Recession? What Recession? No sign of it here, with so many restaurants, retail and building projects taking root this spring.
We begin in downtown Wayne, where a long-time-coming Blue Elephant has finally made her grand entrance.
Easily the swankiest spot on the town’s Restaurant Row, this posh pachyderm is everything its predecessor – heavier, darker Matador – was not: bright, airy and opulent.
“What if ‘Mad Men’ were set in today’s Tokyo? That was my vision,” explains Pearl Somboonsong Murphy, operations director of her parents’ Win Signature Restaurants, a collection that includes Mikado Thai Pepper in Ardmore, Azie on Main in Villanova, Teikoku in Newtown Square, Azie Media and the first Blue Elephant outpost in Pottstown, open since late 2019.
From the elephant-head front-door handles to the distinctive chandeliers and gilt accents, it’s an Asian/Art Deco showstopper.
“We want to transport you, show you that you don’t have to head into Philly to get a sophisticated design vibe,” says Somboonsong Murphy.
The menu is equally eclectic: an unlikely mélange of Japanese and Italian, with a touch of Thai.
Why Italian? Like Japanese cuisine, Italian food is “made with high-quality ingredients that aren’t overly prepped,” she says.
Some dishes – like the sushi-grade tuna and the edamame tortellini – are clever riffs on both.
Somboonsong Murphy chose downtown Wayne because she felt its dining lineup could use, well, a little spicing up.
“You walk down North Wayne Avenue and you wonder where’s the Korean place, where’s the Indian, where’s the Vietnamese? Wayne is filled with great restaurants but most serve American food like burgers, pizza and pasta. We wanted to add diversity, an Asian element.”
The building had great bones but needed a complete overhaul. Construction dragged on for well over a year, slowed by pandemic-induced supply-chain snarls, contractor shortages, the building’s age, Radnor’s exacting building code, and Somboonsong Murphy’s ambitious blueprints, which included installing dumbwaiters to speed service and prevent stairway collisions.
On the plus side, finding staff has proven fairly easy and business has boomed since the Elephant opened March 3, Somboonsong Murphy says.
Early hits include the short rib with Massaman yellow curry ($34), squid ink pasta dish with jumbo shrimp in a Thai spice blend ($28), and the edamame truffle tortellini ($26).
A few of our other faves: the tempura-battered shishito peppers ($9) and the zucchini fritters ($12).
And don’t miss the handrolls. Japan’s version of tacos, they’re conical nori (seaweed sheets) filled with sashimi and vegetables. Choose one of six varieties or make-your-own with a “temaki set for two” for $70.
Signature cocktails also play on the Asian theme. There’s a Miso Old Fashioned, a Saketini and a Miso Dirty. Most intriguing elixir, though, is the Blue Elephant – a butterfly pea flower-infused vodka cocktail that changes from blue to purple before your eyes.
On the menu: Starters $6 – $22; Soups $6 – $9; Salads $8 – $14 (add $6 – $11 for protein); Noodles & Fried Rice $17 – $26; Entrees $22 – $35; Fresh Pasta $27 – $32; Sides $7 – $8; Sushi rolls and Negiri $9 – $20; Hand Rolls $4 – $8.
Weekday Happy Hour: Select cocktails and wines for $9, $6 draft beers and discounted small bites. $20 for a flight of three Japanese whiskies on Whisky Wednesdays.
The Blue Elephant, 110 North Wayne Ave, Wayne, is open daily for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Monday to Thurs. 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun. brunch 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Mon. – Fri. Happy Hour 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Iron Chef’s newest Amada off to a red-hot start in Radnor
A year and a half ago, “Top Chef” winner Nick Elmi brought coastal Mediterranean cuisine to Bala Cynwyd’s high-flying Lark.
Last summer, much decorated Philly chef Marc Vetri fired up Fiore Rosso, an artful, rustic Italian steakhouse in Bryn Mawr.
And proving that good things, i.e. hotshot chefs, happen in threes, Iron Chef José Garces just planted a Spanish flag in Radnor, his first suburban rendition of the iconic Old City restaurant that brought him a prestigious James Beard “Best Chef” award in 2009.
Of all his restaurants, Garces calls Amada, his first solo venture, “near and dear to his heart.”
Amid a parade of Italian, Mediterranean, American and Asian spots, Amada marches alone on the Main Line, bringing us fresh flavors – Andalusian tapas – and a lively new look – Spanish Colonial Revival.
For an ambitious project, it came together quickly. Dash Design and Lott Builders turned the former Harvest Seasonal Grille & Wine Bar into rustic-chic Amada in just five months – a pandemic-era record, no doubt.
Awash in rich earth tones and glowing with rows of lit lanterns, the vibe is warm and inviting like the restaurants’ namesake, Garces’ beloved Ecuadoran grandmother, his “Amada.”
If you’ve been to Harvest, you’ll recognize the layout: a large lounge and bar, two dining spaces, two patios and the same private event room with a walkout to its own garden. It’s a sprawling operation: 250 seats, plus 45 more for private dining.
With so much space, Amada aims to please, well, everyone: the after-work crowd from nearby offices; ladies who lunch; yopros who brunch; families (there’s a children’s menu); and every manner of private party: corporate functions, micro-weddings, showers, rehearsal dinners, you name it.
The celebrity chef tells SAVVY he’ll be a regular presence in Radnor. Indeed, the night we visited he was in plain view, expediting orders in the kitchen.
Our only quibble: While it’s fun to watch Garces in action, the bright lights of the open kitchen make the main dining room less than cozy.
During a recent weeknight visit, the bar was slammed but with Garces at quarterback, the kitchen was firing fast and furious. Our tapas, hot and tasty, arrived rapidamente. We didn’t order a main course or dessert and were out the door in less than an hour.
Amada in Radnor isn’t an exact replica of the Center City original. An only-in-Radnor touch: the rolling cart offering tableside G-and-Ts. Choose your gin infusion, mixer and garnishes. “Gin tonics” are indeed a thing in Spain, Garces confirms.
Another new wrinkle: Radnor’s two MIBRASA charcoal-ovens. Used by the best chefs in Spain, they reach 900-degrees and impart that yummy char.
On the menu: Charcuterie from $8; Traditional Tapas, salads, small plates and flatbreads $9 – $18; From the Grill (meats, seafood, veggies) $10 – $22; four entrée “Plates” $24 – $59; Vegetables $13 – $15; Paella to share: $62 for chicken and rabbit, $72 for seafood.
Can’t decide? Choose “La Mesa de José” – chef’s choice of tapas for $75/person.
Or live high on the hog with the Roast Suckling Pig at market price but you must give the kitchen three-days notice.
From the bar: Signature cocktails, Sangrias, Spanish wines and sherries, mostly Spanish beers, Fever Tree Gin Tonics and more.
Happy Hour: $6 tapas, $4 mini charcuterie boards; $5 sangria; choice of three $7 wines; $8 mojitos and a vodka-and-citrus cocktail and a $4 Spanish lager.
Standout tapas for us: the octopus, the lamb meatballs and the Serrano ham.
Amada, Radnor Financial Center next to Fleming’s, 555 E. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 484-429-2158, is open Sun. to Thurs. 5 to 9, Fri. and Sat. 5 to 10. Lunch and weekend brunch coming soon. Free valet parking, Reservations suggested.
New, open-air farmer’s market en route to Berwyn’s Bronze Plaza near Handel’s
Food shopping in Berwyn is about to get more fun on spring and summer Sundays. Starting May 7 and running every Sunday through Oct. 29, the all-new Berwyn Farmer’s Market will take over the plaza in front of Handel’s from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sponsored by Eadeh Enterprises, the alfresco market will feature at least 24 food producers and artisans handpicked by the foodies behind Culinary Harvest, the Wayne-based online market that took off during COVID.
“We’ve put together a unique collection of farmers, chefs and makers from the tri-state area. It’s not more of the same,” Culinary Harvest co-founder Carlo Luciano tells SAVVY.
With live music, rotating charity and community partners and gourmet food stalls, Luciano envisions a family-friendly shopping experience that brings the community together and supports local food systems and artisans.
You might, for example, munch on a Kismet bagel or a Veggielicious cupcake while you pick up Wagyu beef from Stony Run Farms, organic produce from Wild Fox Farm, gluten-free Settantatre Pasta, an artisan loaf from Lost Bread Co., and microgreens from Urban Gardens 215. Many vendors – including bread, poultry, cheese and produce producers – will set up shop every week so you might be able to skip a trip to Whole Foods or Wegmans. Other vendors will pop up monthly.
Depending on the Sunday, shoppers might hear talented local musicians like Joe Downs, learn about healthy eating, beekeeping and eco-cool nonprofits like Greener Partners and Willistown Conservation Trust, meet local business owners, or win fun “It’s a Berwyn Thing” swag.
Luciano and his Culinary Harvest partner Sam Kennedy are curating and managing the market but it was Eadeh Enterprises’ Stacey Ballard whose office is in the plaza who planted the seed.
“We have this awesome plaza in front of Handel’s that would be perfect for a farmer’s market,” is how Ballard approached the Culinary Harvest partners. “Do you know anyone who could organize it?”
Knowing they could tap into their network of farmers, chefs and artisans, Luciano and Kennedy – both CIA grads and passionate food entrepreneurs – took on the project themselves.
An early decision: Make it a Sunday market. “People told us they wish there was more to do on Sundays.”
Saturdays are “oversaturated” with kids sports and activities and weekdays are a tougher sell, according to Luciano. Indeed, Growing Roots Partners, operators of farmer’s markets in Malvern, Downingtown and beyond, staged a Wednesday market at Devon Yard in 2020 but it never found its footing.
Berwyn Farmer’s Market will be open Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 7 through Oct. 29 at the Bronze Plaza in front of Handel’s Ice Cream, 573 E. Lancaster Ave., Berwyn. Sponsorships available. Contact [email protected].
Sleek, sophisticated Exit 13 Gastrobar roars into Garrett Hill
Remember the old Garrett Hill Pizza, a neighborhood institution on Conestoga Road until it closed in 2015?
Well, it’s back in business – sort of.
Luciano Di Felice, eldest son of the pizzeria’s original owners, just spent three years and $2 million turning the defunct pizzeria into a sleek and shiny Italian gastropub.
All that’s left of the building is its brick shell. To vault the ceiling, he demolished the second-floor apartments where he once lived with his parents, Tony and Angela, and three siblings “with pizza boxes piled up in back.”
He installed retractable garage-style glass doors to give the pub an alfresco feel – and get around the outdoor dining ban in Garrett Hill.
And he imported Italian pizza chef Maurizio Vagnon from Marche, Italy. Named one of Italy’s “top 10” pizza chefs, Vagnon is turning out authentic, hand-pressed pizzas, lower-carb pinsas, and homemade pastas.
“I could have made this investment anywhere else in the world and it would have been easier,” says Di Felice, who says construction was complicated by township rules and slowed by COVID. “But I wanted to bring this idea back home to where I’m from. My upbringing in this building was tough. I was working by the time I was 10 – we never had the easy Main Line Life – but we stuck it out. We didn’t want to give up on this building either.”
The modern, industrial high-octane decor mostly riffs on Italian motorbikes nods, the Garrett Hill neighborhood and local colleges, especially Villanova, which is less than a mile away.
Barstools are vintage Vespa seats, complete with Nova and GHill license plates and working brake lights.
Eight shiny motorbikes and a vintage car grill are mounted on the walls.
There’s a cool “G. Hill” graffiti-style mural on the small mezzanine level, a mammoth 172 in. X 92 in. TV (four frame TVs cleverly hung together), and road signs showing Exit 13’s distance from each of eight local colleges.
“Everything on the Main Line is kind of conservative, there’s not much of a modern feel,” says Di Felice, who has lived in Europe and Miami and plans to build a home for himself on the lot he owns behind Exit 13. “I wanted to bring a fresh urban feel here – fun, but not too loud.”
Why Vespas? “There’s something unique about riding a Vespa or a motorcycle,” says Di Felice, who owns a few. “You feel truly free; you can’t not smile. I wanted to bring fun into the dining space.”
He’s also bringing the Main Line its first taste of pinsa, a healthier-crust, oval shaped pizza that’s already popular in Miami, New York and LA. “We use a high-quality wheat, soy and rice flour that the body digests better. Almost all U.S. flours like Pillsbury are bromated – they use chemicals to extend the shelf life. Bromating is actually illegal in Europe. We import Italian flour for our pinsas and pastas – they’re lighter and healthier.”
Exit 13 opened quietly on April 6 and is using its early weeks to perfect recipes and service.
Manager Leslie Hernandez says the community has been welcoming. “A lot of people grew up on Garrett Hill Pizza and were sad it closed. People are nostalgic – they love hearing that we’re a more modern concept run by the same family.”
A separate entrance to pick up to-go orders, six-packs and wine should open any day now.
On the menu: Artisan gourmet pizzas (or pinsas) made with imported meats and cheese $18 -$22 for smalls, $32- $39 for larges; “Street” bites and appetizers $15 – $17 ($28 for a charcuterie board); “Greens”(aka salads) $15 – $19; “Energy” (plates and pastas) $19 – $25; and “Exits” (desserts) $8.
While pizza is the focus, Di Felice also recommends the “Twisted Turns” pesto-topped pasta and the “Yummy Double Short” (short rigatoni and short rib). We tried the Margarita Pizza and the Yummy Double Short – both were outstanding.
There’s a full bar – six house cocktails, a few craft beers and a modestly-priced Italian wine list (most bottles are in $30 – $50 range). Sour mix, pink lemonade and simple syrup are made in-house. “It makes a big difference. Our cocktails taste so much better,” says manager Alessandro Forgia, who makes the mixers himself.
Early faves include the $14 “Motorino” (gin, elderflower and grapefruit) and the $14 “Summer Vespa” (vodka, pink lemonade and lemon basil).
Exit 13 Gastrobar, 910 Conestoga Rd., Bryn Mawr, is open Tues. to Sun. 3:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Free apps tastings during weekday Happy Hour 3:30 – 5:30 until May 1. Website and online ordering coming soon.
‘Coulter Place’ under construction in Suburban Square
A five-story, $100 million upscale apartment/retail complex will soon rise from the ashes of the old Urban Outfitters and a row of brick buildings on Coulter Ave. across from Ardmore Farmer’s Market.
A joint venture by Suburban Square owner Kimco Realty and Bozzuto Group, this one’s got all the upscale bells and whistles: swimming pool, outdoor courtyards, coworking space, game room, swanky lounge and a bi-level garage.
Some 20,000 sq. ft. of retail will operate on street level, likely a restaurant with outdoor dining and/or a few boutiques.
Suburban Square is “the shopping and social heart of the Main Line,” Bozzuto VP Pete Sikora tells SAVVY. The company’s extensive market research and analysis showed a “significant demand for luxury Class A apartments” close to shopping and dining with easy access to Center City and mass transit, he says.
Construction should wrap up in a couple years and rents will be “market.”
Coulter Place is one of Bozzuto’s smaller residential developments.
A mammoth 250-unit apartment complex, Ember at Berwyn, is under roof on Swedesford Rd. in Tredyffrin. “We’re making great progress and hope to start leasing in mid-to-late summer,” Sikora says.
Also on Bozzuto’s drawing board: a 270-unit mixed-use project at 1 Belmont Ave. in Bala Cynwyd.
Burn it off fast: HOTWORX brings time-saving, infrared fitness to Wayne
Hot yoga, sure. But have you ever tried Hot Barre, Hot Pilates, Hot Cycle?
Didn’t think so.
Well, in a few weeks, you can – when the Main Line’s first HOTWORX Studio debuts near DiBruno Bros. in Wayne.
Members sign up for the workout of their choice, each of which takes place inside one of the club’s eight infrared saunas.
A friendly, virtual instructor leads each sweat session via video screen.
One of the U.S.’s fastest-growing fitness franchises, HOTWORX joins infrared technology with exercise – amping up the benefits of each. Infrared saunas are hot stuff these days, touted for their ability to improve cardiovascular fitness, sleep, skin and circulation, fight inflammation, boost immunity, detox the body, and soothe sore muscles. Infrared saunas are set at a comparatively comfortable 100 to 130 degrees. Traditional saunas run 30 to 50 degrees higher – effectively too hot for exercise.
“We’re basically a hack on working out,” says Joey Orr, owner of HOTWORX Wayne. “Your body absorbs the infrared energy which raises your metabolic rate. You can burn two to three times more calories in less time and the afterburn is epic – you’ll keep burning calories for the next 24 hours.” You might burn 150 to 200 calories in a 15-minute cardio workout and another 300 to 400 during the afterburn, Orr says.
Plus, the sauna means your muscles warm up fast – another time saver. And you won’t be as sore afterward because infrared heat helps with muscle recovery.
All HOTWORX studios are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – so you can workout on your schedule. Each sauna fits up to three people. If you go at an off-peak time, you may have the sauna to yourself.
“I’ve been using the HOTWORX in Media four times a week for the last three months and I have six-pack abs for the first time in my life,” says Orr. “The first few weeks felt like I was doing a juice cleanse. You can feel the toxins leaving your body.”
Strength sessions are 30 minutes and include Hot Barre None (no ballet barre), Hot Core, Hot Yoga, Hot Warrior (advanced yoga), Hot Core, Hot Buns (glutes) and Hot Pilates.
Or keep your sneaker on and kick up the cardio with one of three 15-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions: Hot Cycle (on a spin bike), Hot Blast (on an elliptical) or Hot Thunder (on a water rower).
Session(s) are easily booked via the HOTWORX app. Routines are refreshed every several weeks so you won’t get bored.
But what about all that sweat flying around? Orr assures us that “saunas are deep cleaned and sanitized continually throughout the say,” Orr tells us.
A separate FX Zone behind the saunas is equipped with bands, weights, ropes and such for members who want to train before and after their sauna sessions.
Because there are no live instructors on the payroll, HOTWORX is much cheaper than a typical boutique fitness studio – just $59/month for unlimited use.
You will, however, have to shell out for a special HOTWORX mat and towel – $50 each to own, $5 to rent. Each is designed to withstand the heat, prevent slips and soak up all that good, healthy sweat.
Hotworks, 396A W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne (in the DiBruno Bros. shopping center), 610-871-3393. First session is free.
*** Pre-opening pricing for SAVVY readers: No enrollment fee ($100 savings) and $49/mo. memberships (regularly $59/mo). Just mention SAVVY Main Line when you call or visit the studio. ***
Le Mignon: New sweet spot for kids and caregivers in Devon
How’s this for a merry mix: a sophisticated bakery café for grownups with a roomy indoor playground for the kiddos?
Say bon jour to Le Mignon (French for “cute”), a pay-to-play place for little tykes with a little sugar on the side for their caregivers.
Adults can enjoy La Colombe coffee drinks, Japanese teas and matchas, and a housemade cake or confection while they watch their wee ones (up to age 6) climb, slide, swing, teeter, pretend cook, play with trucks, play dress-up and more. There’s even a corner designed just for babies. Playroom equipment is wood – not plastic – and chosen to encourage exploration.
Unlimited play time is $15 for the first child; $7.50 for siblings. Annual, unlimited play memberships are $550.
Planning a birthday party? You can reserve the whole place for $500 on weekends.
Customers can take cakes and pastries home or find a seat overlooking the playroom and catch up with friends or check emails.
A row of tables near the front counter is reserved for folks without kids.
Owners Noelle and Norman Shum of Penn Valley are parents of young kids themselves. Noelle Shum studied baking in France and once operated a successful bakery in her native China where cafés with playrooms are common, she says.
Shum calls her pastries and cakes “global” – a mix of American, Asian and European styles. On any given day, her bakery case might hold Basque-style cheesecakes, Japanese chocolates and Italian tiramisu, among other distinctive confections.
“Her product is unbelievable,” enthuses her landlord, real estate agent Scott Furman, who gives Shum’s chocolates as gifts for clients.
We tried Shum’s tiramisu and canelé and, like Furman, were blown away. (Canelé is a fluted, rum-laced French pastry with a caramelized crust and custard interior.)
Le Mignon, 300 W. Lancaster Ave., Devon, 610) 233-1366, is open Tues. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. and Sun. from 9 a.m. Open play ends at 11:30 for weekend birthday parties.
Bad back? Game-changing procedure treats back pain without surgery
What’s the most chronic ailment in America today: heart disease? diabetes? arthritis?
Actually, it’s low back pain. More than 70 million Americans suffer from it.
And if you’re one of them, you know how brutal it can be.
And how frustrating.
Chances are you’ve tried the usual remedies: ice, heat, rest, stretching, PT, anti-inflammatories, chiropractic adjustments and cortisone shots. You may have experimented with newer interventions like radiofrequency neurotomy, platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) and stem-cell injections.
Desperate for relief, you may even be considering the nuclear option – a surgical fix – but it scares the heck out of you. You’ve heard about the grueling recovery, the risks and uncertain results, including the very real chance that spinal fusion surgery might stress adjacent discs, causing cascading disc degeneration and prolonging the cycle of pain.
What you might not have heard about is Discseel, a non-surgical solution that heals torn discs and is available here on the Main Line.
Only one local physician provides it: Dr. Ron Lieberman, nationally renowned expert in non-surgical spinal interventions, founder and medical director of Tristate Physical Medicine Associates in Bala Cynwyd, and author of Back Pain: How to Treat Lower Back Pain.
Board-certified in Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine, Dr. Lieberman is one of just 25 U.S. Discseel providers nationwide and the only one in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Discseel treats the most common spinal disc diagnoses: herniated, bulging or degenerated discs.
“The most common cause of low back pain is a torn disc that causes fluid to leak out and inflame surrounding nerves,” Dr. Lieberman explains. “But there’s no way to sew up these tears.”
Discseel pinpoints disc tears and injects an FDA-approved biologic, Fibrin, into them, effectively sealing off each tear, preventing leakage and nerve inflammation and promoting growth of new disc tissue.
More than 7,000 Discseel procedures have been performed in the last decade and Lieberman himself has performed about 400 of them.
He calls the intervention nothing short of “revolutionary.”
A peer-reviewed study found 70 percent of Discseel patients experienced noticeable relief and improved function, Lieberman says. Contrast that, he says, to studies of spinal surgery patients in which only a third experienced some relief, a third felt worse, and the rest experienced no change.
The ideal Discseel candidate has had at least six months of chronic low back pain – with or without sciatica. “I want people who’ve tried everything else – including surgery – and it failed,” Lieberman says.
The four-step procedure is performed in less than an hour under mild sedation and patients are usually walking within 24 hours. While the healing begins immediately, the average time for notable relief is four or five months.
“I want people to understand they don’t have to be imprisoned by pain; With Discseel, there’s hope. It’s changed my patients’ lives – they’re back on the golf course and the tennis court. They no longer have to live on the sidelines of life.”
Although Discseel is not covered by insurance, Lieberman assures us the entire procedure costs less than the typical deductible for spinal surgery.
To learn more about Discseel, visit BackHelpNow.com, call 610-924-2322, or email [email protected]. Dr. Lieberman performs Discseel procedures in Bala Cynwyd, King of Prussia, Wilmington and Boca Raton.
‘Mare of Easttown’ fans and movie buffs to gather in Villanova for MLSN’s Spring Celebration
Will HBO’S Mare return to Easttown for another season?
What’s it like to work with Adam Sandler? Kate Winslet? Ben Affleck? M. Night Shyamalan?
How can we lure more moviemakers – and their stars (!) – to film locally?
On Tuesday, May 2, two industry insiders will dish on all things film and TV at Main Line School Night’s annual celebration, “And Action… The Art, Craft and Business of Entertainment.”
Mare of Easttown creator, HBO screenwriter and Berwyn resident Brad Ingelsby, a Main Line native, will share the stage with the Philadelphia Film Office founder and executive director, Sharon Pinkenson.
The two last worked together when “Mare of Easttown” was filming at select suburban spots and on a soundstage at Sun Center Studios in Aston.
Dubbed “The First Lady of Film in Philadelphia,” Pinkenson is a petite powerhouse, reeling in countless exciting movies and TV projects and $6 billion in economic impact over three decades.
We’ve spent time with both Ingelsby and Pinkenson and, take it from us, they’ll be as engaging as the films they’ve helped bring to life.
Talk show host, lifestyle tastemaker and MLSN board member Pat Nogar will lead the conversation.
Tickets are $45 and proceeds benefit Main Line School Night, the unique local nonprofit that offers a mind-boggling array of affordable classes, speakers, trips and tours to thousands of lifelong learners each year. A VIP meet-and-greet cocktail party with Ingelsby and Pinkenson precedes the program.
MLSN’s “And Action… the Art, Craft and Business of Entertainment” with Brad Ingelsby and Sharon Pinkenson will be held Tuesday, May 2 at the Inn at Villanova U., 601 County Line Rd. Tickets from $45; individual and corporate sponsorships available; Meet-and-greet cocktail reception for sponsors begins at 6 p.m. Seated program begins at 7:30.
Get SAVVY to the Main Line’s most efficient workout: 30 minutes, once a week, real results. That’s the beauty of the Sporting Club Main Line’s exclusive X-Force negative weight-training circuit. This revolutionary sweat-producing, muscle-building system from Sweden can only be found in a few spots in the U.S., including Bryn Mawr. A local institution for nearly 60 years, Sporting Club Main Line is home to world-class personal trainers, top-of-the-line Nautilus and cardio equipment, and restorative MedX products for student athletes or adults nursing injuries.
***SAVVY readers save $$$!!! Mention SAVVY and get two personalized, guided X-Force or Nautilus sessions for the price of one (a $170 value!) on the MINDBODY app or by calling 610-527-2200.***
In a move befitting the Main Line’s “endless summer” fashion brand, Lisi Lerch now has a shop at the shore. The preppie-chic accessories designer opened her second Lisi Lerch Bungalow Boutique last month on Dune Drive in Avalon. Like the original Bungalow in Villanova, the new boutique carries the entire collection – past and current – of Lerch’s signature baubles, bags and hats. But there’s also a colorful array of junior and women’s dresses, blouses, skirts, sneakers and heels – and some rather cute ball caps and “AV” swag. Stop by Mother’s Day Weekend for special Grand Opening giveaways and fun collaborations with local brands.
***SAVVY Picks are shoutouts & promos on behalf of our sponsors. To learn more about becoming a SAVVY Pick, email [email protected].
At the Table makes a move
At the Table, the upscale Wayne BYOB that’s outgrown its teeny-tiny digs, has found a new home a short stroll away: the old Landis Café at 118 W. Lancaster Ave.
Owner Alex Hardy and Tara Buzan-Hardy tell us they’ll close their Louella Court location in August and re-open in much bigger digs in September.
“We’re finally able to give you the full, fine-dining experience,” says Alex Hardy. “For the first time, there will be symmetry between the food and the ambiance. We won’t be a gray box of restaurant with people sitting in a tent in the parking lot.”
With a five-seat raw bar and front patio with seats for 20, the new At the Table will double the BYOB’s capacity.
“We’re going for an oceanic vibe with rich dark blues and gold and Parisian French tables,” Buzan-Hardy tells SAVVY. Walls will be the same cobalt blue as the storied French Laundry in Napa, she says.
And no worries if you forget your wine; there’s a state store right across the street.
Operating a high-end BYOB like At The Table out of a former hot dog shop on Wayne’s Louella Court has always been a challenge, the couple tells SAVVY.
The kitchen is cramped, storage minimal and executing ambitious multi-course menus a nightly adventure. “We’re designing the new kitchen from scratch so we’ll be able to up our ante food-wise,” says Hardy. “We’re really excited.”
Bigger and better, Wayne’s Main Point Books marks a milestone
When Main Point Books opened a decade ago, Borders had fizzled and the future of Barnes and Noble was far from assured. More than a few wondered if a locally-owned bookstore with a modest footprint could cut it in the Age of Amazon.
Well, Main Point Books has more than survived – it’s thrived, a testament to the vision and determination of owner Cathy Fiebach, a bookworm from Wynnewood who was convinced an independent bookstore could make it on the Main Line.
She signed up for an American Booksellers Association class, “How to Open Your Own Bookstore,” bought used bookcases at the Wynnewood Borders’ going-out-of-business sale, and in May of 2013, unfurled her store on Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr.
Not three years later, she traded up to a larger, more visible storefront in pedestrian-friendly downtown Wayne and cultivated a community of book lovers of all ages. She hasn’t looked back since.
In the last few months, Fiebach realized a long-held dream: expanding operations to the store’s lower level. The extra 2,000 sq. ft. space includes a new children’s and young adult section that’s quadrupled in size.
There’s a new 50-person special event space for author events and book clubs and a new family-friendly bathroom.
The team has grown, too, and now includes General Manager Ben Tanter and Events Director Elliot batTzedek.
On April 29, Main Point Books will celebrate a trifecta: its 10th anniversary, National Independent Bookstore Day and its new lower level.
The public is invited to the all-day, all-ages party with book giveaways, children’s goody bags, birthday cake, author meet-and-greets and signings, and a special appearance by Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, who will pose for photos. Some 28 esteemed adult and children’s authors – among them memoirist Beth Kephart, sports columnist Mike Sielski, young adult novelist Donna Jo Napoli, and children’s book writer/illustrator Matt Phelan – will take turns meeting fans upstairs and on the lower level from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fiebach is bullish on the future of community-minded, independent bookstores like hers. “Large-scale book retailers have been scaling back but indie bookstores have actually been on an upward trajectory,” she says. “We’ve become a third space for neighbors and readers of all levels.”
Main Point Books, 116. N. Wayne Ave., Wayne, 484-580-6978, is open Mon. to Thurs. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 10 to 6, Sundays noon to 4. 10th Anniversary Celebration, Saturday, April 29, 10 to 6.
Lower Merion Commissioners take heat for voting to suspend police officer
That controversial Lower Merion PD traffic stop – the taser heard across the Main Line in January – is still reverberating. If you missed last month’s fireworks, here’s the 411: The officer who used his taser on an unarmed woman during a heated struggle outside the Bala Cynwyd Wawa just served the longest-ever disciplinary suspension of a cop in township history: two weeks without pay. Meanwhile, the Lower Merion FOP has taken the township’s handling of the officer to arbitration.
After his department’s two-month internal probe – which concluded that Officer Charles Murphy was justified in deploying his taser but had violated “best-practices” procedures and its bodycam policy – Police Superintendent Mike McGrath asked commissioners to suspend Murphy for one day. That recommendation outraged some racial justice and police accountability activists, among them the Main Line NAACP which had called for Murphy’s firing. Most Lower Merion commissioners thought one day wasn’t long enough and voted for an unprecedented two weeks – marking the first time township officials had overruled their own police chief.
The Lower Merion FOP Lodge 28 quickly blasted the township’s decision, calling the commissioners’ vote “trial by a social media mob” and the 10-day suspension “obscene, irrational and punitive,” and vowing to appeal the suspension. More than 100 Lower Merion officers, FOP leaders and supporters, filled the next commissioners’ meeting in protest, some holding “LMPD Unsupported Understaffed” signs. Several community members also spoke at the meeting. Many asked for an external probe of the incident and the formation of a citizens’ board to monitor Lower Merion police.
No word yet on whether commissioners will initiate any reforms or evaluate the composition of their own police committee (four white male commissioners) to better reflect the diversity of the community, as some have urged. By law, officials can’t comment on the incident because Chaine Jordan, the Black woman who was tased, wrestled to the ground and arrested, is suing the township for unspecified damages.
Former Tredyffrin mom and rock ’n roll insider pens a tell-all to “light the way for others”
Her neighbors on Valley Forge Mountain recall Erin Riley as the friendly, free spirit who hung out with rock stars like Keith Richards, Jon Bon Jovi and Steven Tyler.
Parents of musically inclined kids in T/E remember her as the owner of Rock & Roll After School in Phoenixville.
But until now, few thought of Riley as a trauma survivor and keeper of dark secrets.
Riley’s new memoir, A Dark Force, lays it all out: her emotionally deprived childhood in New York and New Jersey, her decades as a rock-and-roll insider – she was music director at WMMR and WXPN and executive director of Philadelphia’s GRAMMY Chapter – and her two toxic marriages.
Recounted in excruciating detail is her two-decade marriage to the abusive, “malignant covert narcissist” she calls Fabio.
“I had to write this book,” Riley tells SAVVY. “I was suffering inside and trying to process how this happened to me. Writing allowed me to pull of the puzzle pieces of my life together…from my neglectful upbringing to my tolerance for abuse.” She hopes her story helps others see the signs of narcissism and co-dependency in their own relationships and find the courage to confront them.
She finished the manuscript in four months and posted reviews have been solid. “I will tell you though that a few people couldn’t finish it… too real, too raw, too triggering for them. I was surprised by that reaction.”
Now retired and “loving life” in King of Prussia, Riley wants readers to take away two lessons from her saga: trust your gut and love yourself first. “Keep that mindset at all times and you’ll stay safe from predators.”
A Dark Force is available on Amazon and at www.erinriley.com.
This and That
The old Lumbrada space near the Whole Foods in Devon Village is showing signs of life. Takumi Bistro & Bar, a sleek and chic Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, has leased the building and hopes to open in early summer. “We’ll be upscale but not high end,” Takumi partner Yvonne Yang tells SAVVY. Yang’s investor group also operates Qu Japan Bistro & Bar in Center City and a fast-casual spot at the King of Prussia Mall. Takumi will focus on shareable plates and expects to do a brisk happy hour business once it secures a liquor license.
Sayonara to a Penn Valley staple. After 22 years on Montgomery Ave., Gin Za Japanese Restaurant will serve its last sushi and close for good on Saturday, April 22.
Remember the splashy Wayne boutique owner, Hillary White Jean, whose dodgy business dealings we revealed in our last issue? Well, her legal woes are mounting.
For starters, her latest bankruptcy filing – her 8th filing in 12 years – was a bust. U.S. Bankruptcy Court dismissed her claim on March 23 after she failed to file the required documentation and skipped out on the Zoom call with the bankruptcy judge and creditors.
Also, shortly after our story ran, Jean’s current Wayne landlord filed charges against her for $3,000 in unpaid rent. By law, that case had to be put on hold while her bankruptcy claim was pending, but with the bankruptcy dismissed, it can now go forward if her landlord so chooses.
And Jean has a few new court dates. The Commonwealth filed a criminal complaint against her on March 13 for her behavior in Delaware County District Court in February, officially charging her with harassment, disorderly conduct and unlawful use of a recording device (per her arrest by Newtown Township Police). A preliminary hearing on those charges is set for April 20.
On Monday of this week, she was due back in criminal court for a pretrial conference in one of the bad checks/theft by possession cases.
T/E School District will revisit a difficult chapter in its history when it honors the last surviving hero of the pivotal “Berwyn School Fight” against segregation. A “Program of Acknowledgement” on Saturday, April 29 will honor Esther Long, 98, who, along with her siblings, boycotted the rundown elementary school that TESD was forcing Black children to attend in the early 1930s. Long’s father was jailed for five days for his children’s truancy. Her childhood home still stands on Greene Rd. in Berwyn. The nearly three-year fight to integrate T/E elementary schools presaged the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. The 1 p.m. program at Conestoga High School is free and open to the community.
Radnor resident and former Action News anchor Jim Gardner will serve as grand marshal of Ocean City’s annual bayfront bash, Night in Venice. The theme of this year’s boat parade and bayside home decorating contest: “It’s a Philly Thing” – a celebration of the region’s sports, food, history, music and more.
Look for a parade of petals at Devon Horse Show’s famous Ladies Day Hat Contest this year. The chosen theme: “Devon in Bloom.” Tickets to the May 31 festivities ($55 – $135) are on sale now.
No need to hit up King of Prussia or the northern reaches of Malvern for a Chick-Fil-A fix. A franchise opened in Wayne Square Shopping Center next to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza last month.
While we’re clucking about chicken, celebrity chef Guy Fieri is bringing a Chicken Guy! fast-food stand to the food court in the King of Prussia plaza next month. Fieri won Season 2 of The Next Food Network Star in 2006 and last year launched a reality show, “Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime.” Chicken Guy! sells marinated chicken tenders and a menu of 22 sauces.
Bala Cynwyd Middle School fifth-graders caught texting disturbing messages about school shootings returned to school this Monday after police and the school district found the students posed “no credible threat” to the safety of the school community. Concerned by the school district’s response and a perceived lack of transparency, some BCMS parents planned to confront the school board at this week’s meeting.
Sent three weeks ago, the texts included this message, first reported by the Inquirer: “Everyday I think of school shootings and hope the most people die…I hope the following people will get shot.” A list of blacked-out names, including at least one student, followed. Privacy rules prevent the district from sharing the students’ names and how they were disciplined or supported, according to a message on the district’s website by Acting Superintendent Megan Shafer.
Ugliness in Tredyffrin late last month. Police arrested a 15-year-old boy for allegedly defacing Valley Forge Middle School property (fencing and nearby bathrooms) with anti-Semitic symbols and racist graffiti. Tredyffrin Police found similar racial and ethnic slurs at Gateway Shopping Center and on township property on Valley Forge Road. The boy faces Criminal Mischief and Ethnic Intimidation charges in juvenile court.
An unnamed developer reportedly plans to put a mammoth senior living complex at the defunct Water World water park in Phoenixville and an adjacent property, according to the property’s real estate agent. If the sale goes through next month, 55 acres along Route 724 would be developed into single-family homes for seniors, an assisted living facility and a nursing home. A couple of savvy investors from Wayne, Kim and Steve Peltier, bought the former water park five years ago for $353,000, cleaned it up, and listed it for $2.8 million. The park closed in 2012.
An unspeakable crime in Montgomery County. A Germantown Academy mom has been charged with first- and third-degree murder in the strangulation death of her sixth-grade son. Real estate agent Ruth Dirienzo-Whitehead, 50, told police that her son, Matthew Whitehead, 11, had been “crying on and off all day over the family’s financial difficulties” at their Horsham home. According to the police affidavit, she didn’t want him to “grow up with these struggles” so that night, April 10, she strangled him in his sleep with her husband’s belt. After the murder, police allege Dirienzo-Whitehead drove the family’s Toyota Highlander into the ocean in Cape May, then walked to Wildwood Crest where she was arrested. She was returned to Montgomery County and arraigned Friday night. Her attorney says Dirienzo-Whitehead is mentally ill and on suicide watch.
Tredyffrin and Easttown supervisors are working together to solve the thorny issues facing Berwyn and Paoli fire companies. According to Phase 1 of an independent study presented at a joint public hearing last month, both fire companies are scrambling. There’s been a steady decline in volunteer firefighters, ambulance/EMS calls have become frequent and take longer due to hospital closings and overloaded ERs, and funding shortfalls are delaying much-needed facilities and equipment upgrades. In his report to supervisors, the consultant noted that despite these challenges, emergency services remain “exceptional” in both townships. Phase 2 of the study will begin to identify possible remedies.
Amazon wants to build four warehouses on 237 acres in Chester County and some neighbors are none too happy about it. About 200 people jammed a Uwchlan Township supervisors’ meeting last week, voicing concerns about traffic, noise and other neighborhood impacts. The warehouse would be at Lionville Station Road and would include parts of Uwchlan and West Pikeland near Pickering Creek and land owned by Downingtown Area School District.
Wayne’s superpopular pop-artist, Peter Strid, has a pop-up gallery in downtown Wayne through April 30. Strid is showing original art and limited edition prints at the old skateboard shop on Louella Court.
Upper Main Line YMCA will mark Earth Day with a free, open-to-the-public family festival this Saturday, April 22 beginning at 10 a.m. Take a bird walk, go canoeing, tackle a recycled art project, build a birdhouse, plant a tree or participate in a stream study. Face painting and live music, too.
The 9th annual Wheels of Wayne rolls into town Sunday, April 30 (rain date: May 7). Vintage, modern, classic and custom cars, trucks and motorcycles – plus a public-safety vehicle for kids to climb on – will line North Wayne Ave. from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Food, prizes, vendors and family fun. The car show is free but a non-perishable donation to Wayne Food Pantry would be appreciated.
Wellness at the Willows returns for a second go-round Sunday, April 23 with a full day of fun freebies. Try a fitness or stretch class, power up your tennis game, head out on a guided nature hike, or hear experts dish on such topics as reiki, tech neck, back pain, regenerative medicine, whole body mental health, superfoods, eating for metabolic health and organic backyard farming. Visit www.willowsparkpreserve.org for the schedule and to register. Rain date April 30.
Rosalie is running for the roses – twice. This Thursday, April 20, the hotspot at the Wayne Hotel will host a three-course luncheon and runway fashion show of au courante Kentucky Derby looks for men and women from Van Cleve and Zoya Egan millinery. Tickets are $65 and must be purchased in advance. Then, sport all that finery at Rosalie’s 2nd Annual Derby Day Watch Party on May 6. Derby trivia, swag, mint juleps, peach mules and small bites. Tickets are $100 with limited availability.
The Main Line Symphony Orchestra is going Latin this spring. Its third concert of the season, “Spring Bouquet: Spanish Roots,” set for Friday, April 28 at Valley Forge Middle School, will explore Spanish and Latin American themes in Gershwin and DeFalla. Featured soloist is classical guitarist John Marcel Williams. $15 – $20 tickets here.
And finally, the Main Line is well-represented on Forbes’ latest billionaires list – so what else is new? Richest local of them all – and it isn’t even close – is investor, charter-school champion and political funder Jeff Yass. The Haverford resident is reportedly worth $28.5 billion – good enough to be ranked 23rd richest person in the U.S. Yowza.
Second wealthiest and youngest on the local list is Michael Rubin, with a net worth of $11.4 billion. The sports merchandise king is just 50 and hangs his hat in Bryn Mawr.
Fifth in the Philly area is Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who lives in the old Annenberg estate in Wynnewood and has a reported net worth of $4.4 billion.
Phillies owner John Middleton of Haverford is sixth with $3.4 billion.
And SEI founder and longtime Paoli resident Al West, worth $1.4 billion, is number 9.
Worth noting: nearly half the billionaires on Forbes’ list are poorer than they were a year ago. Hmmm.
Every edition of Savvy makes me long for the great days we spent living in Berwyn. Thanks to Caroline and her colleagues.
Kevin Mitchell says
Did you ever find out what happen to Nick’s in Paoli?
MQ Dwyer says
I think he moved to Wayne. Near Anthony’s Coal Fire.
Lisa and Caroline says
Actually, both Main Line locations of Nick Filet (Paoli and Wayne) have closed. Our efforts to contact Nick, the owner, have been unsuccessful (so far).
Jennifer Day says
Great read! Thank you for keeping me informed on the latest and in some cases not greatest of the Main Line.
Allie Dannon says
Thank you Caroline / Savvy Main Line for your hard work getting all these details printed out for our communities.
It’s fantastic to learn of all the changes, new restaurants, shops, and reading up on what’s developing- The good and not so good.
There is always something to learn here.
Somehow you knock it out of the park with each edition as it arrives directly to our inboxes….and it’s free.
Is the Coulter Ave development at Suburban Square giving anyone else King Of Prussia Town Hall depressing vibes? Thanks to Savvy for keeping its thumb on the development beat.