After a brief taste of the sweet life, we’re back in the bitter COVID soup, drowning in record-breaking case counts and daily-life disruptions.
Forget frills like air travel and social plans; our very essentials are under siege. Emergency services are strained. Our first responders are stressed. Our schools are struggling to staff their buildings. Oh and did we mention that COVID tests are as coveted as last March’s Moderna vaccines?
(Hat tip to Mother Nature for gifting us that nuisance storm last Friday. A snow day for weary schools? Yes, please.)
A most concerning case in point: Paoli Hospital’s ER.
Before the omicron surge, EMTs would wait maybe a half hour to officially hand off patients to hospital staff. Now, the ER is so clogged and undermanned, EMTs can be held up for hours.
Thirty or 40 people might be sitting in the ER waiting room on any given day, Berwyn Fire Company EMS Captain Mike Baskin tells SAVVY. And because visitors aren’t allowed, every last one of them is a patient waiting to be seen or in the queue for a bed. EMTs tied up at ERs mean fewer first responders are back at the fire house, ready to rush to our aid.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Baskin, who’s been a volunteer EMT chief for 8 years and with the fire company for 25. “Our ambulance staff is also our fire staff so it really puts pressure on our volunteers,” Baskin says.
We know what you’re thinking: If omicron doesn’t make you as sick as earlier strains, why, then, is Paoli Hospital so darn swamped?
Lots of reasons.
First, 40 percent of the hospital/ER capacity in Chester County has been essentially wiped out. First, Jennersville Hospital closed Dec. 31. Then Brandywine Hospital started phasing down its services, sending critical patients elsewhere, in preparation for its closure Jan. 31, Baskin tells us. As a result, the county’s sick folks and ambulances are swarming Paoli Hospital, Chester County Hospital and Phoenixville Hospital.
Second, pent-up demand for care. “People weren’t doing anything for their health the last two years,” Baskin says. “There’s a large overflow of people using ERs and needing to be admitted to hospitals.”
Third (and perhaps most critical), acute hospital staff shortages – some employees have quit, others are out sick with COVID or the double-whammy, “flurona.” Main Line-area EMT chiefs were so concerned about snarled ERs, they met with Paoli Hospital officials last week to brainstorm solutions.
And fourth, the unprecedented volume of COVID cases means lots of folks – usually the unvaccinated/unboosted – need emergency medical care for COVID. “We’re seeing plenty of patients on our ambulances that are still very sick with COVID,” Baskin says.
Wait times in the ER at Bryn Mawr Hospital have ticked up, too, but not as precipitously, according to Brian Zimmerman, Director of EMS Services in Radnor.
“The hospital doesn’t have the staff to make all their rooms available,” Zimmerman says. Don’t be lulled by reports that your local hospital is, say, 85 percent full. Plenty of capacity, right? Wrong. “Hospitals can only open what they have staff to cover,” he says.
Also don’t assume that the closure of those two hospitals out in Chesco won’t affect closer-in suburbs like Radnor. When Paoli is swamped, ambulances are diverted to places like Bryn Mawr.
“The ripple effect could reach Radnor,” Zimmerman says. “Chester County Hospital was already feeling overwhelmed, prior to the closure. Things could get worse [at Bryn Mawr] in February [after Brandywine Hospital closes], but no one has a solid answer until it happens. We can only project and surmise.”
One thing’s for sure, though. With more of their colleagues out sick, first responders are overloaded. “Everybody’s tired,” says Baskin. “We’re doing the best we can.”
Adds Zimmerman: “We’ve seen a significant uptick of our providers testing positive – way more than with any other variant.” Usually Zimmerman can “patchwork together enough staff pulling extra shifts to maintain the same level of service.” But not always. Two weekends ago, Radnor could only staff one ambulance, instead of the usual two, he says.
“If we’re not available, the call goes to mutual aid – to Berwyn or Narberth or Marple [or beyond}, and they may or may not be able to respond. The ripple widens and the distance and time to reach patients gets longer.”
After nearly two years, it’s all taking an emotional toll. “We’re starting to realize the build-up of stress that goes along with it,” Zimmerman says.
“Wearing N95 masks and trying to carry people down stairs – none of it is easy,” adds Baskin. “Calls during a pandemic are more stressful and more difficult.”
Zimmerman alludes to financial strains, too. With fewer part-timers available, fire companies are paying more overtime to their full-timers.
How can the public ease the crunch? The EMT chiefs have a few ideas:
- Don’t go to an ER to get a COVID test. “That’s taking an overloaded system and making it worse,” says Baskin.“You’re going to sit 15 to 20 hours in the waiting room anyway. You’ll be more comfortable at home.” Baskin and Zimmerman suggests we “self-triage” a bit. Call 911 if you’re in respiratory distress, but “if you have a fever and don’t feel well, ride it out,” Baskin advises. Better to turn to drugstores and urgent cares for testing or your doctor’s office for sick visits.
- Get vaccinated and boosted and mask up for EMTs – and not just if you have COVID. “There are still a lot of people who don’t think this is real or that it will affect them,” Baskin says. “Until you get sick, you don’t know what it’s going to do. This is what we’re dealing with. We have people who refuse to put a mask on in the ambulance because they don’t think they need to follow the rules.”
- Reach out to your first responders. Call your local fire company. Ask what their specific needs are and how you can help, suggests Zimmerman. Radnor residents have been great, he says. Every donation, thank-you note, word of encouragement and plate of cookies – he and his team deeply appreciate them all.
Turning to our Main Line schools: They’ve been moving heaven and earth to stay open for in-person learning – unlike Philadelphia schools where 91 public schools were closed Monday.
With bus drivers out sick, some routes have been combined and rides are longer. Attendance can be spotty. So many students and staff are out that contact tracing, weekly testing and quarantine protocols have been relaxed or nixed altogether in many schools, usually with the blessing of public health officials and CHOP. “Test to stay” has morphed into “Mask to stay.”
Lower Merion School District had so many teachers out last week that some students were herded into auditoriums and cafeterias for multiple periods so they could be supervised while teachers taught combined classes or taught from home. To give staff time to figure out how to handle the surge – and maybe finish out their own quarantines, the district delayed students’ return from the holiday break last week. They returned Jan. 4 instead of Jan. 3. Students were given an option of virtual or in-person classes until Jan. 18.
Schedules could shift again. “The situation is rapidly changing and hard to predict,” LMSD Superintendent Khalid Mumin wrote to parents. “We may reach a point in a particular school in the coming weeks when we will have to take that school virtual.”
In Tredyffrin/Easttown School District, nearly 500 students had COVID between Dec. 23 and Jan. 7. In the prior two weeks before the holiday break, 89 student cases were reported. Staff cases exploded, too – from four the week before Thanksgiving to 123 last week. (NOTE: last week’s 123 included a data dump on Jan. 3 of all reported cases during the holiday break.) Administrators and subs are stepping in to cover classes. As a result, staff workloads have increased “dramatically,” Superintendent Rich Gusick noted in his Jan. 7 letter to parents.
TESD just added a virtual day this Friday, Jan. 14, to give staff and students a chance to attend that day’s vaccine and booster clinic at Valley Forge Middle School. Left unsaid, perhaps: the extra day will allow some district employees to catch their collective breath. Also true: Martin Luther King Day can’t come soon enough – for overtaxed teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and staff. Worth noting: a four-day long weekend equals four-fifths of the CDC’s new recommended COVID quarantine time.
Say hello to “passive camera access.” Throughout January, T/E students recovering at home will be able to watch their classes from home to minimize learning losses. They can’t be seen or heard and teachers will teach as usual, ignoring the camera.
Let’s see. Omicron is everywhere so let’s gather the troops together inside and refuse to wear mask? That’s precisely what some anti-mask-mandate folks did at last week’s T/E School Board Meeting, brazenly flouting the District’s universal indoor masking rule. Here’s a portion of the call to arms (actually bare faces) that made the social media rounds.
General incivility ensued and the TESD “tyrants” ended the meeting, which was resumed virtually two nights later. Really.
Over in Radnor schools, students can also Zoom in to watch class from home “but should not feel pressure” to do so, says RTSD Superintendent Ken Batchelor. His most recent note to parents had one bright spot: the number of reported cases in Radnor schools was “far less” last Wednesday and Thursday than on Monday and Tuesday after winter break.
Other COVID updates:
- Need a test in Chester County? Click here to find clinics (two new free ones just opened), drugstores, urgent cares and other test providers.
- Lose your vax card? You can now order one online here.
- We get supply and demand but $35 for a home COVID test kit at Paoli Pharmacy when others sell it for $25 or less? Jeeze. No matter; they can’t keep them in stock.
- If you planned a little nip-tuck while you’re hunkered down this month, you might have to table it. Main Line Health has suspended non-emergency surgeries to open up beds. At least some doctors’ offices at Lankenau are advising patients to postpone checkups, too.
- No surprise that Surrey Services for Seniors went virtual Dec. 28, shifting classes online and lunches to grab-and-go only.
- You still don’t need proof of vax to see a Villanova basketball game on campus. You do, however, have to wear a mask at the front door. Many fans have been ditching them once they’re inside – no one utters a peep. Nova’s games at the Wells Fargo Center – because it’s in Philly and serves food – will require proof of vaccination and ID. It’s the law.
- St. Joe’s has announced that fans ages 5 and older now must show vax cards to attend hoops games at Hagen Arena.
- At least four Main Line universities – Villanova, Haverford, St. Joe’s and Bryn Mawr – are all requiring eligible students – and in some cases, staff, to get booster shots. At press time, all were going ahead with in-person classes as scheduled.
- Wayne Art Center delayed the start of adult classes to Jan. 18 and will require proof of full vax (with booster for adults) or a negative COVID test result in the last 24 hours.
- Those T/E parents who sued the school district in federal court over its mask mandate apparently had second thoughts. After the court scoffed at their case in a preliminary opinion, the parents asked the court to dismiss their suit without costs and Judge Mitchell Goldberg obliged.
New Will’s + Bill’s in Berwyn: Refined, relaxed dining and smashing happy hours … and it’s family-owned
Will’s + Bill’s Brewery just opened at the old McKenzie space on Swedesford. Rd. and may we say, Gentlemen, we love what you’ve done with the place.
The inviting retro vibe, the polished menu, the craft cocktails and aged whiskies are all on point.
Despite its roominess (and safely spaced seating), Will’s + Bill’s manages to feel warm and cozy – like your favorite English pub or mountain lodge, a snug antidote to this inhospitable COVID winter.
Truth be told, calling Will’s + Bill’s a brewery sells it short. Although tasty beers are brewed onsite daily, W+B is way more sophisticated than your typical beer hall.
You can warm up by two roaring limestone-mantle fires…
Or belly up to the sizable quartz-topped bar…
Or sink into any tartan-plaid seat or booth – they’re all quite cushy. Interesting touches abound – from reclaimed wine-barrel wood stave walls to the tableaux of famous – and infamous – Wills and Bills.
A popular pastime for diners: guessing who’s who on the portrait walls.
The bistro-style menu offers traditional pub favorites, a raw/cooked/steamed “seafood bar” and healthier bowls and salads with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-sensitive options. Among the top sellers to date: the Roasted Cauliflower Piccata, the Salmon Harvest Bowl, the Hereford steak burgers and the shucked-to-order oysters flown in several times a week.
We can personally vouch for the Harissa lamb meatballs ($11.50), caramelized onion dip with house-made potato chips ($9), the Bill’s Roast Beef Dip ($14.50), the Cavatelli with Braised Pork + Shishito Peppers ($23), the Shakespeare’s Pie ($22) and the Buddha Bowl ($12).
The bar program is also top shelf.
“We wanted to offer things that a typical neighborhood restaurant wouldn’t have,” says Bill Mangan who owns the place with his son, Will.
Hence, the fresh-fruit vodka sodas, expansive lists of creative cocktails and aged whiskies, bourbons, ryes and single malts, the curated, high-value wines and rotating taps, courtesy of W + B’s talented new brewer. Among the beers winning early raves: Wicked Will’s Wit, Tartan IPA and Berwyn 1877 Amber Lager. Watching carbs and calories? Try one of W+B’s low-alcohol brews.
“Our beers are pure and made with the best ingredients,” says Will Mangan. “And they come straight from the brewery to glass. You’re drinking them at the spot where they’re brewed; they’re not traveling across the Atlantic.”
Another nice touch: live piano music on Friday and Saturday nights. You hear it throughout the pub but can easily carry on a conversation.
As well-conceived as it is, you’d think Will’s + Bill’s is a corporate-owned chain. You’d be wrong. The world’s only other Wills and Bills is a will-writing and bill-paying business in England.
Owners are Delco-born Bill Mangan, Jr. and his son, Will III, who also operate McKenzie Brew Houses in Malvern and Chadds Ford. Although they graduated 36 years apart, both attended Cornell’s vaunted hospitality school.
“Will has single-handedly brought us into the 21st century,” Bill Jr. says. “Working with my son is a gift and I appreciate it every day – especially since he’s so damn good at what he does!”
The duo’s rebrand in Berwyn “pays tribute to my son and to my father – Bill Mangan, Sr. who recently passed,” Bill tells SAVVY.
The late Bill Mangan and the son he called “Junior” worked side by side for 40 years, operating The Drexel Ale House in Upper Darby, La Grande in Chadds Ford, Café La Grande in Malvern, and more recently, McKenzie Brew Houses in three locations. “I thought this would be something special. My dad never had a restaurant with his name on it,” Bill says.
For nine years, McKenzie Brew House was a solid presence on Swedesford Rd. Bruised by the onslaught of new corporate chains in King of Prussia, the brew pub had regained its footing only to have COVID land a knockout punch. Nearby office parks had become ghost towns and McKenzie’s core trade – business lunches and happy hours – evaporated overnight.
“We had a skeleton staff. We cut back on the menu. We ramped up takeout. But it was devastating,” Bill recalls. With winter coming and no weather-proof outdoor dining, they made the difficult decision to close in late 2020. “Fortunately, we didn’t put people out of work. Anyone who wanted to work moved to our other locations.”
But father and son were locked into a long-term lease at the shopping center.
“We contemplated selling it but, during a pandemic, that’s a useless exercise; it never went anywhere,” says Bill.
Buoyed by their loyal clientele – Will was receiving daily emails asking when they’d reopen – and the 250 luxury apartments coming next door, “we thought we’d give it a new shot.
We weren’t afraid to close the doors, renovate and start again. We’d done it before – multiple times. If my dad gave us any quality, he passed along persistence. We’re not quitters.”
In other words, where there’s a Will (or Bill), there’s a way.
Instead of competing with the Yard Houses and PJ Whelihans of the world, they’d aim higher. “We thought that if we improved the ambiance and changed the menu, we might find a market for something a little nicer than a typical sports bar,” Bill explains.
So they gutted the place: knocking down walls, enclosing the kitchen, covering the patio, painting, paneling, and laying tile. They tinkered with pub fare, tippled cocktail candidates, hired and trained staff – a minor miracle – and voila, Will’s + Bill’s Brewery was born a few days before Christmas.
For now, it’s open from 4 p.m. daily for happy hour and indoor dining with takeout, curbside pickup and delivery available. Weekend brunch is coming soon. “Hopefully, we can add lunch when the offices come back,” Bill says.
Did father and son ever imagine they’d close during a pandemic only to rebrand and reopen with the pandemic still raging more than a year later?
Not a chance.
“We’re seasoned restauranteurs but we still have PTSD,” Bill says. “You can’t cry in your beer, though. You have to roll with it and move on.”
On the menu: Six “Starters” ($6 – $12.50); Nine-item “Seafood Bar” with raw/baked/steamed/fried shellfish ($10 – $16); Shared Dips + Spreads ($9.50 – $12); Four protein & grain “Bowls” ($12 – $18.50), Five “Salads” $11 – $14 with protein add-ons); Five “Plates” ($17 – $39); Burgers and Sandwiches ($12 – $15); Soft-serve gelato with toppings and other desserts ($8).
Nightly Happy Hour (4-6 p.m. at the bar and high-tops): $5 – $7 brews, select cocktails and wine; $5 – $9 shareable bites and burgers, raw bar bargains.
COVID safety score: A. Staff is uniformly masked, ceilings are high, tables are widely spaced or opt for curbside pickup or home delivery.
Will’s + Bill’s Brewery, 324 W. Swedesford Rd., Berwyn, is open from 4 p.m. Tues. – Sun. Live piano Fri. and Sat nights. Takeout, curbside pickup and delivery. Order online or call 484-318-8538. Daily Happy Hour, 4 to 6. Reservations accepted. The covered patio and back bar can be reserved for private parties.
FULL DISCLOSURE: SAVVY editor Caroline O’Halloran is the proud daughter of the late Bill Mangan, Sr. whom she misses every day, the sister of Bill Mangan, Jr. and the aunt of Will Mangan III.
Will the curtain ever rise again at the Anthony Wayne?
Here’s hoping Wayne goes back to the movies. If it does, a new company will be running the projectors.
The theater building’s owner, S.W. Bajus Ltd., has parted ways with Reel Cinemas, the theater’s operator since 2014, whose lease expired.
A rather curious campaign to Save the Anthony Wayne in 2018 – wherein Reel Cinemas asked the public to chip in to modernize the sagging cinema – was a flop. The much-needed facelift never happened and the theater limped along until the pandemic closed it for good.
“There is a lot of interest by prospective theater operators,” says landlord Steve Bajus. “But we want to clean up and organize things before we show it.”
The marquis has been cleared and a peek inside the lobby shows the cleanup has just begun.
“My preference would be to lease it but I would consider selling it to the right people who have the desire and ability to keep it a theater,” says Bajus, who’s owned the building for decades and has leased it to Clearview Cinemas, Bow Tie Cinemas, then Reel Cinemas. In the past he has rented at below-market rates because he wanted to keep a theater in downtown Wayne.
The business community is crossing its fingers.
“We so appreciate that S.W. Bajus is doing all it can to engage a movie tenant,” says Wayne Business Association President Deanna Doane. “When it was open and operating at capacity before the pandemic, the Anthony Wayne was a benefit to the downtown for sure. People came to Wayne for dinner and a movie, families rented a single theater for children’s birthday parties. Locals would always check to see what was playing there before going to a larger cineplex.”
Forgetting the movies for a minute, the building alone is well worth saving. Built in 1928, it’s one of a dying breed of Art Deco movie palaces.
Let’s hope Bajus finds a movie operator and the two can invest in extensive exterior and interior improvements.
Sure would be shame if old Anthony Wayne went the way of the circa-1922 Ardmore Theater, which closed in 2000 to become a fitness club and is now a furniture store.
Does Tredyffrin gotta have a new Wawa? How ‘bout two?
Not one but two Wawas with gas pumps might be headed to Tredyffrin: one at Old Eagle School and Swedesford Roads near Life Time Athletic, the other at Cassatt and Swedesford.
The Old Eagle School project is farther along, according to Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Chair Julie Gosse. A sketch plan was floated to township officials who suggested revisions related to parking, traffic flow and impervious surface requirements.
“It’s a tricky corner,” Gosse says. “We asked that they meet with our traffic committee and PennDOT. We sent them back to the drawing board several times … If they can get the traffic, stormwater and parking to work within our rules, it could be good location.”
The proposed Wawa site at Cassatt and Swedesford is in “the very early stages” and appears to be “a bigger hill to climb,” Gosse says. Unlike the Old Eagle School Rd. site, the area is already served by two gas stations and there are mature “heritage” trees at the site, important for stormwater control
New year, new township leadership
Peaceful transfers of power up and down the Main Line last week, where three of four new township governing chairs are Democratic women: Moira Mulroney in Radnor, Julie Gosse in Tredyffrin and Beth D’Antonio in Easttown.
For whatever reason, Lower Merion’s leadership remains stubbornly male, as does its leadership. Men hold 11 of 14 seats on the Lower Merion Board of Commissioner – board president, Todd Sinai, and board VP, Andrew Gavrin, among them.
And fun fact in Tredyffrin. The new vice-chair of the board of supervisors and the newly sworn in Magisterial District Judge for Tredyffrin/East Whiteland are husband and wife: Matt Holt and Judge Lauren Holt.
A small surprise at the year’s first board of supes meeting in Easttown where Democrats are ruling the township roost for the first time in 100 years. As Easttown’s outgoing vice-chair, Supervisor Betsy Fadem would traditionally take the chair’s seat – she even sat in it before the formal vote for chair was taken. But when a taxpayer suggested that the chair should represent the majority party – Fadem is now the lone Republican on Easttown’s board, Supervisor Beth D’Antonio was awarded the gavel in a 3-2 vote. Fadem gracefully ceded her seat in the center.
Flight on Ice makes a timely landing near Newtown Square
In this age of Pop-up Everything, we give you … popup outdoor ice skating.
And it’s just what the CDC ordered: safe, fresh-air fun while omicron runs amuck.
Open since mid-December on West Chester Pike in Edgemont, Flight on Ice is a veritable winter wonderland: a real-ice rink ringed by evergreens, a 2,000 sq. ft. heated hospitality tent, fire pits, hot chocolate and light fare.
From the DiFabio’s Beer Garden and Ginger’s Hot Dog stand to the S’mores Galore tent, there’s a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for all ages.
If that’s not enough to melt your heart, there are fun theme/music events like Eagles Tailgate & Skate viewing parties, Taco Tuesdays and Silent Headphone Nights.
Or how about this: proceeds from parking donations and Monday Night Veterans Nights will support the local veterans memorial in perpetuity. (The rink is officially dubbed the “Energy Transfer Veterans Memorial Rink” and the Delaware County Veterans Memorial is right up the road.)
Operator is Media-based Flight Entertainment, which also runs popup rinks in Egg Harbor and Long Branch, NJ, and Schenectady, NY.
Flight on Ice Newtown Square, 4889 West Chester Pike (next to Bonefish Grill), is open Monday – Friday, 3 to 10; Saturdays 11 to 10; Sundays 11 to 8. Skate sessions $12; Skate rentals $10.
In the midst of this cruel COVID winter, we bring you glad tidings: a sweet little story about a newly occupied Berwyn storefront, young kids in Norristown, and hundreds upon hundreds of bicycles.
Bear with us: they’re connected.
The former White Horse Design Studio now houses Zummo Bike, a unique, homegrown nonprofit that collects, fixes, rents, sells and gives away hundreds of refurbished bikes to deserving Norristown kids each year. Zummo also mentors and pays young teens to work in the shop on weekends as mechanics/salespeople.
Bikes that aren’t given away are sold to the public. A humble Huffy might go for $30; a retooled Trek might sell for $300.
In stock now: everything from teeny-tiny two-wheelers and adult beach cruisers to high-end road and mountain bikes. All come with one-year warranties.
Zummo gets the Berwyn space rent-free, thanks to benevolent landlord Stacey Ballard of Eadeh Enterprises. When Eadeh finds a paying tenant – the storefront reportedly rents for $4K/month – Ballard will move Zummo to another unleased Eadeh property, says Zummo founder Steve Oliver. “Stacey loved what we were doing. She cares about people.”
The nonprofit’s mission is threefold.
First, motivate disadvantaged young learners. Zummo awards bikes, helmets and locks to students at Norristown’s Hancock Elementary and Musselman Learning Center for showing good “citizenship skills” like positive life choices, effort and respect. A companion program: Zummo awards scholarships to the afterschool math enrichment program, Mathnasium, for promising young math minds. Oliver struck a deal with the generous owner of the Rosemont Mathnasium. Pat Egan, a former Ardmore Realtor now in Bridgeport, gives up his Saturday mornings to tutor kids, preparing them for the Mathnasium program. “I want to go to their college graduations one day,” Oliver likes to say.
Second, teach real-world skills like basic mechanics, customer service, salesmanship and e-commerce (for the coming online rental program) to enterprising young people. “Where else can a 15-year-old kid fix bikes, learn a trade and get paid?” Oliver asks.
And third, promote bike recycling by refurbishing discarded bikes and renting bikes by the day or month.
“I’m a green guy,” says Oliver, a former IT company owner who drives a Zummo-logoed Tesla and builds and rehabs solar-powered homes. “We put lots of bikes on the road that would have gone to the landfill.”
Zummo is named for the 100-year-old family-owned Norristown hardware store where the nonprofit was founded in seven years ago. A regular Zummo Hardware customer, Steve Oliver jumped in to fix a kid’s bike one day when Joe Zummo was busy in 2015.. When young Jaden outgrew that bike, Oliver gave him one of his kids’ old bikes and that got the old wheels turning. What if he started collecting old bikes that families had outgrown or people had traded in, fixed them up, and awarded them to promising kids whose families might not be able to afford them?
Within a year, Zummo Bike became a registered nonprofit and Oliver’s official passion project. Within five years it had outgrown the hardware store, Oliver’s own rental property in Conshohocken, and an unheated garage in Valley Forge.
Today, the program awards 225 bikes a year, with another 50 or so given to family members. (If kids can prove they read two books, they can also “win” bikes for a parent or sibling.)
Bike donations come from all over: the Trek shop in Gateway Shopping Center and other bike shops, passersby in Berwyn, a Presbyterian minister in Somerdale, NJ, and FOS (Friends of Steve).
The enterprise is funded by donations, public bike sales, and Oliver himself who spends about 35 hours a week at the shop, replacing handgrips, fixing flats, and overseeing his young mechanics. “Look at the leather seat on this one,” he enthused about a girl’s bike last week. “A kid will jump out of her socks to get this thing!”
Oliver’s mechanical skills are mostly self-taught. He’s a swimmer, not a cyclist, he tells us.
“Kids who work here are good mechanics. They learn more from YouTube than they do for me,” he says, with characteristic humility.
On Oliver’s wish list: more adult helpers. “I want this thing to be a village one day, so it’s not just Steve,” Oliver says.
Until then, he and his young staff are busy. With 300 bicycles in three locations – Berwyn, Valley Forge and Rebel Hill – there’s always another bike to spruce up, another pop-up sale to plan, another bike donation to receive.
“We’re like a restaurant,” Oliver says with a grin. “The work never ends.”
Zummo Bike, 654 E. Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, is open for bike donations, rentals and sales Wed. 3:30 to 6:30, Sat. 9 to 5, and Sun. 1 to 5. Bike tune-ups and repairs are $25. To donate kids or adult bikes, text 610-616-5430 or book an appt. here. Financial contributions to fund repairs and Mathnasium scholarships greatly appreciated – call Steve Oliver 610-633-2830 or email [email protected].
Here’s how the cookie ‘crumbls’ in Wynnewood
Now breaking the cookie price barrier in Wynnewood Shopping Center: the new Crumbl Cookies. Undeterred by the $4.38 per cookie price tag (discounts for four or more), gaggles of preteen girls – their sweet tooths raging – and moms with marching orders from their kids lined up at the bakery’s Jan. 7 grand opening. For the record: We checked. Insomnia and Hope’s cookies are a buck or two less. Of course, cookie sizes may differ.
The new bakery debuted with its six greatest hits – Heath Bar, Peanut Butter, M&M, Honey Bun and two kinds of chocolate chip – but will rotate varieties weekly. All cookies are baked on site and served warm (chilled if they’re frosted) in pretty pink boxes.
A notable variety: The Cookie Cup, a warm, gooey chocolate chip that’s packaged like a Reese’s cup. Also on the menu: an assortment of “Creams” (aka ice creams), milk and, surprisingly, containers of Cool Whip, begging the question: Is Cool Whip ‘n Cookies a thing?
Wynnewood is the third Crumbl in PA. Like Insomnia Cookies, the bakery chain was started by a college student – this one at the University of Utah in 2017. Crumbl already has more than 300 bakeries in 36 states.
Crumbl Cookies, Wynnewood Shopping Center, 50 E. Wynnewood Rd., is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 8 to midnight. Closed Sundays. (484) 297-2214. Delivery, gift box shipping, online ordering, catering and curbside pickup.
Windfall for Wilson Farm Park in Tredyffrin
Paydirt! Tredyffrin was just approved for more than $1 million in state grants to enhance its main park in Chesterbrook.
Using matching bond reserves, the township now has about $2 million to spend on upgrades, according to Julie Gosse, chair of the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors. It’s a nice chunk of change but not enough to fund everything in the master plan update right away. (The update was approved in spring of 2020 but been on a funding hold until now.)
Among the goodies that might soon move from the drawing board to reality:
- Four pickleball courts and a single tennis court near the basketball courts and Picnic Pavilion parking.
- Two new bocce courts to replace the underused putting green, a seating area overlooking the pond and a large hillside meadow to help deter geese and absorb stormwater.
- At the Playground Pavilion area: enhanced inclusive play options, updated equipment, more shade and dedicated sections for different ages, and a Spin and Swing area with a nifty, zipline-esque “Cruise Line” ride.
- Near the Concession Pavilion: A Spray and Play water plaza to cool off young kids and summer campers, a pollinator children’s meadow, new shade trees and a three-season pavilion with roll-up garage doors for rainy days.
Supervisors will put the whole plan out to bid pronto, then will check with the parks board and review prior public input before deciding which improvements to tackle first, Supervisor Gosse tells SAVVY.
The three grants totaling $1,025,000 were issued by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as part of its Community Conservation Partnerships Program.
Controversial Berwyn Square development in new hands
The partners who proposed Berwyn Square (rendered above) and shepherded it through an arduous, litigious approval process have moved on.
Home builder Todd Pohlig confirms that he and his partner, developer David Della Porta, sold their interest in the controversial mixed-use project to another developer last fall.
Pohlig and Della Porta weren’t looking to sell, Pohlig says, but were approached by Jason Dempsey who’s building the giant apartment complex (below) at the old Fritz Lumber site up the road, next to the Berwyn Tavern.
“The 7-ft. height variance initially appealed by neighbors was eventually upheld by Chester County Court,” Pohlig explained via email. “However, when neighbors appealed that decision, we were facing another substantial delay, another few years in the court system. Jason Dempsey approached us indicating he could make the project work at three stories.”
And you know how this one ends. In a 3 to 2 vote, Easttown Supervisors approved a somewhat scaled-down version of the project last year.
“I respect the immediate neighbors’ position,” Pohlig tells SAVVY. “Although I’m disappointed that my investment in the community didn’t come to fruition, I’m happy Jason can accomplish many of the project’s goals for the betterment of the overall community and the Berwyn business district.”
Dempsey will have to build according to the approved plan, which includes more traditional architecture than the first monolithic design, 107 units, minimal ground-floor retail and no Handel’s. The ice cream shop has been renovating the old Yang’s Market space across the street and plans to relocate this spring. Pohlig tells us he’s thrilled that Handel’s – “the insanely popular Ice Cream Shoppe, will remain in Berwyn across the intersection, conveniently available for my daily stops.”
Revolutionary war general’s marker doesn’t pass muster. Neither does a nod to Woodrow Wilson in Bryn Mawr
Notice anything off about this historical marker at the corner of routes 252 and 30 in Paoli?
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission has.
And it’s sending the sign back to the drawing board.
The Commission has been checking the state’s 2,500 markers for inaccurate and/or racist/sexist/inappropriate content, part of the national reckoning over race that has toppled statues and remade mascots like the Radnor Raider, now the Raptor. At least 118 historical markers in PA have been flagged to date.
Not passing the state’s sniff test in Paoli: calling the “Mad” Anthony Wayne an “Indian fighter.” (Recently approved markers have focused on marginalized groups like Native Americans.)
Meanwhile over in Bryn Mawr, at the request of Bryn Mawr College’s president, the historical society removed a campus marker noting Woodrow Wilson’s early stint as a professor. The College has been distancing itself from the former president because of his sexist comments about women’s intellectual capacity and racist beliefs.
How’s this for a retirement plan?
Instead of retiring to the Sunshine State, an intrepid Tredyffrin couple tells us they’ll be chasing the sun alright … halfway around the world.
The newly retired Zatuchnis – Julie was a paraprofessional at Valley Forge Middle School and Michael was a kitchen designer – have sold their Chesterbrook home and packed their bags for Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand.
Julie’s visited the country twice – a few years ago, she spent a month volunteering at an elephant sanctuary. But Michael’s moving there sight unseen.
The Zatuchnis had talked about relocating to Florida (Julie’s from Miami), Mexico, even Malta but Julie was partial to Thailand. It ticks all their boxes, she says, with its “beautiful mountain villages, bustling cities, gorgeous beaches, very friendly and warm people, a great ex-pat community, great health care and a low cost of living.”
An animal lover, Julie says there are hundreds of street dogs in Thailand that need care.
A retirement specialist in Chiang Mai will facilitate long-term visas, an apartment rental, banking and health insurance.
For now, they’re committing to a two-year tryout. If they get homesick for the U.S, well, Florida will still be there.
This and That
An upscale, south-of the-border successor is coming to the old Besito space in Suburban Square. NYC-based Rosa Mexicana will open its seventh location in the Square this year.
Can’t get enough of our homegrown superstar Kobe Bryant and tales from his boyhood? Neither can Inky sportswriter Mike Sielski, whose new book and companion podcast recounts the late superstar’s Lower Merion childhood through his time with the Lakers. The podcast (“I am Kobe”) and book (The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality) features never-before-heard tapes of intimate interviews with Kobe that date back to his senior year at Lower Merion and early years in the NBA. In Episode 4 of the podcast, Kobe talks about his family’s adjustment to Main Line life and fashion (!). Episode 5 chronicle’s Lower Merion coach Greg Downer’s decision to hire four assistant coaches solely to coach Kobe after seeing him play in 8th grade.
Another big hole at the King of Prussia Mall. Grand Lux Café is slated to close on January 31 after a 6-year run. That leaves its owner, Cheesecake Factory Restaurant Group, with two KOP Mall restaurants, North Italia and Cheesecake Factory, and the KOP mall with a 255-seat restaurant spot to fill. The chain closed another Grand Lux outpost at the Cherry Hill Mall last year.
Ultra-luxury sports car maker Lamborghini is about to open its first factory-authorized PA dealership in – where else? – Devon. Note to tire kickers: If you have ask how much Lamborghinis cost – well into 6 figures – you can’t afford one, new or used. Lamborghini of the Main Line owner Robert DiStanislao (RDS Automotive Group) also owns Maserati of the Main Line in Devon, Porsche of the Main Line in Newtown Square, and McClaren Philadelphia in West Chester.
Some Ardmore commuters will have a longer walk for the next 18 months. The Station Ave. entrance to the train station and the underground tunnel from Station Ave. to Suburban Square are both closed for the duration. SEPTA is overhauling the station with new ADA-compliant ramps and elevators, a new station building, shelters, canopies, amenities and stormwater controls. Look for new signage directing commuters and parking at corner of Lancaster and Ardmore Aves.
Delaware Valley Friends School has filed expansion plans with Tredyffrin Township. The K-12 Paoli school hopes to build a new gym, classrooms, offices and parking.
Pining for Pugh Road? Don’t hold your breath. Already slated for replacement, the Pugh Rd. culvert was pummeled by Fred and Ida. Tredyffrin opted to skip emergency repairs and move forward with a planned bond-funded replacement project. Target completion date: Fall 2022.
Tredyffrin has a new Asian market. EBO’s Fresh Grocery in Swedesford Plaza sells fresh vegetables and seafood and a wide array of noodles, dumplings and other Asian goodies. And a friendly robot meets you at the door.
Closed in Devon since Christmas Eve, vintage furniture shop/refinisher Eastcote Lane will resurface at Ludwig’s Corner in Chester Springs next month. Can’t wait that long? Eastcote has a stall at The Works in Kennett Square.
A moving display at a Penn Valley synagogue. Timely, too, given Philly’s gun violence epidemic. The Souls Shot Portrait Project – fine-art portraits of victims of gun violence – is on view at Beth Am Israel through February 28. Vaxxed only and only by appointment.
Born and bred in South Philly 30 years ago, Primo’s Hoagies is all grown up … and getting bigger every day, it seems. A new Primo’s franchise is headed to King of Prussia in the shopping center near PetSmart. The company expects to have 100 outposts by Summer 2022.
The Gift Shop at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne is holding a virtual original art auction to benefit its outreach projects in Uganda, Guatemala and Cuba. Browse and bid online through the month of January.
Sisters before Misters! Grab your Galentine and head to The Ultimate Girls Night Out, Feb. 10 at Autograph Brasserie in Eagle Village. Tickets are $15 and include a glass of bubbly, raffles and shopping with a host of fun, girl-power vendors including Rachelle Boutique & Designer Consignment of Bryn Mawr, Good Gemz, Darci Henry Beauty of Malvern, HJ Boutique of Wayne, Aux Petits Delices of Wayne, Van Cleve in Paoli, Body & Beauty Lab of Radnor, Mindful Presents curated by Inquirer lifestyle writer, Elizabeth Wellington, Kimberly Boutique, Littlebags by Anna Welsh and Wander + Cloth.
A SAVVY salute to two esteemed fire chiefs. Eamon Brazunis, Berwyn Fire Co. Chief for eight years, is now Career Fire Chief in Phoenixville Borough, although he’ll stay on as a volunteer in Berwyn. The new Berwyn Chief is Justin Brundage, a 33-year Berwyn Fire Co. member who’s served as assistant chief during Brazunis’ terms. The Main Line is lucky to have you both.
New year, new clubs? High-end manufacturer/custom fitter PXG Golf has a new outpost on Henderson Road in King of Prussia. The shop has three “fitting bays,” a simulator, a putter fitting studio and a practice green. Custom fittings are $50 and can be booked online.
Pack the kiddos and donations in the car and show them charity in action this MLK Day. Radnor Scouts are hosting another no-contact, drop-off food drive for Wayne United Methodist Church’s food pantry, which serves Wayne neighbors in need. The most needed items: PB & J and canned tuna, veggies, soup and pasta sauce. Two donation sites will be open Monday, Jan. 17, 10 a.m. to noon: South Wayne Ave., across from the Radnor Fire House and St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church on Walker Rd. in Wayne.
And finally, news so splendid we can see Ted Lasso grinning across the pond.The Conestoga Boys Soccer Team had a PERFECT 2021 SEASON. Our boys in garnet and gray went 26 to 0, to win the Central League, District 1 and PA titles. It’s the program’s fourth state crown in the last ten years. And get this: the team allowed just five goals the whole season! Dang.