The winter sun is setting at 600 Lancaster Ave. but the lights are still on at Berwyn’s “Riding Boot and Shoe Service.”
Third-generation cobbler Joe Quici putters around, spit-shining a boot here, ringing up a customer there.
No longer a young man, he’d been working even longer hours since word got around that he’d be closing up shop at year’s end. “People are trying to get their stuff done,” Joe explains. “I’m the only one in the area. I never want to disappoint anyone.”
He’s animated this late December day – even more chatty than usual – as he talks about his family’s 102-year-old business, his dying craft and his decision to retire.
His Italian-born grandfather, Joseph M. Quici, built the shoe-repair cottage in 1920 and lived in the house next to it, Joe tells us. Only the elite had cars in those days; customers arrived on foot or horseback.
His father, Edmond, took over in the ‘60s. When Edmond died suddenly of a heart attack at age 72, Joe took over.
He was ready; he’d been working with his dad since 7th grade. Walking home from T/E Junior High, he’d stop in daily to lend a hand … and well, never stopped.
“I’m 70. I’ve worked in the same place for 60 years,” says Joe, matter-of-factly. “There’s an end to everything and this is the end.”
With no one to take over the business and shoe repair a waning art, Joe will cash out. He plans to sell the Quici homestead: the cobbler’s cottage, the garage behind it and the house he’s been renting to a longtime tenant.
Yet another change to a neighborhood that’s rife with it.
Just up the road, what was once Berwyn’s oldest business, Fritz Lumber, is now the upscale apartment complex, The Fritz.
And right next door, the former home of Handel’s Ice Cream and most of the surrounding block are set to be demolished for another high-end apartment building.
In a throwaway age, Joe Quici is a throwback.
He remembers when synthetics starting replacing leather, when hand stitching was supplanted by glue, when people began discarding their machine-made shoes rather than repair them.
His approach to service was as old-school as the cash register he’d been using for decades.
“I never turned anybody down,” Joe explains. If a shoe or boot wasn’t worth repairing, he’d say so. ”It’s paid off tenfold.”
Customers would come from miles away: equestrians showing at the Devon Horse Show, Chester County foxhunters, Eagles and Phillies players, TV anchors, even former N.J Governor Chris Christie.
Regular folk, too.
A friendly sort, Joe shot the breeze with all of them.
The day after Thanksgiving, a college kid dropped off a belt that needed shortening but was returning to school that Sunday.
Swamped with orders that weekend, Joe managed to finish the job. When the kid didn’t show up as he was closing up shop Saturday, he put the belt in a bag and hung it on the door.
Whether he paid or not, the kid needed his belt, didn’t he?
A few days later, a woman came in to pay her grateful grandson’s tab.
Joe’s was that sort of place; Berwyn has been that kind of community.
“The best thing about this job has been the people,” says Joe, who confesses to “picking the brains of lawyers and stockbrokers. “The things I’ve learned from customers and the respect I get. You can’t buy that.”
The sun officially set on Riding Boot and Shoe Service on January 1, another sign of a bygone Berwyn ebbing, the rivers of change flowing.
As you drive by the cottage, you almost hope that corner becomes haunted, that the spirit of Joe Quici, and the Quicis who came before, will somehow stick around. These were men who plied their craft with pride, who greeted customers with good cheer.
“I always tried my best,” says the Main Line cobbler about to hang up his hammer and thread.
An old-school notion, perhaps, but never out of fashion.
The taser shots heard ’round the Main Line – and across the region – are still sending shockwaves. It’s too soon to say whether the ugly arrest of an unarmed Black woman at a Bala Cynwyd Wawa on Jan. 8 will lead to systemic reforms or mere disciplinary action against Lower Merion police.
What we can say is this: this disturbing incident – caught on two witnesses’ phones and police car cameras and bodycams – is causing pain in all quarters: in the community, in churches, and in the halls of power at Lower Merion township. And that pain is taking many forms: sorrow, anger, bitterness, frustration, embarrassment, humiliation.
The buck sits squarely in the hands of Lower Merion Commissioners after 30 people – pastors, parents, concerned citizens of varying races and ages – gave them an earful at last week’s township meeting,
Will commissioners be satisfied with the results of their own police department’s 10-day internal probe – that arresting officer Charles Murphy’s actions were “legal” but “didn’t follow best practices for de-escalation”?
Or will commissioners do what dozens begged for at the township meeting: launch an independent investigation that digs deeper?
Will they recalibrate their ongoing oversight of police to better reflect the community? (The board’s current “police committee” is composed of three white male commissioners).
Will heads roll?
“We could have performed better and we should have,” admitted Superintendent Mike McGrath (below) after he showed police video that many found hard to watch, then summarized his department’s findings.
To view video of township meeting, click here. Skip to 36:35/04:36 to view the tasing and handcuffing.
[Editor’s Note: Video of the arrest contains foul language, violence and may be unsuitable for minors.]
But McGrath also defended the traffic stop in a litany of ways. And nearly everyone who spoke – about 60 sat in the audience, others Zoomed in – weren’t buying it.
Here’s how LMPD laid out “key facts” in the arrest (in black) and how speakers challenged those facts (in red):
- POLICE: Officers justly pursued Plymouth Meeting resident Chaine Jordan, 36, for 1.3 miles on Conshohocken State Rd. (Rte 23) for “tailgating” – driving her Volvo sedan too close to the pickup truck in front of her. Even though the road is winding and has no shoulder, Jordan could have pulled over sooner. She passed “multiple residential side streets, wide driveways” and a sign pointing toward a library. Other cars “safely” pulled over during the chase. Bypassing safe places to stop is “an arrestable misdemeanor” in PA. SPEAKERS: Jordan put on her flashers, signifying she saw the police cars flashing lights and heard its siren. She drove and parked in the Wawa on Rock Hill Rd., about a mile away, the first public place where she felt comfortable pulling over. Black and women drivers are often advised to pull over into public places when followed by police to ensure the subsequent encounter is in public view.
- POLICE: The Volvo’s car windows were deeply tinted – officers couldn’t see who they were chasing. Jordan and her male front-seat passenger refused to cooperate with police. They wouldn’t roll down their windows fully when police ordered them to, nor would Jordan show ID or proof of insurance, as required under PA law. She was also driving under a suspended license. Officer Murphy’s gun was unholstered but at his side. SPEAKERS: Why did Officer Murphy have his gun out at all as he stood outside Jordan’s car, demanding she roll down her window or he would break it. Why is there an audio gap during the crucial time Murphy and other officers approached the Volvo? As a Black woman, Jordan felt threatened, screamed repeatedly that she was scared, that her father was a state trooper, that she wanted a ‘White shirt” – a sergeant or superior – summoned before she would fully open her window. When Jordan repeatedly yelled, “I don’t feel safe,” Murphy responded with “I don’t care,” reiterating his demand to “Step out of the car now.” Why didn’t police wait until a “white shirt” – a sergeant – arrived on the scene?
- POLICE: When Jordan tried to close her window, Officer Murphy reached in and opened the car door. Murphy tried to grab her and pull her out but Jordan “yelled, flailed and pulled away.” Officers had “probable cause to arrest Jordan for fleeing and eluding police.” When Murphy’s “hands-on attempts” failed, he drew out his Taser. He “provided commands and warnings” then deployed his taser four times, the last two times making direct contact with Jordan’s skin.
[Editor’s Note: Here’s video of a taser being fired.]
- Murphy “abandoned the Taser” and with the help of a second officer, pulled Davis out of her car. A third officer joined the struggle and Jordan was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. “It took three officers to walk the still combative driver” to the police car and put her inside. SPEAKERS: The officer had other ways to de-escalate the situation which would not have involved physical violence and tasing. He could have waited for backup or put a car between himself and the driver if he feared for his own safety. Jordan’s forced arrest was deeply traumatic and troubling to a community in this George Floyd era. How did a traffic stop for tailgating result in five cop cars, a tasing, and an ambulance on the scene?
A few of those who spoke out about LMPD’s actions on Jan. 8 and its findings:
Brian Reese-Turner, president of the NCP Main Line Branch, said he believed the driver’s civil rights were violated.
“I’ve lived here my entire life,” Reese-Turner said. “I’m fifth generation, there has always been a shaky relationship between the Black community and the police in this township. .. When this woman is requesting a white shirt to be present, I don’t see why that’s such an unusual request.”
David Tatgenhorst, retired 26-year pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Bryn Mawr, talked about being stopped several times by police on Lancaster Ave.
During one traffic stop for going through an “orange” light, the officer gave Tatgenhorst a warning and offered helpful advice about upgrading his car. “I appreciated that,” said the former pastor. “I wish everybody was treated with that kind of respect, that kind of patience, that kind of time.”
Pastor Nicole Austin-Hall of Radnor, introduced herself as the mother of “five African American and Jamaican” young men.
“This is a constant state of terror and trauma,” Austin-Hall said. “I won’t even drive through Lower Merion to go to church… because I’m afraid of Lower Merion Police stopping me every time I’m in the car with my sons … How many more meetings are we gonna have without action?”
Laney Gold-Rappe (Princeton ’25, Harriton ’21), one of two eyewitnesses who videotaped the struggle, tasing and arrest, was outraged.
Gigi Moffat, former vice president of Narberth Borough Council, called for the ouster of the police chief and his officers. “If a community doesn’t see itself reflected in a body that has so much control over their lives, they tend to disconnect … The people here tonight are trying desperately to get your attention so they don’t have to … continue to be in pain and suffering and hurt… You should be ashamed.”
It’s been a rough stretch for Superintendent McGrath, who’s a 40-year veteran of the force and its chief since 2009.
His own union issued a unanimous vote of no confidence against him last September for allegedly showing favoritism and protecting officers who are loyal to him.
There’s also been turnover. Multiple officers have retired early in the last few years and McGrath and the department have been sued several times, according to a report in the Inquirer.
Chaine Jordan has been charged with resisting arrest, eluding police, driving with a suspended license and drug charges.
And she’s lawyered up, hiring Nadeem Bezar at top-notch personal-injury law firm, Kline & Specter. Bezar has notified the township of his client’s intent to sue.
Bezar told NBC10 that his client likely drove too close to the car in front of her because she was in a hurry to get her sick uncle in her backseat to the hospital. Bezar also disputes the drug charges. “I guess we’re in a day and age where an albuterol inhaler and prescription medication become drug paraphernalia,” he told the station.
Lower Merion Commissioners thanked the speakers but stressed they are unable to comment on details of the case due to likely litigation.
Meanwhile, Officer Charles Murphy has been put on desk duty and will reportedly undergo additional training.
A welcome January thaw for Main Line kids getting sick
The worst is over … at least for now.
While ERs are still swamped and pediatricians are plenty busy, the surge in serious pediatric illness on the Main Line appears to have passed.
The feared post-holiday tidal wave of infection never rolled in.
The scary RSV surge that confounded experts when it started last summer, has fallen from its October and November peaks to normal or even below-normal levels in January, officials at Main Line Health, CHOP and Nemours all tell SAVVY.
Flu numbers have also dropped since early December, they say.
“This is a time when we should be seeing a lot of Influenza B but so far we haven’t seen that many cases,” reports Dr. Hazel Guinto, Director of Pediatric Emergency Service at CHOP at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
“We are basically back to a business-as-usual sick season,” says Dr. Allison Ballantine, Associate Chief Medical Officer at CHOP’s Middleman Family Pavilion in King of Prussia. “In some years, we see a second bump in flu cases later in the winter or some other virus, so that could certainly happen, but all in all, things are feeling much more routine.”
Nemours Children’s Health in Paoli has “seen fewer sick visits including lower rates of RSV and influenza on our in-office PCR testing,” reports Dr. Catharine Eleey, Physician in Charge. “We are hopeful that this trend will continue although we have seen an increase in COVID cases in our patients and families in recent weeks.”
At vybe in Radnor and Broomall, urgent care clinics that treat all ages, “volumes were higher in November and December than they’ve been month-to-date in January,” CEO Peter Hotz tells SAVVY.
And while some schools have had more teachers and staff out from COVID in recent weeks, student absentee rates have not been out of whack. Lower Merion School District started tracking absentees in early November when there was talk of a tripledemic. “Since then, average student absence rates have hovered around 5 to 6%,” reports LMSD’s spokesperson Amy Buckman. The rate jumped closer to 8% in the weeks before holiday breaks when parents pull kids from school for longer trips, she says.
Throughout the fall surge, local pediatric facilities – emergency, urgent and primary care – felt the strain. And ERs are still overloaded much of the time.
CHOP’s Middleman Family Pavilion in KOP (below) bumped up its emergency capacity by expanding into adjacent clinic space, which was temporarily relocated to another floor. CHOP continues to operate its ER with the larger footprint.
“CHOP is well staffed, and while wait times, of course, vary, they are quite manageable and are at or below what we would expect for a routine sick season,” says Ballantine.
After a handful of community hospitals closed last year, Main Line Health’s four hospitals have all shouldered a larger ER load, although Bryn Mawr Hospital didn’t fully feel the squeeze until late fall after the closure of Delaware County Memorial and Springfield hospitals, according to Guinto.
As the only Main Line Health system ER with a pediatric unit, “we had a lot of pretty ill patients we had to hold in the emergency department because we were waiting for beds to open up,” she says. “We also became the overflow for patients who had waited several hours at CHOP’s emergency department in King of Prussia … Unfortunately, the waiting times continue to be high because there’s a lot of adult volume that’s competing with pediatric volume.”
Primary-care facilities at Nemours Children’s have been “extending clinic hours, adding mobile triage nurses, expanding telemedicine appointments, and hiring new providers all to improve access for patients,” reports Dr. Eleey.
Adding to parents’ woes: recent shortages of children’s pain relievers.
“It’s been frustrating for many parents but seems to have eased some,” says Bryn Mawr pediatrician Scott Pugh, who urges parents not to hoard medications and to “remember that fever in itself is not dangerous and may actually improve the body’s ability to fight infection … Parents of infants should call their doctors for fevers but older children can often be treated at home.”
Walgreens and Rite Aid stopped limiting purchases of children’s pain meds last week.
Parents tempted to dose their kids with adult pain relievers should check with their pediatrician first, advises Guinto.
And it’s not too late to get your child inoculated against flu, she says.
“It’s becoming clear with more experience that COVID in children is not as serious as it is in adults, whereas flu remains a major cause of morbidity for children. I would love for families to take advantage of both vaccines but if I had to pick one I would say probably get the influenza vaccine now, then get the COVID vaccine whenever you can.”
Ardmore’s oldest funeral home is now its newest music venue and – get this – it’s called The Living Room. (Yeah, yeah, we know.)
Open since late fall, this newly renovated 150-seat venue hums with harmonies and homeyness.
“VIP” ticket-holders are seated in a grandmother’s attic worth of couches, divans and easy chairs. For $10 less, a regular ticket gets you a seat a little further back on standard chairs.
But wherever you choose to hang, you’ll see vetted talent: singer-songwriters, rockers, indie and tribute bands, stand-up comics, jazz brunches, and open-mic nights and more. Owner Laura Mann, a recording artist herself, has wide and deep contacts in the music biz and regularly reels in shining and soon-to-shine stars.
Case in point: We bought VIP tickets to see bluesy saxophonist/singer/songwriter Vanessa Collier (below) in December and she blew the roof off. We’d never heard of young Vanessa but we sure won’t forget her.
You can even come hungry – day or night.
Across the foyer, Cricket Café serves homemade toasts, egg dishes, sandwiches and salads ($9 to $11); cheese and charcuterie plates ($10 to $16); Laura’s famous desserts ($10), and a nightly “Goodfellas-approved Italian meal” with side salad ($20). Bring your own bottle or flask to enjoy in the café or during the show. Glasses and ice are free.
This is The Living Room’s third and best incarnation yet.
The first Living Room, a 40-seater on Lancaster Ave., proved a tad tight during COVID.
Iteration 2 – interim space at Masonic Hall on Ardmore Ave. – could handle 300 but intimacy was lost.
In the old Stuard’s Funeral Directors home, Mann has pulled a Goldilocks: Not too big, not too small.
The Living Room & Cricket Café, 104 Cricket Ave., Ardmore. Live shows 5 or 6 nights a week, free jazz brunches Sundays, Monday yoga. Purchase show tickets online or at the door if the show is not sold out. Cricket Café is open Wed. to Sat., 9 a.m. – 11 p.m., Sundays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Free parking in rear of building at night only. Laura Mann will perform in her own venue April 15.
The Main Line has beaucoup de French bakery-cafés: Elegance, Tous Les Jours, Delice et Chocolat and Maman, to name a few.
What we don’t have are old-school Italian cafés, the pasticcerie that dot piazzas from Como to Calabria.
Benvenuto, Caffè Della Volpe, an intimate space with outsize ambition near Will’s + Bill’s Brewery off Swedesford Rd. in Berwyn.
Everything here – from breakfast sandwiches, baked goods and smoothies through lunch sandwiches, salads and afternoon gelato – is scratch-made on-site from authentic Italian ingredients.
“There wasn’t a place that married the Italian coffee culture with really good food that’s made fresh, not factory-produced and frozen,” co-owner Tom Martinicchio tells SAVVY. “We’re doing the same kinds of food items as Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts but we do them homemade and a lot better.”
Several recipes – for focaccia, biscotti, pizzelle, fritattas – were handed down by the café’s namesake, the late Marta Della Volpe, Martinicchio’s Abruzzo-born grandmother.
Others dishes, like egg-pepper-onion-and-imported ham sandwiches, came from the Italian grandfather of the café’s other owner, Jen Ehlers.
Open ever-so-softly for a couple months, Caffè Della Volpe’s early hits include the roast pork, provolone and long-hots sandwich; turkey, brie, macerated-fig and roasted-pear panini; Italian avocado toast; and the “veggielicious” toasted multigrain breakfast sandwich: egg whites, spinach, roasted tomato, shallot and garlic goat cheese.
All the usual single-origin coffee drinks and flavorings are here, including a few rarities like Bicerin (cappuccino with Italian hot chocolate) and Affogato (house-made gelati drowned in espresso).
An unexpected treat: owner Ehlers’ Veggielicious desserts, an assortment of cupcakes and whoopie pies that contain up to a cup of fresh carrots, zucchini or spinach. She started Veggielicious to sneak veggies into her kids’ foods and wholesales her goodies to Kimberton Whole Foods, Martindale’s and area farmer’s markets.
For the last six months, Ehlers had been using the space in Valley Fair Shopping Center as a ghost kitchen for Veggielicious.
She considered turning the space into a retail spot for her company but nixed the idea as “too much of a niche thing. I didn’t want people to think it was just a coffee and veggie place,” she tells SAVVY.
During their last trip to Italy, the couple was so inspired by the Andrea Pansa in Amalfi – “a cute pasticceria, gelateria and espresso bar” that they decided to bring the concept to Berwyn. Their shared Italian culinary heritage and love for food sealed the deal.
“When I come in here, I don’t feel like I’m working,” says Ehlers, an effervescent former Philadelphia elementary school teacher.
Adds her partner Martinicchio, a criminal defense attorney in Media: “I can throttle down here. There’s no real stress. Everyone comes in here in a great mood.”
On the menu: Espresso, coffees, lattes, teas $3 – $6; Oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies $4.25 – $8.50; Gelato $11/pint; Frittatas $6; Breakfast sandwiches $9; Focaccia $25/full pie; Sandwiches and salads $12; Baked goods $1- $2.25: Seasonal whole pies $25.
We tried the assorted veggielicious cupcakes, avocado toast with roasted peppers and roma tomato on toasted multigrain, and the Tahitian vanilla gelato – all were ottimo!
We’ll be back.
Caffè Della Volpe, 312 Swedesford Rd, Berwyn, in Valley Fair near Will’s + Bill’s Brewery, 855-483-4443, is open Wed. to Sat., 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Sundays 9 to 1. Text orders to 215-688-3274. Very limited indoor seating.
Small Talk: Father-daughter restauranteurs dish on White Dog Café’s 40th Anniversary & their ‘fearless’ approach to the family biz
Editor’s Note: SAVVY Small Talks are Q-and-As with local luminaries edited for brevity and clarity.
In human years, she just turned 40, but in dog years, she’s not quite 7 and as frisky as ever.
The hound about whom we speak metaphorically is White Dog Café, signature brand of Fearless Restaurants, the Main Line-based family business behind Autograph Brasserie and Rosalie in our burbs, Moshulu and Louie Louie in town, and a few Jersey Shore spots.
Even in middle age, this pioneering pup is one fertile Myrtle.
Born in activist Judy Wick’s Sansom Street brownstone in 1983 and adopted by Berwyn restauranteur Marty Grims in 2008, White Dog Café has since spawned a litter: Wayne in 2009, Haverford in 2014, Glen Mills in 2020, and in late 2023, Chester Springs.
SAVVY sat down with Fearless’ founding father-daughter team, Marty and Sydney Grims, to chat about their iconic brand, the family business and more.
What might the Main Line find interesting about White Dog Cafés?
MARTY: How things sell differently based on the demographics. It’s funny. In Wayne we sell a lot more meat. Haverford sells a lot more fish. Philly sells a lot more vegetarian and vegan. Brunch is the most popular meal at all of them.
SYDNEY: Each is different. In all the White Dogs we created looks that would resonate with that neighborhood. The White Dog in Chester Springs is going to look very different from the White Dog in Wayne. A big focus in all of them is using sustainable building materials and working with local artisans.
The public is notoriously fickle: 40+ years is a long run for a restaurant. What made you take over White Dog Café and why has it become your signature brand?
MARTY: We thought White Dog was ahead of its time. When we bought the original restaurant from Judy Wicks in West Philadelphia, we had to sign a social contract, a legal document that said we had to use local ingredients, buy only humanely raised meat, poultry and eggs, sustainably caught fish and seafood, and support only local purveyors – not institutional, big, publicly traded companies. Judy would audit us every year for 10 years …The only thing we changed: Judy used White Dog as a political platform; we made it more about the experience, the food and the service. And we expanded it to other neighborhoods.
SYDNEY: Last fall, Judy told me she chose my dad because he was excited about the brand an because he was a small entrepreneur who wanted to improve the concept rather than change it.
MARTY: And White Dog as a concept, was aspirational, it felt good. For me, it was also the brand people could use every day – in a casual way for a burger and a beer or to celebrate a special occasion with a great bottle of wine.
You have a knack for opening restaurants in challenging times. You bought Tucker’s in LBI during Hurricane Sandy. You opened Rosalie and White Dog Glen Mills during COVID and White Dog Wayne during the financial crisis.
MARTY: I remember my brother-in-law, who’s an attorney, telling me about Wayne: “You’re going to be opening up here? I’m going to be representing you in bankruptcy.” But Wayne took the neighborhood by storm.
SYDNEY: It was the people’s oasis during the financial crisis. It felt comfortable.
MARTY: It was like lightning in a bottle. White Dog Wayne saved the company because it was just doing so well. It really gave birth to all of those new restaurants.
The restaurant business is both wildly creative and wildly challenging. How did you get started?
MARTY: My father had an Italian restaurant at 19th and Ludlow, the Central Tavern, and my mom was Italian, so life centered around the dinner table.
I went to the hotel and restaurant school at Cornell. My first job, during college summers, was running a breakfast-and-lunch spot at the Longport Seaview at the shore.
[Editor’s note: Grims took over the “Seaside Terrace” in Longport from SAVVY editor Caroline Mangan O’Halloran, her sister, Marianna Curran, and brother, Bill Mangan, who now owns Will’s + Bill’s Brewery in Berwyn, McKenzie Brew House in Malvern, and next month, The Crown Tavern, in Chadds Ford.]
SYDNEY: I started working in my father’s restaurants when I was 12 and, like my dad, graduated from Cornell’s hospitality school [in 2013]. I worked for Hillstone Restaurant Group and [Revlon billionaire] Ron Perelman in New York until I returned home to open Louie Louie in West Philadelphia six years ago.
How did you get the job with Perelman?
SYDNEY: His people first reached me on LinkedIn to be his butler. I went through the interview process anyway because, I was, like, why not? Maybe I’ll meet this guy. You never know what kind of door it might open … When I first met Perelman face-to-face, we had a short conversation but when he was leaving the room, I gave him a really firm handshake and said, “Yeah, that’s how we do it in Philly.” He sat back down and stayed another 30 minutes because he’s from here and went to Penn and the Haverford School. I ran his kosher facility which fed 1,000 employees daily and did all his event planning: parties he threw and fundraisers.
Like any restauranteur, you’ve had your ups and downs over 40 years. What have been your biggest challenges?
MARTY: One was the financial crisis of 2008-2010 when we lost 20 percent of our business every year for three years. It was sort of a badge of courage to navigate and manage during that time … Another was during COVID when we furloughed 1,000 people twice. We reopened, we lost a lot of employees and we had to rehire a lot of people. And the third biggest challenge is right now: the inflationary pressures we’re facing as business people. Sales are great but every expense is up dramatically: food, labor, health insurance, regular insurance, worker’s comp, credit card expenses, equipment, supplies, delivery charges.
[Editor’s note: White Dog Cafés, Autograph Brasserie and Rosalie currently charge a 3% credit card processing fee. “I decided it would be better to give our guests the option to use their debit cards or cash to avoid higher menu prices,” Marty Grims tells SAVVY. “It is stated on the menu and on the bill for transparency.”]
What’s it like to work together as a father and daughter? Do you ever have fundamental disagreements?
MARTY: Working with Sydney has been the highlight of my career. I really respect what she brings to the business: a unique insight that speaks for her generation. They communicate very differently than we do. I love my work and will never retire but I really see Sydney as the future.
SYDNEY: I don’t think we have fundamental disagreements but I do think we disagree about our communications styles. We’re very different about how to operate on a daily basis. I tend to be more Type A. I came to the family business at age 25 from a much more intense, militaristic style of management. It was a massive adjustment for me. Dad’s been very helpful for my management style.
Each of your restaurants makes a strong statement visually. Why is that important to you?
MARTY: Sydney and I both love design. We think a lot about it. I equate a restaurant to a woman: the food is the soul, the service is the personality and the design is the outward appearance. We’re in the entertainment business and have to appeal to all the senses. I want to be able to transport people away. A lot of people question whether our big investment in design is worth it. I’ve been doing this since 1983. I would say, it’s a marathon, running a restaurant. I have to be proud of it. If I’m not physically and emotionally engaged, I don’t want to do it.
When you came on board, Sydney, you united your father’s restaurants under one hub, Fearless Restaurants. Why one hub and where did the name come from?
SYDNEY: It created operating procedures and efficiencies among all brands.
MARTY: We got the name from our shipboard restaurant, Moshulu, which was the native Seneca tribe’s word for “one who fears nothing.” To me, it speaks to all entrepreneurs. Every day you go out and borrow millions of dollars to do a new concept. You put everything on the line and believe in it and you work it. When you’re an entrepreneur, particularly in the restaurant business with its high failure rate, you have to be fearless.
There’s no “I” in team.
True in life and true about the client-focused, all-pro real estate team, Mulholland-Peracchia Group, at BHHS Fox & Roach’s Wayne-Devon office.
Each member of Team Mulholland-Peracchia is a full-time, licensed Realtor – no rookies, no one selling houses as a side hustle.
“We’re really selective about who comes on our team,” says Beth Mulholland, a former Pfizer executive who entered real estate in 2005, then joined forces with another powerhouse, Gabriella Peracchia, and has since added five sales agents. “We all have different professional backgrounds but bring a corporate skill set – whether that’s sales, negotiations or marketing – that translates to what we do with every client and bring to every transaction.”
Some team members have more experience with new construction or, say, international relocations, others with real estate investing, e.g. house-flipping or rental properties.
Together, they work to serve clients 24/7, seven days a week.
“We share our brains, our opinions, our skill sets and our combined talents,” says Mulholland.
The team is also deeply rooted in the Main Line community.
Most were born and raised here.
Their kids have been educated here.
“Our connections and networks are vast so we have our fingers on the pulse of the local real estate market and offerings at all times,” Mulholland says. “Our wide network helps us get inside information. We try to be first inside a property. We beat the doors down to have our clients get the advantage. I’m proud of that.’
Among the many clients who sing Mulholland’s praises: Villanova residents Chris Jones and Christina Dolan.
“Beth would go above and beyond during the home search and purchase process,” writes Jones. “Would your realtor negotiate to get you in three days before anyone else is allowed to view the property? Would your realtor drive to the seller’s realtor to make sure they are familiar with the escalation clauses on a Saturday evening at 6 p.m.?”
Meanwhile, Peracchia clients Richard and Chung Kim of Berwyn rave about her professionalism and attention to detail. “Gabriella’s spider sense steered us away from potentially problematic properties and found us a residence that was most suitable. She also successfully orchestrated a double closing in one day!”
The team’s approach is full-service and hands on.
“Whether we’re marketing a cozy condo or a $3 million luxury estate, we’ll customize the experience,” says team member Katrina Hottenstein. “We stage the house: we always use our professional videographer, professional photographer and have professional floor plans done.”
Adds Mulholland: “Whatever the price point, we treat every client like gold. Because we are so deeply rooted and have been in the business for decades, we can put clients in touch with whoever they need, whether it’s for décor, contractors or tradespeople.”
For many, real estate is their greatest asset. Mulholland-Peracchia Group becomes a significant part of clients’ investment team along with their financial planner and perhaps an attorney.
“We take our role very seriously,“ says Peracchia. “For example, we’ll help a client who’s looking to sell in three years analyze a property differently than someone who wants to keep it for decades.”
They also “stay in touch,” she says. “Our goal is a long-term relationship.”
Clients return to the team when they’re ready to trade up or size down. They also recommend their friends, their children and colleagues. Ninety-five percent of the group’s client base is referrals.
“Our friends are our clients and our clients become our friends,” offers Mulholland. “Our relationships are for the long-haul – not to have another sale, another notch in the belt.”
The team also prides itself on “healthy, productive relationships with colleagues across offices and across brokerages,” according to Mulholland. “Strong relationships make deals and keep transactions together.”
In a multiple-offer situation, it makes a difference which Realtors are presenting the offers, she says. “If you have a reputation for being serious and committed, you’re putting your clients’ best foot forward.”
While looking ahead can be “challenging,” Mulholland-Peracchia Group foresees a solid market for sellers and more balanced conditions for buyers in 2023. Among the group’s other predictions:
- Interest rates are stabilizing and may even drop a bit as the year continues.
- This is a good time to put your house on the market – the spring market is starting early! With inventory remaining low and buyer demand staying strong on the Main Line, prices will remain solid and may even tick up 1 to 2 percent over last year.
- Some bidding wars will continue but contingencies are making their way into some contracts.
- When the market was crazy hot in 2021-2022, it wasn’t unusual for clients – many in the luxury market and downsizing – to move to apartments or decamp to beach houses until they found the right property. Today’s clients are less likely to risk selling until they know where they’re going next.
Real estate remains “the best investment long-term” and the “best opportunity for people to grow their wealth,” Mulholland says.
A worthy goal that starts, as all good things do, with a human touch.
“We’re old school in some ways,” says Peracchia. “There’s experience and professionalism but there’s heart. We care.”
The sugar stampede is on.
Long-suffering gluten-free folks are feelin’ the love and caressing the carbs at The Happy Mixer, open since December 10 in Wayne’s Gateway Shopping Center.
All gluten-free all the time, the bakery was co-founded by former “traditional” baker Tim Mourer, who spent a year perfecting GF recipes in his home kitchen after his own gluten allergy was detected. His goal: Make the old-fashioned bakery classics – breads, birthday cakes, donuts, muffins, cookies – taste just as good without the gluten.
Co-founder is his wife, Lisa, dubbed the Happy Mixer by her husband for helping him whisk dry ingredients and smiling when the results were yummy. (We asked: most Happy Mixer recipes use rice flour.)
This is the Mourer’s third outpost – others are in Chalfont and Newtown in Bucks County – and Gateway employees tell us it’s been busy since Day 1. The Mourers plan to franchise the concept.
On the menu at the Gateway store (above): Gluten-free baguettes $7.95, breads $8.95, brownies $3.75, cupcakes $2.50 or $12.50/half dozen, cookies $18.95/lb., donuts $2.50 or $12.50/box, Peanut Butter Delights (a house specialty) $3.75, pies $18.95, rolls $1.95 or $9.95/half-dozen. Traditional birthday cakes $34.95.
Vegan brownies, muffins, chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes are also sold. (We can personally vouch for the vegan pumpkin muffins.)
The Happy Mixer Gluten Free Bakery, Gateway Shopping Center, 103 E. Swedesford Rd., Wayne, 484-580-6680, is open Mon. to Saturday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
When the usual mani-pedi just won’t do, why not book a nailcation?
Open since December 12 on Greenfield Ave., Resort Nails is no vanilla strip-mall salon: it’s the White Lotus of nail experiences, a nail care and design destination.
All the latest and most fab nail services are here: a huge selection of press-ons, exclusive high-end polishes, gels and dips, and bespoke mani-pedis. There’s even a private “nail suite” with full-body massage chair.
How you nailcation here is up to you.
Grab a quick getaway at the Press-on Bar. With an in-house design, you’ll be in and out in 10 minutes. (Added bonus: Press-ons are easier on the nails than gels and acylics.)
Have a little more time? Design your own press-ons. Apply gel over a press-on and it becomes re-usable.
Rather take some time and luxuriate? Book a trip to one of four “Resort“ gel mani-pedi destinations:
- “Dubai” gets you a 24-karat gold mask and jasmine-infused soak and scrub.
- “Mykonos” features an herb/fresh lemon foot soak, clay mask and foot massage.
- “Bali” includes a green-tea soak, jasmine rice scrub and mask, and hot stone massage.
- “Hawaii” treats you to a floral foot soak, pineapple sugar scrub and clay mask.
Nail styles come in three nailfluencer-worthy categories: Girls Trip (fun fun fun), Business Trip (more conservative) or Baecation (chic ‘n dramatic).
And OPI and Essie are so provincial. Resort Nails also offers lux brands like Chanel and Valentino Beauty Pure acrylics and gels.
Owner is glamour-girl Naeemah Johnson who created Resort Nails as a complement to her hair salon, Nbeauty, up the street.
“I found that nail salons don’t work inside hair salons,” Johnson tells SAVVY. “I love to travel. When I go to a resort, I always get a spa treatment and check on all new nail techniques. I want this to be an escape like that.”
Resort Nails, 46 Greenfield Ave., Ardmore, 484-412-8036, is open weekdays 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. – 6, Sundays 10 a.m. – 5. Services $15 to $200. Book online or call.
New Year, New ‘tude? Your life may depend on it.
You know that “healthy, happy New Year” we’ve been wishing each other the last month?
Well, it’s all in your head.
One of Bryn Mawr’s most brilliant minds – his IQ is 180+ – told 120 Main Line School Night “students” last month that our health and well-being are tied to what we think, not just how we act.
Living legend Dr. Martin Seligman, aka the father of Positive Psychology, Director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center, much-decorated author of 30 books including his latest, The Hope Circuit: A Psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism, walked “1,000 steps” from his home to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church to impart these nuggets to an audience that hung on his every word:
- Positive thoughts = positive health outcomes. “Pessimism is a risk factor for death – it’s about the same as smoking two to three packs of cigarettes a day.”
- Optimistic words on Twitter and Facebook have been correlated with lower cardiovascular death rates. “What you say to yourself all day long can be lethal or lifesaving and protective.”
- Positive psychology is “not about smiling and feeling cheery.” It’s about changing your vocabulary and working on your PERMA: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments.
- The “mental Illness establishment is a huge failure because rates of mental illness have not declined in the last 50 years.”
- Media distortion – the tendency to report mostly bad news – leads “an overwhelming proportion of people to think the world is getting worse.” That belief is “against all evidence.” That popular “catastrophic belief… is learned helplessness.” … Victimology raises self-esteem but makes you feel helpless.”
Another fascinating thing about Dr. Seligman: After each audience question, he would pause for several seconds, truly taking in the query and measuring his response.
Special speakers like Seligman are par for the course at Main Line School Night. View MLSN’s intriguing lineup of 2023 classes, workshop, lectures, tours and trips here.
By Samantha Verrelli
Like a calling card, David Gerbstadt leaves his art everywhere he goes —on the Radnor Trail, on train platforms in Bryn Mawr and Ardmore, even out-of-state and in Europe.
Chances are it will be gone within hours.
Sometimes people pay for his signs, sculptures and paintings; sometimes they don’t.
It doesn’t faze him either way.
“I try to put some good in the world, because sometimes it’s just too much crap,” says Gerbstadt, 54, and a 17-year resident of Berwyn Village.
He’s sold or given away thousands of Be Kind, You Are Loved, and You Matter signs and buttons over the years – none more than during the pandemic.
“I get emails all the time and people texting me: ‘Thank you. I was on the [Radnor] Trail today and I was having a crappy day. I saw your painting and it made me happy. It really lifted my day.’ Hearing that is better than having money,” Gerbstadt says.
His art is simple – primitive even. It’s also happy, accessible and affordable. Colors are invariably bright, a nod to his mother’s Mexican heritage. Another inspiration: pre-World War II German Expressionism.
Lawn signs are made from reclaimed wood and wire, mostly of it from old election signs.
Sculptures are crafted from found objects: scrap metal, appliances, jewelry, toys and media players, even trash.
Neighbors and friends gladly drop off paint, canvases and castoffs. Hundreds of old campaign signs sit in his shed, awaiting new life as uplifting lawn art.
An “outsider” artist and T/E native, Gerbstadt has never had it easy.
He struggled with dyslexia in middle school, says he has undiagnosed Asperger’s, and still suffers with PTSD from a horrific bike accident 15 years ago.
As a child, he was always making things in his family’s workshop and considered a career in industrial art. But after his college work caught the eye of a studio art professor at Millersville, he switched to fine art.
He “bounced around for a while” after graduation, eventually settling into full-time work as a pharmacy tech at the CVS in Berwyn and creating and selling his artwork on the side.
It took a near-death experience in 2007 to turn Gerbstadt’s side hustle into a full-time obsession. A tractor-trailer ran him over while he was bicycling in Florida. He nearly lost his leg, bled out at the scene, and had no pulse when EMTs arrived. He coded four times but somehow survived the night. His surgeons called him a miracle.
A wheelchair, then a walker, a long depression and a string of therapists followed.
The one thing that got him out of bed, he says, was his art. If he painted cheery signs and brightly colored scenes, maybe he’d feel cheery and bright, too. “Art is my oxygen,” he once wrote in his bio for an art show at Malvern Retreat House.
Over the years, Gerbstadt has been invited to speak and show his work at his alma maters: T/E Middle School and Conestoga. (He was Class of ’87.) He’s also a regular exhibiter at Bryn Mawr Rehab’s Art Ability, a showcase for artists with disabilities, and once took 1st place for sculpture. His work – commissioned, sold or picked up off the street – is in public and private collections in 18 countries. An art gallery in Howard County, Md. showed Gerbstadt’s work because the owner “was looking for things that are offbeat, interesting and tangible,” recalls Darlyn Albert, a former gallery employee.
Sounds about right.
David Gerbstadt’s sculptures will be exhibited at Malvern Retreat House Art Show, Feb. 1 – 5. You can also find his work on local trails and assorted front yards year round.
This and That
More shut-eye for teens in Lower Merion. The school board last night greenlit a plan to change school start times as follows:
- High school starts one hour and 10 minutes later, running 8:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
- Middle school starts 15 minutes earlier, running 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
- Elementary school starts 20 minutes later, running 9:20 a.m. to 4:05 p.m.
333 Belrose Bar & Grill has a new owner. After 23 years, owner/executive chef Carlo DeMarco sold his Radnor restaurant to the Delaware restaurant group Exchange Cap LLC in December. Same name, same concept, at least for now.
10,000 Villages is closing for good Feb. 4 after a three-year run in Bryn Mawr Village. Everything in the store is 50% off.
Nemours Children’s Health Ardmore is now operating at 233 E. Lancaster Ave. Nemours bought the primary care practice, Madeline C Weiser MD & Associates. The docs are staying on but Nemours is adding a 24/7 call line, after-hours telehealth care and access to its social work expertise and pediatric specialists.
Cineworld is closing its Regal Cinemas in Oaks, part of its latest round of debt-shedding.The second largest chain after AMC Theaters, Cineworld Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, done in by shifting movie habits during the pandemic and streaming services.
Valley Forge Casino Resort just resumed 24/7 operations on its casino floor for the first time since 2020.
The search is on for a replacement for Rev. Frank Allen, who will retire as Rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne at year’s end. A native of Dallas who attended Duke on academic and music scholarships, he’s led St. David’s since 1997.
While Tredyffrin officials mull over a proposed bike skills/pump track at Mill Road Park, Malvern Borough’s Randolph Woods Nature Preserve is getting a $325,000 state grant to overhaul the pavilion, fencing, gates, ADA access and landscaping.
Another local outpost for Montreal-style wood-oven bagels. Spread Bagelry is now open in the King of Prussia Town Center near honeygrow. Spread also has stores in Bryn Mawr Village and Wayne.
Tredyffrin and Easttown townships are splitting fees for a $7,000 consultant (with 30 years experience at East Whiteland Fire Co.) to develop a long-term plan for fire and emergency services in the two townships. Berwyn Fire Co. is building a new station in Berwyn and a substation to serve Chesterbrook and the Glenhardie area.
Game on. Razer, the ultimate “gaming lifestyle experience,” opened with long lines and mucho enthusiasm in the King of Prussia Mall Jan. 14.
Indie bookstore Main Point Books is expanding. Owner Cathy Fiebach tells us she’s finishing the basement which will hold a larger children’s department and bigger special event space. While its N. Wayne Ave. home is under construction, the bookstore is open in temporary space next to the old Wayne Sporting Goods (122 E. Lancaster).
The former Lord & Taylor at the KOP Mall is now The Hudson and will house office and non-retail tenants including health care providers. Owner HBC (Hudson Bay Company) has already leased some of the second floor to Convene, a co-working and event space company. It’s also spending beaucoup bucks to install giant windows on the hulking building.
An end in sight to all those trucks hitting the SEPTA underpass on King of Prussia Road in Radnor. Newly sworn-in PA Rep. Lisa Borowski announced that her home township is getting a $120K grant for a bridge height warning system. More than 100 bridge strikes in the last 10 years have tied up first responders and caused accidents and traffic snarls.
Changing of multiple guards in Montco this winter. Lower Merion School Superintendent Kahlid Mumin is now PA Secretary of Education. County Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh is now PA Department of Human Services Secretary. Her interim replacement must be a Democrat (like Arkoosh) and will be named by the County’s board of Judges in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, a second Commissioner, Ken Lawrence, who filled the unexpired term of then-Commissioner Josh Shapiro and then was re-elected, says he won’t run again. His term ends at the end of 2023.
The rich get richer? Avalon, the most expensive zip code in South Jersey with an average home value over $3.4 million, is getting some pricey new sand this winter. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers starts a $29 million beach replenishment project for Ninth to 18th streets in Avalon and 90th to 123rd streets in Stone Harbor in late February. The Army Corps says the sand, piped in from Townsend’s Inlet, will beef up berms and dunes and prevent beach erosion from storms. Critics contend most storm damage comes from storm surges and flooding in back bays and rivers. “Piling more and more sand on the beaches of the uber-rich can never correct that,” says New Jersey Coastal Alliance Coordinator Ross Kushner. Past sand projects, Kusher says, disrupt marine life and destroy sand bars, affecting fishermen, swimmers and surfers.
Avalon is reeling over real estate news this winter: The uber-popular Princeton along with the White Briar, Circle Tavern – the whole 3.12-acre block between Dune and Ocean drives – is on the market. It’s zoned B-1 which means pretty much anything could go there: single-family homes, restaurants and/or retail. Price wasn’t specified but experts expect offers in the $65 million+ range. The owners, the Zurawski family, will reportedly entertain bids until mid-February. Anthony Zurawski had hoped to build a boutique hotel on the vacant lot next to the Princeton.
Tredyffrin’s loss is Princeton’s gain. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as Director of Libraries for Tredyffrin for the past seven years,” Chris Kibler told SAVVY on his last day, Jan. 12. Among his accomplishments: amping up the development program which resulted in $1 million+ endowment; securing grants to add LED lights to libraries; expanding virtual programs and remote work and services during COVID. His new job: Assistant Director, Library Finance for Princeton U.
Galentine’s Day, a gal-pal celebration extraordinaire, returns to Autograph Brasserie Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7. Twenty+ cool vendors, swag bag, raffle prizes and a St. Germain cocktail for $25. Tickets here.
Ready to WhirlAway on a luxury vacay one day soon? WhirlAway Travel in West Chester is hosting a night of wine tasting, food, chair massages and presentations on cool travel experiences Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. Contact WhirlAway for an invite to this free event.
A piece of Devon died tragically earlier this month. A fixture on the horse show grounds and a landscape contractor, George Spellman was killed when a tree fell on him Jan. 4 while he was on the job. He was just 60. In his 35 years at Devon, George would jump in to help anyone: fix a flat on a horse trailer, repair a stable, help a food vendor, wear “Devon Drag” for Dressage at Devon. Spellman was known for his bear hugs, his larger-than-life personality and his generosity. In a touching tribute, his “tree care” buddies lined up their bucket trucks outside the show grounds to honor their fallen friend. George Spellman’s full obituary is here.
As it sells out stadiums across the country, Mt. Joy reaches ever higher into halls of power closer to home. The indie rock band started by two Stoga graduates and named for a beloved hiking hill in Valley Forge played at Governor Shapiro’s inaugural celebration last week, one of three musical acts tapped for the honor. Others were Smokey Robinson and rapper Wiz Khalifa. Rarified air indeed.
And finally…#It‘s a Philly Thing. Enjoy the ride. Go Birds.