There’s no way I’m getting this virus, thought Andy Phillips, as he set off on a run near his Chester Springs home in late March. He felt lousy that day, but at age 53, he was in great shape – eating right and exercising like mad.
“If you lined up ten of his friends, Andy was the healthiest,” says his wife, Trish McDonough Phillips.
But try as he might, Andy couldn’t outrun COVID. He got the virus.
So did his son.
So did his father.
And instead of celebrating 25 years of marriage with a Mass at the Villanova chapel next week as planned, Trish is planning funerals – celebrations of lives extraordinarily well lived.
Two of them.
Telling her family’s story is hard for Trish. “It’s so emotional.”
But hoping to warn others, she shared it with People magazine last summer and will appear on “60 Minutes” in early December. Two weeks ago, she spoke with SAVVY.
According to Trish, no one knows for sure how Andy, a wonderfully warm and outgoing sports nut, sales executive, husband and father, contracted the virus. But shortly after returning from a California business trip in late March, he started showing symptoms. At around the same time, his oldest son, Colin, an Episcopal Academy alum and sophomore at St. Joe’s, began feeling ill, too.
Quarantining together, the whole house was soon sick: Grace, then a senior at Dartmouth, Aidan and Andrew, both students at Malvern Prep, and Trish herself, a stay-at-home mom who did floral design on the side. (Coincidentally, all are A+, a blood type linked to COVID-19.)
But only Andy and Colin were hit hard and admitted to the ICU at Chester County Hospital.
Colin had double pneumonia with COVID-19 markings. And Andy, previously sent home after a negative pneumonia test in the ER – COVID tests were scarce in March – returned in acute respiratory failure three days later, wracked by high fever, cough, and overwhelming fatigue. With a pulse ox of 55, he was put on a ventilator that night. Trish had to drop him at the door. Only patients could enter hospitals during the virus lockdown. Please don’t tell Trish about the ventilator until the morning, Andy begged his nurses. Ever-considerate, he worried that she’d have a bad night’s sleep.
Colin was discharged from the ICU after a few days and spent most of the summer recuperating at home. It was a slow slog. The senior captain of EA’s basketball team the year before, he could barely make it up the stairs.
His father, though, stayed on a vent and by April 2, was in kidney failure and put on dialysis. Trish tried to get him transferred to a downtown hospital but doctors said he was too sick to move. For his entire 35-day stay at Chester County Hospital, Trish and the kids never saw Andy. COVID patients couldn’t have visitors.
After 24 fever-free hours on Easter, he took a turn for the worse. His lungs stiffened.
When an ICU doctor told Trish there was nothing more they could do and her husband wasn’t going to make it, she got on the phone, frantically trying to place him somewhere with more advanced therapeutics, specifically a hospital with ECMO – extracorporeal life support – for his failing lungs. He was helicoptered to the cardiac ICU at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and was started on ECMO the Tuesday after Easter.
Around this time, Andy’s father, a hale 86-year-old who’d just moved to the independent living wing of Riddle Village with his wife, contracted COVID, too. Donald Phillips had reached down to retrieve a pingpong ball and broke his hip. He caught the virus in a rehab hospital post-surgery and died a few days later, on April 28.
Meanwhile back at HUP, his son was in the fight of his life.
Actually, the second fight. Twenty years ago, Andy had overcome Stage 3 Hodgkins lymphoma under the care of Main Line Health oncologist Sandra Schnall, who became a family friend. There was some scarring of his lungs but he never had a recurrence and his heart was strong.
From the start, Penn doctors were hopeful.
They figured Andy would stay on ECMO and a ventilator for a few days, then they’d bring him out of the coma.
Everybody was pulling for him.
Nurses – at CCH and HUP – would hold a phone up to Andy’s ear, as the family played his favorite country music or a video loop of his kids’ voices. “We’d do anything to stimulate him while he was in the coma,” Trish recalls.
Penn Medicine Intensivist Dr. Joe Savino would FaceTime with Trish almost nightly, anxious to get to know Andy through his wife. Savino and staff made sure family photos were hung around the room.
“We had more things attached to his bed than you can imagine: holy water, rosaries,” Trish recalls. “Doctors and nurses did anything they could to help because we couldn’t be with him.”
Trish’s sister Meredith McBride started writing regular updates on Andy’s Facebook page and hundreds of people – many of them strangers – started following his journey.
Round-the-clock virtual prayer vigils were organized.
Friends arranged for Eagles Coach Doug Peterson, quarterback Carson Wentz, the country music duo Florida-Georgia Line and Villanova Coach Jay Wright to send video greetings to Andy, a diehard fan of all.
Even Sly Stallone delivered greetings on May 23, Andy’s 53rd birthday, calling him a “Philadelphia fighter.”
Anticipating a possible double lung transplant and years of long-term care for Andy, close friends started a GoFundMe to help with expenses. Trish wasn’t thinking that far ahead but they were. To date more than $160,000 has been raised, which the Trish calls a “godsend.”
The supportive phone calls, meals, messages and videos were “amazing,” Trish recalls. “You’re in your own bubble and when you hear and see all that, you just don’t give up hope.”
Convinced Andy needed to hear Trish’s voice and feel her presence, Dr. Savino pushed for HUP officials to allow her to visit.
On May 5, Trish walked the eerily empty halls of HUP, the first person allowed to visit a loved one since the COVID crisis began.
From that day forward, she’d drive down to Penn, find parking – no valet due to COVID – and spend her allotted hour holding Andy’s hand.
Knowing medications would affect his short-term memory, she’d tell him where he was, update him on the kids, and assure him he was safe and getting better, never mentioning his father’s death. She usually stayed the full allowable hour, sometimes more, sometimes a little less because it was so “excruciating.”
By Mother’s Day, doctors had started lightening Andy’s sedation. Back home after her daily visit, Trish received a call from a nurse. Andy had opened his eyes.
She rushed back. When Andy heard her voice, he started crying. In the next few weeks, he would try to mouth words and sometimes responded to questions by moving his eyes.
Andy was the first COVID patient at Penn to receive convalescent plasma. Physicians had high hopes it would help him turn the corner. They started planning the surgery he’d need to switch his ECMO catheter, allowing them to lighten his sedation and eventually wean him off ECMO.
But on Friday May 29, an infection threw him into sepsis and a “cytokine storm” engulfed him. You better bring your kids in, doctors told Trish.
For the first time in 63 days, his two younger children saw their father. His newly widowed mother, Joan came, too, and his sister, Donna. Trish’s family was there. And his best friend. Leading bedside prayers was Reverend Don Reilly, the priest who’d married Andy and Trish at Villanova, baptized their children, and now was Head of School at their sons’ school, Malvern Prep.
And that night, like a miracle, Andy rallied. On Saturday, he was stable and his vitals were improving. “They were just trying to figure out the right antibiotics for his sepsis,” Trish recalls.
But that night, he took another horrific turn and by Sunday morning, Trish knew she had to get back to the hospital. She made a quick stop to pray at the Padre Pio Shrine north of Pottstown – she’d been praying there all along – then drove to West Philly.
Andy’s medical team told her it was time to let him go. The family re-assembled at his bedside, the machines were silenced and Andy passed that night.
“I never ever gave up hope,” Trish recalls. “I really believed that he was going to be his same old self. It didn’t occur to me that if he did make it, what his life would have been like, how sick he might have been. If he had a double lung transplant, what would that have looked like? That’s how I got through it. I think about this now and wonder what I was thinking. I’d walk in there smiling and asking ‘how’s he doing?’ Did they think I was nuts?”
When her father-in-law lost his battle with COVID, she became even more certain that Andy would win his.
Surely, her children couldn’t lose their father and their grandfather. Her mother-in-law couldn’t bury her husband and then, four weeks later, her son.
But here’s what Trish has learned about the virus that attacked three generations of Phillipses: It doesn’t care. It doesn’t play fair.
She says she has friends who “still think it was just crazy that it happened to us and it’s not going to happen to them. But it can touch anybody. That’s something people still don’t quite understand.”
Although she knows she “probably shouldn’t because it’s so depressing,” Trish finds herself scanning a private Facebook page for COVID-19 survivors. The stories – particularly those of people, many with no history of illness, put on ECMO – are heartbreaking. “It’s not just older people. There are so many kids in their teens and 20s that are really struggling.”
Remembering her late father-in-law, she’s also upset that “a lot of the talk about nursing homes and senior citizens puts a spin on it that their lives aren’t as important. That’s not fair.”
She’s convinced the crisis didn’t have to unfold this way.
“Turning it into a political issue has completely changed everybody’s grasp and understanding of the science behind it,” she says. “If the country could have come together and had some type of plan from the beginning, we wouldn’t have the terrible confusion we’re having right now – about masks or no masks, about how it’s spread, and how serious it really is.”
President Trump’s handling of his own illness rankles Trish and her kids. “His comments were so unbelievably hurtful,” she says. “The treatment he received, riding around outside the hospital, telling people we can’t let the virus dominate our lives. Well, it did dominate our lives. It completely destroyed our lives.”
In a social media post, Andy and Trish’s daughter Grace urges people to stop making jokes about COVID and to stop saying, “I wish things could go back to normal.”
Instead, Grace Phillips asks us to “put ourselves in the shoes of 210,000 American families, try to feel the pain others have every day reading how their leader is treating the thing that ‘dominated’ their lives, support the health heroes who are doing everything they can to limit fear and save lives” and “most importantly, express gratitude for your own life and the lives of those around you.”
Sometimes Trish wonders about the timing, about why Don and Andy got sick so early in the pandemic, before better treatments were available. But she’d rather not go there. “I guess I truly believe this was just how it was supposed to be. I can’t explain that.”
She’d rather focus on how Andy has helped others. His physicians at Penn served on an international coronavirus panel. Each week they’d tell doctors in Italy and France about what was working for Andy and what wasn’t. Andy was teaching physicians around the world about the disease. “I wish he knew how many lives he touched and changed,” his wife says.
Trish often thinks Andy may have known something she didn’t.
When he was diagnosed with cancer, Trish was pregnant with their second child and doctors told him he might never father another child.
But Andy always wanted more kids. A few years later, they had Aidan and two years after that, Andrew. I remember Andy saying, “If anything ever happens to me, I want you to be surrounded by children … I think deep inside him he was worried about the future.”
After his cancer fight, “he took nothing for granted,” Trish says. “He lived a happy, grateful life. That’s why he exercised so hard, why he worked so hard to provide for us. He knew how lucky he was to beat cancer.”
Five months after Andy’s death, Trish still texts with his physicians. “I saw their unbelievable dedication to their patients, their compassion, how they don’t want to give up. They took time to get to know me and the kids. I actually miss all of them. I actually miss being there. I know it’s a tie to Andy and he was there so long. There are some things I just can’t explain. Andy just touched people.”
As winter approaches, Trish contemplates life without her husband. At age 49, she feels young to be alone. Her worries are many: Will insurance cover her unfathomably high hospital bills? How will she support the family? When can she finally hold safe memorial services for Andy and for Don? As the virus spreads, could her kids catch it again in school?
For now, even though talking to the media is “way out of my comfort zone,” Trish steels herself to share Andy’s story, her family’s cautionary tale. It helps keep Andy with her. It helps the world remember him. And it might help keep someone else alive.
Survival of the Fittest Studios; Gyms struggle to stay upright
(PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SAVVY SERIES)
Remember when fitness studios were popping up here, there and everywhere?
Well, not anymore.
Without federal relief, up to a quarter of all fitness facilities – 10,000 gyms! – could close by year’s end, according to a recent industry analysis.
Data released by Yelp shows gyms face higher closure rates than nearly any other industry, including bars and restaurants.
Among the local providers shuttering bricks-and-mortar studios:
- Focus Fitness in Bryn Mawr
- Fly Wheel Sports in Bryn Mawr (company-wide bankruptcy/closure)
- Philadelphia Sports Club in Radnor (bankruptcy, all locations closed)
- Fuel Cycle Fitness in Ardmore
- Will Power in Ardmore
- Yoga Shala Main Line in Narberth
- Dana Hot Yoga in Bala
- Title Boxing in Frazer
- BRV Yoga in Phoenixville
- Yoga Home in Conshohocken
Most had tight quarters that made capacity limits and social distancing unfeasible. But even the big boys have taken a hit.
Ginormous facilities notwithstanding, Life Time Athletic clubs in Tredyffrin and Ardmore have seen significant drops in membership and foot traffic. The company nixed plans to build a co-working facility next to its Tredyffrin club but seems to be holding its own. It sure helps that it has a big corporation behind it.
“Life Time is doing a great job making everyone feel safe – large rooms, very spaced out and lots of outdoor programming,” reports Suzanne Olson, LT’s Group Fitness Studio Manager in Ardmore.
Meanwhile, the lights still aren’t on at the Main Line’s first Edge Fitness Club in Devon Square next to Target.
Talk about lousy timing – Edge planned to open last March, just as the virus came crashing down. The place stayed dark for months. A company spokesperson we spoke to blamed the delay on supply chain issues caused by the virus. But construction appears to have resumed recently and an early February 2021 opening has been announced. We shall see.
In Paoli, Purenergy Studio in Paoli has been especially upfront about its woes.
Though in-person classes are capped at eight, “few have ventured into the studio,” owner Chris Somers tells SAVVY. Zoom and on-demand classes have helped but aren’t enough. “Like everyone else, we’re hoping and praying for another stimulus package,” Somers says.
In the meantime, Somers has gotten creative. Taking a page from nonprofits’ playbooks, she’s organizing a “Save Purenergy” online auction and put out a plea for donations. The community has responded with scores of donated items and services.
“The outpouring of support … has been so amazing and appreciated!” says Somers. ‘If it weren’t for our teachers and students, I don’t believe we would have made it this far.”
Painting a much rosier picture: The Upper Main Line Y in Berwyn.
While we weren’t given specific numbers, UMLY spokesperson Kim Cavello tells us “many” members are using the machines in the Wellness Center and “many group exercise classes are filled.”
With lower membership fees than private clubs, the Y used to pack them in. Now, not so much. “Filled” in late 2020 is about half of “filled” a year ago, thanks to COVID capacity limits.
A clue that things may not be totally honky dory despite the Y’s stringent sanitation and safety protocols: UMLY has been giving 20% discounts on memberships and waiving its $99 joiner fees since it reopened in June. Cavello says it’s because amenities like steam rooms and saunas remain closed. But we’re guessing the Y may also be trying to lure folks back in the building – both current members and people who left higher-priced gyms they’d stopped using.
Still, the Y has something most other clubs don’t – and at a relatively reasonable price point: hugely diverse programming, particularly for young people. UMLY’s new Learning Center for virtual learners and its childcare programs are “almost full and in some cases, we have waiting lists,” Cavello reports. Kids enrichment classes – theater, dance, swim lessons, nature programs and tennis – “have proven very popular” this fall, she says.
Being connected to seven other area YMCAs is a boon, too. Virus-associated expenses for things like virtual Silver Sneakers classes for seniors and sanitation supplies get spread around.
Want to help save your favorite gym? Tell Congress to support The Health & Fitness Recovery Act. Introduced in early October, it would provide $30 billion in federal grants to fitness centers and studios.
In the next SAVVY: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST STUDIOS PART 2. We’ll tell you how six local fitness providers – clubs, franchises and independents – are attempting to ride out the pandemic.
Bloody brilliant: A Taste of Britain pops up next door
Anglophile Alert: A Taste of Britain has moved into the former ELLIE Main Line space in Eagle Village, at least for a few months.
But you’ll still have to go next door for a spot of tea.
Co-owners Debbie Heth and Edward Pierce have leased the ELLIE space through February and will open The Boutique by A Taste of Britain early next week, Heth tells SAVVY.
Just in time for holiday shopping, The Boutique will sell all things English: woolens, housewares, personal care products, Christmas décor, gourmet food, tea, china and more.
“We are nervous but excited. We’re trying to turn this year around,” says Heth, who took over the tearoom in 2012. “We just keep buying all these beautiful things we love, so we’re hoping customers will love them, too. Lots of price points so there’s something for everyone.”
The Boutique at A Taste of Britain, Eagle Village Shops, Wayne, 610-871-0390, is open daily 10 to 5.
COVID surges ‘exponentially’ with rising hospitalizations and schools on alert
COVID cases are soaring – up more than 70 percent in the past two weeks, growing at double the clip of last spring. Both Philly and the state broke single-day records for new infections this week. And many of those cases aren’t mild. PA patients on ventilators have tripled since October 1.
The latest COVID picture from Montgomery County’s virus page isn’t pretty. Note the sharp rise in hospitalizations below. Proving that young people do indeed get super sick from the virus, the group with the most COVID hospitalizations in Montco is currently people in their 20s.
Key numbers are climbing in all three Main Line counties: positivity rates, hospitalizations, and now, inevitably, deaths.
Calling the situation “catastrophic,” the director of CHOP’s PolicyLab recommended this week that schools across the region revert to all-virtual learning until the end of the year. A sign of the growing suburban threat: Chester County Hospital had zero COVID hospitalizations last week. This week it has 12.
Bordering Philly, Montco has reached the “substantial” spread level. Health officials were set to vote on a county-wide two-week school shutdown and will announce their decision by week’s end. Lower Merion School District suspended bus service through Friday because of a COVID outbreak in its transportation department and says a shutdown may be coming. Some preschools in the county are advising teachers to dust off their remote learning lesson plans.
Staffing suburban schools is getting increasingly dicey as more employees exposed to the virus have had to quarantine. So far, officials blame the school spread on infections coming in from outside – from family, social and church gatherings. But contact tracers are getting swamped so there may be undetected internal spread, too.
Like Montco, Delco has also moved into the “substantial” spread category but mostly in southern counties closer to Philly and not Radnor. The Inky reports some overloaded Delco hospitals are turning away ambulances.
In Chesco, the threat remains “moderate” but the age groups with the most cases might surprise you: people in their 20s, after that, 50-somethings. Students spreading it to their parents, perhaps?
How are individual Main Line towns doing? According to data analyst Bridgid Burkert (aka Main Line Mama), it varies. Her latest zip code maps show Wayne, Berwyn, Villanova and Gladwyne experiencing “moderate” community spread. But the spread is “substantial” in towns like Havertown, Bryn Mawr, Newtown Square, Paoli and Merion Station. Yikes.
Meanwhile, area colleges are holding their collective breath. And probably won’t exhale until students leave for Thanksgiving. (Most coeds will stay home until 2021 and finish the semester online.)
Less than two weeks after Halloween and its first football game, Penn State reports a significant spike. The number of active cases at Villanova jumped from 15 to 41 in the last few days, the most of Main Line-area colleges. Nearly 300 cases, almost all of them students, have had the virus since mid-August. Just a tick behind Nova is St. Joe’s with 38 active cases as of this Wednesday.
Among other colleges testing students, all of them much smaller than Nova and St. Joe’s, Haverford College has had just 5 student cases. Bryn Mawr College has had 10. Rosemont has had 7, Eastern has had 21 cases on campus and seven off. Cabrini reports 24 student cases this semester while Immaculata, interestingly, has had 51.
Some good news: Campus positivity rates so far are falling below the 5 percent rate that would likely trigger a return to all-virtual classes.
Keeping your pandemic puppy at home with you 24/7 isn’t doing him any favors.
And it sure as hell isn’t helping doggie day cares and dog walkers, small businesses slammed by the pandemic.
Open for 15 years on Sugartown Rd. in Wayne, [email protected] doggie day care needs to care for 12 dogs each day to break even. These days, it gets maybe four. If things don’t turn around soon, owner Marta Komosienski tells SAVVY she’ll have to close.
And what a shame that would be.
A onetime grooming assistant who’s fostered 40 dogs and figures she’s saved the lives of 20, Komosienski long dreamed of opening her own petcare center. She lives next door and takes care of all the dogs herself. Unlike other doggie day cares, there’s no grooming or boarding at [email protected] to offset its catastrophic losses.
Meanwhile, Pet Sitters Unlimited, a petcare pioneer on the Main Line since 1988, is mostly in dry dock.
At its height, Pet Sitters had 10 employees and 400 clients. “We were just jammin,’” says owner Kim Champy, a veterinary nurse.
“The third week of March we completely went dead in the water,” Champy says. “No one went to work; no one went on vacation.” Fifty lunch walks dwindled to one.
Early on, loyal clients would send checks to Pet Sitters Unlimited even though they were keeping their dogs at home. “I would cry every week I got one,” Champy tells SAVVY. “It was overwhelming and so beautiful.”
Champy herself has returned to veterinary nursing to make ends meet but remains hopeful. When the pandemic passes and folks leave home again, “Pet Sitters Unlimited will be here to help,” she says.
At Your Service Pet Care is also down to one daily client. When Vanguard and corporate centers near her Chesterbrook home were open, Donna McCarty had a steady stream of workday walks.
McCarty liked the fresh air and exercise and the money helped put her kids through school. Though her sons are grown and her business has fizzled, she’s not ready to retire. “I enjoy what I do; I’m just gonna hang in there and see what happens.”
McCarty and Komosienski tell us they’re worry about puppies hanging with their owners 24/7.
“Dogs need to see you coming and going,” McCarty says. “I tell clients with new dogs that they should leave them for an hour a day. Get into a routine so when you do go back to the office or go on a trip, your dog won’t get separation anxiety.”
Komosienski applauds those who’ve adopted pets during the pandemic but worries about rescued dogs spending all their time with humans.
“It’s especially important to socialize puppies and dogs that came from dubious backgrounds,” Komosienski says. Dogs are essentially pack animals, she says. If they’re not socialized with other dogs, they’re much more likely to have severe behavior issues.
“The cases of separation anxiety will be huge after COVID-19 and consequentially, so will the number of dogs in shelters.” She hopes new dog owners working from home will consider dropping their dogs off at daycare at least one day a week.
“A few new pups are coming but, unfortunately, too slowly,” Komosienski says. “I’m running out of time. Money, I ran out of a long time ago.”
Make it HomeCooked for the Holidays
2020’s been rough enough. Why not treat yourself and your family to a yummy, “Homecooked” dinner this Thanksgiving?
Just leave space in your fridge and let Homecooked’s homegrown Paoli team do the rest. They shop, peel and chop so you don’t have to.
“This is our 14th year of simplifying Thanksgiving for families,” says HomeCooked owner Claire Guarino.
HomeCooked preps everything the old-fashioned way – by hand. “People at Wegmans aren’t peeling fresh potatoes,” she says. Bread for multigrain stuffing is hand-sliced – no shortcuts. “This is made-from-scratch food.”
Following their foolproof instructions, you simply heat, transfer to your own dishes, and serve. “People have been passing off our Thanksgiving as their own for years,” Guarino says. “The stigma of not making everything yourself has really decreased. With the pandemic and kids in virtual school, this is a stress-free Thanksgiving. It’s food you can really be proud to serve and we can bring it to your door the day before.”
New this year: home delivery and small-package options for folks planning smaller gatherings due to the virus.
Grateful families return every year for HomeCooked’s tried-and-true recipes, perfected over time.
“The Works” Thanksgiving package – ready-to-roast turkey breast, all the trimmings, sides and dessert – will feed a family of four or five for a reasonable $120, or feed eight to 10 for $189.99.
Prefer to make your own turkey and dessert but want help with the tricky stuff like gravy, stuffing (gluten-free available) and side dishes? HomeCooked’s got you covered.
Families who want to simplify meals throughout the holiday weekend can order breakfast frittatas, quiches, French toast and ready-to-bake scones as well as tasty dips and “TV dinners” for football on the flat screen.
For a nominal fee, trucks deliver to the entire Main Line and beyond.
The coronavirus crisis has been a mixed bag for HomeCooked. Guarino has suspended popular kids cooking birthday parties, holiday camps and workshops. Its mom-and-tot holiday cookie workshop, which always sells out, will be a take-home kit this year.
On the plus side, HomeCooked’s meal pickup and delivery services have boomed. To meet rising demand, party team employees were moved to meal prep and no one was laid off.
Guarino knows she’s been lucky. “I feel so badly for all the businesses that are struggling. We tried to do a lot of small-business support and ramped up HomeCooked’s community outreach.” She estimates 70 to 80 families identified by T&E Care have received free HomeCooked food, most using convenient curbside pickup. “It’s been really gratifying and people are so appreciative of the meals,” she says.
HomeCooked, 1 Paoli Plaza, across N. Valley Rd. from Paoli Train Station, 610-647-1002. www.HomeCooked.net. Order online or by phone. Thanksgiving order deadline is Thursday, Nov. 19 but grab-and-go items will be available while supplies last.
***SAVVY Special FREE Apple & Pear Crisp. Stop by HomeCooked, mention SAVVY & take home a delicious fall fruit crisp (serves 2 – 3). No purchase necessary. To get a free crisp in your pick-up or delivery order, simply type “SAVVY Crisp” in the special instructions (NOT the promo code space) in the online order form. ***
A tip of the cap to Devon’s World Series MVP
Well, sort of.
Devon resident Gary Brooks was awarded the Chevy Cares Award during Game Two (on national TV!) for leading Berwyn-Paoli Area Little League’s Challenger Baseball, a program for special needs youth. He takes home a 2020 Chevy Tahoe with oodles of space for bats and gloves.
Brooks has led the inclusive division for 10 years, “demonstrating tireless energy and unwavering dedication,” reads a BPALL statement. Since its founding in 1989, hundreds of children have participated in Challenger baseball and softball.
When the pandemic struck, Brooks started hosting Zoom sessions with Challenger families. He also led BPALL Gives Back Food Drive to support local food banks.
Leadership runs in the family. Gary’s wife, Wendy, is a longtime parent co-leader of BUILD T/E, a support group for parents of students with learning differences. She’s also on the the board of Baker Industries, a nonprofit that creates workforce opportunities for people with challenges.
Thanks for doing the Main Line proud, Brooks family.
Young entrepreneurs bring filet mignon to the Main Line masses
Nick Filet is expanding to Wayne.
Owners of the popular Paoli sandwich shop have sold their first franchise to 2016 Radnor High graduate Brandon Howell, who managed Nick Filet’s Paoli flagship for the last two years.
Howell plans to open in the former Simple Greek space in Wayne Square in December.
Co-founders of Nick Filet are Malvern natives Nick Kline and his dad, Keith. Aiming to be the Subway of filet mignon sandwiches, they’re off to a promising start – opening a second store in Cape May, selling a franchise in just two years, and earning a 2020 Best of Philly nod for their $16.99 Surf & Turf (lobster/filet) sandwich.
Not to worry, Nick Filet’s original sandwich – a cooked-to-order filet mignon on an Amoroso Kaiser roll – sells for $8.99.
Eyes are everything. Actually, they’re the only thing – now that masks cover the rest.
Might as well make them pop.
With a special intro price for SAVVY readers (YES!), there’s never been a better time to treat yourself to eyelash extensions.
Take it from us, they’re, well, amazing,
So are the safety precautions, customized artistry and prices at Amazing Lash Studios in Tredyffrin and Ardmore. Owned by a local husband-and-wife team, Amazing Lash Studios put long, lush lashes effortlessly within reach – and at the area’s lowest prices.
Technicians are estheticians or cosmetologists trained to Amazing Lash Studio’s exacting standards – not, say, nail-salon techs who took a one-day course. Clients choose from one of four styles: Natural, Cute, Sexy or Gorgeous, relax in a private studio for about an hour and a half, and emerge gorgeous.
“Many start with Natural,” says owner Desiree Orr. “But they almost always end up wanting more.” A former Cirque de Soleil performer in Vegas, Rock School of Dance alum and the mother of two, the West Chester native has had extensions for eight years. “Everybody has them in Vegas,” she says. “There’s a lash salon on every corner!”
Lash quality is top-notch and health precautions are second to none. While most lash salons use shared spaces, Amazing Lash techs work in private rooms. And the Orrs have invested thousands in safety measures, including:
- Staggered appointment times.
- Temperature checks and health screenings.
- Masks at all times.
- Equipment and rooms deep-cleaned and sanitized between uses.
- Contactless payment.
“This is a beauty industry so we were already doing most of this before,” Orr says. “Our technicians actually wore masks before COVID.”
Another Amazing Lash advantage: they’re open seven days a week with convenient evening hours.
When COVID closed his two businesses for months on end, “people were begging us to open or asking to go to technicians’ houses,” Joey Orr says. “They really missed their lashes.”
Since the studio re-opened, about 90 percent of Wayne clients are back. Only open a couple months before COVID, the Ardmore studio has been slower to bounce back.
“What people sometimes don’t understand is that this is a small family business, even though it’s a franchise,” says Joey Orr. “We have a lease. We have to pay our landlord. We didn’t get any breaks.”
To bring in more clients, the Orrs have expanded services. Their studios now offer lash lifts (perms that curl lashes skyward for six weeks), lash and brow tinting, and as of this week, eyebrow lamination (below).
Lamination offers a non-invasive (no cutting or tattooing) answer to sparse, uneven or unruly brows. Brow hairs are chemically “trained” to be more vertical and look darker and fuller.
*** HUGE SAVINGS FOR SAVVY READERS. TELL THEM SAVVY SENT YOU AND GET YOUR FIRST FULL SET OF EYELASH EXTENSIONS FOR JUST $69. (Other salons charge $200 or more.) Offer valid through Nov. 30 at Amazing Lash Studios in Wayne and Ardmore.***
Do it yourself – Ok, maybe with a little help – at Main Line DIY Studio
It took a while but Berwyn’s Rustic Brush has morphed into Main Line DIY Studio.
Owner Teresa Dempsey cut ties with franchisor Rustic Brush last January and planned to open under her own banner in March. Instead, she tweaked her business model to “help me survive another potential pandemic shutdown” and unfurled Main Line DIY this week.
The studio provides the materials, tools and know-how. You bring willing hands and a can-do attitude.
All coronavirus safety precautions are firmly in place, Dempsey says. Prefer to create at home? Pick up a project kit “to go.”
Among her huge array of possible DIY creations: holiday wreaths, ornaments, entry mats, flower boxes, wood signs and trays. Those less creatively inclined can shop for finished goodies.
Dempsey’s team is also available to lead workshops and craft parties in private homes and businesses.
The old Painting with a Twist space in central Wayne is now Sharp Memories Studio (above), an intriguing art gallery and photography studio. Owners are husband and wife portrait artists – one uses a camera, the other a paintbrush.
A watercolorist with an international following, Saska Stanisic creates commissioned portraits for roughly $700 to $800 for an 11 X 14 canvas. Her husband calls her work “portraits with an abstract twist.”
Nema Stanisic is Sharp Memories’ in-studio and on-location portrait photographer. “My portraits are full of emotion. I tend to focus on candid photography but am also very happy with traditional work,” he tells SAVVY.
The couple moved to Wayne from Boca Raton two years ago, drawn by Radnor schools for their twins, the change of seasons and the varied terrain. “Florida was too flat and too monotonous for our liking,” Nema says.
Serbian natives, the couple met by chance on a Christmas Eve flight to Serbia ten years ago. “We sat next to each other for two-and-a-half hours and the rest is history,” says Nema.
Sharp Memories Studio, 107 E. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, (954) 789-5122, is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Later hours on weekends.
by Courtney Mullen
When Alan Brock finished the Bryn Mawr buildout of the Main Line’s first 9Round in early March, he expected to open at month’s end.
Alas, COVID-19 had other plans.
Five months later, Brock finally turned on the lights with new capacity limits, physical distancing and supercharged sanitation measures.
The beauty of 9Round is its convenience. There are no class times; new sessions start every three minutes. “We joke that ‘class’ is a dirty word around here,” Brock says. You simply show up at the time you choose online, get your sweat on for a half hour, then get going.
Workouts last – you guessed it – nine rounds. You rotate through nine HIIT cardio/kickboxing “stations” every 3 minutes, doing punch drills, squat kicks, jumping rope and more.
A friendly, knowledgeable trainer teaches you the moves and cheers you on.
Monthly memberships include unlimited visits, gloves, wraps and a heart rate monitor to ensure you stay in your target fat-burning zone and don’t overdo it.
Brock is an Overbrook native whose dad bought him his first bag and gloves when he was just 8. He chose to open a 9Round franchise in nearby Bryn Mawr because people on the Main Line value their health and their time, he says. There are more than 600 9Rounds around the world.
Intrigued by its efficiency, we gave the workout a whirl. Biggest left-hook surprise? How much fun we had and how much our abs ached later. Whether soreness came from the workout or laughing with Brock & Co. or both, we’re not sure. But we are sure we’ll be back.
Haverford College students end their strike, Bryn Mawr’s continues
A two-week student strike ended Wednesday at Haverford College after organizers announced that their chief demands had been met.
For two weeks, students boycotted classes, campus jobs and extra-curriculars to “disrupt the order” at the Quaker college. While they called the strike “generations in the making,” its immediate precipitant was an email from Haverford’s president and dean, urging students not to join protests in Philly over the police shooting of Walter Wallace. (The two later said they feared for students’ safety.)
Strike organizers called the email a “continuation of a long tradition of anti-Blackness and the erasure of marginalized voices” at Haverford, which they point out was built on Lenni Lenape farmland.
Returning to class, strike leaders claimed a series of victories. Among them: forcing President Wendy Raymond, who is white, to step down as interim chief diversity officer (she’s being replaced by the provost who is Black); substantial renovations to Haverford’s Black Cultural Center and campus buildings to improve accessibility, cancellation of Election Day classes, full funding for students’ off-campus therapy visits, a Pass/Fail option for Fall 2020 semester, bias training and more.
Meanwhile, at press time, a student strike was continuing at Bryn Mawr College, where organizers have submitted 18 demands to the administration.
This and That
Only in 2020. A store named for a deadly virus is welcoming shoppers at the King of Prussia Mall. On the upper level next to Tommy Bahama, COVID-19 sells PPE, sanitizers, gift packages and “statement” masks, some with electronic filtration systems.
Social impact company QuestCap has announced plans to open testing sites at the KOP Mall, promising 24-hour results. Antigen tests will be $59 and PCR tests will be $179. At press time, no word on precise locations and opening dates.
Delco is decriminalizing pot. Under an ordinance just passed by the all-Democratic county council, possessing small amounts of marijuana is a “health violation” that carries a $50 fine. Hundreds of residents – most of whom supported the change – flooded a public hearing a few weeks ago.
Spread Bagelry is up and running in downtown Wayne in the former From the Boot space in the Suburban Building. Yum. Spread has been spreading love for its Montreal-style bagels (flatter, chewier, less caloric) at Bryn Mawr Village for about a year now.
Renovations are complete and the historic Loch Aerie Mansion is now a smashing event venue in Malvern. They’ve even added a new ballroom to the circa 1865-property. John Serock is the exclusive caterer.
That big tent on North Wayne Ave. isn’t going anywhere. Now the “Wayne Winter Grove,” the tent will stay up through year’s end for safe outdoor socializing. Contact [email protected] if you’d like to use it for a meeting, class or gathering. On Small Business Saturday (Nov. 29), head to the Wayne Winter Grove for gift-card giveaways and gift bags, courtesy of Wayne Business Association. And Santa arrives at the tent with socially distant photo ops Saturday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, Berwyn Village merchants are planning a Santa Drive-By Sunday, December 6, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Kids can hop out of the car for a quick, not-too-close pic with the big guy.
Forget about biking on the boards in Margate any time soon. Voters have overwhelmingly nixed a feasibility study for a new boardwalk to occupy the No Man’s Land between the dunes and the bulkhead. Margate hasn’t had a boardwalk since the old one washed away in a 1944 hurricane.
One of the nation’s top 10 political campaign donors hangs his hat in Haverford, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Jeffrey Yass, CEO of Susquehanna International Group, and wife Janine have donated $25.3 million to Republican candidates, placing ninth. At the tippy top of U.S. donors: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (#1 with $183 million donated) and Michael Bloomberg (#2 with $107 million). Yass is also on the board of the Cato Institute, a libertarian/free market think tank.
Itty bitty Narberth leads the way again. The borough that was first to ban single-use plastics now has a mask mandate. Anyone over age 2 spotted maskless in the town’s business district or parks gets a $15 fine, under a new ordinance. “I’d rather go a little bit overboard than under board and get people sick,” Narberth Mayor Andrea Deutsch told 6abc.
A SAVVY shoutout to an activist eighth grader at Bala Cynwyd Middle School. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Eli Dresnin spent the summer and fall pounding the pavements of Lower Merion, making countless “touchless” campaign literature drops.
He also volunteered for the get-out-the-vote campaign by Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Eli started his political career as in student government at Cynwyd Elementary and says he’s just getting started. Nice goin,’ kiddo.
A huge tract is about to open up in Rosemont. Gemma Services, which just took over The Village a year ago, is vacating 43 acres on Roberts Road. Gemma says it will place all residents – teenage girls with mental health challenges – in new residential treatment programs before it closes its Rosemont campus, likely by January.
Another coronavirus collapse: Pet Valu is calling it quits. Look for liquidation sales at stores in Gateway Shopping Center, Ardmore, Malvern’s Lincoln Court, Broomall, Newtown Square and Conshy.
A win all around. T&E Care will get 20 percent of every order placed with Berwyn’s Tasty Table Market & Catering through Nov. 16. Menu options here. Sweetening the deal: people who participate in the T&E Care promo get 20 percent off their next Tasty Table order. Good stuff.
And finally, a few Halloween pics worth sharing:
First, a supremely well-constructed candy shoot that dispensed full-size bars in Wayne:
And a horse-of-a-different color Halloween parade in Tredyffrin behind Gateway Shopping Center:
2020 sure has been one wild ride but let’s count our blessings this Thanksgiving. We’ll be back before you know it with our annual all-local gift guide. Until then, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Team SAVVY Main Line!