no devon horse show for 2021 either….

The Inquirer headline screams the bad news. Devon Horse Show is 86’d for a second year. However, Savvy Main Line broke the news before the articles and blog posts started.

And this is devastating news. The Devon Horse Show isn’t just about a tradition that has survived two World Wars, it’s a beloved player in the equestrian world. (The equestrian world in my opinion is shrinking in this area due to development, but that’s a conversation for another day.)

See the screenshot just above? This is interesting blog post to read. I don’t know the author.

I will note that there is a lot of misinformation going around in local Facebook groups about The Devon Horse Show. And I think it is a horrible disservice to all parties involved to put forward false information. That’s why I haven’t blogged about this personally until today. I’m not a Devon insider so I don’t know why exactly the show was canceled other than I believe it is the Covid19 world in which we live that is the reason at the end of the day. Essentially I wanted to think about this for a few days.

But for some to take the knee jerk reaction and try to blame ongoing zoning and other issues around the horse show for the cancellation is patently false information. That has nothing to do with this decision and the Devon Horse Show in and of itself has not so much to do with the current zoning issues either in my opinion. And that’s not to say that there haven’t been zoning issues about the horse show itself because there have been.

The zoning kerfuffle has always been in part about about the residents who live around the horse show who don’t want everything around the horse show super sized and overly urbanized. They don’t want the horse show to go away they just don’t want development to overrun everything.

👉🏻See www.saveeasttown.org and http://www.preservedevon.org/. 👈🏻

I think that is perfectly reasonable and I have good friends who live within the shadow of the horse show and have for years. It’s a lovely area that is facing extinction because of development. Those people are trying to preserve what makes the area special including the horse show. And just because some of these people also have had issue with the head of the horse show over things like the ongoing BS with boxes, whisper down the lane wants to blame THEM for the horse show being cancelled? (Follow this LINK to an article where Devon was taken to court over the box issue…and LOST.)

Come on! I am not a fan of what some of the Devon Horse Show had evolved into in the past few years complete with the ridiculous women who don’t know one end of the horse from the other showing up in all their tacky glory for Ladies Hat Day which used to be truly lovely, but even I am concerned about Devon.

But even with my concern about Devon because of the past fond memories I actually have, I’m not going to run around and blame the neighbors. That’s crap.

No one could have predicted a global pandemic, but I think plenty could have predicted future problems with Devon Horse under current leadership.

Maybe, just maybe, the keyboard critics could get off their proverbial high horses and take a long hard look at Devon and it’s financial structure and current leadership and maybe decide from there how to save it. Because it’s going to need saving.

When I was growing up Devon to me meant summer was here. And my friends and I would go in our old school Lilly Pulitzer and Vested Gentress dresses and Eskil’s clogs or Pappagallo espadrilles and khakis or jeans and wander the then much smaller vendor area and midway.

We would stop and get Devon fudge to take home, check out the antique dealers booths, the hospital’s thrift shop booth in what seems like an old spring house across from the burgers, ride the Ferris wheel and then go to the stands and watch the horses go round and round from someone’s family box. One of my favorite things were when the carriages would enter the ring and the majestic Clydesdales. It was so exciting.

I used to love Devon Horse Show. I remember things like the person who used to have cool antique prints next door to the woman who would bring her Jack Russells who would hang out in her booth. Or all of the years getting a Devon burger and hanging out at the picnic tables watching the world go by. And Betty Moran there to greet you in that booth next to where you entered the show.

I stopped consistently going to Devon Horse Show in 2012. I actually went to the fall classic show a few times between then and Covid19. I liked that show. It was more chill then the see and be seen that May Devon had morphed into.

A great little history of the show can be found at:

A Look Back at “Old Devon”, An All-American Horse Show by Nina Fedrizzi

One of the Devon related events that I was honored to attend was October, 2015. It was the dedication of the Devon Horse Show historical marker. I still have never understood why the horse show seemingly found it so objectionable, but the sign actually had to be placed across Lancaster Avenue from the horse show. A few of my friends, including the late Michael Morrison, poured their hearts and souls into getting the marker erected. The dedication ceremony was October 2015.

I will note this is not the only time in its history that Devon has not had a horse show. There was no show between 1900 and 1910. In 1918, with the US in World War I the show was supposed to be cancelled, but apparently a much smaller show instead happened. The show that year benefited emergency aid and war relief. According to the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society it was the following year in which Bryn Mawr Hospital became the recipient charity for the first time. During the Second World War there was no show 1943, 1944, 1945.

The Devon Horse Show is a beloved tradition. If the show’s nouveau patrons and box holders continue to support the show even through these closures, I think the show will survive. But the thing is this: are the people today who pretend to be philanthropic really as philanthropic as those who came before us? Because that’s in my opinion one of the things that is going to have to happen for this show to survive and come back: philanthropy.

I also feel that for the Devon Horse Show to come back and thrive they need to make peace with their neighbors for real. There also needs to be more transparency on the part of the horse show on the financials. Break all of the costs down, and work out future scenarios, maybe go more back to basics? Go a little retro?

Devon can survive. But perhaps the decision to hold off another year will end up giving the horse show folks the gift of reflection? Maybe they need a new Chairman? I realize some people will think I’m being horrible by saying that, but I don’t see how the show has been well …..consistently thriving under his leadership. And I’m entitled to that opinion.

Here’s hoping Devon uses this cancellation to improve, and step forward to an even better future. Get back to the tradition.

Thanks for stopping by.

shot #1 done!

Hello everyone and greetings from West Chester University!

Yes….. I JUST GOT MY FIRST COVID SHOT!

It has been a perfectly crappy day full of babysitting adult toddlers in Facebook groups so this is the highlight of my day.

Truthfully today is the highlight of 2021 so far.

I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever arrive.

The registration process was pretty seamless and the people here are so nice!

I am on the 30 minute post-shot wait and so far I just feel a little warm and somewhat thirsty. I can be shot reactive so I sit for 30 minutes while most everyone else sits for 15 minutes. There is a paramedic sitting with us in the post shot room.

I was surprisingly emotional when I got my shot.

I feel like I can breathe again.

This has been a hell of a year since we all entered the COVID19 world in which we now exist.

life in the covid19 fast lane

We went into Center City Philadelphia to see my parents this weekend. I have not been in Philadelphia since before the riots this summer.

I didn’t have a camera with me so I captured a couple of photos on my phone but it really doesn’t do what looking at the city looks like now justice.

The city of Philadelphia after a year of COVID19 and riots and protests is not good in my opinion. So many boarded up store fronts. And these weird outside pods for bars on the sidewalk which are mostly on the street making them more narrow.

The streets themselves are in horrible condition, holes and potholes and trenches everywhere. Broken pavement everywhere waiting to literally trip you. Coming up 16th St. going home we also passed this generator that was almost a city block long that was running.

The streets are mostly empty. The people you see the most of are homeless. It’s back to Filthadelphia.

Philadelphia looks grey and grimy , depressed, and sad. And it wasn’t just a grey day making me feel that. I used to love the city. It felt alive and vibrant. Now it feels to be barely hanging on.

Thanks for stopping by.

ciao 2020. may you be a year not to be repeated.

I can’t take credit for that funny cartoon above as it is circling the Internet. But it is too perfect to ignore and just sums up this strange year we’ve survived.

Yes I thought about a week ago I had written my last post for 2020 and then things happened. I learned those who claim to be Christian and pious aren’t always pleasant on social media. And while I really appreciate the pastoral leadership at Covenant Presbyterian Church sending me an email to acknowledge my concerns, well, some of us discovered that we got word for word as in yes verbatim the same email. That made me a little disappointed in them, but it also made me realize that they just don’t get it (or don’t want to.) I still hope they abandon the fakakta idea for a 12 foot high LED sign in front of a historically charming church on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer. (And isn’t fakata just the most perfect word to describe so many things in 2020?)

And if we’re going to talk about giant electronics signs that look like movie screens and giant TVs come to life, it is worth remarking that West Whiteland has a planning commission meeting next week where yet another one of these giant digital billboards is being proposed. Yes, January 5th. And I predict much like East Whiteland and their “settlement agreement” which will face East Whiteland with a Sophie’s choice of where to put signs residents don’t want. And then there is Upper Merion Township. They have their own giant digital billboards issues. Same billboard company and same solicitor as East Whiteland. There is still a petition circling for them if you agree with all of the residents who don’t want zoning changed in parks to accommodate billboards. And in West Whiteland what is with the other billboard related LLC very close by to the one being discussed January 5th?

Other things on the hit parade of 2020 include another year of unending issues with the pipelines. Energy Transfer, Sunoco Logistics, pick a name they spent another year making a mess, putting residents at risk. One of my late fall favorites? Was seeing photos on social media of workers’ trucks parked in fire lanes at local shopping centers like they were big important people that couldn’t park in a spot, and what’s up with that FU to the community?

As we head into 2021 there is a story out of Lower Merion that no one’s talking about. It’s about that property adjacent to Stonleigh that Lower Merion School District “acquired” for playing fields after they bought the property on Montgomery Avenue (what once was the Clothier Estate) for the new school. OK so everybody knew that the County Line Road property was going to become playing fields. That’s not news at this point. But what bears pondering is exactly how many hundreds of trees is the Lower Merion School District going to take down in the end for these fields? This is a sizable property and it has heritage trees doesn’t it? It’s over 10 acres isn’t it? So that is a big chunk of property to deforest isn’t it?

Now I’ve heard neighbors over there in both Lower Merion and Radnor Township are very concerned about the trees of it all because this road straddles both municipalities in spots. Lower Merion School District’s Superintendent should give a rat’s fanny about the environment as involves the future of his students, right? One thing I have always wondered about this set of projects both for the school and the playing field is how is this going to affect skinny hilly windy County Line Road and some of the surrounding small streets near these projects? And aren’t first responders a little far away from both of these new education locations? So what does that mean in the future? Once again I reiterate how glad I am no longer on the Main Line and feel for my many friends who are still there.

Other things I won’t miss in 2020 is the conflicting ways people treat each other online in the same communities. Maybe it was because so many people were home and they spent way too much time on social media, but I think people have spent a lot of 2020 being miserable to each other in as much as others also have tried to lift each other up. I can tell you personally I am closing out 2020 feeling completely less patient with people. It is something I am going to work on for 2021, but I’m telling you right now it might be a struggle at times.

So how about the mask of it all? I am not going to get into the argument that has been almost the totality of the year of what stays open and what closes due to COVID-19 (including schools), but I am going to comment about what crap it is I think the people complain they have to wear a mask. I live an immunocompromised life. Elderly relatives live immunocompromised lives. I know so many people at this point personally and indirectly from all over the place (as in just not this area) who have gotten COVID-19 in 2020. And these were all people who were careful and wore masks.

I also think it’s crap with regard to the people who can’t keep their kids at home who then turn into super-spreaders of coronavirus at all ages and stages of life. No one has liked feeling as confined as we all have during the year 2020. No one has liked how it has affected our economy, our personal psychology, our sense of freedom. It has been a difficult year emotionally for everyone. Some people feel so isolated and alone. Even those of us who live with our families can have different times during the year where they could pinpoint feelings of loneliness and isolation.

We close the year with vaccines….finally. That will start up all the anti-vaxxers I’m sure, but I would remind them gently that this is no ordinary virus. And we have already seen in the past few years what an uptick of measles and other childhood diseases has done across the country. All I’m saying is, people please try to keep it together so we can get out of these various stages of quarantine and get back to life. It won’t be life as we once knew it as we are forever changed by 2020, but hopefully we can get there.

Another thing I will be glad to see in the rearview mirror is the ugliness of politics in the United States of America during the calendar year 2020. We have a new president to look forward to and that serial narcissistic sociopath who’s been living in the White House the past few years? I guess he’s going to be Florida’s problem isn’t he? He has continued throughout the holidays (including today) to try to make his case for anarchy and civil war while he discusses his imaginary voter fraud and “rigged elections”. Dude doesn’t get it that he was FIRED by the American people. FIRED. Here’s hoping that America’s political parties get their crap together so we don’t come this close to a dictator ever again, especially the Republican Party because they ALLOWED this to happen.

2020 was also the time of no longer tolerating racial injustice in this country and great sadness and anger as a result from coast to coast. People came together in the midst of a global pandemic over it. We should all offer up a prayer for a peaceful 2021 and meaningful resolution to some of these weighty issues. We the people as in all the people deserve as much.

2020 was a year of personal sadness for me. I said goodbye to people I really didn’t want to say goodbye to. And they didn’t lose their lives to COVID-19, but because of COVID-19 you couldn’t see anyone to say goodbye to those who were dying.

Other friends of mine faced heath crises that had to have been extra stressful every time they had to go in and out of a hospital setting. I know the two skin cancer procedures I dealt with had me holding my breath in and out and through the COVID tests before each procedure.

Now 2020 wasn’t all bad. I got to garden a lot and work on restoring my old quilts and that makes me happy. Fortunately for me I am more of a homebody than not so I have gotten through not seeing a ton of anyone at all but I do miss my friends and my family. FaceTime and Zoom just isn’t the same, but I will say I am grateful for the technology because being able to see someone when you’re catching up is a wonderful thing.

In 2020 we saw extremes all year long. Exhausting extremes at times. But hey, you know what? We are still standing. And that’s a good thing. We can do this. We can survive and get past this. We can see 2021.

For most this year, it will be a quiet New Year’s Eve. For us, pretty normal as we generally stay in. I keep seeing reality TV stars like Sonja Morgan flitting across Twitter and Instagram asking what we’re wearing for New Year’s at home. Not sequins. But I live in Chester County so I don’t think it would be sequins ever…haven’t really seen any live sequins since I moved here.

In my final reflection of 2020, I will freely admit that if we are honest with ourselves, 2020 taught us all things about ourselves and others. Some good things, some unflattering things. It’s all about human nature.

As we bid adieu to 2020 for sure it won’t be a fond, lingering goodbye. It will be an enough already move along nothing more to see here kind of goodbye.

Pope Francis said something this afternoon which has stayed with me: “We thank Good for the good things that have taken place during the pandemic, for the many people who, without making noise, have tried to make the weight of this trial more bearable.”

And for something else fun, click HERE for a lovely rendition of Auld Lang Syne from my lovely friend, Mindy Rhodes.

Wishing all of you a peaceful and happy New Year’s Eve as my 8th year writing this blog draws to a close. Cheers to 2021 and new and healthier beginnings for this country and around the world.

christmas traditions

What are your Christmas traditions? Are you keeping them in the year of COVID-19?

We’re trying . Santas came out today and outside lights went up. When my husband went out to buy an additional strand he discovered another 2020 shortage: Christmas lights. A friend of mine said today she thinks people are trying light up the darkness of 2020. Kind of a beautiful thought if you think about it.

People are baking up a storm. I have not started baking yet. In a few days I will. I haven’t decided what I am baking yet.

Christmas cards have started to arrive. I have ours…. but I have to actually address and mail them. That procrastination has nothing to do with 2020, I do this every year. I just have to sit down and carve out the time. That and will the cards reach everyone since the post office seems more than a little problematic right now.

I have been talking with people and getting ready for Christmas is happening in fits and spurts. We start and then we pause. 2020 is a year like no other thanks to politics and COVID-19.

For me personally? As much as I love Christmas it has been hard some days because you put up some decorations and then you realize no one is really coming over. But it’s Christmas, so you still do it because it is a simple good and pretty thing to celebrate in a year when there often has not been much that was good or pretty.

Another tradition at this time of year I am keeping? Neighbor gifts.

When we first bought the house, we didn’t actually live here the first Christmas. We were updating appliances and putting in new heating and air conditioning and things like that. So we kept “visiting” and around this time that year, and little presents started to appear. We didn’t know what to make of it, until a new neighbor explained the tradition of leaving every neighbor a little Christmas treat.

I love this tradition and today I filled my little bags with treats! I am not sure when I will deliver them but thy sure look cute!!

Keep your traditions! And I wonder if we get snow this week, will we have a white Christmas? It’s feels like forever since we had a snowy Christmas !

Merry, merry. Thanks for stopping by.

bit by bit, christmas comes to life

Bit by bit, Christmas is coming to life. The tree is getting there. It takes a couple of days. The ornaments get layered in. Mostly vintage with some new. My nod to 2020 is the gnome with a little face mask.

Every year is a bit different. But constants like my father’s German mercury glass pine cones mixed in with the ones I have collected which include German and Ukrainian mercury glass pine cones.

The Ukranian ornaments I discovered thanks to my friend Kristin. They are really special. A little more primitive in style compared to their German counterparts and often more brightly hued and the glass is slightly thicker than their vintage German and Austrian relatives.

I use a lot of woodland themed ornaments made of mercury glass. As a homage to our woods acorns, pinecones, nuts, birds, foxes, and even a tiny red squirrel. I delight as each ornament emerges from it’s protective wrapping cocoon. Every December it’s like greeting old friends.

Santas and nutcrackers will join little elves throughout the house. Yes for a little over a month, it’s a lot of work. This year I went back and forth in my head on what I was going to do. In the end, Christmas won.

In a year when COVID19 has kept us in the grips of a grim pandemic reality, getting Christmas out is a sweet reminder there is more out there waiting for us.

This year there will be no Christmas parties, and Christmas Day will just be our small pod, but we will have Christmas…and still (hopefully) love every minute.

18 days until Christmas. #MaskUp and stay safe.

seeking christmas mojo

Today I realized I needed help finding my Christmas mojo. The past couple of days I felt it slipping away. This morning I fell smack dab into a case of the Christmas Crankies.

Yesterday my mother texted me to tell me they weren’t coming for Christmas. The COVID19 of it all. Ok I get that. It was the fact that the queen of proper communication texted me and signed off on her text with her first name, not mother.

Umm yes, even my own relationship with my mother is complicated. Life isn’t a Hallmark Movie and she’s not Donna Reed meets Carol Brady and never will be. Sigh.

Last evening I made a male approved dinner. Scratch macaroni and cheese and chicken cutlets….only the son of it all blew me off for video games and got dinner at 11:30 PM. Right or wrong I am sick as F of video games and it hurt my feelings.

Recently my good growing up friend Tiger died. And another good friend’s husband is gravely ill.

On a cheery dysfunctional social media site known as Facebook, I help run a gifting group. The nail files and pitchforks came out when I had to discuss something from a group administrator perspective.

I really am tired of the pack mentality or mob mentality for lack of a better description. If you aren’t part of their immediate circle or the least bit different in thought process you are a badd, baddd person. Never mind that some of them spent hours messaging one of my moderators who had nothing to do at all with what I said. It made me have several oh bitch please moments today with the mob mommies, which is contrary to my wanting to have Christmas season feelings.

And then there were the people who made up bad fake reviews on the business of friends. That is a special kind of mean. Not nice.

Politics. Done with the election and the giant orange baby throwing temper tantrums in the White House as he tweets from the john. Dude…it’s over…moonie-like followers, it’s over. One guy won, your guy lost. By all means, leave for the Island of Misfit Toys via Mar a Tacky, just shut up already.

Also impeding my Christmas mojo is the apparent inability to use the word Christmas. People, people every year, really? We celebrate and name every other holiday, so why not Christmas? I don’t want to say Happy Holidays and I do say Merry Christmas. The political correctness police need to give it a rest already.

And the COVID19 numbers are rising. High school kids and college kids are half being responsible and half not so much….just like all the so-called adults. Someone came to my house yesterday wearing a mask with his nose hanging out. All I could do was stare at the nose and be grateful they were OUTSIDE.

Wear your damn mask and wear it correctly. That way eventually when there is a vaccine we can all eventually stop feeling walled up by our own four walls, yes? And the vaccine? How will they really control distribution or will it be pay to play?

2020 is a hard slog, OK? Today it got to me. Just got to me. I can’t pretend to be Sister Mary Sunshine all of the time.

I miss seeing my friends and family. We all stay home so we CAN see each other again. But when?

The bah humbugs threatened to rise to the top, so I had to take assertive action. Very assertive action. It was Santa time. And at 56, no I am not going to visit a Santa and give him my Christmas wishes. I had to get out a Santa.

I bought out the big Santa. He always puts a smile on my face. Bought him from a yard sale group a few years ago. I feel MUCH better now and will find my inner decorating elf tomorrow.

Thanks for letting me gretz.

22 days until Christmas! Decorate! Bake! (Whine when necessary.)

Thanks for virtually visiting.

roam with the angels, marine

In September, I wrote a post about my growing up friend Tiger, who was battling horrible cancer. This morning at 6:15 AM, Tiger went home to God.

His beloved wife Sarah was at his side.

One of his brothers contacted me, who is another kind of forever friend at this point. I owe my two friends whom I was with at the an apology, because I completely lost my composure (in a face mask no less) when I got the news. I knew the end was coming, but I don’t think you’re ever completely prepared for it nevertheless.

Tiger was also a friend to my husband growing up. They were in the same class in high school at Shipley. I was the year ahead of them. Tiger and I had been friends since I think I was about 14. I actually was friends with him a couple of years before my husband got to be friends with him.

2020 is just one of those years where I am ready for the next year. It has been a very difficult year for so many reasons for millions of people. This is just another glaring example of dear Lord, what a year.

And I don’t know about any of the rest of you but this is the year where I’ve been having weird dreams. Dreams of people who are no longer with us like my father, or people I am no longer connected to for no more of a reason then life took everyone in different directions.

I don’t know what all this means, and the dreams haven’t been bad it’s just been kind of pleasant. And I’m wondering if dreams can be a little more pleasant when the reality of the world we are living in is that it’s a little harsh right now.

And I know people are going to think I sound like a bit of a nutter, but my friend Tiger who died early this morning was in one of my dreams last night in the wee hours of the morning.

The dream was not anything weird or anything bad or sad, he was just wherever I was outside in someone’s garden and came up to say hello. I woke up shortly before 7 AM remembering that part of my dream because it was nice, and also because Tiger was probably even more of a rabid gardener than I am.

After I heard the news he passed away, which wasn’t until about lunchtime today, I’m still wondering if there was a reason I had that dream last night? This is where my Irish DNA kicks in and I feel a little fey, but I’ve had these experiences before over the course of my life.

When I found out the news I was with friends and for that I am really grateful. When it’s somebody who’s your own age who had meaning in your life it’s just so damn hard and it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, it’s just hard.

This is just yet another reminder, a very somber reminder, of the value of life itself. Sometimes we take things for granted. And if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t take life for granted.

I know Thanksgiving is going to look very different for people this year. But don’t be sad if it’s just a smaller group of family, be grateful that you can spend any of it together or even together virtually over a zoom call.

Life will go on, but I wanted to pause and take a moment to write about this. Tiger was a United States Marine for many years of his life, so that is why I chose that title for the post. It was very important to him.

Thanks for stopping by. Live your lives gratefully and always appreciate the magic in ordinary days.

finding christmas spirit

Soon little ceramic elves will be peeking from book shelves. Gnomes and Santas too. Maybe some nutcrackers. The tree will come to life with vintage and other ornaments. And Christmas baking season will begin.

But what will Christmas in the year of COVID19? Will we celebrate in tiny family pods? Will we celebrate. And what about that grinch holed up in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC? What about all the people who continue to be affected by COVID19 including now our former Chester County Sheriff?

So yes, finding my Christmas spirit has been a little challenging this year. There has been a little bah humbug in the air. Usually about now we are planning a Christmas party. But not this year. We won’t even see our entire family this Christmas. Too many people from too many places. That bums me out.

All of our Christmas celebrations will be quieter this year undoubtedly. But we do need to find our Christmas spirit!!!

Yes, even though I had recently discovered a couple of cool little Santas for a table, my Christmas spirit has been struggling.

Until yesterday. Yesterday my friend Kristin had her business’s open house. It was very different than previous years. We were timed, it was super small, we had to wear masks, and there was hand sanitizer. But there was still Christmas magic every which way I looked. She said sometimes we just have to believe and she’s so right!

Yesterday at the Smithfield Barn we were treated to a vintage Christmas. Totally magical so keep an eye out for more small, socially distanced pop-ups. Also check out what my other favorite elf Lisa has planned at Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford! And you can’t forget Life’s Patina starts spreading holiday cheer next week and Meg is another favorite elf who always seems to know what I am looking for!

Also things that you won’t see this Christmas would be the open house I usually have for my friends to promote another friend’s business. But as luck would have it my friend Alice has two fabulous websites to showcase her products:

A Single Strand and ABW Designs.

Also to be considered is Past*Present*Future in Ardmore. Owned by my friend Sherry, you can shop safely with a mask in the store or buy things online! An artist by training, she has an amazing I and hers is a store that you go in and marvel at everything she has collected for her customers. It’s a beautiful place! And if you’re more comfortable shopping remotely right now you can do that too.

Another place would be Magnolia Cottage Shop in Malvern/Frazer and the lovely folks at Frazer Antiques. And also Old Soul Decor in West Chester which is re-opening in a brand new space Thanksgiving!

The last three places I am mentioning today are also special to me an run by friends as well. Clover Market has pivoted to online due to COVID19 and Janet has curated an amazing collection of things and they offer free shipping! Shopping Clover 🍀 has never been easier.

Second to last would be King’s Haven in Paoli which is not just an amazing interior design destination, but has a remarkably beautiful collection of art and gifts. All due to my talented friend Lauren.

Finally, there is Framers Market Gallery in Malvern, Newtown Square, and Haverford. Yes Jayne and Dave are friends, but I am a devoted customer and not just for the framing business. They rep some amazing local artists! And to me one of the best gifts you can give anyone for Christmas or the holidays is the gift of art!

Yesterday I realized part of finding our Christmas magic means #ShopLocal and #ShopSmall as well. So I hope you find lovely presents at some of these places and they are all places I am just a regular customer of. They won’t even know I have mentioned their business until I hit publish on this post. As a customer I like to pay it forward.

So I know this is going to be a holiday season like no other. But we do have to believe in the magic of the season.

Shop local, support small businesses wherever you live!

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.