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.

malvern borough have you learned nothing since eastside flats?

Development is a funny thing. I see all of these amazing adaptive reuse and other projects everywhere but in the area we call home. Chester County is overrun with bad and/or inappropriate plans. And yes there is one that concerns me in Malvern Borough. But first we need to talk about the last development which caused me concern there before due to it’s hulking nature: Eastside Flats.

And at the end of the day one of the biggest problems STILL with Eastside Flats is lack of human scale and inappropriate design for the area.  They tower over everything and citify a small town in a way that is architecturally inappropriate. And I would still like to know how fire trucks can navigate this site completely in the event of fire? 

Eastside Flats still is in my opinion, architecturally unimaginative and looks like hulky, looming Lego buildings that created a canyon effect in tiny Malvern. That is NOT a reflection on the businesses there which I love and patronize. Nothing about these buildings ties into the quaint Borough of Malvern or it’s history. I said this in 2013 and I still think that.

Empty lot that used to be old store fronts

And again, this has NOTHING to do with the businesses. It’s the aesthetics, lack of human scale and even the crappy scored-to-look-like-brick-concrete-sidewalks which are a slip and fall and trip hazard. And the fact there is STILL no curb cut from the public parking lot so you don’t have to walk over MULCH. I mean how many years will it take to correct that? And there is little room for delivery trucks, so it’s not uncommon to find UPS and other trucks blocking a pedestrian’s path from parking lot to sidewalk. The finishes on the facade of the buildings are also already showing wear.

Eastside flats being built.

The consequences of Eastside Flats caused an election upheaval in 2013. Yet, Malvern Borough is still facing inappropriate development that will be completely out of scale again, in my opinion, if built. And no, I don’t have a horse in this race. I will merely be around to say I told you so if it gets built the way it looks now in the plans.

Here are the documents you can peruse that were sent to me by concerned residents in Malvern Borough (screenshots below are from these documents – it shows the evolution of proposed plans and note it doesn’t look like it’s Malvern at all):

What the resident said to me (in part):

So much local development that happens before people are aware of it, and then the only thing people can do it complain after the fact. It would be great to get public input on this before it’s an inevitability.

The residents who attended the last PC meeting raising the several concerns about this project are:
* Height – it will be out of scale and character with the surrounding buildings and neighborhood behind. They are requesting a variance for height.
* Traffic – The proposed design will have people entering leaving at the intersection of King and Bridge, adding to our current rush hour traffic woes.
* Construction – How are they going to stage this kind of construction on our overcrowded streets. They are refusing to consider another entrance off of Woodland, which would make this easier. To get the Woodland entrance they would need to purchase 2 parking spaces from the current owner.
* Aesthetics – This is a gateway to Malvern. Do we really want a corporate monolith looming above the street as our welcome to Malvern?

Another resident said:

“I think the applicant should turn his building 90 degrees on its eastern axis nearest Woodland. The short side of the structure takes up only half the King St. frontage of the current proposal. Run the remainder of the building back to the property’s 160′ depth, ending up with the same size building. Plenty of window light all around because the Woodland and King neighbor is small and not deep anyway (which the applicant should buy if possible, anyway). A now 65′ wide frontage (by 43′ high) is far more compatible with the current scale on King.
Now, what do you do with the remaining half of the lot to the west? You put in a beautiful hardscape (cobblestones, bricks, maybe even pervious, etc) all the way to the property depth, studded with lots of trees (diminishing a couple or three parking spaces, for sure, but that’s all, and don’t forget, trees reduce bare ground temperature by 30%). Maybe the drive comes in from Bridge or maybe it goes in from Woodland, but that doesn’t matter to the concept. (Woodland is clearly better for traffic, though.)
Office parking on the hardscape during business hours. The Borough gets the parking in the evening, without security concerns because no one has to go through the off-limits parking under building.On special occasions we would have a new park-like hardscape area for public events. And most critically, we all enjoy the view from Bridge, seeing lots of trees and openness at Our Town’s last main entrance.”
It’s a creative solution instead of a box building that checks all of the bureaucratic boxes. In Malvern it seems we use our ordinances to justify buildings that no one wants. “

I am told that developer folks are asking for like 4 variances: height relief, parking relief, buffer relief (going from 20 ft. to 5 ft.), relief from having to install some kind of parking island? So, if these variances are granted without conditions, such as making them subject to PC recommendations based on SALDO issues, there will be very little the Borough can do to require changes to the plan, right?

Ok so I wrote about the site in 2015 when the original buildings were coming down. I felt back then that although I understood there probably there was no way to save the 19th century storefront and other structures given the decrepit buildings they was attached to. But this is the kind of waste that makes me crazy because someone had seemingly sat on this land for the better part of what? A decade or better?

Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives October 1961 Volume 11 Number 4, Pages 88–93 . The history of Malvern by Cherri Quann

From the UpHome Facebook page years ago.

Still lost? Remember where the lovely store UpHome had their first home? Across King from The Flying Pig? What was reported to have been Malvern’s last 19th century store front? There.

So Malvern Borough, you got rid of Malvern Victorian Christmas for something not quite as memorable, although nice. Are you slowly going to be overtaken by things too large and hulking for a small Main Street oriented town? Please consider better.

And Malvern Borough residents? Some of you will send me nasty comments or post them because I am expressing concern here. That’s on you. You can be ostriches or you can get involved with your borough again.

Your choice.

If I lived and paid taxes in the Borough of Malvern I would want better for my community. I would want new construction to fit and reflected the character of the borough. So ask your borough folks when meeting will occur for this plan. Or not. Again, it’s up to you. I am merely expressing my opinion and concern.

there is still decency in this world.

It’s been a crazy 24 hours. A local business I wrote about after a less than satisfactory visit as fairly as I could decided to go Kamikaze on me for saying they were less than fabulous.

It doesn’t matter that my review was mild compared to some reviews out there. Apparently I am public enemy number one. My lot in life as a blogger, especially as a female bloggeress, is I am a baaaad person for having any opinions.

Female bloggers especially are supposed to be seen and not heard. We are supposed to stick to safe, pre-approved topics like trips to Disney and diapers, what we are making for dinner, and similar topics. (You know, the theory of bobble-headed, barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.)

Never, ever are you supposed to write about how you honestly feel about anything. Never are you supposed to utter a contrary opinion about the sad state of affairs of national politics. Or criticize LuLa Roe. Don’t ever criticize LuLa Roe.

Oopsies. I am just bad I guess?

No, not really. And if a local restaurant wants to crucify a now former customer, that’s on them.

The way their owner and staff reacted on their social media pages is unacceptable and it casts a pall on the entire business community that they are part of. And I am entitled to that opinion and many concur with that opinion. And people who wrote comments stating they thought the restaurant’s behavior towards me or any less than satisfied customer had their comments removed. Or snarky comments were left in response assuring people they could just call or stop in so why then did no one return my call? Their victim? Because I have stopped being their mere former customer and am a victim of their poor behavior aren’t I?

This behavior sends and reinforces a clear message that the customer is always wrong. Is that the message you want people to associate with the businesses in that area?

I feel sorry for these people in a way but not enough to allow them to just harass me via the comments of their followers. My opinion won’t make or break this business but sadly, their attitude and the poor way they have responded might. And that is on them. Sadly.

Anyway, where I was going with this today was in the middle of this swirling mass of bull twaddle something so incredibly nice happened.

Someone left me the beautiful bouquet of flowers you see in the photo above.

Why?

Because I had helped them with their garden and they wanted to show me what had grown.

I think this is one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. And it’s so simple. It’s sharing your garden with a friend. And this is a friend I made because of gardening.

This of course reinforces to me the type of people you want to fill your life with. And the ones you should pass on by.

A quote from Gertrude Jekyll comes to mind:

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”

She also said:

The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”

Through gardening I have truly been blessed to meet some amazing people. And now having been in Chester County a few years, I can also say that I am very fortunate to have met some wonderful people just by living here.

Yes life throws you the occasional curve ball and grows a few weeds that require pulling, but the universe has this weird balance to it. Part of that balance is when something unpleasant happens, there is a reminder that for the most part people are good and decent and we should ignore the static.

Thanks for stopping by.

brick and brew in malvern

Have you been to Brick and Brew in Malvern Borough?

Tonight was my first visit.

The place is HUGE. And they put money into it. It’s very cool looking. And very clean.

The staff is nice and even on a Monday the place was hopping. I will note it seemed like they did need more floor coverage.

We were seated at a little deuce and that was fine. What wasn’t fine was there was seriously the LOUDEST woman behind me ever. I am not exactly quiet, so that’s saying something. This woman because she was so loud was in EVERY conversation at every table around her because she was so LOUD. I really did not need to know about her life. I couldn’t easily have a conversation with my husband until she left.

My husband ordered a burger and I had the buttermilk chicken sandwich.

Both were meh at best.

The burger was supposed to have a pepperoncini relish. Either they were the mildest pepperoncini ever or the relish was missing.

The chicken sandwich had serious potential but the chicken was over cooked sadly. It had this slaw on it that I could have had an entire separate order of it was THAT good.

I don’t really find the food to be that exciting. It needs work. It has potential but it needs work. And they need to ditch the special homemade ketchup. I am not going to sugarcoat it, it’s gross. It doesn’t taste like ketchup and it looks like barbecue sauce but doesn’t taste like barbecue sauce either. It’s thin, salty, and essentially flavorless.

This is a really cool looking place with I am told great brews (I don’t drink beer) but the food needs fixing. The menu has gotten smaller since they opened I am told. But I think they need to tweak it some more and cook the food more consistently.

The bar seems packed and they are packing them in so business is good. Once they work out the kinks, we will give it another try.

UPDATE:

I received a little slut shaming via the pub’s social media pages. I could’ve been a lot more harsh with my review. But I was honest. And if you go to Yelp or any other place that allows reviews of restaurants and includes this establishment you will see that I am not alone in my opinion, and in a lot of cases I was a lot nicer than a lot of other people.

As someone who wrote this perspective as a customer, I don’t think I will ever go back because if they don’t like my opinion as a customer and they are going to try to slut shame me on social media for having my opinion, why am I going to go back in and spend my hard earned money in their establishment?

FURTHER UPDATE:

Some people who wrote comments stating they thought the restaurant’s behavior towards me or any less than satisfied customer have had their comments removed. Or snarky comments were left in response assuring people they could just call or stop in so why then did no one return my call? Their victim? I guess their doing this makes them feel better. Which is kind of sad and pathetic.

My opinion is my own. We went in for dinner like everyone else. I am sorry my review isn’t 100% but it just doesn’t live up to the hype. But the place is new and I am hopeful they will improve. I however at this juncture given their social media hissy fit will NOT be going back. Nor will I recommend it.

If this social media hissy fit is their example of customer service well it speaks volumes.

one development that is looking good in chester county

I am not a fan of the color scheme which was chosen (too blah beige) but the new apartment building on King in Malvern Borough really looks good. It’s not quite done as you can see from the lawn that isn’t a lawn yet, but I like it.

They put a lot of time and attention into architectural design and detail. And it’s all the way around the building not just a false front, which is the case most of the time.

Everyone always thinks I hate every bit of development. The truth is, I don’t. When you have people like this who are thoughtful about what their finished product is going to be I totally respect that. These people put a lot of time and effort into trying to make their building blend with the surrounding area and structures. It’s a modern building with homage to the past.

unacceptable behavior in malvern borough

This was sent to me by one of my readers to me this morning at 8:05 AM. This is the Flying Pig in Malvern Borough. On the corner of King and Bridge. A nice local business, a staple of the borough community, and beloved by so many in the extended community.

Graffiti.

Tagging.

The irony is Malvern Borough does a lot of murals, so if somebody wanted to paint on walls they could volunteer and paint on walls proactively.

This graffiti is wrong. It’s not hip, it’s not cool, it’s wrong. This is hard-earned money out of the pocket of any small business that has to deal with this.

If anyone knows who did this, or if anyone has external outdoor security cameras that may have captured who these people were going to and from the site, I hope they pay it forward and go to the police. In turn, I hope the police don’t come down like a hammer on anyone apprehended for this, but instead give them something proactive like community service so they can learn and move forward.

I get the people wish to express themselves, but this is not the way to do it. Don’t punish small businesses like this. Don’t punish residents like this. Slow your roll and find another way.

To the Flying Pig and other businesses with exposed walls especially, as we learned years ago when facing a sudden onset of graffiti in Ardmore, PA (Lower Merion Township) it isn’t a bad idea to invest in anti-graffiti paint or anti-graffiti sealer coats.

At the time we were dealing with this in Ardmore, residents used to come together and help the small businesses clean up the graffiti and repaint. I always found it heartening that something that was pure vandalism could bring a community together, even for a short time.

Malvern Borough is a treasure. I am really sorry to have to report on this sad act this morning.

8/1/18 update to :maybe they should have a tofu roast?

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August 1, 2018 UPDATE: So last evening the fire company released the above. Very carefully scripted in my humble opinion. They say several factors including low ticket sales and the amount of volunteer work to get it done properly- however it’s not not exclusively those reasons necessarily is it? They didn’t say there wasn’t any protest did they?

While I am super happy to hear they are doing well with other fund raisers, many questions remain since the whole pig roast protest thing was reported by multiple individuals including the lady who first posted about this in Malvern Community Forum.

Maybe I have an overly suspicious mind, I really don’t know, but I still think there is more to the story than the public knows. And to Malvern Fire Company, no, I would never undo a donation I gave, but after hearing what I heard, like many others I sent in a small donation because I felt so badly about what I had heard. Now I do not know what to think and honestly, I also don’t quite know how I feel about THAT.

Original post intact below.

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I received this from a friend at 4:51 PM today. I first heard about this this morning. And I was outraged. What I was told is that the poor fire company got emails and phone calls saying a pig roast was a horrible thing to do to an animal, and HUH???

I’m sorry where do these people think that bacon, hotdogs, ribs and more come from?What the hell is wrong with people? And I’m sorry that this news is worth a “what the hell.” This pig roast is a community event that has been quite successful in Malvern Borough for the Malvern Fire Company. Our communities are served by mostly volunteer fire companies and community fundraisers help a lot!

I do not know what is wrong with people moving out here but do they think that their food is grown on either of the roofs of Wegmans, Kimberton Whole Foods, or Whole Foods?

What do they want? A tofu roast?To say you love the community and then to throw a monkey wrench into a successful community summer fundraiser for a local fire company is shameful. And those people who wrote those emails and made those phone calls should be giving immediate donations to the Malvern Fire Company to make up for what they will lose by canceling this event. I know I made a small donation to the Malvern Fire Company this afternoon after I heard about this.

You can make a donation by going to their website and looking for the yellow donate button or my mailing them a check or dropping it off at the fire house on King. They are at 424 E. King Malvern, PA 19355.

Pig roasts, clam bakes, chicken dinners, fairs, carnivals and barbecues are also a hallmark of summer. Old fashioned fun steeped in traditions older than we are.They foster a sense of community and for local fire companies they raise money and help them out. Plus they are helping all of us out by hosting an all-American community event.

If this craziness is true, it is anti-American in my book to fuss and get it cancelled. Anyone who either called or emailed the fire company to protest a pig roast also has no clue as to the agricultural history of Chester County! I get that people are vegan and vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean the entire community at large is or should be. And truthfully when you go to these events if you are vegan and vegetarian you either bring your own food or you find a way to eat around the meat. You don’t up and get a community event cancelled for that or because you dont like it in general do you?

And before somebody rolls up on me saying I am discriminating against vegans and vegetarians, I have them in my family. And what I know about my own family members is they’re not going to go protest to have a community event canceled because it’s not food they eat. They just eat around it and support the community event. Hey what a novel idea – that’s what grown-ups do.

I’ve gone to plenty of beef and beer fundraisers over the course of my life and I don’t drink beer. I have soda instead.

The screenshot above is one I have in its original format but the poster’s name was crossed out for post purposes to protect their identity.

In communities, I don’t think you mess with traditions. Now maybe this pig roast wasn’t an age-old fire company tradition, but it has been a successful event for the past few years and was becoming a new tradition in the summer. I think it’s really pathetic that people would ruin that for the public at large, their community in which they live, and for a beloved local volunteer fire company.

Please consider giving an immediate donation to the Malvern fire company to help them offset the loss they will experience for not holding this event if this is true.

I still think this event should go on and if ignorant people want to protest it like they protest planned deer hunts in Valley Forge Park, let them. They are the ones who are the smaller, ignorant people for it. I’m getting off my soapbox now. I am just appalled at this news if it’s true.

as seen at kimberton whole foods malvern

…He had me at “spiritual gangsta” !

Haven’t seen a VW like this in forever.

I hope my blog critics don’t find this to be overly liberal propaganda… it’s just enjoying what you see in the world.

And this guy’s VW made me smile.