The chorus to save Oakwell – Stoneleigh’s Villanova “sister” – from school district bulldozers is practically deafening.
And we’re not just talking about cars honking for picketers outside Lower Merion School District’s Ardmore offices each Friday.
There are impassioned Facebook posts and student editorials, petitions, videos, lawn signs, buttons, two websites (saveoakwell.org and preserveOakwell.com), regular tours of the endangered property and ongoing zoning challenges.
Tax-weary citizens, backyard gardeners, birders, historic preservationists, eco-activists, civic groups, neighbors and some township officials have all joined the fray.
Borrowing from the old saying: If 500 mature Oakwell trees fall in the forest next spring, plenty will be around to hear it. It will make a sound. Based on the current brouhaha, the sacrifice of those old-soldier trees – along with the land they’re on, the wildlife they welcome, and the historic structures surrounding them – will reverberate far and wide.
First, a look at the numbers.
All in, LMSD will spend $22.1 million to put accessory sports fields for its new middle school at Oakwell. According to LMSD spokesperson Amy Buckman, that price tag includes:
- $12.9 million LMSD to buy the 13 acres (two adjoining properties) in late 2018.
- $8 million to remove 500+ old-growth trees and plant new ones, demolish some buildings, flatten the land and install two full-size and two half-size playing fields, bathrooms, snack bar, etc. for 7th and 8th grade sports teams at Black Rock Middle School, which welcomed its first students this fall.
Note: The $22.1 million doesn’t include the roughly $90 – $120 million (depending on whom you talk to) LMSD spent on its staggeringly sophisticated new middle school at the former Islamic center in Villanova.
Talk about giving 1,054 students the best facilities public money can buy.
An open question: Is Black Rock Middle School the priciest public middle school per student in PA?
The Oakwell controversy has simmered for a few years. Lately, it’s boiled over. It almost completely hijacked the public comment period at Lower Merion School Board’s last meeting.
Among those notably taking the podium: Black Rock Middle School 7th-grade teacher Jennifer Ekert (below) whose own students would play on the fields LMSD wants to install at Oakwell. Even they would put the planet ahead of athletics, she said.
“My students are painfully aware of the environmental problems that they’re inheriting,” Ekert told the school board. “They express anger and sadness over it. They will understand a decision by adults to avoid environmental destruction with our public money [at] Oakwell and will appreciate that adults are putting them and their futures first.”
Also sounding off that night: Lower Merion High School senior Noa Fohrer (below), president of the school’s environmental club and co-founder of the Greta Thunberg-inspired climate-action group, Fridays for Future Philly.
“Students would happily fill this room and tell you we don’t want this to happen,” Fohrer said. “As a student, as a 17-year-old, by cutting down those trees, you’re supposed to be giving us a future and helping us. This would be doing the opposite.”
Climate Action Lower Merion’s Isabel Melvin held up a petition signed by more than 3,000, begging the district to preserve the ancient woods at Oakwell and find a new place for playing fields for Black Rock’s 7th- and 8th-grade athletes.
Speakers implored the school board and its relatively new superintendent to visit the property – surely they’d change their minds if they did. To which Superintendent Mumin announced that he had, in fact, toured Oakwell months ago.
Oakwell was not the district’s first option for sports fields to serve its new middle school. It wasn’t its second or even its third.
(LMSD says the Black Rock land is too hilly to support more than an on-site tennis courts and a multi-purpose field and track.)
Among other sites, the township eyed property on Spring Mill Road, Ashbridge Park and part of Stoneleigh. All were either forbidden by law or nixed for various reasons.
And so landlocked Lower Merion bought 13 acres next to – and once part of – the treasured public garden, Stoneleigh, snatching it from Villanova U. which had a deal in place, according to Oakwell’s current resident.
The district plans to clear cut the forest and bulldoze some historic buildings and garden structures – some designed by noted architects like the Olmsted Brothers and Frank Miles Day.
LMSD calls its plan “code compliant” because the 538 trees it will remove would be supplanted by 631 newer ones. The fine print: the towering tree canopy includes more than 100 trees that are 100+ years old. Environmentalists contend those trees are irreplaceable; they anchor the ecosystem, prevent floods and counteract global warming.
Some claim anti-Oakwell crusaders are putting trees before kids. And there’s the issue of parity. Don’t students at all three LMSD middle schools deserve quality fields for after-school sports?
The crusaders insist they’re fighting for the kids, too, taking action against the biggest threat they’ll face in their lifetimes: environmental catastrophe. What kind of example does this set for responsible land stewardship for the next generation? they wonder.
For photos of Oakwell and more on why folks are sounding the alarm, see our recent story.
Despite the full-court press, the district isn’t blinking.
According to Buckman, LMSD has already invested big dollars and the ball fields will support the township’s comprehensive plan and LMSD’s commitment to extra-curriculars to enhance students’ social/emotional growth.
In late October, time is running short.
If a viable alternative isn’t found soon or zoning challenges don’t drag on, LMSD would begin demolition and construction as early as next May.
Say what you will about trendy, transit-oriented developments being too big or out of character for their communities. Some get it just right.
Case in point: the smashing Hotel West & Main just across the river in smokin’ hot Conshy.
Rooms are for out-of-towners but its eclectic restaurant – the Hook and Ladder Sky Bar & Kitchen – clearly has the Main Line in mind.
Heck, they even named the place for us. “The industrial past of West Conshohocken meets Main Line opulence” was how our tour guide explained the West & Main moniker.
Makes sense, considering Keystone Development + Investment CEO Bill Glazer lives in Gladwyne. Presumably, he knows what will lure us across the river.
A boutique “Tapestry by Hilton”/Concord Hospitality property, West & Main is the town’s first hotel in 22 years.
Main Liners are already booking mitzvahs, corporate shindigs and weddings in the 3,500 sq. ft. ballroom. And the vaunted Villanova hoops team, which keeps players from dorm-room distractions before its home games, has reserved a few nights.
But what’s really setting hearts aflame is the adaptive re-use of the storied, 148-year-old Washington Hose and Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1.
There are multiple nods to the old “Wash” firehouse throughout – some cheeky, others charming, including:
- Original fireman’s lockers repurposed for the front desk.
- The original horn code board hanging in the main lobby lounge.
- Wall art “rosettes” made from scraps and tires, an homage to Conshy’s old Lee Tire Co.
- A vintage sign reminding folks to “washie” their hands.
- And our personal fave: the original firepole labelled “Shortcut” in neon with a waiting fire dog and firefighter’s bootprints visible on the floor below.
Talk about playing with fire.
“It’s a fun juxtaposition melding history with a bit of whimsy,” says Keith Halfmann, CEO of Endurance Management Group, the restaurants’ chief concept and branding firm.
The project’s lead interior designer Leslie Schultz of IIG tells us her team “wanted to create a new social club that brings the communities of Conshohocken and the Main Line neighborhoods together, blending the polished opulence with the patinaed industrial past and poking a bit of fun and enjoying moments of ironic wit throughout the property.”
Works for us.
The indoor-outdoor Sky Bar (above and below) is in the new building that connects the firehouse to the hotel. A drink rail overlooks an expansive green lawn created for hotel guests and employees at Amerisource Bergen, which is headquartered across the way.
To qualify for historic-property tax credits, Keystone had to keep intact 70 percent of the old firehouse.
The old sleeping chambers and lunch room are now Hook and Ladder’s dining rooms. The arched stained-glass windows and tin-paneled walls are original. After they’re refurbished, original chandeliers will illuminate the rooms.
The name evokes a casual gastropub but Hook and Ladder is actually a destination steak-and-sushi house that hopes to take a bite out of upscale spots like Eddie V’s in KOP, Fiore Rosso in Bryn Mawr and DePaul’s Table in Ardmore. Think caviar, foie gras and Prime Certified Angus steaks that start at $46. Safe to say, the Washies who once slid down the pole could never afford the place.
Attracting the biggest buzz by far is the $99 Fireman Burger (below) – a Waygu beef patty wrapped in edible gold leaf, topped with lobster tail and truffles.
“I wanted to make something cool and expensive,” Executive Chef Zach Wannawong tells SAVVY. “It’s not about the money.”
Well, if Barclay’s Prime can get away with a $140 cheesesteak, who are we to quibble? (Mere mortals can grab a $17 burger downstairs at 1874 Social.)
On the menu: Starters $10 – $24; Raw Oysters/Crudo $13 – $22; Signature dishes $33 – $99; Grilled entrees $22 – $210 (for a dry-aged Tomahawk ribeye for two), three sauces for your protein (free), assorted “enhancements” ($9 – $14) and sides ($8 – $16).
We were underwhelmed by the Oysters Rockefeller and King Salmon with Smoked Cream ($33) but the NY Strip ($46) was flavorful. In all fairness, the night we visited was the kitchen’s maiden voyage. Cooks were slammed.
The best dish among those we tried? The Bone Marrow starter ($20) filled with uni, sea urchin, and caviar. Order it; Just don’t Google “uni” first or you may chicken out.
The entire project reminds us of Bala Cynwyd’s Ironworks at Pencoyd Landing/Lark/Landing Kitchen: Riverside location, adaptive re-use of a historic property, themed décor, on-site hotel and refined dining for locals.
Keystone’s Glazer tells us repurposing the old firehouse has long been the plan – even though it required rezoning and a slightly smaller design due to the pandemic.
It’s the final piece of Keystone’s $325 million SORA West redevelopment project, a five-acre parcel Glazer began cobbling together in 2003. The completed project includes the hotel, Amerisource Bergen’s smashing new world HQ, a sweeping plaza and a parking garage
“Conshohocken can now run with Greenwich, Conn., Tyson’s Corner and West Palm Beach as a transit-oriented, epicenter of commerce,” Glazer says, pumped that his near-20 year dream had been realized at last.
Hook and Ladder Skybar & Kitchen at Hotel West & Main, 46 Fayette St, Conshohocken, 610-825-1190, is open from 4 p.m. weekdays and from 5 p.m. weekends.
The debut of (mostly) Main Line Monopoly: Who made the board and a BIG omission
The world’s most popular board game might just become the Main Line’s most popular holiday gift.
Merchants up and down the Line – from Tepper and Gladwyne pharmacies to Valley Forge Flowers, Kids ‘n Kribs and Paoli Hardware – are all peddling the first Main Line edition of MONOPOLY.
The appeal of these “community” versions is undeniable. Who wouldn’t want to put a house at Chanticleer, build a hotel at Bryn Mawr College or own Ardmore Train Station – and collect rent every time someone drops by?
Just don’t expect a 100% Main Line experience.
Several of the coveted squares showcase out-of-town attractions: Franklin Square and Belmont Plateau are in Philly, Dixon Meadow is in Lafayette Hill, Treehouse World is in West Chester.
Another head-scratcher: the four chosen train stations in the traditional railroad spots: Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Villanova and … Glen Mills? Huh?
You should know, too, that Main Line MONOPOLY is, in part, a “pay to play” game board. Several spots were reserved for sponsors. Hence the appearance of seemingly random retailers like Nick Filet, Cornerstone, Driven2Drive driving school and others. But hey, that’s capitalism for you and in keeping with the spirit of a game that’s all about making a buck.
But what we don’t get are the obvious omissions. How do you create a game that celebrates the Main Line’s iconic places and skip the Devon Horse Show? And where is Radnor Hunt?
“We’re in Rhode Island. We did the best we could,” explains Top Trump USA’s Scott Whitney who emceed the game’s unveiling at The Saturday Club in Wayne on Oct. 11. “It’s a big country and it’s hard to know the nuances of every community.”
The Main Line is Top Trumps USA’s 10th community edition and they’re not finished with us yet.
A South Jersey Shore edition – Cape May, Stone Harbor, Avalon and points north – is set to debut next July 4.
Main Line MONOPOLY, $40-$45, is sold at Valley Forge Flowers, 21 Pips, The Saturday Club, Kids ‘n Kribs, Main Point Books, Gladwyne Pharmacy, Tepper Pharmacy, participating CVS, Giant Foods and Ace Hardware stores, and other locations.
French cafés are clearly à la mode.
A short stroll from Delice et Chocolat and a hop skip from Tous Les Jour in Haverford comes another French charmer, maman (“mama”) in Suburban Square.
Maman replaces reliable old Ruby’s, which closed in 2020 after 25 years.
A daytime café and anytime event space, maman serves fresh baked goodies, breakfast, lunch and coffee drinks.
Business has been brisk since its Oct. 5 debut, managers Michael Byrd and Jada Steward tell SAVVY.
Seems the Main Line has been going nuts for the Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies, named Oprah’s fave cookie in 2017. (We can personally vouch for Oprah’s exquisite taste.)
Other early hits: the (inevitable) Avocado Toast, the Croque Maman, the Katie Chicken Sandwich and the Lindsey Chicken Salad.
For now, it’s fast-casual counter service only. Weekend brunch with table service should begin in the next week or so.
Ardmore is maman’s first outpost in PA and 24th overall for the chain that started in Soho eight years ago. Most baked goods are made in-house; some are shipped in thrice weekly from maman’s commissary kitchen in NYC.
The vibe is French-country homey like maman’s or grand-mère’s pied-à-terre or country cottage. The blue-and-white china is mismatched; the ornate tile floors chicly faded.
Can’t get enough? You can rent the whole place for parties of up to 75, day or night.
maman, 49 Anderson Ave., Ardmore, 484-416-3295, is open weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends 8 to 6. Kitchen open daily 8 to 4.
Too much on your plate this Thanksgiving? Join the multitude of Main Line families that count on HomeCooked for the holidays.
Whether you’re keeping it small or feeding a crowd, bringing a side dish or serving the whole meal, HomeCooked has you covered.
“It’s the closest you can get to cooking it yourself,” says owner Claire Guarino, whose Thanksgiving business has never been better.
Not only is the price right but you’ll be giving yourself an early holiday gift: precious time to enjoy your family, paint your toes, maybe watch the parade.
You won’t have to fight supermarket crowds or stand in line to get your order either. Simply pick up curbside or get home delivery for a nominal fee ($9 to $12). HomeCooked is based in Paoli but its vans travel the entire Main Line and beyond.
For 16 years, Guarino and her capable kitchen elves have been shopping, chopping, slicing and stirring so you don’t have to. Everything is scratch-made from farm-fresh ingredients. No weird preservatives, no worries about lumpy gravy.
Potatoes are hand-peeled then mashed to perfection.
Loaves of multigrain bread – or the best gluten-free bread around – are cut in-house for stuffing.
“We slice about a zillion fresh carrots, onions and celery,” says Claire. “You just can’t compare our stuffing to the supermarket version.”
Claire’s own mom ties on an apron to make the orange cranberry sauce that families enjoy year after year.
HomeCooked prepares the same time-tested Thanksgiving recipes with a few new wrinkles each season. Clients appreciate the consistency. Why mess with success?
For those with allergies, ingredients are labelled and each dish comes with foolproof directions, a tips sheet and reheating schedule. “We want clients to have success, enjoy our food and get all the credit,” Claire says. More than a few Main Line moms have transferred items to their Williams Sonoma serving bowls and passed them off as their own. Wink, wink.
Order online, by phone or in store. Choose “The Works,” a turkey feast for 4 to 10 ($160 to $260), the Thanksgiving Sides only package (from $86) or a la carte (from $8).
Hosting guests for the weekend? Add football-game snacks, dinner or breakfast goodies to your order.
Thrilled with their Thanksgiving orders, clients come back a few weeks later for bake-at-home holiday cookies, Seven Fishes Christmas Eve stew or Christmas dinner.
“You can never go out of business. You don’t understand how much time you’re saving me,” customers tell Guarino. “That’s really heartwarming to hear after we’ve worked like crazy for several days preparing everything,” she says.
HomeCooked feeds strangers, too. Claire & Co. proudly partner with T & E Care to provide meals to local families and donates 10 meals a month to foster families via the Pottstown-based nonprofit, Fostering Hope. Claire is happy to nourish the community that’s sustained her small business for 16 years – and counting.
Homecooked, 1 Paoli Plaza, across N. Valley Rd. from Paoli Train Station, 610-647-1002. www.Homecooked.net. Thanksgiving order deadline is Wed., Nov. 16. Grab-and-go holiday items are available while supplies last.
Prefer to try before you buy? Drop by HomeCooked, Friday, Nov. 4, 12:30 p.m. to-1:30 p.m. to taste Thanksgiving menu items including SAVVY scones (see below about this F).
***SAVVY GIVEAWAY: FREE SAVVY SCONE SAMPLER PACK. YUM! Stop by HomeCooked, mention SAVVY and take home a freezer-to-oven-ready treat for the family. (Flavors include cranberry-orange, blueberry and chocolate chunk.) No purchase necessary. To get free four scones with your pickup or delivery order, simply type “SAVVY Scones” in the special instructions line (NOT the promo code space) in the online order form. Offer expires Nov. 5.***
vybe urgent care comes to Radnor
vybe – the local company that made urgent care so cool you don’t capitalize it – has a new outpost on the Main Line.
Folks flocked to vybe’s popup COVID testing center near the Radnor Hotel last year so the team made it permanent.
“We’ve completely renovated the space into a full-service urgent care center,” says founder/CEO and longtime Devon resident Peter Hotz, who’s been scouting locations on the Main Line for a few years.
Walk in or book an in-person or telehealth visit online. Advance registration will save time when you visit.
In addition to sick/urgent visits, lab screenings and physicals, vybe offers flu shots, vaccines and the updated Moderna bivalent COVID booster, various COVID tests, including quick tests for travel and holiday gatherings.
Founded in 2016, Radnor is vybe’s 15th location.
It’s the 11th fastest growing company in the Philly area, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, growing 73.47% in two years.
vybe, 599 Lancaster Ave. St. Davids, is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended evening and weekend hours coming soon.
If you’re fussy about your spirits and prefer your cocktails crafty, have we got the place for you: Manatawny Still Works, a new tasting room/bottle shop in downtown Ardmore.
Belly on up to the bar for craft cocktails made with Manatawny’s small-batch spirits (barrel-aged whiskeys, brandy, rum, vodka and gin). Go seasonal with an October elixir like Hells Bells, Waking the Witch and Bella Lugosi’s Dead or old school with a Martini, Negroni or one of four Old Fashioneds.
Hate the hard stuff? Order local beer, cider, Galen Glen wines, a “zero-proof” cocktail or grab a bottle for the road.
What’s playing well in Ardmore so far? “Old Fashioneds are as popular as ever and, given that whiskey is what we do best, always a good choice, while Espresso Martinis continue to have their moment,” Manatawny’s Jay Kosek tells SAVVY.
The industrial-chic space has seating for 50 at the bar and high-top tables. A private room can host 12.
“We’re excited to join the growing community of craft producers in Ardmore,” Kosek says. “Pennsylvania is excelling at making beer, wine and spirits right now.”
Now in its eighth year, the distillery also operates tasting rooms at its Pottstown headquarters and in South Philly and will soon open in Fishtown.
About that name: Manatawny is a creek off the Schuylkill River dubbed Man’en’tau’wata’wik – “the place we meet to drink” – by the indigenous Lenape.
Manatawny Still Works, 49 W. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, is open Wed. and Thurs. 5 to 10, Fri. 5 to 11, Saturdays, 2 to 11 and Sundays 2 to 8.
Attn. SAVVY shoppers: Deeply discounted designer duds at CCC’s Wayne sale
The lights will be on and the clothing racks packed at the old Gap in Wayne this weekend; Community Clothes Charity is setting up shop.
The venerable nonprofit is back on the Main Line peddling the closet castoffs of some of the area’s most well-heeled women.
Count on a trove of Chanel, Escada, St. John and the like. (Pedestrian labels like Gap, Talbots and Ann Taylor are not accepted.)
Everything is either gently used or new with tags attached. High-end clothiers also donate their unsold merch.
All will be sold for a steal – although you’ll have to pay $20 at the door on “Preview” Friday and $5 on Saturday. Prices are slashed in half on Sunday, aka Bargain Day, when admission is free.
After a three-year absence due to COVID, “we have so much stuff,” reports CCC Co-Chair Anne Hamilton, making special mention of Manolo-level shoes in “bigger sizes” and elegant housewares and jewelry – real and costume – in the Gift Boutique.
Hamilton advises shoppers to carpool and hopes they’ll wear masks, which will be available at the door.
Proceeds from the sale will go to the Women’s Resource Center in Wayne and other TBA area charities that support veterans, women and children.
Recent beneficiaries include B. Inspired Philadelphia, One House at a Time and Philadelphia Refugee Health. Since its founding in 1957, CCC has raised an impressive $7 million for area causes.
One woman’s trash is another’s treasure indeed.
Community Clothes Charity Sale, 132 E. Lancaster Ave. in the old Gap building, is open Friday, Oct. 28, 11 to 7.; Sat. Oct. 29, 10 to 5, Sunday 10 to 4. Visa and MC accepted, 510-525-0120.
Now’s your chance to own a slice of history – and maybe run an Airbnb – in Radnor Hunt. 1.83-acre Echo Valley Farm, part of the original William Lewis Farmstead, is for sale. Five dwellings – three of them connected, all renovated with separate entrances and new cedar shake and copper roofs. Think rustic charm meets modern sophistication. Main house, party barn with pub-style bar and space for dancing, a resort-style pool and charming lofted cottage. Currently configured with eight bathrooms and five bedrooms with room for more. The choice is yours: spread out your extended family, run your business or rent it out. Offered at $2.8 million.
Trying to keep it local and shop small this holiday season? It doesn’t get any more local – or any fresher – than the Lancaster County Farmers Market in Wayne. Each stand is family-owned and operated by the Amish or your Main Line neighbors. Pick up produce, meats, seafoods, desserts, home décor items, gifts, flowers and specialty foods from around the world. It’s all under one roof so you’ll save gas, too. Stroll the aisles Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visit the market’s vendor page to place advance orders.
Remember those orange Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes? There’s a new way to support the lifesaving children’s charity that’s way more entertaining: a “World Music Benefit” for UNICEF, hosted by Malvern-based wireless network pioneer Rajant Corp. and its philanthropic founder/CEO Robert Schena. Regional acts donating their talents to the Nov. 8 show at City Winery include Donn T and singer-songwriter Jake Morelli, Tequila Rock Revolution, acclaimed opera tenor James Valenti, Asbury Park’s James Pace Band, Rocker Walt Lafty, bluegrass legend Ray McClain, Opera Philadelphia singers and more. Former GMA correspondent and 20-year host of PBS’ “The Pledge Drive” Denise Richardson will emcee. $125 ticket includes seated dinner, the show, auction and a moving spotlight on Philly’s own “Orange Box Kids.” Order yours today.
Happy Being just might be the world’s healthiest drink. Better yet, all three flavors – blueberry, peach rose and cucumber mint – are actually delish. Created in Wayne, Happy Being is a cutting-edge “functional beverage” – an organic white tea – that’s unlike anything else in the market. Each tea is infused with huge amounts of key phytonutrients, the polyphenols naturally found in fruits and vegetables that fight inflammation, repair cells, boost immunity and energy and promote gut health. You’d have to eat 962 blueberries to get the phytonutrients found in just one bottle of Happy Being. Use code SAVVY to get 15% off a first-time online purchase or 30% off the first month of a new subscription. Order here.
***SAVVY Picks are shoutouts & promos on behalf of our sponsors. To learn more about becoming a SAVVY Pick, email [email protected]
(Editor’s note: A new SAVVY feature, Small Talks are quick Q-and-As with local luminaries. All interviews are edited for clarity and brevity.)
Former TV host Jeff Devlin sits down with SAVVY to chat about life after the cancellation of his popular DIY show, “Stone House Revival,” and his new “build-shop-stay” venture in Chester Springs.
The Bucks County-born carpenter closed SchoolHouse Woodworking at the Exton Square Mall last year and says he poured his life savings into an historic five-acre property on Route 401, transforming it into Sycamore & Stone Farm. The newly renovated stone barn now houses Devlin’s custom woodworking shop, an artisanal store, special events and DIY classes. With Magnolia TV cameras rolling, Devlin also restored the property’s circa-1810 stone house, which can be rented on Airbnb.
How did you find the farm?
We’d been looking for three or four years. You’d be surprised at how many stone houses are around Chester County but none of them had a decent barn. This one has frontage on a major road and the barn had been an antique store. Years ago, we’d walked in one day and bought a few things. The owners, an older couple, were sitting in the back holding hands. I told [my fiancé] Janelle, “This is the type of place that we need to be in at some point.” They retired last year and I bought it.
What’s your vision for Sycamore & Stone?
I’m excited to be putting down roots here. People know me for working on other people’s houses. Now they can come here, meet me, ask questions and find cool stuff. I want people to say, “There’s the guy that’s making the thing I’m buying.” That connection is important to me. In Exton, we were the first full woodshop/retail store in a mall anywhere. We’re continuing that here.
Tell us more about the retail store and classes.
We’ll never compete with Home Goods – that’s not our goal. Our goal is for people to have an experience, to have people walk in the door and say, “Wow.”
We’re selling quality home products from area artisans – soaps, candles, and home décor stuff. Within the next year, we want to bring in only local vendors within 10 or 20 miles from here. These are people in your community; you support the people in your community. We also have classes where our vendors teach their craft.
You’re also making and selling your own SchoolHouse Woodworking furniture on-site.
Each piece is really special – not only to me but to whoever’s buying it. When people hear the word “custom,” they get scared out their minds thinking it’s going to cost a million. But our prices can compete with Pottery Barn. If we make you a table, you know we’re going to follow through and make sure it’s unique. You can come in and see the pieces of wood that we use. You can select them if you want. Some people bring trees from their own backyard.
Bringing SchoolHouse Woodworking to a big modern space at the Exton Square Mall seemed off-brand for you. Why did you do it?
When “Stonehouse Revival” was cancelled, I needed something to do, a place to go to. I was still a little devastated from my show being cancelled because I thought this one was gonna stick and it didn’t. I wanted a bigger space so I wasn’t building things in my living room in West Chester. A friend was a manager at Exton Square Mall. I asked her if I could do a popup to get rid of some of the furniture I’d made. She offered me a good deal on leasing permanent space so I took it.
You’ve hosted a string of reality TV home makeover shows over the years, among them “I Hate My Bath,” ”Spice Up my Kitchen” and most recently, “Stone House Revival” Do you miss being on TV?
I miss aspects of it but it was stressful. You put yourself out there. I had high levels of anxiety and worry because I’m a private person. You give people a voice to attack you and give their opinions: “You’re fat. You’re skinny. You should dress nicer. You should go on steroids.” I would get 100 emails a day. 99 of them are great but you get one bad one and it kills you. I never wanted to go on TV; I never tried out. At the time, I wasn’t even sure my skills were good enough. I became a carpenter because of “This Old House.” Those guys were like gods to me. I didn’t think I had those godlike powers. But the TV shows did allow me to start a business like this and not take as long to get it established.
Surely, you’re more confident now.
I used to look down on myself for not having a college degree. But I’ve learned that a degree doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Oddly enough, the older I get, the more I crave learning – I want to know the history of things. When you find your value and find what moves you and your purpose, all the other stuff is just noise. When I’m dead and gone and a client still remembers Jeff built it – now that’s a legacy. That’s what keeps me going.
Sycamore & Stone Farm, 1251 Conestoga Rd. (Route 401), Chester Springs, is open Wed. – Fri. noon to 7, Sat. 10 to 7 and Sun. 10 to 4.
Underknown fact: A merry band of musically inclined women has been bringing Philadelphia Orchestra musicians to Main Line audiences since 2015.
Ticket price? Zero.
And there’s no catch – Orchestra Concordia is a nonprofit funded solely by grants and donations.
“Our orchestra is an all-volunteer, all ages and made up of musicians from the Main Line and beyond who once attended and learned to play instruments through Lower Merion, Harriton, Conestoga, Radnor, West Chester and many other surrounding schools’ music programs,” co-founder Joyce Pritchard tells SAVVY.
These aren’t pikers, either – musicians are either professional, semi-pro or highly skilled amateurs and are led by accomplished Maestro Gary White, she says. The orchestra performs twice a year at Radnor Middle School with a soloist from the Philadelphia Orchestra adding a little razzle-dazzle.
Postponed by the pandemic, the orchestra’s fifth anniversary concert on Nov. 11 should be sensational. The featured soloist is Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim, who lives in Radnor, performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
Orchestra Concordia was founded by four enterprising local women – Pritchard, Nora Anne DiLemmo, Elaine Sloan and Leslie Katz – who feared folks weren’t being exposed to the world’s great orchestral music due to music-education cuts and rising concert prices.
Their mission: Make great music accessible to all – the young, the handicapped and the budget-conscious.
Orchestra Concordia’s fall Gala Anniversary Concert will be held Friday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. at Radnor Middle School. Walk or wheel your chair right in. It’s free and no tickets are required.
PS Not a classical instrumentalist? Join the Main Line Singers – no tryout necessary. The community chorus rehearses Wednesday nights in Wayne and performs fun numbers from Broadway, Hollywood, rock and pop.
A bigger, brighter taste of Britain
A corner of Wayne’s Eagle Village Shops now has the corner on all things English.
A Taste of Britain tearoom tried a popup market in the old Ellie’s space next door in late 2020. It proved so popular, the owners made it permanent.
After a late-summer renovation, the two storefronts are connected.
Snagging a table should be easier – there are seven new ones in the tearoom’s former market space.
And shopping for your favorite Anglophile has never been better. Half of the old Ellie has British foods, the other half has assorted British woolens and merch.
Jolly good stuff.
Star sightings in Berwyn and Bryn Mawr
Famous folks keep finding their way to Handel’s Ice Cream, now scooping out of sparkling new digs across the street. Witness Adam Sandler, practically a Handel’s regular when he filmed “Hustle” last year.
The latest bold-facer to pop up at the Berwyn mainstay: Rupert Grint, star of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” but better known as Harry Potter’s pal, Ron Weasley. His Handel’s flavor of choice? Graham Central Station.
Grint, 34, has spent lots of time in the Philly area filming four seasons of “Servant.” Last year, he was spotted at Minella’s Diner and Whole Foods in Wayne.
Meanwhile, 76er Tobias Harris touched down at Avalon Bistro & Bar in Bryn Mawr Oct. 15. Owner John Brandt-Lee asked folks to refrain from making short jokes when he posted his pic with the baller on social median (below). Harris is becoming a Main Line fixture. A Crumbl Cookies investor/ambassador, he helped launch franchises in Wynnewood and Wayne.
This and That
Jeeze. Not a month after its grand opening at the old Anthro building in Wayne and Boyd’s was hit by a burglary. Radnor Police say a man left the upscale clothier through a broken rear window at 10:50 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17 and hopped in a red sedan on Bellevue Avenue with an unspecified amount of merchandise.
An arrest in the scary Sept. carjacking of a teen in Devon Square. Siheem Walker will be arraigned on robbery, threatening serious bodily injury and other charges. The 17-year-old male victim had returned to his car after buying milk at 5:15 p.m. when two men entered his car, showed handguns and robbed him. The teen was unharmed and his car was found in Philly hours later. The Sept. 19 carjacking was Tredyffrin’s first carjacking in three years.
It’s lawn-sign crime time again. In Tredyffrin alone, police report political lawn signs stolen from nine addresses in three days. A for Effort to the victim who put an air tag on one of her signs. It led Tredyffrin Police to a dumpster behind Will’s and Bill’s in Berwyn containing about 100 lawn signs for Democratic candidates. Police ask anyone with info on the thefts to call 610-644-1440.
Chick-Fil-A is indeed coming to Wayne, just not where it had first hoped. Instead of the old Chili’s, the chain is renovating space next to Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza and Yoga Six in Wayne Square.
Spring Mill Bread Co., a 28-year-staple in downtown Wayne, has idled its ovens. The Kerpius family announced their store was closing for good last week. “COVID was a great challenge for our business over the past few years but we persevered and survived!… We are grateful for this opportunity and proud of the work we have done,” the family said on its website. Our messages to the Kerpius family about their decision to close have so far gone unanswered.
Gladwynites are getting excited about the McCaffrey’s food market moving into the old Acme. The upscale emporium has applied for a beer and wine license and plans an on-site café.
Wawa is famously pulling out of two spots in Philly. It’s not getting any closer to expanding on the western Main Line either. Wawa has yet to submit plans to Tredyffrin township for the site near the Tredyffrin Life Time Athletic or a less likely location off Cassatt Road in Berwyn. Wawa’s hugely controversial plans to open near St. Katharine’s in Wayne have also stalled indefinitely.
We have a few juicy details on Iron Chef José Garces’ plans for Amada at the Radnor Financial Center and let’s just say, he’s thinking big: 7,000 sq. ft including two outdoor patios and seating for 200+, a spacious 25-seat bar and 45-seat private dining room. Look for 100 wine choices and on the menu, Amada’s signature Spanish tapas plus only-in-Radnor dishes prepared in a new, wood-fired oven. Lunch/weekend brunch and dinner will be served seven days. Dash Design is cooking up a rustic-chic vibe with wood, leather and linen accents and romantic soft lighting. Fingers crossed, Amada will open early next year.
Classic American outfitter J. McLaughlin is expanding into adjoining space in Wayne’s Eagle Village. The new digs should be ready in early 2023.
Just a few months after we reported its opening, Wayne’s first IV drip bar, City Hydration, has closed until further notice following a ceiling fire on Oct. 20. Owner Christie D’Arcy, who owns the building, tells us she likely won’t reopen for months. She’s hoping clients will shift to home visits with her traveling nurses. D’Arcy’s first suburban location, City Hydration was off to a solid start. Eleven appointments were booked for the day after the fire.
Main Line Sushi was also felled by fire in October and, according to owner Sean Sim, likely won’t reopen in the same location. Sim plans to put a temporary sushi stand inside his adjacent fish market, Main Line Seafood, while he searches for a new home for his popular sushi bar.
Underage drinking is getting tougher in Bryn Mawr. Watering holes Kelly’s Taproom and Flip and Bailey’s have installed new ID scanners, according to Villanova’s campus newspaper. Not only do they spot fakes, they flag undergrads who’ve used fake IDs in the past. If you’re on the banned list, you’re banished. At a meeting with the bars’ owners, 21-year-olds were told they can perform unspecified service work to get their names off the list.
While we’re in Bryn Mawr, a correction: the owners of Bryn Mawr Flower Shop tell us they are looking for new space for their 41-year-old business. As we reported in September, Trattoria Carina is moving to the flower shop’s current location.
Radnor Planning Commission gave neither a thumbs up nor a thumbs down to a preliminary proposal to demolish a string of Wayne stores – from Gingy’s Boutique to Playa Bowls – and replace them with a three-story, mixed use building. After Louella Ave. neighbors voiced concerns about traffic flow and parking, Berger Rental Communities said it would go back to the drawing board. Plans floated in October would have required several zoning variances related to off-street parking, loading, setbacks and buffers.
After DA Kevin Steele called her actions “sustained recklessness,” a South Jersey woman faces up to 24 years in prison for causing the crash that killed a Lower Merion firefighter last year. In a brief hearing last month, Montco DA Kevin Steele called out Jacquelyn Walker, 64, of little Egg Harbor for “sustained recklessness” in July, 2021 saying “She was in a car … that she knew shouldn’t be on the road.” Walker admitted she drove without working brakes, hitting three firefighters and a state trooper who were responding to an accident on the Schuylkill. All four were seriously injured but only Thomas Royds was proclaimed dead at Paoli Hospital. Weeping from her wheelchair, Walker pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, aggravated assault by vehicle and reckless endangerment. Royd’s family asked the DA to accept her plea to spare them a long trial.
Kids in Lower Merion elementary schools can come to school in costume Monday but won’t be parading for parents. Some folks are steamed that LMSD nixed Halloween parades this year. Why did they do it? In a time of school shootings, they were concerned about unscreened adults on school property. They also didn’t want to alienate kids who don’t celebrate the holiday for religious or cultural reasons. And finally, the parade could cause a hardship for working parents who can’t get the time off to attend, according to LMSD spokesperson Amy Buckman.
Extra police are patrolling high school football games in Haverford Township following a string of reported assaults by gangs of masked and hooded teens this fall. Police arrested a half dozen teens and the alleged 15-year-old ringleader who’s being held at a detention facility and charged with robbery, aggravated assault and other offenses. Delco DA’s blamed the pandemic and youth mental health issues for the rise in teen crime. He said school superintendents told him last year was “one of the worst behavioral school years possible.”
The Bryn Mawr-based nonprofit, Minding Your Mind, and the NLCS champion Phillies (!!!) have teamed up for Strike Out the Stigma, a series of outreach events to change the conversation around mental health. Major League Baseball liked the programs so much, it made them into a podcast. Search for “Strike Out the Stigma” wherever you get your podcasts.
All-day kindergarten and “healthy start times” are still very much on the table in Lower Merion. LMSD has been taking the community’s temperature on both and it seems likely All-Day K may come sooner. A new committee of parents, teachers and administrators will meet later this month to map out strategy. Committees are also reconvening to review logistics of school start times but the school board won’t let high schoolers sleep in unless they can play sports after dark. In a pre-COVID vote, the school board made later start times contingent on the approval of lights at Arnold Field, a move nixed by the township zoning board last year.
Meanwhile, T/E has also been looking into all-day kindergarten this year (again) but needs a new school building to make the change. Radnor launched full-day K in the fall of 2014.
45 years and they’re still running in Radnor. Count on extra delays this Sunday morning on Iven Ave., Church Road, Darby-Paoli Road, Newtown Road, etc. for the 45th Annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run in support of the American Lung Association.
T/E is tightening the entrance protocols at its schools. The Raptor Visitor Management system will enable government-issued IDs to be checked against a sex offender database. It will also track and issue ID badges to all visitors. The system was set to go live November 7.
An employee at Main Line Women’s Healthcare allegedly used a cellphone to steal confidential information from up to 800 ob-gyn patients last winter and spring. MLWH reported the data breach to authorities who say stolen patient data can be used to fraudulently bill insurers, get prescription drugs and medical equipment. Part of the Axia Women’s Health, Main Line Women’s Healthcare sees patients in Bryn Mawr, Malvern, King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting.
Got a few extra pennies? Valley Forge Park Alliance just released a short video about its $1 million capital campaign to renovate and expand the park’s historic Maurice Stephens House. VFPA plans to host an Aneu café and public programs at the site, which will also house its headquarters.
The usual suspects showed up in Niche’s latest top-100 school districts in the U.S. Radnor ranked 14th overall and first in PA. T/E ranked 27th, Lower Merion placed 42nd and Unionville-Chadds Ford came in 97th.
Hundreds of mourners attended services for Griffin Lang, the Conestoga junior tragically killed in a car crash on narrow, windy Contention Lane in Berwyn Oct. 1. He was remembered as charming, compassionate, generous and fearless at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Berwyn. According to Tredyffrin police, Griffin was a newly licensed driver. He reportedly swerved to avoid a deer and hit a tree. His passenger, a Stoga classmate, survived the crash. Donations in Griffin Lang’s memory may be made to Jenkins Arboretum.
Mad for marching bands? March yourself over to hear see some of PA’s finest school bands perform and compete in the 12th Annual ‘STOGA Showcase of Sound Cavalcade. Nineteen bands will strut their stuff next Saturday, Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. The show ends with the Marching Pioneers performing songs from Hamilton, Moana, In the Heights and Encanto. Tickets – sold at the gate only – are $8 to $10. The Cavalcade supports TEMPO, the T/E Music Parents Organization, which funds music activities and expands musical opportunities for students across the district.
Suburban Square launches Family Sundays Nov. 6. Look for live music, life-sized games and fire pits from noon to 3.
A SAVVY shoutout to Stoga ’06 alum Kyle Izett and girlfriend Brianna Keefe on the success of their fast-growing franchise, Toastique. Keefe just made Forbes 30 under 30 list. Toastique started in DC in 2018 and has a popular outpost in Stone Harbor. The chain has nine locations with 60+ in development.
This one sounds yummy. The 2nd Annual Good Food Fest returns to Kimberton Fairgrounds Nov. 6, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy an epic, 100-stall, all-local farmer’s market, a Pouring Room for local breweries, cideries and distilleries, plus food trucks, farm animals, live music and more. Tickets are $8. Kids 12 and under are free.
Here’s something you don’t see every night: an outdoor Yule fest just for grownups. The public is invited to join Bryn Mawr’s Church of the Redeemer at its Christmas Village adult shindig Friday, Nov. 16. Stroll, shop and sip among twinkling white lights, vendor tents and food/libations trucks. We’re told it’s magical.
Not that we need any more incentive to cheer our fool heads off for the Phillies and Birds this weekend but a new book says we should; it’s healthy. According to Fans Have More Friends, rooting for our boys of summer and autumn cements relationships, rekindles old friendships, eases social situations and may even make us live longer. Who knew ninth-inning and fourth-quarter stomach knots were actually good for us?