Ah, the good old days, when SAVVY – and, by extension, you – gorged on new restaurants. From high-concept places like Autograph, Bercy and Enoteca Tredici to neighborhood spots like The Choice, Ripplewood, Goat’s Beard and Sontuosa, we rushed out to try them all.
In the last year, sadly, the gush of new eateries has slowed to a drip.
Now, we fear it will dry up altogether.
Because Covid-19 has come to town. And dining out on the Main Line may never be the same.
We asked four restaurateurs to consult their crystal balls:
Christopher’s, A Neighborhoood Place in Wayne and Malvern
“Business will be off,” says owner Christopher Todd, who’s predicting fewer seats and fewer customers. “Until there’s either a vaccine or more testing, I think many families won’t be comfortable coming out to public spaces. Are you going to want to bring your 6-year-old here? Why risk it? Although I’m hoping I’m wrong.”
Todd foresees having to cut dining room seating in half – from 80 to 40 seats in Wayne and from 130 to 65 seats in Malvern. “In any other time, that would be a death sentence,” he says. His best hope to make up for dining room losses? The continued success of takeout, which he’s offered nightly in Wayne since the crisis began.
And masks are coming. “I think half my customers will want to see staff in masks,” Todd says. “Luckily, my mother-in-law Sharon is good at sewing. She’s made about 40 masks for us. I told her to keep going.” Masks will help staff feel comfortable, too, he says, but “keeping a six-foot distance is not realistic” for servers, he says.
As soon as he closed his dining rooms, Todd laid off all 120 full-and part-time staffers. “I had no choice,” Todd says. He’d like to bring as many back as possible but wonders if parents of his college-age staff will be on board. “I’m afraid parents will say you’re not working in a crowded place. Gloves and masks only go so far.”
Todd was turned down for a PPP loan but did receive an Economic Injury Disaster grant of $10,000 for each location.
And virus or no virus, he’s staying put. He just re-upped his Wayne lease for another ten years – Christopher’s has been a fixture on North Wayne Ave. for 19 years. And he hopes to negotiate more favorable terms for his 5-year-old location in Malvern’s Eastside Flats, which has never been fully leased.
For now, Todd’s taking it one week at a time. He’s zeroing in on ways to cut inventory and better manage labor costs. Just three staffers are helping him handle curbside takeout. “I tell them, ‘Don’t go to house parties. If you want to make money, stay home. Don’t put yourself at risk or put all of us at risk.’”
And the “community response has been huge. People are doing the whole circuit, ordering out three or four nights a week, trying to hit all the restaurants.” He also appreciates the gift card purchases with this caveat: “Please don’t use them as soon as we reopen. That really doesn’t help us.”
White Dog Café in Haverford and Wayne, Autograph Brasserie in Wayne
“I don’t really know what to expect – but I know we’re well positioned,” says White Dog/Autograph owner Marty Grims (above). “I don’t buy into the fear that you read about – that up to 75 percent of restaurants will close. Our business was doing really well before this. We’re as capable as anyone else. We’ll figure it out as we go. At some point, it’ll get back to normal. I don’t know if that’ll be three months, six months or a year and a half.”
Grims believes people “by nature are very social” and once they feel more confident, they’ll be back. He does expect the government to impose “minimum standards which may include face masks and social distancing.”
He figures his restaurants in Philly – White Dog and Louie Louie in University City – might have a “fairly quiet summer” but thinks the Main Line and the Moshulu, which has oodles of outdoor space, will bounce back faster. In the last few weeks, both White Dogs began curbside takeout while Autograph remains dark.
And when might we see Grims’ latest concept, Rosalie, open in the Wayne Hotel?
Not until summer at the earliest. The former Paramour space was gutted and the build-out is largely finished but awaits furniture. “Furniture factories have been shut down and I don’t know where we are in the queue,” he says.
A fourth White Dog Café is also under construction at the Shops at Brinton Lakes in Glen Mills.
Grims says the two new restaurants will allow him to bring back more staff who’ve been idled. “Volume will be suppressed at all our restaurants,” he explains. “We can absorb staff into our new places.”
At the end of the day, Grims is taking a “glass-half-full, wait-and-see” attitude.
Still, there are challenges. “During the financial crisis, we lost 50 percent of sales over three years,” he says. “This time, we lost 100 percent of our business in three days.”
Frankie’s Fellini Café in Berwyn
Hands-on owner Frank Chiavaroli (above) says he’s never missed a day at Frankie’s Fellini Cafe, the popular BYOB he’s co-owned with Rita Morena for 15 years.
Even in a pandemic, his streak still stands.
When he was ordered to close, Chiavaroli put the chairs up, put a big “takeout” sign in the window, and rolled up his sleeves. He and Morena kept only their chef and dishwasher on payroll and laid off everyone else – about 12 full- and part-timers. “We never closed. We did takeout and delivery from Day One.”
Still, Chiavaroli says he’s operating at a loss. “Business is down 30 percent – that’s more than our profits. We’re working to stay alive.” (Clearly, it’s all relative – other takeout operators tell us receipts are down 80 or even 90 percent.)
Chiavaroli applied for a PPP loan under the CARES Act but has heard nothing. “The Big Guys got it,” he says. “They didn’t even throw us little guys the crumbs yet.”
Dining at Fellini’s has always been cozy and convivial. It’s the kind of place where tables are so close you overhear your neighbors’ conversations and often join right in.
“The tough part is when we re-open,” Chiavaroli says. “I’m sure we’re going to lose 50 percent of our dining room because of new guidelines.”
And he wonders if his regulars will return. “People are freaked out by this. A percentage of our customers will be hesitant. Business isn’t going to come back full blast. We’re trying to rethink how we’re going to recreate ourselves in some way.”
Chiavaroli has been in the restaurant business since 1976. “It always had its ups and downs. But we never figured on a down like this. In this business, what you lose, you never make up. It’s frightening.”
The Refectory in Villanova
“Social distancing will be impossible to police unless customers want it.” says Greg Dodge, whose Zavino Hospitality Group operates The Refectory on Villanova’s campus and three restaurants in Philly. (His other Main Line venture, Enoteca Tredici in Bryn Mawr Village, is now run by landlord Blank Aschkenasy Properties.)
“Sure, I can remove bar stools,” Dodge says. “But are you going to tell people they can’t stand between stools to get a drink at the bar?” Forcing smaller restaurants to operate at half or two-thirds capacity will be a “death sentence” for many, Dodge believes.
To keep payroll costs in line with what he expects will be softer demand, he likely will re-open The Refectory with dinner service only five nights a weeks. Lunch will have to wait until the campus is back in full swing.
He expects other restaurant owners will make similar cutbacks. And customers will have to be patient. “The new normal is that not everything is going to work exactly as it did before. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to be a nightly puzzle.”
Still, when they’re allowed to re-open, “Main Line restaurants should be in pretty OK shape,” says Dodge. ““I’m cautiously optimistic that people are going to be excited to go out; they’re tired of being inside. I think there will be an initial surge of people heading to their favorite places to support them.”
Also helping the Main Line, in Dodge’s view: fewer commuters will be heading to the city to work and attend special events. Which should mean they’ll spend their dining dollars in the ‘burbs.
He thinks we’ll be hearing a lot about slashed expense accounts and increased “precautionary savings” in the coming months. “You can’t necessarily get rid of your house, your rental, or your car. You’re going to keep doing stuff for your kids, but dining and drinking out are things you can cut out immediately.”
All these factors could plunge restaurant revenues by 30 to 50 percent, Dodge says. “In that scenario, you’re looking at 30 to 50 percent of restaurants shuttering before the end of the year. I hope everyone does well – I’m not trying to be pessimistic – but look, it’s going to be a really challenging road.”
Early COVID Casualty: Alfredo BYOB in Berwyn
At least one Main Line restaurant won’t be re-opening. Alfredo BYOB owner John Kincade tells SAVVY his lease was up last month and he didn’t feel comfortable signing on for another five years.
Calling the decision “tough” and “bittersweet,” Kincade says there were simply “too many unknowns, given the COVID situation.” He says he’ll miss his loyal employees and his regulars.
Alfredo BYOB was a family affair: One son, Steven, was GM. The other, Andrew, was the chef. For now, Kincade says both will be absorbed into Kincade’s other business, The Office Bar and Grille in Malvern, when that reopens.
And he’s not ruling out an Alfredo in a new location. “We’re keeping our options open. Who knows?”
Shrunken classes? Masks? Boutique fitness faces an uncertain future
After the mad dash to move workout classes online, most local fitness studios are catching their collective breath.
But no one is breathing easy.
Because even when they get the green light, they see roadblocks at every turn: How small will classes have to be? How will they keep shared equipment sanitary? How will all the new rules impact the bottom line? And the biggest question of all: Now that they’re accustomed to home workouts, will clients even want to come back? Will they feel safe?
“There’s no question we’ll have to significantly reduce class sizes and implement new sanitation guidelines,” says Jon Cummins, who owns Bulldog Yoga studios in Villanova and Boulder and opened a third studio at the new Grove in Malvern only to close it several weeks later.
Cummins foresees two challenges: Staying economically viable if Bulldog is forced to run at 50 percent capacity or less. And sourcing necessary cleaning supplies.
Professionals already clean his studios nightly and he’s happy to step up sanitation further. “But how do we actually get the cleaning materials?” Cummins wonders. “Everyone has tried to get a can of wipes or spray – it’s really hard. How do we find enough to properly clean a yoga studio?”
Purenergy Studio in Paoli thinks it’s found an answer.
The studio bought a disinfectant fogger machine and plans to spray the spin room and a multipurpose “zone” room after the morning and evening rush, co-owner Chris Somers tells SAVVY. Clients will be asked to wipe off everything they touch before and after class but the fogger adds extra insurance, she says.
To reduce sharing, Purenergy has already given away its loaner yoga mats and blocks. Clients will have to bring their own. Cumbersome to tote back and forth, yoga blankets will still be shared but sanitized. “We’ll put wrapper around the ones we’ve sanitized so clients know which ones to use.”
But Somers says studios like hers “can only take so many precautions. What we have to do is earn everyone’s confidence. They need to see the policies we’ve put in place and think, ‘I feel safe going there.’”
Meanwhile, FUEL Cycle Fitness, a small spin and boxing studio in Ardmore, is pondering ways to eliminate shared machines and equipment altogether.
“We’re looking at the studio and layout and what we offer and trying to decide if there’s a better solution,” says owner Jen Crompton.
One idea she’s tossing around: Cardio interval classes that use bodyweight instead of equipment. Another option: taking workouts outdoors.
But stepped-up sanitation is just one piece of the re-opening puzzle. All three studio heads are bracing for socially-distanced workouts.
Somers figures she’ll have to cut class sizes in half or more. Many Purenergy classes – like boot camp, barre and spin – will have to run with eight or ten clients. The larger yoga room will fit 15 or 20 tops. To help offset the shortfall, Purenergy will keep offering pay-as-you-go virtual classes. (Not to worry, shy clients. Classes will be videotaped but cameras will only focus on instructors.)
“Then there’s this whole problem: Who gets in?” Somers says. Purenergy has 250 “unlimited” members and another 250 who buy class packs. She says members should probably get first dibs on studio classes but that could shut out her class-pack users. “It’s just going to be tough.”
Purenergy has good reason to show its members some extra love. When the studio closed, each was called. Not one member opted to cancel, only 20 asked to freeze, and everyone else agreed to be billed through the shutdown. Some even prepaid their memberships.
Even with smaller classes, studios worry that demand will be soft.
“Some people will still be on high alert,” Somers says. “It will take a lot to get through to them.”
And a requirement to wear masks might just be the deal-breaker.
“It’s just hard to stomach the idea of people working out in masks,” says Crompton. “If we’re that concerned, should we really be doing this? As important as exercise is for physical and mental health, we’ve learned that there are other options: We can do things virtually. We can do things outside.”
Somers says she’s already bought masks for Purenergy and will do as she’s told. “But I can’t even imagine doing a class with a mask on. If I had to do that, I would stay home,” she says. And she’s not alone. About 90 percent of yogis in an informal Facebook poll said they’d stay home, too, Somers says.
While they mull over a challenging future, studios are working hard to survive in the here and now.
Bulldog yoga has more than doubled its subscription base for online classes, says owner Cummins. His studios are building community through fun “at home with our leaders” videos and new custom workout plans have been “really well received.”
In Paoli, Purenergy received a $40,000 PPP loan, renegotiated its lease and trimmed expenses. Forty live classes and more than 130 on demand are keeping the Pure community together.
At FUEL, Crompton says members are taking virtual classes and staying in touch with instructors on social media. Now that she knows the crisis will stretch into summer, she’s taking a hard look at ways to shore up her studio’s finances.
But she won’t open until she knows it’s safe. “Our mission is to help people be healthier and happier,” Crompton says. “Until I know that I can keep them healthy when they’re with me, I can’t feel good about inviting them in.”
Upper Main Line YMCA retools for re-opening
Mandatory masks, smaller classes and stepped-up sanitation are all on tap at the Upper Main Line YMCA.
Following CDC and state guidelines, the Y is working on new rules and protocols, retraining staff, and stocking up on cleaning supplies, reports Kim Cavallero, VP of Marketing & Communications for the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, which includes UMLY in Berwyn.
The biggest policy change: exercise classes will be limited in size and members will have to reserve spots in advance. The days of scrambling for a spot in jammed Body Pump classes are gone for good.
Members using the wellness center will notice extra space between machines and equipment. The exercise floor will be completely reconfigured, Cavallero says.
The Y also expects to require face masks and new social-distancing rules will be posted throughout. Staff will undergo health screenings before their shifts.
Following supermarkets’ lead, the Y is installing plexiglass shields at welcome desks and contemplates special hours for seniors.
Also in the offing: new measures to improve air quality and adjusted opening hours to accommodate extra cleaning.
“While things may be different at the YMCA, we will continue to be a place where our entire community grows strong in spirit, mind and body,” Cavallero says.
Bumpy ride on reality TV for Main Line native Julia Rae
Malvern-bred singer Julia Rae (profiled in SAVVY in 2018) was already a local star: performing in the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade, reigning as Miss Philadelphia, singing at Sixers games, and acting in commercials.
This spring, she became a national celebrity.
And yikes, has the spotlight been glaring.
Rae’s four-episode run on The Bachelor’s music spinoff, Listen to Your Heart was tumultuous, to say the least.
In case you missed the fireworks: Nice guy Sheridan was immediately smitten with Julia and the two made beautiful music together. Then Julia was sent on a date-swap with bad boy Brandon – who’d intrigued her from Day One – and Sheridan went home, heartbroken. Sister contestant Natascha called out Julia for being fickle. Julia performed a so-so song with Brandon and the two were sent packing.
Rae’s controversial choice of Brandon over Sheridan unleashed a fusillade of nastiness on Instagram, death threats even. Even though it’s an open secret that reality TV producers often choose “villains” and edit accordingly.
In her first interview since her elimination, Rae explained to E!’s Lauren Piester that she felt she had to see where her attraction to Brandon would lead. “I was an emotional wreck during this experience … I was torn from the get-go between the two guys.”
Rae said she’s been riding “an emotional roller coaster” since she returned to the Main Line after filming in LA. “I have trouble watching myself and realizing the mistake I’ve made.”
She’s also tried to mend fences with Natatscha, Brandon and his jilted flame, Savannah.
And she’s apologized to Sheridan. “I understand why he probably doesn’t want to talk to me right now,” Rae told E!. “I totally get that but I’m hopeful for sure.”
After her rocky TV ride, Rae has returned to her first love: making music. The social media nastiness has subsided and fans are responding to her new song, “Wishing Well,” just released under Wayne Music Festival founder Ken Kearns’ A.I.R. label.
Romance, at least for now, can wait.
Risky business: DIY dog grooming
With hair salons closed for months, we’re all looking a tad shaggy. Alas, our pets aren’t looking much better.
Longtime dog groomer Lucie Greco, owner of Lucie’s Barkingham Palace in Malvern (above) says desperate owners are taking matters into their own hands – sometimes with disastrous results.
“It’s risky to groom at home,” she says. “It’s not the owner’s fault. They don’t know any different.”
In some breeds, overgrown fur tangles into mats. When owners try to cut off matted fur with scissors, some are cutting chunks of skin with it, requiring stitches. Other owners are botching nail trims. If cut too short, nails can bleed uncontrollably.
Pet grooming isn’t just cosmetic. It’s preventive health care, Greco says. Untrimmed hair can cause eye, skin and anal infections. Unwashed fur can make allergies flare.
She applied for a state waiver as an essential business but was denied. “Every groomer I know has been denied.”
As the weeks slip by, the urgency has only grown, she says. “I’m getting fifteen texts a day and the phone has not stopped ringing,” Greco says. “People are begging us to groom their dogs.”
The Chester County dog warden has warned her she could be fined or even jailed if she’s caught violating the state’s order.
One glimmer of hope: A York County state senator has introduced a bill that would allow pet grooming businesses to re-open. Passage can’t come soon enough for Greco, who’s dipped into savings “to keep our heads above water.” She says she’d start slow – with curbside drop-off, two groomers handling ten dogs a day instead of the usual 40. “I’m not going to go crazy.”
Pomp under trying circumstances: High schools reinvent graduation
You have to feel for local high school seniors, spending their last semesters stuck at home with their parents instead of getting their last hurrahs on playing fields, at proms, on internships and at beach senior weeks.
Instead of pulling together to win games, teammates are joining hands to help food banks and first responders. (Check out @lacrossevillage on Instagram to see an awesome effort by girls lacrosse teams at Conestoga and Shipley.)
To keep spirits up, senior pics and virtual yearbook signings are flooding social media feeds.
And celebratory lawn signs have sprung up like early spring weeds. While some were surprises from parents and colleges, one local district – Lower Merion – printed and delivered signs to every seniors’ doorstep.
All well and good, but what about the main event – graduation itself?
Convinced that the ban on large-group gatherings will continue through early summer, Harriton and Lower Merion have settled on solo graduations-by-appointment. Yup, you read that right.
Each senior, wearing cap, gown and mandatory mask throughout, plus two guests, also in masks, will arrive at a scheduled time in the school auditorium. As graduates’ names are called, they’ll walk across the stage to receive diplomas from the principal per usual. Proceedings, including commencement speeches, will be photographed and edited into a video to be shown in mid-June.
T/E postponed Conestoga’s June graduation to July 21 and plans to hold ceremonies outside on Teamer Field in one of three ways: students and limited guests seated six feet apart, students (no guests) seated six feet apart, and individual graduations by appointment a la Lower Merion. Holding out hope for a traditional ceremony, the school district won’t announce its final format until July 1.
Meanwhile, a committee of students, staff and parents has been weighing options for Radnor High School’s graduation.
And all three districts have announced that other closing rituals – awards, recognition nights and baccalaureates – will be, you guessed it, virtual.
Radnor Day Camp might go online, other camps on hold, Krinsky & school camps fold
Just when cooped-up kids and harried parents are clamoring for them, summer camps are looking decidedly … iffy. Those we contacted – day camps, overnight camps in the Poconos, and local township camps – were all awaiting direction from the state, the American Camp Association and the CDC.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” says Mickey Black, whose family has been serving Main Line families at three three camps in the Poconos – Pine Forest, Timber Tops and Lake Owego – for 90 years. The health concerns are ironic, Black says. Sleepaway camps like his were created to give city kids some fresh mountain air. “Parents sent kids to camps like ours because they were considered safer and healthier than crowded city playgrounds.”
Closer to home, Tredyffrin officials haven’t yet pulled the plug on its morning day camp that runs in weekly sessions in township parks.
While she’s holding out hope for some version of in-person camp, Radnor Recreation Director Tammy Cohen says her team is firming up a Plan B: interactive virtual camp via Zoom or similar platform. Instead of six hours at Radnor Elementary, camp would run for two hours daily, include games, movement and activities and be priced accordingly.
The extension of stay-at-home orders into June means Delco will likely be in the yellow phase this summer, Cohen says, and meeting guidelines for screening and quarantining for campers and staff “would be a stretch.” Her department is inviting families to try a virtual camp sampler on May 29.
Meanwhile, Agnes Irwin cancelled its camps but will offer free academic enrichment online. Nearby Holy Child School in Rosemont has suspended registrations, while Friends Central and ESF camps haven’t yet pulled the plug. Wayne Art Center has cancelled summer programs and camps until at least July 1.
And in a bit of a shocker, Julian Krinsky is closing his residential camps and summer enrichment programs for good, a victim of the coronavirus crisis.
Hit by a triple whammy, Krinsky announced his decision on the camps’ website “at the age of 70, with equal parts sadness and accomplishment.”
Krinsky says he couldn’t house campers at colleges – Penn, Haverford, Villanova and Yale are all closed through the summer. Staffing was a problem too. His international counselors couldn’t get visas, he said. And he was unsure if and when restrictions on travel and group gatherings would be lifted.
The company he built over four decades will live on under a new name and new owner in 2021. Steve Robertson, who served as CEO for six years, is taking the baton.
And Krinsky, a former Wimbledon and French Open competitor for his native South Africa, isn’t calling it quits completely. He’ll continue to lead tennis clubs at Gulph Mills and Narberth when the state lets him re-open.
BYO capes? How one Wayne barber is planning ahead
Talk about tough timing. Just three months after Philly Bloke moved to spacious new digs in Wayne, the virus shut it down. Though his scissors have been idle, owner Eric Debella tell us his brain has been anything but.
He’s come up with a detailed list of new procedures he’ll put in place when he re-opens.
For starters, Philly Bloke will be Bring Your Own Cape. Customers are asked to buy cutting capes and wear them to appointments. (A black pinstripe Barber Strong cape runs $22.50 with the Philly Bloke discount.)
“This will keep things simple, sanitary and give peace of mind to our clients and team members,” Debella says. “Think of the cape as your ticket to get a haircut,”
Masks will also be mandatory for stylists and clients, he says. Walk-ins will be discouraged. To limit people in his waiting area, Philly Bloke clients should come alone to their appointments. Goes without saying that tools and work stations will be cleaned and disinfected between appointments.
Financially, Debella is hanging in. He applied for a PPP loan and was hoping for funding in the second round. His landlord has been “more than fair.” And customers have been coming through for him: buying gift certificates and sending money for missed haircuts via Venmo and PayPal. “Our clients are the absolute best!” he says.
Shutdown resistance growing
With record unemployment, a tanked economy and lockdown lingering into June, patience is beginning to fray. While polls show most Americans are OK with stay-at-home orders guided by public health experts and data, pockets of dissent are growing.
Desperate to move even a little inventory, Main Line shopkeepers are quietly allowing curbside pickup.
Stylists have begun making hush-hush house calls.
And some officials and business leaders are speaking out.
In direct opposition to his fellow commissioners, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Trump Republican, wants his county opened pronto. Never mind that Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence just tested positive with no symptoms and is quarantining. Gale also refuses to get tested: “I’m not buying into that testing frenzy,” he said at Monday’s media briefing. While top health experts keep beating the drum for mass testing, contact tracing and therapeutics or a vaccine as essential to safe reopening, Gale’s not buying it. On Tuesday, he tweeted that mass testing only serves to inflate case counts, effectively keeping counties closed even longer.
In Chester County, Chamber of Business & Industry President Guy Ciarrocchi calls a partial reopening “economically and morally essential” in the face of a county unemployment rate that’s more than tripled since January.
“Having purchased 3.5M masks and 30,000 antibody test kits, created a business recovery task force, having a professional county health department and knowing that 86 percent of our fatalities are at long-term care facilities, Chester County is the best prepared county in the state” to begin re-opening, Ciarrocchi tells SAVVY.
The Governor is “out of touch,” and “shows no empathy,” he says. “The curve has been bent. Seventy percent of hospital beds are empty; 85 percent of ventilators aren’t being used. Let’s declare victory and proceed with an orderly, safe, focused reopening.”
Ciarrocchi wants county commissioners to lobby Wolf to immediately reopen micro-businesses (those with less than five employees), allow curbside sales at all retailers, and begin “an orderly, safe, focused re-opening” for everyone else.
As for fears of a coronavirus comeback from opening counties soon – concerns voiced by Fauci, Redfield, Gupta et. al., Ciarrocchi says the state should “treat adults like adults” and expect the public to comply with whatever rules – masks, distancing – are imposed for public safety. “We cannot be paralyzed because someone might act irresponsibly,” Ciarrocchi says. If he were directed not to venture into Philly to help contain the threat, he would gladly comply, he says.
With no word yet on when the Main Line might move to the yellow phase, the Corona Wars – pitting economic angst against public health anxiety – may just be getting started.
Four nonprofits navigate stormy seas
With need growing and funding uncertain, Main Line nonprofits are facing unprecedented challenges. We caught up with a few:
Women’s Resource Center in Wayne
For women, the pandemic has created “a perfect storm of fear, anxiety and uncertainty surrounding caregiving, job security, health and safety,” WRC Executive Director Cheryl Brubaker tells SAVVY. WRC services are needed now, more than ever, she says.
“Women are also putting themselves at risk each time they shop for groceries or work at essential jobs on the front lines. They’re also managing family relationships under stress, some of it severe,” Brubaker says. (Calls to domestic violence shelters reportedly jumped 30 percent in the first week of the Governor Wolf’s stay-at-home orders.)
With its biggest fundraiser pushed off to October, WRC is relying on three emergency grants and rainy-day reserves. But it’s managed to keep all five employees working hard – albeit remotely – to support women facing unemployment. eviction, domestic violence and the challenge of juggling single parenting, homeschooling and working from home, Brubaker says.
Women’s Resource Center offers low-cost divorce/family law and resource coordination counseling by phone or video chat. It also operates a helpline to connect women to local resources. Call 701-314-HELP or email [email protected].
Tredyffrin & Easttown Care
Since the shutdown began, T & E Care has helped a record number of neighbors with rent, utilities, food and other essentials, blowing through nearly all of the $90K budgeted for the year such help, co-founder Sandi Gorman tells SAVVY. The organization has assisted its regular families, many new families and even a few small businesses.
“Our goal is to keep folks as current as possible so when they’re finally able to get back to work, they won’t be sinking with large back bills that need to be paid,” Gorman says.
“This community has been really awesome,” Gorman says. New supporters are mailing donations and companies have been matching gifts. One donor even signed over her federal incentive check, she says. “People lend a hand whenever they can. And they don’t ask for handouts unless they really need one.”
Peter’s Place in Radnor
The demand for grieving support services at Peter’s Place had already experienced an “unprecedented uptick” before the crisis.
Post-pandemic, demand will soar even higher, says Executive Director Catsy Pemberton. “Families have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, their mental health. There’s loss all over the place.” She says Peter’s Place is getting “a tremendous number of phone calls from families, mental health professionals and school counselors. They’re asking ‘What can you do now for our kids?’”
Also stressed these days: Peter’s Place budget. The nonprofit relies on its annual April gala – this time held virtually – for a third of its operating budget. Pemberton calls it “a big nut to crack when you’re going online … Although we’re confident we’ll survive this, we may not hit our budget for the fiscal year 2020,” she says.
Fueled by a federal PPP loan, Peter’s Place has managed to keep all staff on the payroll and working remotely. They’re running Zoom support groups and new Facebook pages, brainstorming no-contact ways to serve families, and planning next year’s big 20th anniversary gala.
Pemberton and her board remain upbeat. But as one board member put it, “In this time of isolation, grief has been compounded because we’re all grieving the loss of life as we knew it.”
Main Line Meals on Wheels
Amid the pandemic, Main Line Meals on Wheels is rolling right along. “Surprisingly, we haven’t missed a single day of deliveries,” Executive Director Erika Bhatia tells SAVVY.
Also surprising: In a time when so many are shut-in, Meals has seen only a slight uptick in clients. “I think people are hesitant to try something new right now,” Bhatia says. “And some have come off the service because families don’t want to take a chance on the extra interaction.”
Because volunteers are now forbidden inside Bryn Mawr Hospital, only Meals on Wheels staff members are helping pack meals prepared by the hospital kitchen.
Its other location, Surrey in Devon, is closed, but its kitchen continues to make Meals on Wheels.
Meal delivery is now completely no contact. Volunteers, who now travel solo instead of in pairs, drop coolers on doorsteps and drive off. Instead of in-person chats, “we’re reaching out by phone to see how people are doing and if they’re feeling OK,” Bhatia says.
Meals are being served but expenses are rising because Meals has to buy extra cleaning supplies, gloves and disposable plastic bags.
While most Main Line clients pay full freight –$42.50 for ten meals per week, about a third are subsidized by grants and donations. No one is turned away.
Forced to close up its shop like more traditional employers, Baker Industries continues to stand by its vulnerable workforce: the disabled, people in recovery, the homeless and formerly incarcerated.
With the help of generous donors, Baker paid 50% of weekly wages for the first two weeks and has helped clients apply for unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and other relief. Sidelined workers are also receiving weekly check-in phone calls.
For the more than 70 adults Baker employs, a friendly phone call has made all the difference, former board member and longtime benefactor Steven Zodtner tells SAVVY. “Thank you for reaching out. Thank you so much for calling to check in on me. Thanks for not forgetting about me,” participants tell staff repeatedly.
Founded 40 years ago by longtime Main Line residents Charlie and Weezie Baker to give purposeful work to their disabled son, Baker Industries is a nonprofit workforce development program that employs a mix of vulnerable, low-income adults at facilities in Malvern and Philly. Participants perform manual labor and light manufacturing work, receive hourly wages and build experience, skills and confidence. Hundreds of Baker graduates have progressed to jobs in the regular economy. But as the crisis continues, the need only grows, Zodtner says. To learn more or donate, click here.
This and That
Extra time on your hands? Wayne Art Center just announced online classes in painting, pastel, drawing, composition and color theory for adults and Pirate and Ancient Egypt workshops for the kiddos.
After two months offline, The Malvern Buttery will start churning again this weekend. Order online for curbside pickup only.
Four more Ardmore restaurants have also added curbside takeout: The Bercy (Thurs. – Sat. only), Hunan, Marokko and John Henry’s Pub (Fri. and Sat. only). Ardmore Initiative Executive Director Nancy Scarlato calls the town’s new takeout offerings “an exciting step toward the re-opening and recovery of our downtown.”
Lower Merion grad Louis Knight, 19, is inching closer to the crown on American Idol. The London-born crooner made the Top 7 Sunday night. Judges raved over Knight’s heartfelt rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend,” sung to his mom, Amanda, on his Narberth porch. Two more cuts will come next Sunday, May 17, and if Knight survives those, he’ll be singing for the title that night. Even if he loses, we doubt he’ll be delivering for Narberth Pizza much longer.
Praise be, Handel’s Ice Cream is back in business in Berwyn. But no cones and no congregating. Order online only then drive up at your chosen time and pop the trunk.
Handel’s owner Buck Buchanan tells us there were a few early snafus early on – a power outage and a scheduling glitch – but ice cream lovers were understanding. In the coming weeks, he hopes to reopen Handel’s walk-up windows after his team figures out control measures like pavement markers and social-distancing signage.
Bless your generous hearts. Saturday’s drive-up drive for the food pantry at Wayne United Methodist Church was a colossal success. “Phenomenal community response. Biggest food drive we’ve ever had by a factor of at least five!” reports ecstatic pantry director Bob King, who says it will take weeks to sort through 15 tons and five trailers full of donations.
In lieu of tips for Mother’s Day takeout, Malvern’s General Warren Inn collected $3,000 for first responders as part of J. Scott Catering’s Food For the Frontline campaign in Chester County. Nice.
With COVID cases waning and cabin fever rising, Radnor and Tredyffrin have reopened township parks and trails. Playgrounds, picnic pavilions and restrooms are still off limits but you and Rover can stretch your legs or spread a blanket. Folks are mostly playing by the rules of social distancing although Radnor officials have had to break up a few gatherings, Radnor Recreation Director Tammy Cohen tells SAVVY. Tredyffrin Manager Bill Martin says he hasn’t seen any complaints about how residents are using parks. Keep it up, good people. Last thing we need is for parks to close again.
If park crowds become problematic, perhaps townships can take their cues from McCaig Nature Center in Wayne. The 93-acre nature preserve is seeing up to 500 visitors a day, a nine-fold increase. To safely handle the hordes, McCaig has made some trails one-way and installed new directional signage.
Next time you and the kids are out walking, how ’bout playing this timely game: Seek and Destroy Spotted Lantern Fly Eggs? These nasty tree killers have been laying eggs willy nilly since winter. Egg sacs look like inch-long splotches of gray mud on bark, branches, rocks, cars, tires. Just scrape the eggs and smash them. Your trees will thank you later.
To expand outdoor dining and curbside pickup space this summer, West Chester Borough Council may vote to close sections of Gay and Market streets to cars. Here’s hoping our Main Line towns – lookin’ at you Ardmore, Berwyn, Bryn Mawr, Wayne and Malvern – consider turning side streets and empty lots into alfresco dining spaces. Lord knows, our restaurants need all the help they can get.
With gift cards essentially no-interest microloans for locked-down businesses, it’s no wonder Main Line merchants are promoting them with gusto. Wayne Business Association even created a website that makes gift-card purchases from local merchants a snap. One smart proprietor, Ed Tell, owner of Razrbar barbershops in Wayne and Collegeville, is asking clients to “pay a tip forward” to specific stylists when they order gift cards and has raked in an impressive $40,000 to date.
A few months ago we shared “the incredible journey” of Berwyn banker-turned-artist JP Weber. On Mother’s Day, Weber embarked on a new venture: auctioning off ten of his paintings to help a local family in need during the COVID crisis. “We had zero expectations about how this would go and already we are thrilled with the response,” reports JP’s wife, Lindsey. Bid on Instagram @luvyabuns until May 24. The Webers are also making masks using JP’s fabric patterns and donating them to local businesses and families. Smashing.
Know a stressed-out first responder? Affordable mental health provider Daemion Counseling Center in Berwyn is offering free Zoom and phone counseling for Covid-19 first responders during the Covid-19 crisis. Daemion has postponed its big 50th anniversary Hope Gala, originally set for this Saturday, until March 29, 2021.
And, saving the smiles for last: Main Liners making the best of it
We continue to be blown away by the creative ways Main Liners are keeping spirits bright. A few that caught our eye:
Drew Hellberg woke up to a drive-by birthday parade and this inconspicuous sign on his Tredyffrin lawn April 23.
Dozens of parading cars saluted twin sister college grads, Lauren and Sarah Kirkpatrick, shown below with their proud parents, in front of their Wayne home on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by AKSM Photography)
Staff and neighbors of Wayne’s Day Spa by Zsuzsanna surprised the spa’s always-chipper receptionist Cindy Bright on her 50th birthday.
Melissa Hough, Melanie Fritz and Laura Yancoskie toasted another 50th birthday girl, Kym Denk (second from left), from a respectful distance. Their fun-loving Berwyn ‘hood has also been playing weekly Zoom games like Drunk, Stoned or Stupid and Family Feud.
Stuck in their apartments without visitors, folks at senior living centers like Daylesford Crossing in Paoli are at least enjoying balcony birthday serenades, window-seat concerts and daily door-to-door Happy Hours. And they appear to be working. Could this gent look any happier?
And then there’s Eldridge Acres, now open in a Chesterbrook backyard. Tee time: every night after dinner. Players: The same three sports nuts – Travis, Tina and son Garrett Eldridge (not shown). Inspired by an old golf flag they found in the garage, the family created a nine-hole course, complete with greens, roughs and tee boxes delineated by tennis balls. There’s even a 19th hole for post-round cocktails.
Wonder how hundreds of red “Ribbons of Appreciation” for frontline healthcare workers began popping up on lawns and public spaces in Lower Merion, Radnor and beyond? Credit Bryn Mawr teen Parker McQuaid (below), a rising senior at The Hill School whose father is a healthcare administrator. Follow @ribbonsofappreciation on Instagram.
Fifty classic cars from Model A Fords to Ferraris joined what organizers called a “COVID Car Parade” on a gloriously sunny Saturday in May. Berwyn car buff J.J. Kerr planned the 30-mile road rally that began in Wilson Park in Tredyffrin and took drivers through Berwyn, Devon and Wayne. Kerr and Allan Marshall were kind enough to send us pics:
And finally, our personal fave: a cul-de-sac concert in Paoli headlined by Mark Teague, longtime singer/guitarist in Jellyroll.
With his iconic wedding band sidelined until September, Teague set up his sound system and invited neighbors to pull up a chair. Talented teen neighbor, Madeleine Anderson, warmed up the crowd, then Teague took the stage curbside, playing yacht rock and other classics. Hey, how ‘bout taking this show on the road to our neighborhood? We’d even let you pass the hat.