here we go again…will easttown have it’s “waterloo”?

Former Waterloo Gardens…sad from any angle now

Once upon a time there was Waterloo Gardens. Then it went bust and development plans grew instead.  The initial development plans and news of a development tore the Devon Horse Show apart and neighbors have been on guard ever since, haven’t they?

 Stark in black and white is Waterloo's former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Stark in black and white is Waterloo’s former gates unkempt and looking very much like Main Line Grey Gardens

Of course the former Waterloo site in Devon would be a target for development. It is just too juicy to let alone.  It’s Chester County but considered the Main Line and well, infill development is at a premium…not to residents of course. Developers just lick their chops at the prospect of such a site.

It’s been quiet around the proposed “Devon Yards“…but no more because up has cropped a public meeting notice…

NOTICE IS GIVEN that the Board of Supervisors of Easttown Township will conduct a public hearing and special public meeting on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., prevailing time at the Beaumont Elementary School located at 575 Beaumont Road, Devon, Pennsylvania 19333

Surprise and happy 2016! For your pleasure Tredyffrin and Easttown residents you have a public hearing to have developer designed zoning shoved down your throats because what is a developer worth his salt with out a custom designed bad ass zoning overlay?  Devon Center Overlay DRAFT Ordinance – January 2016  (Yes indeedy! hot off the presses!)

So this developer seems to literally want to citify Chester County from Devon to Downingtown (and in between.) You have 20 Moores Rd Malvern , Charlestown “Village” Malvern , Clover Mill Exton, 120 Pennsylvania Ave Malvern, and who knows what else in the pipeline.

The behemoth of King Street Eastside Flats. Still a fair bit of empty retail space and unknown true occupancy. These buildings tower over the tiny Borough of Malvern and traditional houses and store fronts. There are some terrific businesses there for now but will they stay? Only time will tell. This development is out of character with a tiny town.

This project is brought to you by Eli Kahn who brought Eastside Flats to the tiny borough of Malvern (and sold). Now Eastside Flats when built was such a jarring square peg in a round hole that the next election in Malvern saw not only a change in Mayor

It's all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

It’s all a grand façade. The side and rear of Eastside Flats make the building look like no tell motel architecture.

but also quite a few borough council members .

So now in the new year as nouveau neighbors at Devon Horse show flex their muscles across the way “Devon Yards” is heating up again. And as predicted quietly by many, the other shoe is already dropping.  Hence the public hearing.

A letter came out from Easttown Neighbors that I received today.   EasttownNeighborsletter(00147310).  Not surprising and I can’t blame them. If I was staring down the barrel of the prospect of a area altering project like this I would not be at ease or happy.

We hadn’t heard much about this whole “Devon Yards” since Easttown Planning approved the plan in November, 2015. At the time Easttown Manager Dan Fox assured a reporter everyone has a voice in the process but when it comes to developer vs. real people is that true?

Only time will tell.

I am a realist and this land was never going to be a park. You knew it would get developed given the location.  But it’s all about the density and why can’t it be a project compatible but that won’t crush the surrounding area?

This project has gotten a lot of press and will continue to. (You can check out what it was imagined as in April 2015 in Philadelphia Magazine).  And way back in 2013 there was going to be a small hotel and some retail. Now it’s leaning towards density and a towering structure TALLER than Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough? Yikes.

I do not have to see this from my window and for that I am grateful.  I am totally concerned however that yet another custom zoning overlay designed by a developer is up for consideration in yet another municipality.

These custom zoning overlays are just designed (and designed often by the developers themselves) to give developers what they need at the expense of residents. (Sorry that is my opinion and am I wrong?)  After all just look at the drawings a developer will bring into a township meeting…any township meeting.  Like the Elysian Fields sit their pet projects with no actual reality of true perspective or human scale involved.  A resident will go to the meetings and wonder if it’s Logan’s Run and existing residents are being erased because well…you never ever see any kind of rendering that shows what these grand plans and Elysian Fields will actually look like next to everyone else who has the misfortune of kind of sort of being in their way. And setbacks? Forgeddaboutit you might as well be in a city.

So now Easttown residents are stuck with the same conundrum as residents in municipalities before them have struggled with.  What do they want their futures to look like and does it really matter because will their local government actually listen to them?

Anyway, I hope residents and lots and lots of media turn out for this hearing. And I hope for once with a ginormous new development what residents want will matter.  But the jaded realist in me doesn’t hold out much hope.

Maybe it’s finally time to change the Municipalities Planning Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Just a thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

devon 1

devon 2

 

 

waterloo gardens in exton closing end of summer

DSC_0342

 

On June 21st, 2013 business writer for the Philadelphia Business Journal Natalie Kosteini announced in an article titled Developer buys prime piece of Main Line real estate that  Malvern killer developer Eli Kahn has gobbled up and bought the Devon property once home to Waterloo Gardens.  Kahn is salivating over the property as per the article :

“How often does six acres on the Main Line on Route 30 across from a train station come up for sale?” Kahn said.

Kahn initially thought a multifamily project with some retail space would work for the site and be similar to a project Kahn is developing with Cornerstone Communities in Malvern, Pa., but those plans might change.

“It’s a phenomenal piece of real estate, and I didn’t anticipate the tremendous amount of interest from retailers,” he said. “I’m working on several different scenarios. Some with a multifamily component and some without.”

Kahn is hopeful he will have a concept to present to the township and neighborhood sometime this summer.

 

(For what it is worth if i lived next to Waterloo Gardens I would be contemplating a relocation as you know this will undoubtedly end up a cram plan next in an already congested area, right?)

So anyway, after Waterloo did the dance in Devon where they were fine and everything was simply marvelous until they closed Devon and moved all operations to Exton.

Waterloo customer card:A piece of local history and trivia after this August

Waterloo customer card:A piece of local history and trivia after this coming August

Waterloo Gardens also filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection about a year ago now – July 2012 according to Bob Byrne of TE Patch. And it wasn’t merely the decline in the construction business that killed Waterloo like Roberts LeBoutillier CFO said.  Their poor business planning following the takeover of the business by the current generation of family did it in my opinion.  Dumb things like an expansion to Delaware that never worked out, for example.  Insane price points in their stores would be another thing along with what appeared to have been changes to their core business.  When some of their long term staff started going elsewhere  you also didn’t have access to the same level of gardening advice you once had that when I was growing up that always seemed like it was a core principle you knew all was not peachy keen.  Until about seven years ago I could wander into Waterloo and spend hours checking out plants.  At that point in time, even if I did not buy something because they were always expensive , I always came away with future ideas for my garden.

It was a little too rose colored glasses when Waterloo Gardens told Today’s Garden Center at the end of July 2012 that they expected to emerge from bankruptcy in late 2012 and 2013.

The nursery and garden center business is not for the faint of heart.  It is a brutal business and very seasonable. Once upon a time years ago I took a career segue and because of my love of gardening and skill level with gardening I decided to try working for a nursery.  I worked for the then Bryn Mawr Feed & Seed which was located by that point on Montrose Avenue in Rosemont (it used to have a location I believe somewhere around Malvern when the brothers were alive).  Anyway by that point both  brothers  who originally ran this business were deceased and one of the widows ran the store.

That was the job where I learned that the fictional character Simon LeGree had nothing on that small business owner. Seriously it was awful and there we all were among all those beautiful plants.   I recall many things including being sent to the warehouse when single men came into the shop because the owner felt the younger daughter needed to shine at that point – it was so suburban Cinderella’s stepmother it was funny. However, I did learn with that experience that I did have serious gardening chops and for years after I left my great nursery job experiment I did garden consultations – in particular on roses and container gardening and window boxes.  But no joke, I learned first hand how tough the nursery business is.  The business there in the end was not sustainable, and the business shuttered and Smith & Hawkin rented and majorly renovated the space.  Smith & Hawkin lived in that location happily until that corporate tumble occurred. (I lovvvveeeed Smith & Hawkin)

So anyway for months people have been watching Waterloo and their remaining Exton location and then about three weeks ago or so many of us started hearing closing rumors again.

I confirmed it personally myself when I called the Exton location on North Whitford Road THIS MORNING and asked how much longer they would be open.  I was told that as far as employees knew they would be open through August 31st and a “going out of business” sale would start on Friday July 5th.

But you don’t see that information listed on their Facebook Page or website at this point. I know people, including other nursery owners, have gone to Waterloo this week to buy stuff  but was told even office supply junk being sold off was being over-priced so I will be curious to see what the liquidators do.  I wonder will they be paying people to stand on the highways around here in giant  plant costumes waving going out of business signs?

The bummer about this is that the Exton location was always the jewel in the Waterloo crown I thought.  That is where all the really awesome plants were.

Once upon a time Waterloo Gardens was something.  Now unfortunately they are another local business folding.   And that is a damn shame at the end of the day no matter what the root cause of business failure.

I will say that residents of Chester County are luckier than most because we have a LOT of wonderful nurseries.  I highly recommend Woodlawn Garden Center & Nursery in Malvern,  Somerset Nursery in Glenmoore (and Zionsville) and Del Vacchio Landscape & Garden Center in East Goshen.

Support your local nursery of choice.  You will be glad you did and you will get better plants.  Shop local!

 

 

 

 

 

waterloo gardens files for bankruptcy protection

Waterloo Gardens , Exton PA 2008 (T.Bemis photo)

In March, I wrote a post called digging in the dirt. I mentioned then that Waterloo in Devon looked a little off.  Someone from Waterloo left a comment after the post went live:

Tracy Smith on March 26, 2012 at 10:19 am said

At Waterloo, we are gearing up for April weather – with a forecast of 20′s and 30′s at night, ther are just certain plant material that is not ready to ship.  Planting during 70 degree weather is great but now we are back to reality with temps. in the 50″s and cold nights again.  We aim to ensure planting success and receive material when it is timely.  Thanks for the insight though.  We really value your opinion and take comments quite seriously. Take care, Tracy Smith

It still kept looking not quite right every time I drove past the Devon store.  I kept hearing stories from people around that they were in dire straits.  Then in June came news they were indeed closing Devon.

Today comes the news they are filing for bankruptcy protection. You know, everyone is ballyboohoohooing this calling the Devon property “a landmark property” and sorry, that just makes my eyes roll.  It is 6 1/2 acres or thereabouts, but it is not landmark anything.  It is just commercial.

Patch is reporting rumors of a Terrain being built there, another nursing home (nursing homes along Route 30 in Chester County are the new nail salon, apparently), or a car dealership. They quoted Bobby LeBoutillier as he being the one to recount the rumors.

Look it is a major bummer to many that Waterloo is closing.  However, they still have Exton and quite frankly people should take a drive to Malvern to check out a smaller, family owned nursery Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery.  Or Somerset Nursery in Glenmore.  They have or can get anything a gardener would want and yeah I bet they can help you plant too.

Waterloo over-extended themselves.  They should have just stuck to what they know and kept it in Devon and Exton.  But they did not and they are paying the piper doubly bad due to the economy.

They told me today via Facebook that gift cards would be honored at the Exton store.

I have a friend from high school who owns a nursery in another state, her name is Tina Bemis.  Here is what she had to say today:

I happen to own a garden center in another state, and know that are garden centers are struggling right now.  We WANT to have the cool, different stuff, but as less and less people are real gardeners and more “plant decorators” it’s hard to carry cool stuff that just sits there, when the majority of people just want big flowers.

Also, we don’t WANT to be more expensive, but the big box stores often use our products to lure you into the store so they can then sell you other stuff.

You see those prices, and think we are expensive.  But they NEVER carry the cool, unusual stuff that you seek, and we are keeping those plants watered every day for when you come in.  And when you only choose to come in on the after Christmas sale, what are we supposed to do the rest of the year?

We MUST go for the plants with the biggest profit dollars (not necessarily margins).  That’s what businesses do.  They must, actually, or someone else will do it better, and they will go out of business.  Believe me, most garden centers are just barely staying alive right now.  There are so few of you real gardeners left, and our businesses got big with the baby boomer demographic.

As the older folks downsize, move to retirement homes, or pass on, the next generation is a) much smaller in numbers and 2) even further removed from the land.  In order to justify our own existence, we must also downsize, and that is probably exactly what Waterloo did.  I would love to carry only what I call “geek plants.”  But they won’t put food on my table. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

Mind you, Tina and her nursery in my opinion is probably more like a slightly larger Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery in Malvern or like a Somerset Nursery.  And I have known Tina since I was a teenager (we were Shipley Sprouts together only she was MUCH MUCH better!) so I know she has a care with her clients.  Most of us ceased to get that care or feeling of caring in Devon years ago.  I do find that however, at the two nurseries I have mentioned in this post.

People can still visit them in Exton, which truthfully has been the best of their stores for years.  I stopped going to Devon years ago not only because of the prices, but because (as alluded to none too smoothly above) there existed in the Devon store an attitude that quite simply put, was not worth the money.  Devon as someone said to me to day was a glorified gift shop.  Certainly not the Waterloo of years ago.

So dry your eyes.  You might have to drive a little farther out but you still have one Waterloo if you must Waterloo.   And it is the best of the Waterloos, always has been. And if you are open to trying new things, it’s a big world out there with additional choices.

News : Waterloo Gardens files for Chapter 11

Waterloo Gardens files for Chapter 11;  Landscaping company files same day

Waterloo Gardens has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following plans to shut down its Devon location.

The garden center and Waterloo Landscaping, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 June 26.

Waterloo announced earlier in the month that it will be selling the original store and consolidating business at the 50-acre Exton location.

“I think the Exton store, out of the two, has a much better layout,” said longtime President Bobby LeBoutiliier of the announcement. “There is more room for cars to park, more coverage space for annuals shopping, and if it’s time to consolidate, out of the two, this is the one we want.”

Management had originally planned to keep the Devon location open through the end of the year, and possibly into spring of 2013. The store is now scheduled to close July 15.

The garden center, which celebrated its 70th anniversary in April, opened two new locations in 2007 – one in Wilmington, Del. And one in Warminster, Pa. The Warminster location closed in 2008. The Wilmington location closed in December of 2011.

Waterloo Gardens, Inc. on busbk.com says they filed June 26th.  Here is some other info:

Debtor

Waterloo Gardens, Inc. 200 N. Whitford Road Exton, PA 19341-2099 CHESTER-PA Tax ID / EIN: 23-1911696

Represented By

ALBERT A. CIARDI, III Ciardi Ciardi & Astin, P.C. One Commerce Square 2005 Market Street Suite 1930 Philadelphia, PA 19103 (215) 557-3550 Fax  : 215-557-3551 Email: aciardi@ciardilaw.com

JENNIFER E. CRANSTON Ciardi Ciardi & Astin, P.C. One Commerce Square 2005 Market Street, Suite 1930 Philadelphia, PA 19103 215 557 3550 Email: jcranston@ciardilaw.com

U.S. Trustee

United States Trustee Office of the U.S. Trustee

833 Chestnut Street Suite 500 Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 597-4411

Docket

Jun 26 #1 Chapter 11 Voluntary Petition. Fee Amount $1046 Filed by Waterloo Gardens, Inc.. Government Proof of Claim Deadline: 12/23/2012. Statement of Corporate Ownership due 07/10/2012. Corporate Resolution due 07/10/2012. Matrix List of Creditors due 07/3/2012. (CIARDI, ALBERT) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 Receipt of Voluntary Petition (Chapter 11)(12-16080) [misc,volp11a] (1046.00) Filing Fee. Receipt number 12089552. Fee Amount $1046.00. (U.S. Treasury) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #2 Corporate Resolution Filed by JENNIFER E. CRANSTON on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc.. (CRANSTON, JENNIFER) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #3 20 Largest Unsecured Creditors Filed by JENNIFER E. CRANSTON on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc.. (CRANSTON, JENNIFER) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #4 Matrix Filed. Number of pages filed: 2, Filed by JENNIFER E. CRANSTON on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc.. (CRANSTON, JENNIFER) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #5 Document in re: Verification of Creditor Matrix Filed by JENNIFER E. CRANSTON on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc. (related document(s) 4 ). (CRANSTON, JENNIFER) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #6 Document in re: Statement of Parties with Interest in Cash Collateral Filed by ALBERT A. CIARDI III on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc.. (CIARDI, ALBERT) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #7 Expedited Motion to Use Cash Collateral Motion of the Debtor and Debtor-in-Possession for Order Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §363 to (I) use Cash Collateral and Provide Adequate Protection to Parties with Interest in Cash Collateral, (II) Pay Prepetition Wages and requests (III) an Expedited Hearing, Reduced Notice Period and Limited Notice Pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9006(c)(1) And E.D. Pa. L.B.R. 5070(f) Filed by Waterloo Gardens, Inc. Represented by ALBERT A. CIARDI III(Counsel). (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A# 2 Proposed Order (Expedited)) (CIARDI, ALBERT) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #8 Application to Employ Ciardi Ciardi & Astin as Counsel to the Debtor Filed by Waterloo Gardens, Inc. Represented by ALBERT A. CIARDI III(Counsel). (Attachments: # 1 Declaration# 2 Proposed Order # 3 Service List # 4 Notice) (CIARDI, ALBERT) (Entered: 06/26/2012)
Jun 26 #9 Amended Document Amended Declaration in Support of Debtor’s Application to Employ Ciardi Ciardi & Astin Filed by ALBERT A. CIARDI III on behalf of Waterloo Gardens, Inc. (related document(s)8). (CIARDI, ALBERT) (Entered: 06/26/2012)

 

 

 

digging in the dirt.

Spring means gardening.  I love gardening and moving to Chester County means I can really garden again. Yes I will have critters to contend with, but I am so excited!

I have been on the hunt for hostas.  I love the ones with the big wide leaves.   I have also been on the hunt for other things, so I did the nursery cruise yesterday afternoon.

No, I did not stop at Main Line Gardens.   I already checked them out last fall and found them overpriced and snotty.  They think they are Waterloo Gardens, only they are not. And speaking of Waterloo, what is up with them?  On their website they say they closed the Wilmington, Delaware location, and yesterday when we drove past the Devon location it did not look so stocked for the season.  Usually by now there is more to look at driving by.

But back to fun: so there is a nursery which took over the old Potters on Paoli Pike called Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery.   They also have a location in Chadds Ford.

We drove in not knowing what to expect and not only did I find everything I needed yesterday but the people were friendly and knowledgable and the prices were more than reasonable.    This nursery is a throw back to the ones I loved when I was younger: loaded with good plant material and doesn’t have a cafe and gift shop in the middle of it.  Sorry, but I am an old school gardener – I make my own coffee and when I want a gift shop I will visit one.  When I want plants, I visit a nursery.

I have more gardening to do, and another nursery on my list is Somerset Nursery in Glenmore and Zionsville.  It has an excellent reputation as well.

Visit Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery in Malvern at 359 Paoli Pike.  Their phone is 610-647-1300.  Visit Somerset Nursery in Glenmore at 1697 Pottstown Pike.  If you decide to visit them because of this blog post, tell them that you saw them on chestercountyramblings. And no, they do not compensate me for writing about them.

But seriously people, it’s time to get your gardening on.  I know a lot of you out there think gardening means it is done by other people but in your yard, but truly, that’s not it.

Get out there, dig in the dirt.  Create.  Get messy.  Get dirt under your nails you can always get a manicure.  It’s good for you and fun!  I started gardening early as a little girl with my father.  He introduced me to my love of roses and two gardens ago I had 67 different varieties (until the then new homeowner tore them out).  As a matter of fact, many  MANY  moons  ago I  wrote a couple of articles for the American Rose Society on rose gardening.  One still exists and you can read it by CLICKING HERE.

Feel free to share your favorite local Chester County plant sources with me as well and happy gardening!!!