Tongues are clucking at the prospect of a Chick-fil-A in downtown Wayne.
But don’t be counting your chickens. This bird might take a while to hatch, if it does at all.
Here’s what’s certain: The Atlanta-based fast-food chain/national obsession has drawn up plans to open its first true Main Line location at the old Chili’s at 312 W. Lancaster Ave.
The Chili’s building would be demolished and replaced by a two-lane, drive-through-only Chick-fil-A. There would be no indoor seating and just a handful of tables out front.
As drawn, the plan would require at least four zoning variances, in part because the front of the super deep lot is zoned commercial while the rear is zoned residential.
But the bigger stumbling block, according to Abel and others, is the potential for cars to clog Lancaster Ave. as they wait to enter. Nobody wants to see the long lines that routinely snarl traffic near the King of Prussia outpost at lunchtime.
Indeed, business owners near Chick-fil-As in Ohio, Texas and New Jersey have all sued the company, alleging its long lines cut off access to their stores and scare shoppers away.
But we may be getting ahead of ourselves.
To date, Chick-fil-A has only floated its plans informally.
“This is a common step taken by interested developers so they can decide to incorporate comments from township staff before the plans are discussed publicly,” Radnor Township manager Bill White tells SAVVY.
Based on township feedback, Chick-fil-A could either walk away or choose to submit formal plans for development.
“I imagine that folks are eager to jump into the thought of a Chick-fil-A at that site – either excited or terrified,” says White. “But based on where the developer is at in their planning process, it’s too early.”
While we’re all waiting impatiently for Marc Vetri to open a restaurant in Bryn Mawr this spring, another big-deal Philly chef is already here.
Lucky for us.
“Top Chef’ winner, James Beard award finalist, Le Bec Fin alum, and owner of the much-lauded Laurel BYOB in East Passyunk, Nicholas Elmi just opened Lark, the loftier companion to his daytime café, Landing Kitchen, in Bala Cynwyd.
Before you Western Main Liners bellyache about the drive, hear this: Lark is city-quality, destination dining with a view – and you don’t have to fight the Schuylkill or pay for parking.
Plus, Lark is perched atop the coolest mixed-use development around: 10 abandoned acres at the old Pencoyd Ironworks foundry.
Now dubbed Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing, it’s the Main Line’s only waterfront Mecca. How fab is it that a developer – specifically, Donna Galvin at the Penn Group – saw potential in Lower Merion’s seven miles of Schuylkill River frontage.
Elmi, who lives in Collingswood, NJ, tells SAVVY he wasn’t looking to expand to the Main Line but when Galvin shared her vision for the riverbank, “it quickly became an easy fit.”
Pencoyd Landing currently boasts a sleek Marriott Residence Inn, two Elmi restaurants with outdoor spaces, fire pits and river views, a huge public plaza, a restored office building (likely designed by Frank Furness), and easy access to the Manayunk Bridge and the Cynwyd and Schuylkill River trails.
Lark is nestled on the seventh floor with its own ground-level entrance and elevator.
With soaring ceilings, giant backlit mirrors, iron accents and scenic views, the place is a showstopper.
Our only gripes: the not-so-comfy wood chairs and the not-so-cozy tables for two positioned in the center of the dining room. Do yourself a solid and ask for a banquette.
The cuisine is “coastal Mediterranean” – heavy on handmade pastas and sustainable seafood.
Our party of two split a refreshingly tart Chicory Salad ($15), two rich pastas – Squid Ink Chitarra with Lobster & Calamari ($22) and Toasted Farro Crete di Gallo aka “Rooster’s crest” ($17) – and a simple but elegant entrée: Grilled Trout with cauliflower and toasted almonds ($29).
On the menu: Nine interesting apps ($14-$18), four housemade pastas ($17 – $22), and four entrées ($29 – $52) because that’s about all the short-staffed kitchen can handle at the moment. By necessity, Elmi has demoted himself: he cooks on the line every night.
Lark is also capping reservations at 100 to 120 people – about half-capacity – so food can come out on time and at top quality.
Another concession to Lark’s slim staff: It’s only open Wed. through Saturday nights.
It took Lark a long time to get off the ground.
COVID pushed construction back a full year, then came staffing woes and supply chain snarls.
“Two restaurants in six months is tough to do. And to do it in the middle of a pandemic is especially hard,” Elmi says.
Now that Lark is airborne at last, Elmi sees friendlier skies. Phones are ringing for reservations and parties. Happy Hour, a fifth night and an expanded menu are coming soon. And the staff – if Elmi says so himself – is topnotch.
“The good news about all those people leaving the [restaurant] industry is that those who are left really want to do it. This has been the smoothest opening I’ve ever had. Everyone is really excited to be here.”
Lark, 611 Righters Ferry Road, 7th floor, Bala Cynwyd is open Wed. to Sat. 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. and for private events for 20-250.
Sleepy, wealthy Willistown, land of rolling hills and horse farms, is making some noise – and it’s not coming from baying foxhounds at Radnor Hunt.
Two storied properties whose prominent owners have passed – one in Berwyn, the other in Paoli – have changed hands. And judging from the yard signs dotting the countryside and a few heated township meetings, a whole bunch of neighbors fear the worst.
Causing considerable consternation is the sale of the much larger property, Rock Hill Farm, longtime home of Tristram Colket, whose grandfather John Dorrance invented condensed soup and founded Campbell’s Soup Company.
After Colket passed in 2020 at age 82, his widow, Ruth, put the entire estate on the market: the 14,000 sq. ft. main house (below), five secondary homes, three greenhouses, stable, barn, pool house and the streams, forests and fields around them. Asking price: $38.25 million, at the time the highest residential price tag in PA.
At 222 acres, the place is mammoth.
In Willistown, only the Moran family’s 263-acre Brushwood Stable/Bryn Clovis Farm, in conservation easement, is larger. By comparison, Stoneleigh garden in Villanova, the former Haas estate, is 42 acres and Radnor’s Willows Park is 47 acres.
As it does with large-tract owners, Willistown Conservation Trust had conversations with the Colkets about the benefits of putting Rock Hill into conservation easement – maybe create a new public preserve – but when Tris passed, the dotted line remained unsigned.
“It would have been a charitable donation but we can’t force private landowners to put easements on their property,” says WCT Executive Director Kate Etherington.
Hoping to nudge a conservation-minded buyer, perhaps another philanthropist, a WCT-created conservation plan was even attached to the property listing. Hint hint.
We spoke to the Main Line developer/entrepreneur (who asked not to be named) who’s under contract to buy the property. He confirms that he plans to keep the main house and secondary buildings for his family’s personal use.
No issues there.
It’s his plan to build 22 homes on one-acre sites that has some neighbors sounding off at township meetings, on a Save Rock Hill Farm Facebook page, and via yard signs.
Among those leading the charge is Stephen Douthwaite, who lives on South Valley Rd. across from the farm.
“We don’t want this part of the Main Line to become like Bryn Mawr or even Radnor where we’ve seen open spaces disappearing at quite a pace,” Douthwaite tells SAVVY.
Among neighbors’ concerns: protecting the area’s natural beauty, flora and fauna; the prospect of increased traffic (especially with a local bridge washed out indefinitely by Ida); ongoing maintenance of open space; the viability of 22 separate septic systems; and stormwater management given the hilly terrain, streams and recent frequency of 100-year storms.
Still, the buyer’s attorney has assured the Willistown Planning Commission that the final land development plan will conform to code. (His first sketch plan did not.)
The Main Line’s most conservation-conscious township – this is hunt country, after all – Willistown has zoned two-thirds of its land “Rural.” Sure, you can build a home here, but it has to be on four acres.
But gigantic Rock Hill, zoned Rural, is also in a “conservation overlay district” where clusters of homesites of at least one acre are allowed – as long as 75 percent of the parcel remains open space.
“From my understanding, the ordinance eliminates the possibility of a Liseter-type development,” says WCT’s Etherington, referring to the Toll Brothers’ mega-home site at the former DuPont estate in Newtown Square.
The Rock Hill buyer stresses he’s only proposing to build on 25 of the 246 total acres he’s purchasing. In his view, he’s saving the farm.
He also says he’s been working closely with the township, conservation and land-planning experts to create a third sketch plan – “the most sensitive, cohesive plan possible” – one that he says will preserve critical wetlands and habitats and neighbors’ unobstructed, million-dollar views.
The third plan moves five proposed home sites from a pie-shaped wedge to the main development site along White Horse Rd. and relocates a planned road to obscure it from view, he says.
Whether this latest plan will appease neighbors and pass muster with Willistown officials is an open question.
A fully-engineered formal application has not yet been submitted and the approval process is just getting started.
Meanwhile, the sale of the private homestead of the late philanthropist Betty Moran is causing agita right up the road.
Local developer Ed Morris bought Moran’s 15-acre Paoli property (above) for $2.85 million last summer and has proposed to subdivide the land in six: Moran’s 5,500 sq. ft. home, pool house and tennis courts on five acres would make up one parcel (below at far left); the remaining ten acres would be sold as five, two-acre lots.
Morris introduced his proposal at last month’s Willistown Planning Commission meeting and got an earful. An overflow crowd railed against the sketch plan, citing spoiled vistas, traffic, stormwater, pedestrian safety and conservation fears should homes be built on the five parcels.
“Betty [Moran] is rolling in her grave,” announced Missy Schwartz, who grew up down the road and still lives in the township.
Some 70 “concerned citizens” have since joined an email chain started by Terri Heffernan whose Treble Lane property backs up to the estate’s fields.
“We think of Betty as a true legend of Willistown, … an enthusiastic and generous supporter of open space,” says Heffernan. “This [plan] is against the spirit of what she would have wanted.”
But here’s the rub. Morris’ plan conforms to code. His new property is in Willistown’s “single family district” where minimum two-acre lots, like those he proposes, are allowed.
Still, neighbors hope township officials with support from Willistown Conservation Trust can work with him on a new plan. Maybe they can rustle up some public money to give him a financial incentive to subdivide the parcel into, say, three lots instead of six, the Heffernans say.
“Willistown government is unique in that they’ve been willing to pay for open space,” says Bill Heffernan. “I know that sounds pie-in-the sky to people in Lower Merion but they have a process here, where if it makes sense, there are funds available for this.“
UPDATES TO THIS STORY:
We have since heard from Betty Moran’s daughter, Betsy Legnini, who assures us that her mother was indeed a champion of open space. “She was involved in conservation easements all over Chester County, including on her own horse farm [Brushwood Stables/Bryn Clovis], but for whatever, reason, she chose not to put one on her South Valley Rd. property. She knew what she was doing.”
Also relevant here, we believe: The buyer, Ed Morris, is part of the extended Moran family – he is the first cousin of Betty Moran’s son-in-law, Bob Legnini. We are told he plans to live in the main house and may, in fact, want to subdivide so his grown children can live on the property one day, too.
Willistown officials asked Morris to return to the drawing board after the planning commission meeting. A new plan should be forthcoming.
Neighbors win: Historic Gladwyne Village ‘saved’
Facing a firestorm, a developer has nixed plans to put a three-story apartment building at the old Acme site in Gladwyne village.
“There came a point in time with the fever pitch of the neighbors…there were some personal attacks levied and a fundraiser, it became too much,” developer Leo Addimando of Alterra Property Group told the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Residents jammed meetings, posted a barrage of lawn signs, launched a Save Gladwyne Village website and hosted a $1000/ticket cocktail party to fund a legal challenge. The coup de grâce was the neighbors’ November appeal, filed by their attorney Phil Rosenweig, of the Lower Merion zoning officer’s preliminary approval of the plan to build 34 apartments with 8,000 sq. ft. of ground-floor retail.
The developer and the site owner, the Barker family, “listened to the community,” Lower Merion Commissioner Dan Bernheim told the Gladwyne Civic Association. “… It is not [Alterra’s] style to engage in disputes with neighbors.”
Alterra has shifted to Plan B: a proposal to spend about $6 million to turn the old Acme building (below) into a McCaffrey’s Food Market.
A boutique grocery chain with “chef-driven” prepared foods and oodles of organic offerings, McCaffrey’s operates eight stores in higher-income zip codes like Princeton, New Hope, Yardley and Blue Bell. Gladwyne should fit right in.
Gladwynites who’ve pined for another supermarket since the Acme closed nearly three years ago are pinching themselves.
“We are very lucky,” says resident Kelli Byrne. “I’m sure it’s in no small part due to the organized, proactive, and yes, well-funded efforts to make sure Gladwyne was heard. Other communities aren’t so lucky.”
McCaffrey’s hopes to open in the fall of 2022.
‘Immersive Christmas experience’ debuts on the Main Line
If a mall Santa simply won’t do – and money is no object – may we suggest a visit to Old City Santa?
A Philly phenomenon since 2017, Old City Santa has gone suburban this year. Santa and Mrs. Claus are now holding court on weekends at Duportail House in Chesterbrook, where the busy elves at Phil Kramer Photography have turned the colonial-era farmhouse into a Hallmark Christmas set with all the props in place: two decorated trees and decked mantels, roaring fires, homespun toys, a jolly Santa and a kindly Mrs. Claus.
“It feels charming and magical as soon as you drive up,” says Old City Santa Manager Evan Kramer. “It’s an authentic Christmas experience for families who don’t want to meet Santa at the mall.”
Families visit Old City Santa by appointment only and have the run of the place for an hour. As they meander through the decked halls, photographers snap away.
First, Mrs. Claus tells a Christmas tale – this year’s story explains why Santa, who’s pals with George Washington, has come to Duportail House.
After family portraits (grandparents welcome), it’s off to the next room, a one-room schoolhouse/post office, where kids write and mail letters to Santa.
Next comes the big reveal. A curtain is drawn back and ho ho ho, there’s Old St. Nick himself in a cozy room right out of Norman Rockwell.
As cameras click away, awestruck kids can sit on his lap, play with the room’s toys or open gifts that parents have dropped off. All the while they’re chatting with the Santa, who’s already been briefed on their names, their pets, where they live and go to school, and what they like to do.
“Kids feel like they’re at Disney World,” says Kramer. “They’re surprised the whole time. It feels very special and personal. It’s really immersive.”
After a final stop for cookies and cocoa, families are on their way.
Parents are promptly sent photo proofs that the studio can turn into holiday cards, old-time wood ornaments and wall hangings, traditional portraits or full albums that document the day.
“These are Santa photos that aren’t going to get lost in a drawer,” Kramer says. Most kids who come are ages 3 to 8, but babies, big sisters and brothers are more than welcome.
A huge Christmas fan, Evan’s father, Phil Kramer, launched Old City Santa as a seasonal extension of his commercial, event, portrait and fashion photography studio. He was looking for a bigger staging space when a friend suggested Duportail House, which hosts plenty of warm-weather events but is underused in drafty December.
So what’s the price tag for all this Christmas magic? The base package is $850, the upgraded experience is $1,450, and the mega package is, ahem, $2,800. Some families make it an annual tradition. For many, though, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime splurge.
Dems dominate again; boards stay blue
Republicans prevailed in PA statewide races, Bucks County and Virginia, but around here? Not so much.
In almost every case, they failed to crack the Main Line’s all-Democratic school boards and all-or-mostly Democratic municipal boards.
In T/E’s school board races, Democrat Yolanda Allen easily beat Leslie Elken by 15 points while Robert Singh prevailed over exceptionally well-funded Republican Deana Wang by 9 points.
“We tried our best and let our voice be heard,” Wang conceded on her Facebook page. “I will continue to be the voice for our community and stay engaged with community matters.”
In somewhat closer races in T/E’s Region Three, Dems Maryann Piccioni and Susan Audrain took 53% of the vote to Bill Nolan and Rachel Kill’s 45%.
The tallies were tighter in Radnor where all four Democrats– Sarah Dunn, Lydia Solomon, Susan Stern and Andrew Babson – held on to their school board seats, besting the Reimagine Radnor-funded challengers who ran as Republicans. Each Dem captured 13 -14 % of the vote, while Republican challengers each took 10 – 11 %.
Reimagine Radnor candidate Beth Connor was gratified that Republicans had a better showing than in recent board races. “We moved the needle,” she told CNN, attributing GOP losses to a lingering “Trump effect.”
Reimagine Radnor co-founder Kim Kent also found reason for optimism.
“While the final results did not go our way, we are encouraged by the increased bipartisan support we saw in the community,” Kent wrote on Facebook. “Our candidates pulled in very strong numbers and came surprisingly close given registration patterns in the district. Unfortunately, they weren’t close enough to win this time.” Shortly after the election, Kent stepped away from Reimagine Radnor.
In Lower Merion, a four-person slate of Democratic women, each with kids in district schools – Anna Shurk, Kerry Sautner, Melanie Schafmeister and Kimberly Garrison – racked up easy wins in school board races.
In municipal races, there were blue sweeps in Tredyffrin and Easttown. Incumbent Tredyffrin Supervisors at Large Matt Holt (29%) and Murph Wysocki (28%) fended off challenges from Sean Sweeney (21%) and Jim Zdancewicz (20%). And Democrat David Miller, president of the Chesterbrook Civic Association, trounced lesser-known Nick Sarracino by 23 points.
Democrats continued to make inroads in once reliably red Easttown. Supervisor candidates Erik Unger and Alex Bosco eked out two- and one-point wins, respectively. Dems also won tax collector, auditor and constable races.
In ruby-red Willistown, incumbent Republican Supervisor Bill Shoemaker held off Susan Rosso with a five-point win, while Planning Commission member Molly Perrin beat Republican Mary Ravenfeld by just three points. Perrin was the lone Democratic win in Willistown.
In Radnor, three of the four commissioner races went to Democrats. Lisa Borowski cruised to re-election with 63% of the vote while newcomers AnnaMarie Jones and Maggie Myers won by nearly 9 and 6 points, respectively. Incumbent Jake Abel was the only winning Radnor Republican, besting Avery Rome by 10 points. And Ken Frohlich became the township’s first Democratic treasurer.
All seven Lower Merion Commissioner races were foregone conclusions. All Dems ran unopposed or cross-filed.
For the record, turnout was highest in Chester County where nearly 39% of registered voters cast ballots in person or by mail. About 37.5% voted in Montco and 36% in Delco.
With Omicron emerging and flu season already here, boosting immunity is America’s newest obsession.
It certainly clients’ Number One question at Wayne’s Solutions 4 Health, a shop/clinic that dispenses as much free advice as it does vitamins.
“People are freaking out about cold and virus season this fall,” says Solutions owner Chris Conway who pores over the latest science (so you don’t have to), collaborates with integrative physicians and healers, and employees two functional nutritionists, one of whom is always in the store to answer questions.
Solutions’ most requested protocol: “How to revamp your immune system in 30 days.”
“People still think the vaccine prevents you from getting COVID but that’s not what it’s for,” Conway says. “It was developed to make your COVID ride less intense.”
Conway cites under-appreciated stats about people who’ve died from COVID: 98% had two co-morbidities, 80% were obese and 48% had the flu or pneumonia when they passed. It’s all in black-and-white on the CDC website, he says.
The key, then, to surviving COVID is to head off those co-morbidities.
Sure, stress and sleep play key supporting roles, but, according to Conway, the science shows that what we put in our mouths and the way we move are the real stars.
Boosting immunity through diet: There’s a clear link between immune response and eating nutrient-dense foods. Think green (veggies – even at breakfast!), lean (grassfed and organic if you eat meat), and clean (not processed). With so many farmer’s markets, organic juice bars and healthy cafés on the Main Line, “there’s just no excuse,” Conway says.
Skip the sugar-laden granola bar and snack on a high-quality protein bar like Raw Rev or Kion, both sold at Solutions 4 Health. Or grab an apple and handful of almonds – “ a super nutrient dense choice,” Conway says.
Boosting immunity through exercise: It doesn’t have to be a sweaty, heart-pounder every time but do something to get the blood flowing every single day.
“Exercise isn’t just about getting fit,” Conway says. “It’s all about blood flow and the lymphatic system. You can’t have an efficient immune system with poor lymphatic flow.”
A myriad of diseases stem from poor circulation. Heart disease, osteoporosis and neurological disorders all begin with a lack of blood flow – to the heart, the bones, the brain.
Obese people have poor circulation and poor lymphatic flow– a double whammy. And that’s not all. According to Conway’s research, the leading cause of cancer today is, get this, obesity. Lifestyle – smoking, poor diet, being sedentary – all feed the cancer, he says. The science is clear: even moderate exercise can lower your risk, particularly of breast, colon, uterine and lung cancers.
Boosting immunity through targeted nutrients: “We lead with the science,” says Conway, who reports “overwhelmingly positive feedback” to Solutions 4 Health’s flu and virus wellness protocol. “If clients do get sick, they handle it easily.” Solutions’ key supplements for immune health:
- Quercetin – a polyphenol found in apples, grapes, onions, berries and broccoli. ”We can’t keep it on the shelf.”
- NAC (N-Acetylcysteine), to replenish the anti-oxidant glutathione which supports immune health.
- Vitamins A, C and especially D. “Everyone should know their Vitamin D levels and if they’re low, get them up there as quickly as possible.”
No need to buy a bunch of bottles, either. You can get them in a single supplement, PureDefense w/ NAC, another top seller at Solutions 4 Health.
A 27-year mainstay in Gateway Shopping Center, Conway’s “retail clinic” is on track to have its best year yet.
“Our model is working really well,” Conway says. “Customers really appreciate being able to obtain knowledge quickly without having to pay for it. Where else can you get free advice from a licensed nutritionist in a retail setting?”
Besides health coaching, Conway and nutritionists Lauren Hall and Jaqueline Maganas can also order bloodwork, stool testing for gut microbiomes, saliva tests and food sensitivity tests.
COVID has caused a real attitude shift, Conway says. “People are more proactive. They understand that eating right and staying moderately fit produces a strong immune response. You’re not born with all these chronic health problems. You create them through your diet and your lifestyle.”
Solutions 4 Health, Gateway Shopping Center next to Trader Joe’s, 1658 Swedesford Rd., Wayne, 1-800-473-2810, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays until 8. Conway hosts health webinars and speaks to corporations and groups.
***SPECIAL DISCOUNT AND GIVEAWAY FOR SAVVY READERS. Mention SAVVY Main Line and get 20% off your purchase PLUS a free bottle of “happy being” immune-boosting iced tea or throat spray with purchase through 12/31/2.
Not all retail is struggling. Case in point: Posh Collections in downtown Malvern.
“This is the best year I’ve had in 14 years,” says grateful owner Tina Corrado.
Why so busy?
First, pent-up demand. “People are out and about,” Corrado says. “They’re traveling again, they’re going to postponed weddings and parties.”
Last year was all about loungewear and cozy sweaters. This year, dresses and updated denim are among Posh’s top sellers.
Second, the message to support local business is finally resonating.
“Customers are telling us: ‘I saw this piece online but I’d rather get it from you than Neiman’s.’ I love to hear that.”
And those who do venture to the mall are reporting back: “There’s nothing there and no one to help me,” Corrado says.
Well, there are plenty of people to help you at Posh.
Corrado calls this “the best team I’ve ever had. Everyone is seasoned. They have really artistic eyes.”
With backgrounds in the fine arts or even floral design, “they’re not just salespeople. The foundations they got there, they bring to the table here.”
Instead of “Hi, how are you. How can we help you?” the Posh team digs deeper.
“It’s about getting to know clients’ needs and lifestyles: Do they want to look great on the soccer field or be a boss lady in a conference room? Where are they traveling? What’s their next adventure?”
The team understands body types and can identify cuts and colors that flatter.
“Customer retention is really strong here,” Corrado says. Some clients enjoy the team so much they come in every Friday night for happy hour. “It’s like the Posh Clubhouse. You’d be surprised at how much wine and champagne we go through here.”
Unlike many boutique owners, Corrado is hands-on. “I love the energy of the sales floor.” When she’s not in her shop, she gets FOMO. “It sounds cheesy but my claim to fame is styling people.”
Customers often make styling appointments and Posh will gladly open early and stay late to accommodate work schedules.
For those who prefer to shop from home, there’s a new online store and no-obligation “concierge boxes.” Just tell the team what you’re looking for; Posh will curate options and pop them in the mail. “If someone needs shoes, we’ll send out six pairs,” Corrado says. Customers keep what works and mail the rest back at no charge.
Corrado packs a lot of fashion into her King Street shop: More than 40 “contemporary bridge” lines like Theory, Vince, AG, Paige, Diane Von Furstenburg, Equipment and Rails, plus shoes, handbags, gifts, hosiery, even undergarments.
“We’re got everything,” Corrado says. “But the crux of our business is service, soup to nuts. You come in here, you get styled head-to-toe. We do alterations and make deliveries. We do it all.”
Posh Collections, 103 E. King Street, Malvern, 610-644-7220, is open Mondays 10 to 5, Tues. – Sat. 10- 6 and Sundays 12 to 4.
Lower Merion mourns shocking loss of popular principal
It’s said that bad things – in this case, horrible things – come in threes.
Sounds about right for Lower Merion High School where students and staff have been hit with three sucker punches in less than two years: the helicopter crash that took superstar alum Kobe Bryant at age 41, unprecedented losses due to COVID, and just weeks ago, the out-of-nowhere death of their beloved principal of 14 years, Sean Hughes. He was just 51.
Hughes was driving his son to a soccer game when his SUV collided with another SUV at a South Jersey intersection. The accident remains under investigation.
ACES Nation was bereft. Surely they hadn’t lost Huuuuuuuuughes, the ultimate Ace, the principal/coach/athletic director who embodied his own slogan “Character counts.” An administrator who took the time to know you, who cheered you on in his gold sequined jacket, even winked and told you to have fun when you cut class for the World Series parade.
All district schools closed the Monday after the accident and a vaccine clinic and school board meeting were postponed as tributes rushed in.
More than 8,000 people have signed an online petition asking that the new middle school under construction in Villanova be named for Sean Hughes but that effort appears to be in vain. District policy forbids naming buildings after people, according to LMSD spokesperson Amy Buckman. The district had just announced the school’s name, Black Rock Middle School, to honor the indigenous Lenni Lenape who used black rocks to make tools. The district will find another way to permanently honor the memory of Sean Hughes, Buckman said.
Meanwhile, the recently retired superintendent of West Chester School District, Dr. Jim Scanlon, will finish out the school year as interim principal.
Worth reading: the full obituary of Sean Hughes.
By Rebecca Adler
In the heart of horse country, just steps from Radnor Hunt, sits a Georgian-style gem – and it just hit the market.
Owned by the former CEO of QVC, this 5.4-acre property at 853 Providence Road checks all the boxes – and then some.
Perfect for entertaining (a Who’s Who of QVC stars have graced the halls), this five bedroom, seven full bath, two half-bath estate boasts a handsome Hunt Room with 20-foot ceilings, two kitchens, a 3,200-bottle wine cellar, waterfall pool, movie theater, home gym, billiards room and a first-floor master suite.
Here owner Doug Briggs, who splits his time between the Main Line and Florida, offers even more reasons to move in:
The house is stunning! Why sell it?
It’s bittersweet. My wife Peggy and I have been there 25-plus years. We’re retired and only spending about five months a year in Malvern now. Downsizing seems smart. Otherwise, we’d keep it – we love it.
You bought the house in the ‘90s. Have you renovated or personalized it over the years?
The first thing [we did] was the wine cellar.
The whole idea was to make it appear like the wine cellar was always there and the house was built over it. We lived in Europe a couple times, which inspired the look.
We also added the pergola [to the outdoor patio]. It made the area in the back of the house a wonderful place for dinner.
The garden level has a home gym, billiards room and a home theater. Sounds wonderful, especially now, when we’re all spending so much time at home.
Yes, it was always a dream of mine to have that. We love to have some friends over, have a casual meal and watch a movie in the theater.
There’s a little French bistro downstairs and a second full kitchen and bar.
Your house has so many spaces for entertaining.
Yes, we’ve had graduation parties [for our kids] around the pool. We did outdoor parties for the Willistown Conservation Trust under the pergola. And every year until I retired, we’d host a Christmas party in the Hunt Room with 150 guests. There’s a loft area that overlooks the room that’s the perfect place to put musicians or a piano.
And you hosted on-air personalities from QVC?
We did. It was known as the QVC house. We had Joan Rivers, Ernie and Tova Borgnine, Susan Lucci, Victoria Principal, Richard Simmons. At Christmas time, there was almost always somebody [famous] at QVC, particularly on weekends. It was fun for us to have them over and for them to get out of their hotels.
Outdoor space is such a luxury. What makes your grounds unique? There are probably three-plus acres [out of 5.4 acres] that are totally landscaped. Our gardens were done by Gayle Nurseries – they’ve won many awards for landscape design – and there’s a hedge that goes around the front for privacy. Off the pergola, there’s a butterfly garden. Between the hummingbirds and the butterflies, it’s quite peaceful.
There are so many impressive homes on the Main Line, What makes your house special?
I think the location. To us, Willistown is really an oasis. People don’t really know that it’s there – that beautiful, rolling horse-country land. You can walk across the street for dinner at Radnor Hunt or [to] see the Races or the car show.
There are great schools; there’s great golf. We’re staying in the area. We bought a carriage home at Applebrook.
853 Providence Road, Malvern, is offered at 2,950,000. Full listing here.
Luxury, statement-making style arrives in Wayne
Toto, we’re not in Wayne anymore.
In the former BellaDonna gifts space at 106 E. Lancaster, HJ Boutique is a fashion emporium unlike anything we’ve seen in these parts: edgy, distinctive, a mix of hot Soho labels, haute couture and luxury vintage.
“I want my clients to have special pieces so they’re the talk of the town,” says owner Hillary Jean, a former NYC celebrity hairstylist who’s always had an eye for fashion.
HJ is the Main Line reincarnation of her first store, Lady M Boutique, which had a brief run in Glen Mills. Prices here run the gamut – from $150 to multiple thousands.
Hardcore fashionistas will recognize the trendier labels: HEED NYC, Perrin Paris, Jeanette Limas, Camilla, Planet by Lauren G.
But we daresay everyone will know names like Tory Burch, Escada, Carolina Herrera, Louis Vuitton and Hermès on samples that HJ sells at steep discounts. How does she do it? Jean says she has relationships with designer showrooms in New York, which she visits every two weeks.
Interspersed among the new and nearly new styles are luxury vintage pieces from the Vault by Volpe Beringer, the Philly-based “Project Runway” star’s personal resale collection.
Don’t miss, too, well-priced costume jewelry made exclusively for HJ Boutique by Hamptons’ designer Jill Jacobson.
Everything in the store was handpicked by Hillary Jean and reflects her singular style: fashion-forward, fearless, one-of-a-kind.
HJ Boutique, 106 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-688-2200.
New boutique for ‘grown women’ in Wayne
In the old Painting with a Twist space, Wardrobe, fittingly, sells fashions with a twist.
“Classic but interesting” and “a grown-up version of Anthropologie” are words Jonathan Bruno uses to describe his mélange of sportswear, dresses and loungewear.
Everything in the shop is under $200, much of it way under, but because of Bruno’s discerning eye, doesn’t look it.
Styles come from Canada, Europe and the U.S. They touch on trends but aren’t slavish to them. And to ensure you won’t see yourself coming and going, Bruno brings in only four sizes. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. He never restocks.
“The money doesn’t matter to me,” says Bruno, a former graphic designer whose parents were fashion wholesalers. “I buy everything for the aesthetics.”
A client once paid Bruno a compliment he’s never forgotten: “It doesn’t take much talent to stock a store with $400 pants and $350 sweaters. It takes real talent to find well-priced clothing that looks fantastic.”
Bruno’s first Wardrobe location has become a Narberth staple, where women rely on Jonathan to find the right blouse to update an old skirt or the perfect dress for the party.
Indeed, Bruno is so tied to his store that customers drive into Narberth, asking locals for directions to “Jonathan’s Boutique.”
Clients tell him they’re crushed that, after 13 years, he’s no longer the friendly face in Narberth. Bruno, who lives in Paoli, plans to work full time in Wayne as the store’s only staffer.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Bruno, who spent his boyhood in T/E and lives in Paoli.
“I have a great relationship with my customers in Narberth,” Bruno says. “I want to do the same with the women of Wayne.”
Wardrobe, 107 E. Lancaster Ave. Wayne, (484) 513-1175.
A Main Line mainstay for 75 years: Walter J. Cook Jeweler shines in Paoli
Walter J. Cook Jeweler turned 75 this year but you can skip the diamond jubilee gift. There are sparklers aplenty in its Paoli showroom.
With iconic retailers like Waterloo Gardens, Wayne Sporting Goods and now Pun’s Toys riding off into the sunset, 75 years on the Main Line = serious staying power.
“We’re not the brand-name store; we’re the brand,” explains Michael Cook, who took the reins from his father, Walter, in 1995. “If you want to wear the same bracelet that 10 of your girlfriends have, buy the Yurman at the mall. But if you want something unique – a one-of-a-kind or limited-production piece – we can find it for you here.”
Cook’s secret sauce: his meticulously curated collection of fine jewelry and giftware at multiple price points and styles from classic to artisanal to contemporary. Plus, he can customize almost anything.
“Nothing is off the rack anymore,” says Cook. Today’s brides often want their rings tweaked or even custom designed. The shop can also restore or create new jewelry from little-used pieces or family heirlooms.
Another Cook difference: the personal connection. When a store’s been in business for generations, multiple generations become customers.
“We know many customers by name; we know their families,” says staffer Viviene Hoke. “We love that we get to assist in the spreading of joy.”
Just the other day a customer who’d bought an engagement ring at Cook came in for a 50th anniversary gift.
Cook himself is often out on the sales floor, patiently explaining diamond clarity to future grooms and helping clients choose holiday gifts.
“We’re following the tradition of in-person, relaxed shopping where other retailers have let that go,” Cook explains. The store also offers hand engraving (a dying art), independent appraisals, repairs and restorations.
A community champion, Cook donates “as often as possible” to such nonprofits as T & E Care, Paoli Hospital Auxiliary, and Community Volunteers in Medicine. Fun fact: he engraves and stores trophies for the Devon Horse Show and area golf associations.
Business was “way off” during the early days of COVID, but thanks to other jewelers closing up shop or retiring and new people moving to the area, the store is welcoming new customers every day. “We’ve come back,” says Cook. “And we’re not going anywhere.”
Walter J. Cook Jeweler, 36 Chestnut Rd., Chestnut Village Shops, 610-644-5347, will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a tented cocktail party and special sale in early May of 2022.
The Main Line holiday rundown
Santa Claus is coming to … Tredyffrin (!!!) The township launches a new annual tradition at Wilson Farm Park this Saturday, Dec. 4. Santa and Mrs. Claus will flip the holiday light switch at the Lee Rd. entrance shortly after 6 p.m. and hold court in the amphitheater for photos with the kiddos until 8. Carolers from Conestoga plus free sweets and hot drinks. The festivities are sponsored by the Tredyffrin Parks & Rec Foundation and PECO.
Historic Waynesborough will host a Holiday Open House on Saturday, Dec. 11, 4 to 6 p.m. Your $10 ticket ($5 for kids, discounts for groups) includes a candlelit tour of the house highlighting holiday traditions from days of yore, old-school crafts and snacks. DIY holiday photos encouraged so feel free to dress up.
Berwyn is skipping its tree-lighting tradition this year, thanks to that giant construction project near the train station. But do deck those halls; The village’s holiday home decorating contest is still on. And kids are again invited to drop off letters to Santa at Easttown Library.
Wayne’s annual Christmas festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 with horse-drawn carriage rides along South Wayne and Runnymede Aves., kids crafts at Radnor Fire House, carolers in the streets and extended shopping hours in the stores, culminating in the arrival of Santa on a fire truck to light the tree at Wayne Train Station at 7:30. The fun continues Saturday morning with a Christmas parade along Lancaster Ave. at 10, ending with DIY photo ops with Santa on the porch of Rosalie at the Wayne Hotel until just before noon.
Christmas on King returns to Malvern’s King Street Saturday, Dec. 4 from noon to 4 with food trucks and adult beverages, balloon artists, face painting, strolling Elsa and Olaf characters, and holiday dancers and strolling street performers.
Santa makes his annual stop at Valley Forge Flowers Saturday, Dec. 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will hold court in courtyard of Suburban Square Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 to 4. The free photo slots are all taken but families can join the wait list.
There’s nothing quite as quaint as the Narberth Dickens Festival, which returns with Scrooge, Marley, street performers and scavenger hunt on Sunday, Dec. 5, noon to 4. Details here.
King of Prussia Town Center celebrates its fifth Winterfest Saturday, Dec. 11 from 1 to 4 pm. A free family event, the festivities include photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, an ornament-making workshop, strolling holiday characters and school band and choir performances.
This and That
Spirits are high in Ardmore with word that a craft distillery is coming to town. Manatawny Still Works confirms it will open a tasting room, cocktail bar and bottle shop at 49 W. Lancaster Ave. this winter. The Pottstown-based distillery makes about 35 small-batch spirits and bottles premixed cocktails. Cool.
Will’s + Bill’s Brewery, the soon-to-open successor to McKenzie Brew House on Swedesford Rd. in Berwyn, is now hiring. Deets on this fun, father-son collaboration in the next SAVVY.
Comings and goings in Strafford’s Eagle Village Shops.
- Department store brand Nic+Zoe just opened its 11th freestanding boutique in the former Ferber Furs space. The mid-range mother-daughter fashion label is best known for its colorful sweaters and fun prints.
- Menagerie Boutique closed a few weeks ago – just two months after its 10th anniversary. “Since COVID, we have actually done better than ever,” owner Kate Lawson tells SAVVY. Her “customers have been great,” Lawson says, but she was finding it hard to juggle two kids and volunteer work at CHOP. She fielded purchase offers but decided not to sell “because who knows when I’ll decide to come back and start a new venture.” Her online store remains open.
- Vivi G. Shoes, aka the last women’s shoe store standing, is ending its run in Eagle Village Shops. The store never recovered from a prolonged COVID closure. A storewide clearance sale is now in progress and should continue another couple weeks.
And right down the road, men’s shoe store Angelo D’Amicantonio & Son at 157 W. Lancaster Ave. is closing after 92 years. Bob and Lou D’Amicantonio are both retiring. Longtime customers have been flocking to the store’s going-out-of-business sale since the brothers announced their retirement in October. The sale should wrap up by mid-December.
The Swoosh has landed in Suburban Square. Nike by Ardmore is now open in the old Banana Republic space (with Compass realty above it). Just don’t expect a huge selection. A small-format Nike store, it carries select items “for and inspired by the local neighborhood.” Hmmm.
Artisanal candle, lotion and potion company, Zoet Bathletier, has a new retail shop/apothecary at 126 King Street in Malvern. Owner Ilka Evans makes her candles, lotions and potions in a studio in the rear.
After a prolonged pandemic shutdown, the Valley Tavern at Valley Forge Casino Resort is back in business. Karaoke returns Friday nights at 9.
The Radnor Trail is about to get longer. A $407,000 Delco Greenways Grant will fund the trail’s extension toward the entrance to the Blue Route.
Be careful about leaving Fido outside, especially after dark. Coyotes have been spotted around Villanova and Bryn Mawr this fall. If you see one and it looks sick or in distress, don’t approach. Call 911.
Got a COVID query? A new Delaware County Wellness Line is helping residents make vaccine, booster and testing appointments. Call 484-276-2100 or email [email protected]
Closed for good: Chung Sing, a longtime Chinese fave in a vintage rail diner across from Ardmore Toyota.
Eager to keep and attract able volunteers, Radnor Commissioners voted to give $1,000 stipends to qualifying firefighters and EMS personnel at the Radnor, Bryn Mawr and Broomall fire companies.
Off-track betting is coming to Malvern. Soon-to-open Chickie’s & Pete’s at the Grove got the green light to set aside 630 sq. ft. for betting kiosks and teller windows. The PA Gaming Board has approved a partnership between Parx Casino and Racing and the sports bar chain.
Gladwyne entrepreneur/South Pole explorer/mad beverage scientist Todd Carmichael launches a brand-new bottled beverage this month. Not still, not sparkling but “shimmering,” Loftiwater softens the bubbly bite of Perrier and tastes a tad sweet but has no added sugars. Neat trick, right? But if Carmichael can put a sugar-free but somehow sweet-tasting draft latte in a can, he can surely invent a new kind of fizzy water.
After a year off, CraftForms, one of the nation’s top contemporary craft shows, returns to Wayne Art Center this weekend. It’s the 26th iteration of the juried show that attracts entries from across the country. $10,000 in prize money will be doled out at the Preview Party this Friday, Dec. 3. A Juror’s Talk/Meet the Artist event follows on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 2:30.
Give TE continues to gain steam. Since the group’s March 2020 launch, more than 150 women have become members, voting to award $60,000 to selected charities including CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children in Chesco/Delco), FLITE (Foundation for Learning in Tredyffrin and Easttown), Berwyn Fire Company and Community Volunteers in Medicine. Each member donates $100 at twice-yearly meetings. The funds are pooled to maximize impact.
Speaking of homegrown nonprofits, Emily’s Entourage is taking its big annual shindig on the road this year – sort of. This Saturday’s 10th Annual Evening with Emily Entourage will be a drive-in gala at Adath Israel in Merion Station complete with movie-theater snacks and live entertainment. Themed “The Power of 10”, the gala celebrates 10 years of speeding treatments and cures for nonsense mutations of cystic fibrosis and nearly $10 million raised. Click here to sponsor or buy tickets.
And finally, a friendly reminder to shop and dine small – and with a smile – this December. If service is a tad slow, prices are a tick higher, or they’re out of something, here’s hoping we all remember to practice patience and good cheer. In extraordinary times, our local businesses are doing their best.
From all of us at Team SAVVY, warmest wishes for a happy and healthy Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. We’ll see you in 2022.