over developments in Devon and Berwyn
While some say democracy is under siege in the nation’s capital, it’s certainly alive and kicking on the Main Line.
Folks are voting in huge numbers, deluging town meetings, printing lawn signs and petitions, starting Facebook groups – and contacting us for coverage.
As much as we’d like to, if we reported the nitty-gritty details of every skirmish, SAVVY would take hours to read. You’d nod off on us.
So we’re forced to pick and choose, based on numbers of households affected and such.
Lately, we’ve detailed multiple disputes in the western reaches of the R-5, where sleepy old Easttown is now wide awake. Witness:
One: Devereux’s plan to turn its vacant Devon campus into a shelter for “unaccompanied minor children” detained at the border. Here’s the latest:
- Despite enormous pushback from highly energized neighbors, Devereux is holding firm. The agency just filed an official appeal to the zoning hearing board, asking it to overturn Easttown zoning officer’s ruling. Planning and zoning chief Eugene Briggs determined that the shelter constitutes a new use for the property – and as such, would require township approval.
- The neighbors group has hired an attorney to represent it at zoning hearing board meetings, which should begin in December. The Inquirer just ran a “two experts debate” opinion piece, featuring a leading Latino rights activist and a top Devereux executive.
- And finally, activists fighting Devereux’s plans are organizing a protest march in Philly this weekend. Participants will include “Jews, Juntos, and allies,” according to a news release from the Jewish movement, Never Again. The protest is timed to coincide with Devereux’s annual fundraising gala.
Two: Continued wrangling over the size and shape of the new Devon Center District and a proposed garage and four-story hotel/retail complex on horse show property. (See our update below).
Three: “Berwyn Square,” which continues to roil residents. Hundreds are coming out to zoning hearings, many of them to rail against variances sought by the developers, who hope to put a four-story apartment building/retail complex on Lancaster Ave. The parcel that would be demo’ed includes Handel’s Ice Cream, a vacant warehouse, and a dated strip center and office building.
The dispute pits fired-up Berwyn Village neighbors worried about traffic, pedestrian safety, overloaded schools and first responders against town merchants, business groups, some pro-growth residents and officials. With so many folks lining up to speak their piece, hearings are expected to stretch into December and possibly beyond.
Meanwhile, there are pockets of unrest in Tredyffrin. Besides the Conestoga parking lot expansion (explained above), a planned assisted living facility in Paoli is giving folks fits.
Neighbors who live near and around Russell Road tell us they’re lawyering up to fight “Solera Reserve at Paoli,” a three-story, 116-unit ALF (assisted living facility) they say is being shoehorned into the old Synthes office complex (below). They’ve also hired an engineer.
Alas, neighbors may be too late, according to the township officials we spoke to.
The Tredyffrin Planning Commission, which has final say in such matters, gave the project preliminary approval last April. The 30-day appeal window, which neighbors say they didn’t know about, has come and gone.
So, presumably, they can’t object to the waiver that allows the building to stretch 460 ft., almost three times longer than code. (Although we suspect their lawyer would work to find a way.)
Township officials tell us neighbors can now only fight changes contained in the project’s final approval, i.e. sidewalks and crosswalks, landscaping, lighting, signage and such.
Neighbors tell us they’re deeply concerned about property values, stormwater, traffic, lights, student safety and more. They say Tredyffrin has been too quick to allow senior-living facilities after the township started permitting them as a by-right use in commercial zones six years ago.
Neighbor Margaux Jansen says developer Alterra, which is working with Solera, “has not been a good neighbor” since it took possession of the former office buildings last year. Teens have partied in vacant buildings and “weeds have grown taller than the trees,” she says.
Jansen, Dan Leon and other neighbors worry about the long-term viability of a senior center so close to Daylesford Crossing, Paoli Pointe, Brightview and the newest big kid on the block, Echo Lake at Atwater. Indeed, Jansen says Alterra’s head honcho told her he’d probably sell the Russell Rd. assisted-living facility in a year. (Experts tell us it’s not uncommon for ALFs to change hands.) “Who is it going to go to – a drug rehab facility?” Jansen wonders.
Solera Reserve is slated to go before the Tredyffrin Planning Commission for possible final approval on Nov. 21.
Digital billboard defeated in Paoli
In a unanimous vote, Tredyffrin Zoning Board nixed a nutso plan to build giant digital billboard at Paoli’s busiest corner.
Seems NO ONE but the company, Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, thought a flashing, distracting “monument” sign at the corner of Lancaster Ave. and Rte. 252 made sense. Kudos to community activist Pattye Benson for sounding the alarm on this folly.
Catalyst has until Nov. 25 to file an appeal. At press time, it had not yet done so.
Devon Center debate: Does the Devon Horse Show really need a garage?
Easttown planners continue to dicker over the Devon Center District.
Still TBD: whether the Devon Horse Show goes inside or outside the new, transit-oriented zoning district. First, the show grounds were in. Now, it looks like they will be out.
Keep the show inside the new mixed-use, commercially zoned “downtown” district and you could be kissing the horse show good-bye, some neighbors say. The show’s on shaky financial footing and may one day sell to a developer and gallop out of town, they say.
To keep the land from commercial development, Easttown Planning Commission seems to be leaning toward a special “equestrian use” overlay of the horse show’s current residential zoning. The horse show’s all in favor – it says it’s tired of running to the township for approvals every time it upgrades its facilities.
Occupying even more space in neighbors’ heads, though, is the big, concrete-gray elephant in the room: the parking garage that’s part of the horse show’s deal with developer Eli Kahn.
Kahn has inked a deal with the horse show to install a prefabricated, three-level parking garage – to be painted Devon blue and landscaped – opposite the show’s entrance on Dorset Ave. The garage would replace the show’s main lot and a portion of the adjoining volunteer lot.
When the horse show’s open, it would get exclusive use of the garage for spectators, volunteers, judges, whomever.
When the show is dark – about 11 months of the year – the garage would serve customers of the proposed mixed-use building adjoining it on Lancaster Ave., a hotel-retail building that’s also part of the Kahn deal. Both structures are on horse-show property so the site owner (Kahn or whomever he sells to) would at some point begin paying leasing fees to the horse show.
While the deal is a bit murky, one thing’s clear: the two structures are a package deal. One doesn’t happen without the other. The hotel needs parking. The garage needs cars in it (for more than a few weeks a year). And leasing fees would help defray the garage’s $14 million price tag.
Horse show folks, including longtime fair volunteers, tell us they’re 100 percent in support of the garage.
But many neighbors who live just south of the show grounds are aghast. And they’ve lawyered up, although their attorney, Joe Kohn, works pro bono.
At the October meeting of the Easttown Planning Commission re: the Devon Center District, two residents lobbed new objections to the garage: retired engineer Bruce Norcini who’s studied photographs and counted parked cars, and Meg Wiederseim, who sold parking as a longtime horse show employee.
Both contend the garage is a boondoggle. Why? Because they insist the horse show squeezes up to 500 cars in the current, unlined lot on busy days. That’s 100 cars more than would fit in the lined garage.
The show picked up 175 spaces last year when Devon Yard cordoned off one of its lots for horse show visitors. Why not use other parking lots and shuttle folks to the show? How much more parking does the horse show really need, anyway? Kohn and neighbors ask.
Well, we took those questions right to the horse’s mouth, to Devon Horse Show Chairman and CEO Wayne Grafton, who asserted the following:
- The horse show has a widely acknowledged, longstanding parking problem. (“I can’t believe anyone would deny it.”) Competitors, judges and box-holders consistently complain about subpar, inconvenient parking. (“Women with little children competing in lead-line classes have to walk blocks to get in.”) Police, managers and competitors have concerns about [pedestrian] safety. Easier, more modern parking would keep the show on par with other top-tier shows.
- Yes, the garage would park 400 but it only extends two-thirds of the way down the block. Additional, larger vehicles will be parked in the adjoining gravel lot, currently the volunteer lot.
- The horse show already uses remote lots – public and private – and isn’t keen to go further afield. Convenience counts. “We have deals with church neighbors and local businesses. We shuttle people in from St. David’s. We park people as far away as the PA Turnpike interchange.”
How about those whispers that the horse show is in financial hot water and might take the money and run to cheaper land elsewhere? Just look at those not-so-subtle “Save Devon” lawn signs dotting the neighborhood.
Horse manure, Grafton says. “We’re in the strongest financial position we’ve been in since the year 2000. We paid off our mortgage. We just put $2 million into improvements over the last five years and every one of them is horse-show specific. They’re of no value to anyone else.”
The Devon Horse Show is staying in Devon, Grafton insists. Period. End of story.
Besides upset neighbors, something else stands in the way of the garage: the Devon Center District Task Force’s recommendation that the new, mixed-use development only go three stories high.
Kahn insists that knocks out his hotel plan – and remember, no hotel = no garage. Kahn says he has to go four stories for the project to be worth his while. “Nothing will be developed in Devon” if Easttown agrees to the three-story rule, Kahn tells SAVVY, and Devon will remain an “auto mall.”
The township’s efforts to create a zoning district to encourage a vibrant “Devon downtown” will have been a big, fat waste of time, he says.
Of course, if Easttown planners and then supervisors go along with the task force’s recommended three-story height rule – the volunteer group met for nine months before presenting its proposal so chances are good that it will – Kahn’s garage/hotel deal isn’t automatically dead. He can petition the township for zoning variances. We all know he’s been down that road before.
Ready to trade up but less than thrilled with the homes out there?
Might be time to BYO – build your own.
Not only will you get the latest and greatest in energy efficiencies and easy maintenance, but your new home will be crafted completely to your liking. No need to put up with someone else’s, uh, questionable taste, for even for a day.
But whom to trust with the investment of a lifetime?
May we suggest Vaughan Building Company?
If you’ve been around the Main Line for a while, you’ve probably heard the name.
From his first community in the late ’70s – Fox Hollow in Chesterbrook – to assorted custom residences dotting the area, Chip Vaughan has been delivering dream homes for 42 years and counting. The Vaughan portfolio includes Sunwood Farm in Phoenixville, Brooke Farm in Radnor, Whitehall in Bryn Mawr, Springhouse in Newtown Square, and more recently, Village Square in Paoli.
Whether they’re 2,800-sq.-ft. townhouses or 8,000-sq.-ft. estates, Vaughan homes are distinctive. They stand out from the crowd but somehow blend in, beautifully.
Clients rave about the company’s integrity, responsiveness, reliability and craftsmanship.
The industry’s been raving, too. A credenza at Vaughan’s Wayne headquarters is laden with trophies, plaques and kudos. The National Association of Home Builders named Chip “One of America’s Best Builders” and Builder Magazine called him “one of a handful of builders for whom excellence is a constant companion.”
With son Tad on the team since 2013, the company has only grown stronger.
“I grew up on job sites,” says Tad, 46, who lives in Paoli. His first job was “following an excavator with a hand shovel” at Sunwood Farm at age 16. He studied architecture at Hobart, then acquired years of hands-on construction experience in Montana, before returning to the Main Line in 2000.
Father and son complement each other. Chip helps homeowners evaluate details and finishes and works the numbers. His decades-long relationships with the area’s best architects gives clients access to top-notch talent.
Tad brings expertise in technology, state-of-the-art design and innovative building techniques.
Both say residential construction today is nothing like it was 15, 20 or 30 years ago. Gone are the days when subdivisions were unveiled and completed in a few years. With more regulatory hoops to jump through and construction increasingly complex, new communities can take a decade or more to close out.
“The cost of construction – material and labor – has gone up significantly since 2007,” says Chip. “The new housing market is still alive and well. It’s just not on the same scale. Not as many are being built.”
New Main Line homes are trending “transitional,” the Vaughans say. Many have moved on from the tried-and-true Pennsylvania-farmhouse style but aren’t going full-on contemporary either.
Floor plans are even more wide open than they were a decade ago.
The kitchen has become most important room in the house. “It’s where people hang out. Kitchens are the family rooms of the 80s and 90s,” Chip says.
Technology is everywhere – in fully-wired home offices, home theaters, home gyms, lighting and energy controls, air-quality testers, digital showers, heaters recessed into porch ceilings, golf simulators and infrared saunas in the basement.
Because land is scarce and township approvals are harder to come by in our mostly built-out burbs, Vaughan Building Company has retooled to focus on individual custom homes. The company also keeps an inventory of home sites for prospective clients.
Vaughan employed 14 when it was developing large tracts before the Great Recession. These days it sports smaller staff, ensuring even more personalized service and responsiveness.
Communication is just a call or a click away. Clients use a sophisticated web portal to review plans, make changes and track construction.
An interior designer guides clients through the maze of selections and schedules involved in custom homebuilding.
And Chip and Tad stay intimately involved throughout. “We’re a family business and we keep overhead low,” Chip says. “We can do things less expensively because of our knowledge and experience.”
For as much as they’re building homes, the Vaughans are building relationships. It’s not unusual for clients to seek Chip’s counsel 15 years after they move in.
A lean and hardy 74, Chip says he won’t be slowing down anytime soon. “I’ve seen a lot of people retire, and in five years, they’re dead,” he says. “Homebuilding has become more complicated but it’s still a lot of fun.”
For more information about the Vaughan Building Company please visit vaughanbuilders.com or call 610-964-1813.
Sorry to bust bubbles but…
…you won’t find Kate Winslet on the streets of Devon or Berwyn – even though the actress is indeed filming “The Mare of Easttown” locally.
If you’re lucky, you may catch her in action in Coatesville and Downingtown in the next few weeks, the latest locations for the HBO miniseries. Winslet’s been in the Philly burbs since mid-October and filming should continue into April.
Although it’s not set on our doorstep, “The Mare” does have multiple Main Line connections. The series’ creator, head writer and executive producer is Berwyn-bred Brad Ingelsby, son of Villanova basketball legend Tom Ingelsby. Penn grad Gavin O’Connor is directing. And scenes have been reportedly shot at Sun Center Studios in lower Delco, which was founded by longtime Wayne resident Jeff Rotwitt.
The cast includes John Douglas Thompson, who plays Easttown’s police chief (and looks absolutely nothing like his real world counterpart, Chief David Obzud), Jean Smart, who plays mom to Winslet’s character, and Sosa Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, a small-town detective investigating a local murder while her personal life goes to pieces.
The series is slated for release sometime next year. And yes, there will be Delco accents, we’re told.
By Dawn Warden
There are three kinds of Thanksgiving hosts: those who approach the day giddily, with a stack of recipes in hand; those who panic and “cram” for the big day, and those who gracefully defer and let someone else do the cooking.
Whether you’re seeking a traditional or “with a twist” turkey with all the trimmings, or just a few sides, Carlino’s Market, with stores in Ardmore and West Chester, has everything you need to throw a delicious — and Instagram-worthy — feast. Order a little or a lot: a few special dishes for guests with dietary restrictions, nibbles for the early arrivals (including those ravenous college kids), or the full feast.
To get your wish list started, hop onto Carlino’s website – and start drooling. Order online, call or drop by no later than Friday, Nov. 22. If you’re planning on a soup-to-nuts, we suggest ordering as soon as possible.
For those attending Friendsgivings, the clock is ticking at a tad faster. However, the Carlino’s team loves the trend of celebrating with friends before the holiday and has a bevy of tasty, out-of-the box options to tote to the party: crowd pleasers like tomato pie, oven-roasted wings, Mezze Board, Chopped Italian Salad and Harvest Party Charcuterie Board.
Speaking of turkey, Carlino’s offers both brined and un-brined birds, stuffed whole or boneless, rubbed with its signature blend of herbs and seasonings; locally raised, all-natural, and antibiotic- and cage-free. The stuffed birds come with cranberry-focaccia filling, and both include homemade turkey gravy (extra quarts available).
Not a turkey fan? How about stuffed chicken breast, a spiral ham, or a turducken roast? And don’t forget Carlino’s famous tomato pie. It’s a snap to slice up as an appetizer and a great option for vegan guests.
If you’re over the traditional turkey sides, there are plenty of substitutes that might just become new traditions: roasted sweet potatoes (wheat-free and vegan), homemade pumpkin ravioli, marsala cream corn and a luscious holiday soup.
Many of Carlino’s offerings are vegan and/or gluten-free. Vegan Kale Pumpkin Mac ‘N Cheese, anyone? The kitchen also accommodates Kosher requests. Hanukah is right on the heels of Thanksgiving, so don’t wait too long to order. Latkes? Check. Brisket? Check. Kugel? Check.
And Carlino’s homebaked goods – no matter what you’re celebrating – are deelish.
Carlino’s motto is “Let us set the table.” Which, if you’ve been paying attention, means cooking some or all of your Thanksgiving feast. Just add friends and family, stir in a little wine, beer, signature cocktail or mocktail, add football and enjoy.
Carlino’s Market, 2614 E. County Line Rd. Ardmore, 610-649-4046, and 128 West Market St., West Chester, 610-649-4046, is open weekdays 9 to 7, Sat. 9 to 6, Sun. 9 to 4. Catering, gift baskets, gift cards, delivery and quick pick-up available.
Lo, these many years, SAVVY Main Line has said yes to the messy desk.
If Einstein, Edison and Jobs could have notoriously unkempt workspaces, so could we.
How wrong we were.
Turns out getting organized is liberating, uplifting, and kinda, sorta fun. Two of the Main Line’s primo Clutter Busters paid SAVVY’s home office a visit last week.
And after three hours of good-natured filing, labeling, pitching and recycling, working side by side with Anna Sicalides (right) and Sue Kaminsky (left) of Your Organizing Consultants, SAVVY HQ been reborn.
Everything in its place and a place for everything.
Berwyn-based Your Organizing Consultants, 484-432-8692, handles home and office projects including moving, downsizing and renovations as well as wine storage, holiday gift and décor management and more. Gift certificates available.
So what if it’s still November? We’ve got GIFTS for you, dear reader
To everyone out there in the SAVVY-verse: we so appreciate your stopping by.
We’re tickled when you share our editions, post comments, send us news tips, and say hi when you see us. (Keep up the good work.)
Sooooo, to show our thanks in this season of gratitude, we’ve been gathering goodies for you.
Some giveaways – the truly SPECTACULAR ones (valued at $150 and up) – will be unspooled as SAVVY’s 12 Days of Giving. We’ll start announcing prizes and drawing winning names after Thanksgiving.
But if you don’t subscribe or get social with us, you’ll miss out. Here’s hoping you’ll do yourself a solid and take two secs to:
In the meantime, we have some super-fun offers for you RIGHT NOW. All of you. Because it’s never too early to say thank you, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and warm Kwanzaa wishes.
Here you go:
- $25 gift cards to Louella boutiques in Wayne, Malvern and Bryn Mawr. Pick up now in store. Just smile and say pretty please – and tell ’em SAVVY sent you. No minimum purchase. Must be redeemed by Dec. 15.
- Free designer, mother-of-pearl earrings (shown above) at Neiman Marcus with purchase for the first 250 who bring a sales receipt to Customer Service on the third floor and mention code SAVVYxNM.
- A free Marlyn Schiff bracelet – chosen for SAVVY readers – with any purchase at the fashion jeweler’s new Haverford showroom.
- 20% percent off your purchase at Berwyn’s Kramer Drive – cards, stationery, gifts. Just say SAVVY and the steal is yours.
- 20% off one item for SAVVY readers at Silver Linings Boutique in Malvern Shopping Center through Dec. 24.
- 15% off scarves at Grove 1.2.1 in Bryn Mawr. Mention SAVVY and style on, sistahs.
- 10% off your Kindred Collective shopping spree in Bryn Mawr. Just give a shoutout to SAVVY at checkout. (One visit per customer.)
- Stock up on mani and pedi gift cards (great teachers’ gifts and stocking stuffers) at La Beaute Nails in Rosemont Village – 20% off gift cards when you buy at least three and mention SAVVY through December.
This and That
The Swedesford Plaza apartments at the old HH Gregg/Golf Galaxy are a done deal. Tredyffrin officials greenlit the $70 million, 250-unit complex last month. Developers hope to break ground in late 2020 and open in late 2022, Bozzuto VP Pete Sikora tells SAVVY.
Speaking of apartments, One Ardmore, the behemoth on Cricket Ave., is fully leased, according to Destination Ardmore Executive Director Nancy Scarlatto. Alas, no retail tenants to report yet.
Yikes, is Conestoga baseball phenom Dave Bush really 40 years old? Already? The former major league pitcher (Blue Jays, Brewers and Rangers) was just named pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox.
While we’re on Stoga star athletes, former football/basketball standout, rapper LeRoi Leviston (Class of ’06 and Roi Lush to his fans) is now Head JV Basketball Coach at Malvern Prep, stepping down from a similar role at Valley Forge Middle.
Barre Focus Fitness is calling it quits in Haverford. In a letter to clients, owner Amy Feeny said she was ready for a new challenge after eight years leading early morning, evening and weekend classes.
Medical marijuana is moving to Ardmore. Cannabis dispenser Beyond/Hello is taking the old Viking Pastries/Pucci Manuli space on Cricket Ave, its sixth location. The company hosted a meet and greet in Ardmore last Thursday.
Treasures of a different feather are coming to Ardmore. The Jewelry Box is moving into longtime antique shop, Harry’s Treasures. Not that it’ll be head-on competition for Govberg, Kellmer et. al. We hear owners plan to peddle vintage, heirloom and collectible pieces.
Italian BYOB Fellini’s Café should open in the next few weeks in the old Mediterranean Grill space in Bryn Mawr. Owners are ready to go and awaiting the township’s final inspection.
Officials just cut the ribbon on Echo Lake, Tredyffrin’s latest senior-living center. Part of the mammoth Atwater development off Rte. 29, five-story Echo Lake is owned by SageLife, the same folks who operate Daylesford Crossing in Paoli. Only “resort-style” independent-living apartments are open. A fire last February has delayed the debuts the Echo Lake’s assisted-living and memory-care sections until late spring or early summer 2020.
Happy Milestone Birthday to a Main Line’s shopping gem, The Gift Shop at St. David’s Episcopal Church. The shop, now celebrating 20 years, carries unique, handcrafted gifts – many from impoverished countries – and donates all proceeds to its outreach partners in Uganda, Haiti and Guatemala, a generous $600,000 to date. See what’s in store and enjoy holiday cheer and 10% off at the shop’s annual open house next Friday, Nov. 22, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
A new place to get your Chick-Fil-A fix. The fast-food chain just opened at 270 Morehall Rd. off Rte. 29 in Malvern. Scores of die-hards pitched tents in the parking lot for the chain’s traditional “Campout.” Every time a new Chick-Fil-A opens, the first 100 folks in line win free chicken meals for a year. But they have to show proof of U.S. residency first.
Hearts were bursting last Saturday night when the Main Line saluted a peach of a guy: Jump Dautrich, longtime board president of T & E Care.
One by one, folks rose to heap praise on a committed family man who’d just as soon jump in to help a family of strangers – as T & E Cares does.
Jump shared difficult personal news with the overflowing crowd that night: he was diagnosed with ALS last January. Thankfully, his Penn physicians have told him he’s an outlier. Praise be: his disease is progressing unusually slowly. It’s clear that Jump is handling his daunting diagnosis with grit, grace and good cheer. No surprise there.
And finally, ho-ho-ho happenings up and down The Pike
Hometown U.S.A, better known as Wayne, is planning a sleighful of festivities Dec. 6 and 7. Here’s what to know before you go to the annual Wayne Christmas. (SAVVY is a media sponsor.)
- The fun begins with holiday sidewalk shopping at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. Halls will be decked as merchants go whole hog for the annual Windows of Wayne competition.
- Restaurants and shops will share holiday treats at open houses beginning at 5. Strolling carolers and horse drawn carriage rides (on South Wayne and Runnemede) step off at 5:30.
- Families can head to Radnor Fire House for face painting and ornament decorating from 5:30 to 7.
- The Valley Forge Military Academy chorale and Radnor High cheerleaders keep things lively at the Wayne Train Station until 6 ABC’s Vernon Odom counts down to the tree lighting at 7:30. And You Know Who arrives on a fire truck. (Odom’s retired but isn’t hanging up his MC hat anytime soon.)
The next morning, Sunday, Dec. 7, Santa parades through town with the Radnor High School Marching Band, then settles in on the porch of the Wayne Hotel for photos from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Cookies and cocoa while you wait but be sure to BYOC (c = camera).
For more deets, visit waynechristmas.com. By the way, there’s free parking in Wayne on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30) and every Saturday in December. Cheers to that.
With the big municipal lot gone, Ardmore’s Cricket Cringle has chirped its last. Instead, Destination Ardmore will launch a new holiday happening, Ardmore Winter Wonderland, on Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 9 pm. Enjoy antique trolley rides (with surprise characters on board), fire pits, s’mores, a small vendor market in Schaufele Plaza, food and drink specials at local eateries, and extended shopping hours. Santa arrives by trolley and will greet wee ones in the Plaza from 5 to 6:30. Be sure to get your passport stamped at local shops for a chance to win swell prizes. (The Schauffele Plaza tree will be lit on Black Friday.) An early holiday gift: free parking in Ardmore on Saturdays in December.
Holiday fests don’t get any quainter than the one hosted by tiny Narberth. For the 13th year, Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the gang from A Christmas Carol will roam the streets during the Narberth Dickens Festival, Sunday, Dec 8, noon to 4 p.m.
Count on carriage rides, carolers, crafts, a Dickens-themed scavenger hunt, 19th-century street food, musical performances, puppet and ballet shows, ice sculptures, flea and artisan vendors and more. Green tip: Hop on the R5 so you don’t have to park.
Berwyn and Devon merchant elves have been busy lighting up Berwyn, prepping for the big tree lighting shindig at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1 at the Berwyn Train Station. 6ABC weatherguy and debonnaire Devonite Adam Joseph will lead the countdown. Ugly sweater contest (so perfect for La Cabra’s Vern Burling), decorating awards, dance and choir performances, photos with Santa and Dancer, and free eats with a donation to Berwyn Fire Co. Santa will arrive via fire truck but we hear Mrs. Claus is planning a separate splashy entrance of her own. And there may or may not be a red Maserati and baubles involved.
Christmas on King returns to Malvern Saturday, Dec. 7 from noon until night. Enjoy street performances, Mistletoe Market, kiddie activities, goodies, extended shopping hours and LOTS more. Details TBA.
Special needs kids are invited to visit Caring Santa at Nordstrom Court at the King of Prussia Mall on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The mall adjusts the environment to accommodate the sensory, physical and developmental needs of children of all abilities at this off-hours special event, which is held in partnership with Autism Speaks.
Garrett Hill folks will gather at Radnor’s Clem Macrone Park, Sunday, Dec. 1 at 5:30 for the neighborhood’s fifth annual Tree Lighting Celebration. Bring an ornament, your singing voice, canned goods and winter jackets for veterans. Cocoa and snacks to follow at All Seasons Produce & Flowers in Bryn Mawr, which donated the tree.
Kickstart your holiday shopping at Wayne’s Eagle Village Shops next Saturday, Nov. 23 with “The Magic of the Season,” conjured up by the Devon Horse Show and the Shops. Pony up $25/household in advance, $30 at the door and, shazam, you’ll get 20% off at participating merchants and special dining offers. Look for the Devon Souvenirs pop-up shop, in-store raffles, caroling, kids’ activities and cooking demos. Don’t forget your lipstick for the smashing photo opp in the festooned vintage carriage. Buy tickets online or that day at The Barn at Valley Forge Flowers. The magic starts at 10 and disappears at 6.
You don’t have to be a Y member to be an angel this holiday season. Stop by the Upper Main Line YMCA in Berwyn to take a name from the Angel Tree in the foyer and make Christmas dreams come true for a struggling family. Donations accepted until Dec. 2.
Winterfest returns to the King of Prussia Town Center on four Saturday afternoons between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy horse-and-carriage rides, kids crafts, DJ, holiday carols, Santa and character appearances: Elsa on Nov. 30, the Grinch on Dec. 7, Olaf on Dec. 14, and Elf on Dec. 21.
Our friends at Berwyn Fire Co. will host their annual turkey raffle/silent auction shindig on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 7 to 9 p.m. Can’t make the party? Buy a chance or sponsor a turkey online. Our first responders – wherever you live – need financial support now, more than ever.
Wayne Art Center will host a Holiday Shopping Weekend, Dec. 14 -15 with 30 local artisans and merchants showcasing crafts and culinary goodies.