Local Restaurants Close . . . New Restaurants Open . . . Let’s support our local business community

The economy continues to take its toll on our local business community; the restaurant business particularly hard-hit.  We know of some closings in the area but it is also exciting to mention restaurant openings.  I say a brave move on the part of these resturantuers.  There are some pockets in the area that have done remarkably well; based on downtown Phoenxville a couple of Saturdays ago, you wouldn’t even know that there was a problem with the economy.  Their restaurants were full and people were waiting on the streets for tables.  However, on our side of the mountain from Malvern to Wayne, some restaurants have not enjoyed that same degree of success and there have been closings.  But there have also been some recent openings. 

Fellini’s Cafe in Paoli closed at the end of the year, under a cloud of Chapter 7.  However, Fellini’s Cafe in Berwyn (my understanding is that the 2 locations were not related) continues to have a great following and is busy most nights.  In fact, Fellini’s in Berwyn is a local favorite of our State House Rep and his wife.

Next to Fellini’s Cafe in Paoli, there has been a makeover of a long-standing shoe store in to Seafood USA.  Construction has been underway for several months.  Curious about its opening schedule, I called their other location (330 W. Lancaster Ave, Wayne).  First I was told they would open by the end of this month; but after hearing I would mention the opening on Community Matters, the owner decided it was probably safer to say opening will be April 2010.  Fair enough, and we look forward to seafood in Paoli.

Rocco’s Steaks opened in Paoli on Lancaster Ave — formerally it was  Tradewinds Coffee (before coffe, the place was Polish Water Ice).  Originally, I think the building may have been an early Dairy Queen.  Anyway, the point is that it is a drive-through cheese steak place that some are comparing to Gino’s and Pat’s in the city.  Not being a connoisseur of cheese steaks, maybe some of you would like to try the place and offer your opinion.

A new authentic Middle Eastern restaurant, Cedars Cafe www.cedarscafepa.com has just opened in Malvern, in the Westgate Plaza (next to Staples) on Lancaster Ave.  My husband and I vacationed in Istanbul last August, so I will be anxious to stop by that restaurant.  Also in Westgate is Jimmy’s BBQ www.jimmysbbq.com  a very authentic barbeque resturant, especially good for take-out for that warm summer night (don’t we wish!) and a great catering menu.  I noticed that Jimmy has now added a blog to his website with recommended beer to drink with his barbeque.

For those of you who want to have one last dinner at Trattoria San Nicola, Berwyn — I called to check on their closing date.  The doors will close on April 17 but the San Nicola in Paoli will remain open.  Sorry to see San Nicola shuttered in Berwyn, I have enjoyed that restaurant.  But walking distance from San Nicola, a new tea shop has opened. The Royal Tea House,http://www.royalteahouse.net/  has recently opened in the turn-of-the-century building that until very recently housed a  coffee shop.   Stop by Royal Tea House for a hot cup of tea and a wonderful pastry . . . but also stop by to shop; they have a great assortment of loose tea and tea accessories.  Royal Tea House is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM  (closed Sunday & Monday).

Looking for a special treat on a March weekend — for the last several years, some of the wineries in Brandywine Valley have featured tastings of the new vintages in barrels, buckets, bottles and more!  ‘Barrels on the Brandywine’ is a Passport Event (visit their website for details and ticket purchase).  These special wine weekends give you the behind the scenes tour; allowing visitors a chance into their wine cellars, see the new wines firsthand and participate in pruning demonstrations, seminors and more. For further information:  http://www.bvwinetrail.com/trail_events.cfm

As a small business owner and a board member of Paoli Business and Professional Association, I understand firsthand the crisis facing our local businesses as they struggle to stay open.  We are reminded as we drive by the empty storefronts on Lancaster Avenue, we are reminded of the many closings that have occurred.  I would encourage everyone to support our local businesses — whether it is the hardware, dry cleaners, hair salon, or restaurant.  By keeping the flow of business in the neighborhood, everyone can play a vital role in regenerating the economic growth of Tredyffrin.  Supporting our local business community of Tredyffrin Township supports everyone!

If you know of a new business in the community, please send me an email with the specifics,   TredyffrinCommunityMatters@gmail.com  To show support, I would like to offer them exposure on Community Matters.

Chowhound Website Unfair to Paoli’s Carangi Bakery — a Touch of South Philly in our Backyard

The Paoli small business community is thrilled to welcome Carangi Bakery in to the neighborhood.  The Paoli Business & Professional Association has used Carangi’s for the last couple of monthly for our noontime meetings.  As a board member of PBPA, I have to tell you their sandwiches and stromboli were great, but the cannoli’s . . well, let’s just say that they are unbelievable!

Like most new businesses, there are growing pains and learning curves.  Although Carangi Bakery has had their Philadelphia location for years, the Paoli location is new — I think they opened this location in early fall.  One of my friends raved about the bread and pies she had for Thanksgiving, so I know that they were opened by that point.  But like all new businesses, sometimes things may not go as you planned or as you wished.  Case in point, apparently Christmas Eve the store was a bit chaotic and customers did not leave as satisfied as the owners would have preferred.  One dissatisfied customer decided in the last week to leave a very negative comment on the Chowhound website concerning their Christmas Eve experience.  Although I think the comment was unnessarily personal and more negative than required, people are entitled to their opinion. But the problem is when the bakery owner tried to leave an apology comment on the Chowhound website it was immediately deleted.  John Petersen visits the bakery regularly and he tried to leave a positive comment on the Chowhound website and that too was removed. 

I am not sure what the deal is with the administrator of the Chowhound website, but I figure the best way to counter balance the one negative comment is to make a personal appeal on Community Matters for Carangi Bakery.  My suggestion to all the readers . . . is go visit Carangi Bakery and take a touch of South Philly home with you! (And don’t forget the cannolis.) 

Carangi Bakery is located on Lancaster Avenue in the old 4 Seasons store.  A link to their website is: http://www.carangibakery.com/

Let’s make this new business feel really welcome . . . and be sure to tell the owner you read about them on Community Matters.

Strategic Realty Investments. . . the Right Choice for the Community!

A few days ago, I shared the exciting news that Strategic Realty Investments (SRI) was named the master developer for the Paoli Rail Yard project.  One of the principals of SRI, Peter Monaghan is community-oriented and understands the importance of engaging the local residents in the process.  Both on a personal level and also as a board member of Paoli Business & Professional Association, I was happy to applaud the choice!  Peter kindly took the time to offer the following thoughts on the Paoli Rail Yard project and I wanted to share them . . . 

Pattye,

First and foremost I wanted to thank for your kind words of support and well wishes for the Paoli rail yards project. And thanks for your continued good work supporting Tredyffrin Township and its residents. I wanted to highlight a few matters that I think are important to consider in light of your December 20th blog post.

The redevelopment of the Paoli rail yards is in the very early planning stages, and while Strategic Realty Investments has recently been named master developer for the site, no decisions have been made as to what will be constructed there beyond the long awaited new Paoli train station, new transit parking garage and related transit infrastructure to replace the very outdated existing station and parking. A comprehensive vision that will benefit all stakeholders will be crafted in the coming months. Our goal is to provide all stakeholders with the opportunity to have input into the planning process. To that end, Strategic Realty will be holding a series of small group meetings within the community, and we will be sure to let you know the details so you can inform your readers.

In addition, we are at least 18 months from breaking ground at the site. The first phase of the project will address modernization of the Paoli Train station, and many infrastructure improvements are also in the queue as first steps toward redevelopment of the site. Long story short: we have ample time for the economy to recover before any ribbon cuttings occur. In the interim, our goal is to build a vision for the site that provides a unique transit-oriented asset in the heart of Paoli with a range of resources that benefit the community as a whole. This vision will be created in a collaborative manner, with consideration given to other resources already existent in the community such as the Worthington development.

Sincerely,

Peter Monaghan

Not a Very Merry Christmas for Local Developer

Along with me, I am sure all of you have been watching the development of the Uptown Worthington project on Route 29.  This redevelopment project taken on by Brian O’Neill and O’Neill Properties Group on 100 acres of the former Worthington Steel factory was supposed to be a model for the planning concept ‘New Urbanism’.  The project had a price tag of $540 million, 1.6 million sq. ft and was supposed to include 753 luxury residences, nearly 800,000 sq. ft. of upscale retail and about 185,000 sq. ft. of office space.  Having Wegmans Market in our backyard was exciting news for a lot of us! 

Now it looks like Uptown Worthington may be a model for great projects falling to the woes of today’s economic crisis.  O’Neill Properties Group is in danger of having to give the keys back to Citizens Bank.  Citizens Bank has secured a $61 million judgment against the developer who borrowed money to build the project.  Court documents filed a couple of weeks ago show that the bank entered the judgment against Brian O’Neill, after the bank and the King of Prussia developer were unable to come to terms on the loan.  In researching the situation, I determined that O’Neill Properties originally arranged an $86 million loan with Citizens Bank through Malvern Hill Associates and other O’Neill-affiliations for the land acquisition and construction costs.  O’Neill guaranteed the loan, which was initially made in 2006 and amended in October 2008 when the financial markets worldwide were in turmoil. As of this date, Mr. O’Neill has not filed a petition to strike the judgment (the legal option when someone places a judgment against them.)  

The million dollar question (or rather $61 million question) – what does this news mean for the project? I am not sure what the timeline is for O’Neill Properties to resolve the loan issue . . . and what happens in the meantime, does the project continue with O’Neill Properties?  I’d like some of our developer, planners, and contractors to weigh in on this one.  Does my much anticipated Wegmans Market get completed?  Will Citizens Bank become the developer in this project?   

This turn of events for Brian O’Neill certainly must be causing pause for Peter Monaghan and Strategic Realty Investments (SRI).  Here we have SRI, the recently-named master developer of the Paoli Transit Center project which is to include multi-use development, just down the road from the current financial woes of the Uptown Worthington project.  I don’t personally know Brian O’Neill, but in the interest of the community, here’s hoping that some good news comes his way (in the form of $61 million!).  For Peter Monaghan, O’Neill Properties Group’s misfortune must be an eye-opening revelation, so here’s sending best wishes to Strategic Realty Investments for their success with the Paoli project!

Just in . . . Paoli Business & Professional Association Supports Reinstatement of Fire Company Budget Cut

I am on the Board of Directors of Paoli Business and Professional Association and I am pleased to report that our organization has approved the following statement of support for the reinstatement of the fire company budget cut. A copy of the statement will be emailed to each member of Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors.

__________________________________________________

Dear Tredyffrin Township Supervisors,

Our organization supports the Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor Fire Companies and the volunteer firefighters. Our support does not include Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 5% reduction in contributions for local fire and emergency services. We ask that the Board of Supervisors maintain the 2010 fire company funding at the 2009 level.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors
Paoli Business and Professional Association

Strategic Realty Investments to be Master Developer for Paoli Rail Yards

 I just received notice from State Rep Paul Drucker’s office with the following press release from Harrisburg.  Strategic Realty Investments has officially been named as the master developer for the Paoli rail yard redevelopment project.  I know Peter Monaghan personally, one of the principals of Strategic Realty Investments, and I appalud the choice.  Peter is a wonderful, community-spirited person and this project will be greatly helped with him at the helm!  This is good news for the community.

Developer chosen for Paoli rail yards

 HARRISBURG, Dec. 16 – State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-Chester/Montgomery, said today that Strategic Realty Investments has been selected as master developer for the Paoli rail yards, a 20-acre site located in Tredyffrin and Willistown townships.

 The developer will team with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Tredyffrin and Willistown townships, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and numerous stakeholders to create a new mixed-use development on the former brownfield.

 The site will be home to the new Paoli Transportation Center, which is expected to include a modern train station to accommodate hundreds of daily riders and a state-of-the-art garage.

 “I believe there is no more important initiative in the Paoli area that could simultaneously help business economic development as well as improve the quality of life for local residents, and it is encouraging to see progress is continuing,” said Drucker. “This announcement is the latest indication that all our hard work is paying off and that the new station and surrounding development will become a reality.”

 “Transportation infrastructure is the heart and soul of economic development and this project is a prime example of how public transportation is a vital part of local economies,” said state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “My sincere thanks and congratulations go to Representative Drucker for bringing this important project to my attention, and for his enthusiastic support and persistence through the process.”

 Drucker said funding for the project is expected to come from private and public sources, including potential American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding.

 

 

With Police Escort, Paoli Fire Company Delivers Santa!

With lights and sirens blaring, Tredyffrin Township police cruiser escorted a Paoli Fire Company firetruck down Lancaster Avenue, turning in to the Paoli Shopping Center.  Singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town and other Christmas carols with the Noteables, the children watched in fascination as Santa climbed down from the big red fire engine.  The kids were so excited they could hardley contain themselves.  With hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies in hand, the crowd followed Santa in to the Paoli Hardware Center.  Seated on a big red sleigh with 2 elves to help, Santa listened as each child gave Santa their Christmas list. 

Paoli Business & Professional Association president Marie Thibault had the vision for the day . . . and the community thanks her.  Below are some photos from Santa’s arrival:

Onboard Paoli Fire Company fire truck, Tredyffrin Twp Police provides escort for Santa

Santa Arriving at Paoli Hardware Center

Christmas Carols provided by the Noteables

Santa listening to child's Christmas List

Economic Times Create Challenges for Local Business Community

As a member of both the residential and business communities of Tredyffrin, if elected to the Board of Supervisors I plan to build upon this balanced relationship and be a bridge between them. I fully understand the affect that our country’s current economic situation has cast on small businesses such as mine, the Great Valley House, a historic bed and breakfast. Having enjoyed an interesting way of life as an innkeeper and small business owner for 25 years, I have also witnessed first hand the downturn in our nation’s economy and its effect on my business. Back in the 1980’s, I did postgraduate work at London School of Economics, after completing a Master’s degree in Public Administration from CalState-Fullerton. My thesis work at LSE included a “Comparative Analysis of Job Satisfaction in the Workplace between the United States and Britain”. The British government was particularly interested in this analysis as the two nations were very comparable in their ‘double-digit’ unemployment rate and the resulting downsizing in the workplace. My work became ‘dated’ in its theories as the US began to turn around and regain a degree of healthiness. Britain on the other hand, was far slower in its recovery and as a result the similarities between the two countries lessened during the next decade.

Fast forward 25 years, and you find that 2008 ushered in a similar era of economic downturn, massive corporate layoffs and high unemployment rates which is effecting Tredyffrin Township as it is across Pennsylvania and the nation. It is interesting to view this situation through the eyes of a small business owner but likewise I understand the economic woes and downsizing challenges facing large corporations. My husband has been employed by Unisys for 30 years, a major township employer. Like so many other technology firms, Unisys has endured falling share prices, lowered profit margins and the impact of our nation’s economic crisis.

I would like to look at various ways our township government may be able to assist and encourage our local businesses. Perhaps a review of township contracts to utilize the services of our local business community whenever possible. By keeping the flow of business “in the neighborhood,” everyone can play a vital role in regenerating the economic growth of Tredyffrin. I would like to see our community come out of the “survival” and in to the “growth” mode, ready to focus on the future again. The ripple effect will benefit the township and beyond. Supporting the business community of Tredyffrin Township supports everyone! Serving as a board member of the Paoli Business & Professional Association allows me the opportunity to understand the ongoing need for revitalization and encouragement of our township business community.