a micro example of issues in our region

Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough. Still don’t like them how many years later, although I do support the businesses. So who owns Eastside Flats now because I am uncertain at this point who owns the development and who manages it? It’s not the original developer.

Does everyone remember a couple of different things that put Eastside flats in the news early on? The amazingly and shockingly low amount of ratables Malvern Borough would receive for approving a development still out of scale and character for the Borough of Malvern? And the other kerfuffle when The Whip Tavern said no to Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough?

But then everyone heard Christopher’s was coming to town. It was like that one thing changed a lot of perception about this behemoth of a development. I have always felt like Christopher’s was a kind of anchor that drew people to Eastside Flats and other people and other businesses quite possibly. I know they are what initially made me personally give Eastside Flats a chance.

Christopher’s made Malvern more of a destination, which in turn benefited other businesses and the borough itself. And if there was a community event, Christopher’s in Malvern was right there for the community the way Christopher’s in Wayne always has been.

And for years Christopher’s did things like featured local artists on their walls. And they had wonderful staff. If you told one of the Christopher’s waitstaff you had a particular food allergy or a series of food allergies, they all knew the menu so well that they could bring you a flawless order that wouldn’t make you sick. They did this for a friend of mine one time when we went in for lunch. She had a lot of food allergies and they took care of her so perfectly. (it’s because of all these things that I will continue to go to Wayne once life returns to a more normal pattern.)

Recently, Christopher’s closed their Malvern location thanks to the COVID19 of it all, to return solely to a Wayne which leaves a giant, gaping, empty hole in the streetscape,and also, well they will be missed. In addition to being a wonderful business, Christopher’s offered food that wasn’t formula pub food and you didn’t just go there because it was a bar. You went there because it was a restaurant and it was a nice experience for all ages. It wasn’t huge or cavernous and cold as a space it was kind of just right. But can you imagine what the rent nut was to cover in Eastside Flats?

COVID-19 has caused America’s hospitality industry from coast to coast to take a direct and brutal hit. The largest in history for that industry. Restaurants and other hospitality industry businesses are closing left and right from coast to coast. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that not only are they getting no assistance, it’s the rents they are being charged.

But I have to ask, what kind of rent do these commercial landlords think they will get? After all, we are in a struggling in the present economy at a minimum, and nobody wants to look at what the other potential downside is, correct? I also think overall the economy has not been as strong as we have been led to believe. And people will argue with me about that but that’s just how I feel.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages. Berwyn is in Easttown Township and a present is suffering from potential development implications of its own, but I think they need to look at what’s going on in Malvern Borough right now.

These new developments come in and even with old developments they will offer a lower rent to get somebody in the door. Then those rents get jumped over time to the point that the businesses have to look at their own financial viability and decide if they want to put food on the table of their families and staff or food on the table of whoever the commercial landlords are.

I know plenty of people who have over the years owned other restaurants or brick and mortar stores in various communities who had to make the painful decision to close because after their initial honeymoon when they first came to town and did business with their respective commercial landlords, they couldn’t justify the rents any longer.

And commercial property owners don’t really necessarily care about the empty storefronts in our communities, it’s about what they can make. So they won’t look at continual lease turnover the same way a community might. If one of their property sits empty, I am told they apply those losses to the bottom line of profits from other properties, so for them, it’s business as usual if a place is empty, right? Greedy is as greedy does right? And a lot of these commercial landlords aren’t local. So they don’t get what happens locally nor do they really care do they?

So now we are here in 2020. In October 2020 which has to be one of the most stressful and heartbreaking years a lot of us have experienced in our lifetimes. And a global pandemic known as COVID-19 is bringing the economy down like a house of cards, card by freaking card isn’t it? Drive Route 30 alone from further west to east to the city line. You really see the empty store fronts. This is no joke.

When it comes to local restaurants, not all of them have the space to put things outside and not all of the communities have the wherewithal to let the businesses put tables outside. And because this virus is not under control, and there’s no shot for it, everything is two steps forward and seven steps back is what it feels like. We are in the midst of additional outbreaks now. Which of course then makes businesses fear they will have to shut down again.

Someone said to me that essentially politics is driving all of this. And you can’t just blame it on one party or the other. Especially out here in these smaller municipalities. They don’t really have political savvy or Wiley Coyoteness. And yes, in Philadelphia they do (cue Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the giant mess there), but out here? The politicians don’t necessarily run much, they are kind of run, aren’t they?

So when I heard about Christopher’s closing, I mentioned it to a chef in search of a space. And they didn’t want just any space they wanted the right space. And this is a chef who will blow a lot of culinary minds. They have the international and national credentials, they have the knowledge base and experience. So I told them about Eastside Flats. Selfishly, I want them to open a restaurant in our area. A lot of people do. They are also the kind of person who would bring people to the community just the way Christopher’s did and say Alba and General Warren do. It would be win-win to our communities and existing fine dining.

I asked this person the other day whatever had happened with them investigating Eastside Flats. And I think suffice it to say, unrealistic rents on the part of the commercial landlord happened. Did I mention this is a person with business experience? They essentially told me that what was being quoted for rent wouldn’t be sustainable during a normal period, let alone a global pandemic. Essentially, a business needs to sustain itself and with what whomever over there at Eastside is currently thinking, it just wouldn’t happen, that they wouldn’t even be able to break even. It’s a typical commercial property dilemma, and the dilemma is the only party who would be making a profit would be the commercial property owner and what small business in their right mind wants to assume that risk?

I am not an economist, but I remember hearing somewhere once that most restaurants only start to turn a profit in the 3 to 5 year mark if they are lucky and survive that long. Profit is revenue minus costs, both fixed and variable, right? Starting a restaurant is fantastically expensive correct? Also what fits into the equation is also not confusing profitability with revenue generating, yes? Even if a restaurant is generating high revenue, they’re not necessarily reflecting a similar profit, correct?

So I think Malvern Borough and other municipalities need to wake up. Stop just bending over for absentee commercial landlords and developers. Recognize that compromise is something that they have to negotiate so we get quality non-formula and not just chain or franchise businesses in our communities. We need a retail mix that has better planning, essentially. In a lot of other areas municipalities have retail coordinators who help recruit businesses to the communities in which they work and help the negotiation process between potential businesses and commercial landlords. Even business district authorities and business associations will do this. And the simple reason for that is nobody is as invested in the community as the community itself.

Eastside Flats is kind of looking like a ghost town. And they just let a huge opportunity for our community and for them walk away because of unrealistic rent expectations. They might not like my opinion but the first amendment allows me to have it.

So that is your food for thought so to speak for the day. How are your communities being impacted by commercial landlords during COVID-19? And how will the hospitality industry survive and what will it look like after this? And when you are formulating your response try to leave the politics out of it because politicians and political parties come and go but these are our local businesses.

Also if you are interested Bon Appétit Magazine has a terrific article from the end of September on how you can help those in the restaurant industry.

Thanks for stopping by.

days gone by…frazer

Sometimes it’s just lighting. But it sets a mood.

I stopped to take pictures of the laundromat and car wash in Frazer, East Whiteland that are now closed and frozen in time. Eventually the wrecking ball will come a calling, but right now I can take some photos so one day when someone asks what was there, we remember.

A car wash and a laundromat. Things people still use. But not sexy enough when it comes to development and the future, right?

Enjoy the photos.

when smoked brisket is like a religious experience…

So it’s no secret I love Chef Paul Marshall‘s food at Farm Boy Fresh. But seriously? His BBQ brisket is like a religious experience. I never understood why people love BBQ brisket until I tried his.

And even in the rain, the brisket sandwich is off the hook. I like mine messing with tradition on a brioche bun. My husband prefers old school white bread.

Farm Boy Fresh is located at 7 Lancaster Avenue in Malvern at the Sunoco Station. You can place an order through Toast Tab and pay in advance if you like. I recommend that because this barbecue is extraordinarily popular and they do run out.

If you go don’t forget to taste the little pies. My new favorite is the mini pecan pie! Oh and I hear he might be smoking his own turkeys at some point.

And what you see in 1st photo above? That was my sandwich today!

lovely life’s patina

One of the things that COVID-19 has done is it has disrupted our every day lives and our routines.

My friend Amy and I have our “Fran days” named after her mom where we put everything aside and do something together and have lunch. A lot of times we schedule those days to support Meg Veno at her lovely Life’s Patina events. Until today, this was one of the things that COVID-19 had interrupted for us around here.

Amy and I have been friends since high school and we even grew up in the same neighborhood, so I feel really blessed to have her in my life all these years later. So when we heard that Life’s Patina was going to open by appointment for their Fall Barn Sale we decided to make our appointment and go. Our slot was today and it was just wonderful!

Sensory overload, so much to look at! Something for everyone! And how lucky were we to also have such a beautiful day to be there…and guests today also received an awesome goody bag!

It was so nice to see friends and acquaintances and to see what Meg and her team had done. I love the Life’s Patina Barn on Willowbrook Farm and actually the very first time I was in it was during it’s renovation that led to Life’s Patina.

Being at Life’s Patina today made this surreal life we have all been living seem a little more normal. I actually liked the feel of a smaller, more intimate shopping experience with less people. Everyone was socially distancing and everyone was wearing masks and there were hand sanitizer stations all over the place. They did a great job!

Enjoy my photos of the day and if you go you need an appointment it’s not just open as normal this year. A lot of the time slots are sold out, so check the calendar and stay tuned for other opportunities to visit Life’s Patina this fall. And you can also shop online!

a tasty experience

When I was little one of the things I loved doing with my great aunts who lived in South Philadelphia at 11th and Ritner was go to not only the Italian market, but to the little grocery store on the corner a few blocks away called Alberts.

Albert’s wasn’t a large store, it was literally a little corner grocery store. But because it was in Italian neighborhoods they had many things you couldn’t find a normal grocery stores. And it was so fun to go in and look up down and sideways as a little kid to see everything they had. I kind of had that experience again today as an adult.

My friends have been telling me to go check out George McLoughlin’s Tasty Table Market and Catering at 10 Leopard Road in Berwyn. Now George never knew it until today but back in the day I had been a patron of another business he owned. And back then that business had catered events I went to including Shipley reunions. The food was phenomenal then and truthfully it’s only gotten better!

I went in to pick up some things for dinner and ended up getting myself lunch. I had this chicken sandwich that was transformative. It is the Chicken Pickle Brioche Sandwich. It was a lightly fried yet super moist chicken breast and Swiss on a brioche roll with this fabulous purple slaw with just a little bit of bacon and pickles. I think everybody should try this sandwich!

For dinner I got a steak salad, a salmon, and a chicken entree. I also picked up fresh guacamole and this lovely artichoke dip. But of course because this is also a little market I got some other goodies like a fig balsamic vinegar and fabulous olive oil. And a honey comb and Le Bus bread—-I haven’t purchased bread since March I’ve been making it. Oh and a lovely espresso! I couldn’t pass that up!!

The store is clean and neat and pretty. My friend Lisa who owns Brandywine View Antiques in Chaddsford helped with the interior. And outside there are cheerful red awnings which I love!

And one of the things I liked best about my visit today was speaking with George the owner. It’s been so long since I have spoken with anyone who was excited about anything. George McLoughlin is happy and positive and psyched about the challenge of re-thinking his business. It was so awesome to spend time with him. His positivity is infectious.

And his food is so good. And fresh. And the staff is as nice as George is! And they know the food they are serving. Because what I find very frustrating especially when I visit a new place is you ask a question and they make a face and say “well I don’t know“ and you’re thinking to yourself how can you not know you work here? But there is NONE of that at Tasty Table. You can tell everyone likes being there and that speaks volumes.

Now that I’ve been to the delightful market being created, I will be back. They even carry my favorite sugar cubes for coffee and tea, La Perruche. I haven’t been able to find them locally in a very long time so I am psyched they carry them!

Oh and don’t forget to try the peanut butter cookies and brownies. 😊 And there are gluten free options as well!

Tasty Table Catering and Market 10 Leopard Road, Berwyn, PA 19312

Tel: 610.251.0265 info@tastytablecatering.com

I hope my readers will #ShopLocal and give Tasty Table a try. I had a very tasty 😋 experience. Thanks George!

nothing like a tropical storm to make you want to revisit the pace of development and all it entails.

Photo source: Facebook. Location: Exton PA West Whiteland Township.

The photo I am opening this post with speaks volumes. The first thought is aren’t we all lucky to have such great first responders in this area? But it’s the second thought that bothers me and makes me ponder. The location is on the photo. Route 30 and Route 100 in Exton, West Whiteland Township.

If there was LESS development would perhaps there be LESS flooding when a big storm rolls in?

It’s kind of what came first the chicken or the egg kind of a conversation, but Chester County, we need to have it. Yesterday is a clear indication we need to have it.

A disclaimer: I am using flooding photos sourced off of Facebook. Some from the Classic Diner folks, a friend, and just photos that have been publicly posted. People captured in the moment storm flooding images yesterday and I want you all to look at the photos and think.

Think about our communities.

Think about our safety, the safety of our first responders during storms like this.

Think about the pace of development out here.

Think about the need for better stormwater management and less density.

Source: Facebook Route 30 in Malvern /Frazer East Whiteland Township

A friend of mine took the photo above yesterday. This water is insane. I haven’t lived here long enough to know if it ever flooded like this before. They also took the next photo. It sure looks like those boats were ready to launch, right?

Source: Facebook Route 30 in Malvern /Frazer East Whiteland Township

However, it still renews my suggestion that East Whiteland Township is but one of many municipalities which needs to look at their stormwater management codes/rules and reevaluate immediately due to the constant development around here. I also think that East Whiteland and her neighbors to the east and west (West Whiteland, Easttown, Tredyffrin for starters) need to revisit the pace of development, period.

And there needs to be a conversation with the Chester County Planning Commission and their Landscapes quagmire which has this part of Chester County becoming the next King of Prussia. Come on now, I am not exaggerating see this screenshot from Landscapes:

Screenshot from Landscapes 3

I have been perfectly honest in the past of not being a fan of the Executive Director of the Chester County Planning Commission. Brian O’Leary has always been too pro-development and I remember a lot of his decisions on the Lower Merion Township Planning Commission back in the day not exactly fondly. (Here is his email to Chester County Planning Commission if you are interested: boleary@chesco.org or you can email them at ccplanning@chesco.org, or call them at 610-344-6285.)

This man has always been development first oriented and he lives in Lower Merion Township in a densely populated area. Don’t misunderstand me, he lives in a lovely area, but it is extremely unlike out here. And as per bios of him I have read, he grew up in an area even more densely populated than where he currently lives. So how can Brian O’Leary really get Chester County? Sure he works out here, but he doesn’t live out here so how can he get our day to day 24/7/365 experience? So when I see the density the Chester County Planning Commission says in hunky dory for certain parts of Chester County, it literally makes me queasy. Brian O’Leary is captain mixed use, high density. There already is one King of Prussia. There already is one Bensalem.

So Brian, what do you have to say today for the flooding in some places? Can you kindly put your planning brain to use over stormwater management and perhaps a density slow down? Yesterday’s flooding shows we desperately need another plan. A better plan. The more development which occurs, the fewer places for water to go. Common sense.

Source: Facebook Lincoln Court Shopping Center yesterday in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.

So many people are without power. So many people lost so much due to flood waters. People also lost homes due to falling trees. Yesterday was a very bad storm. But as temperature and weather patterns change due to climate change, we have to adapt. And we have to change. We can’t keep doing what we have been doing. Or more specifically, we can’t keep allowing the same patterns of development to continue.

Photo courtesy of the Classic Diner, Malvern. Location: Route 30 East Whiteland Township

Change won’t be easy. Change won’t happen overnight. There are a lot of politics involved to say the least. But I am tired of politicians also driving how we should want to live in our communities. We need more open space, less development. We need less high density development and some real/better stormwater management plans. Municipalities can’t just play lip service to this any longer. They also need to put existing residents first and quit drooling over the quick fix one-time hit of ratables when a new development occurs.

Critics of my thought process will undoubtedly say I can’t tie this storm and over-development together. But I can and I have. Because if there was MORE open space, LESS development, BETTER stormwater management plans, and LESS high density development would some areas have potentially had LESS flooding yesterday? Now I know that doesn’t mean everywhere that flooded yesterday, but in some places I believe people might have fared better.

But until we try as communities to do things better, we will never know if we can do better, will we? So how about it residents of Chester County? Can you ask your elected officials for change?

Thanks for stopping by.

Source: Facebook. Morehall Road at Atwater East Whiteland Township

okay 2020, can we cry uncle now?

Classic Diner Photo

It has been a day. I thought I was having a bad day with all my biggest pots blown over and things blown to bits in the garden until I started seeing the pictures my friends were taking.

But for the grace of God go any of us. Tropical Storm Isaias reminded us when it comes to Mother Nature, just who is the boss.

Earlier PulsePoint had a notification that I knew wasn’t good but oh these poor people!

Source: Facebook. Sproul Rd East Whiteland.

All over the region and into other states, the weather was horrible. What they think were tornadoes that even took down billboards in Delaware near Odessa, DE. See these photos posted by New Castle County Paramedics:

And then there’s the stuff that’s hitting the news. Like the Darby Creek flooding like crazy. Or this video sent to me by a friend who lives adjacent to the Schuylkill River:

Schuylkill River and flooded neighborhoods in Roxborough

One photo I saw today came from Long Branch, New Jersey. It was a new house being built and it looks like a bunch of match sticks. Really gives you pause about new construction doesn’t it?

New house being built in Long Branch, NJ reduced to rubble by today’s storm.

And then of course there are all the photos of all the trees down around here.

I think one of the things that floors me the most are the photos that were taken by the people at the Classic Diner in Malvern. Much like my friend’s photo from Long Branch, NJ it provokes the need for a serious conversation on development and stormwater management. Of course it also provokes the conversation of why do people drive through flood water like that?

Hershey’s Mill Road East Goshen where the dam used to be. Facebook photo.

But the more our area gets developed the more flooding we will experience because the water has nowhere to go. And also there’s the whole thing of global warming and changing weather patterns. It seems like we get more and more of these “hundred year storms”.

Please stay safe out there, we have more flood water on the way after this storm. Thank you to all the people who kindly lent their photos to me, Facebook and other social media sites.

And as a general life commentary, I don’t know about you but I am definitely over 2020. It’s the year where the hits keep on coming.

Classic Diner photo. Source: Facebook

socially distancing sale saturday in chadds ford

It’s a beautiful weekend and my friend Lisa is having a sale! Social distancing must be observed and masks, please.

Brandywine View Antiques 1244 Baltimore Pike Chadds Ford PA. #shoplocal

playing mad scientist with sourdough bread

So since March, you all know I have been learning about bread, specifically sourdough (read this post and this post). It has been quite the process and learning curve.

Bread is literally a science to learn, and it’s also trial and error. as I said to my friend Chad who owns the Master‘s Baker in West Chester yesterday it is a fascinating process to see how things like even the weather affects your bread baking.

I am now working with two strains of sourdough starter. One came from my friend Tracey Deschaine who owns Dixie Picnic in Malvern, and the other strain comes from San Francisco and has a very old strain of starter. As in more than a century old. You can find these strains from places like San Francisco and Europe and I wanted to try one just to see.

So what I’ve discovered in my learning curve here is I like the San Francisco instructions better for feeding the starter, but I use Tracey‘s recipe for making a loaf of bread. The difference between the San Francisco and local instructions for feeding the starter is they suggest you use distilled water. So I’ve been using distilled water. It seems to make a difference. We are on a well here and there are a lot of minerals in the water.

When I make up my dough I use half San Francisco starter and half Dixie Picnic starter. They both live in my refrigerator side-by-side like thing one and thing two when I am not feeding them or using them up to bake with. I’ve also discovered that getting my starter out the night before I wish to prepare dough is more effective.

I don’t know if this is all right or wrong but I am feeling way way through and it’s nice to be conquering my fear of bread making. Because before this I didn’t think I could do it.

But I am discovering I can and it’s kind of fun!

Next up? Learning how to make other kinds of bread. My husband gave me this awesome bread cookbook for a present. It’s called Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. It’s an awesome book.

Stay cool today and I hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday weekend. Thanks for stopping by!

new penn med at radnor is spectacular!

Inside looking out to the courtyard and newly planted gardens

Today I had my second Mohs surgery for skin cancer. I had another one two years ago. Today my procedure was in the brand new Penn Medicine at Radnor At 145 King of Prussia Road in Radnor.

Reception in the front.

It was a little dicey getting into the new complex because the brand new PennDOT installed left turn arrow light was broken. And there is road work going on. But then you see the new building and a big parking garage. If you have gone to Penn Medicine in Radnor over the years at the old location you know one of the biggest problems has always been parking, so this is welcome.

It’s a giant building. It’s pristine and amazing. I did get lost but I think that is because I was so used to the old building.

Central registration

The two wings of the new building have an amazing courtyard in the middle complete with a garden. The garden in the center of Chester County Hospital is one of my favorite things about the hospital so I’m really glad they did this year as well. it has little tables and benches and once things are more opened up I’m sure people will be able to sit outside.

When you go in you are greeted by reception and they take your temperature. They then direct you to where you were going when I got upstairs to where I was going which was on the third floor, the first thing I saw getting off the elevator was central registration where I checked in.

One thing I did not care for as I was charged a co-pay and I was not supposed to be charged a co-pay today because I was there for a day surgical procedure. But I think those are kinks they will work out in this new registration process. That step did occur at the old building.

The exam rooms are bright and spacious and so are the waiting room areas. What I am missing however, is all the art from the Delaware Valley Art League they hung on the walls of the old building. My exam room had a view of the natural pond being built. It had a couple families of Canadian geese complete with goslings so it was really kind of fun to see.

This is an amazing building that one commissioner in Radnor Township in particular fought and still is. Commissioner Booker, please give it up. It is an amazing and necessary facility and you’re lucky they didn’t leave Radnor Township…because they could have.

Well my face literally hurts so that is all from me today.

Thanks for stopping by.