West Chester businesses explore new ways to draw crowds to downtown.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, December 3. Small businesses are critical to the structure of the borough, but COVID and a pull back on events has leaders heading back to the drawing board with what gets sketched in very much up in the air. Local business owners share their opinions whether to close Gay Street permanently and what could downtown look like with a series of new events? Residents weigh in. Plus, the holidays are on in full force. See what’s happening this weekend. And more. So much more. So, who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

“I would support the open air market if it was a couple days a week. The way [it] was done the last two years was unfair to so many businesses.”

Local Business in response to a survey on the Gay Street closure.

The Future of Gay Street

Gay Street at the height of the summer closure.

Last month Business Improvement District President John O’Brien shared the results of a survey with the Borough Council Public Safety Committee. The topic of the survey? The future of the Gay Street Open Air Market, aka the closing of Gay Street. By an overwhelming majority (80%) downtown business owners are in support of some sort of closure in 2022. This is despite less than a third feeling the closure helped business and 20% reporting it actually hurt business.  

“I think it was a great closure for the community in West Chester,” one respondent wrote in the comments.

However when you ask what that closure should look like, factions emerge with the majority preferring limits to the closure (seasonal) over a permanent status. In regards to which days the street should be closed, just over 40% believe it should be closed all week long while just under 60% want it open only on the weekends (Thursday through Sunday).

“I would support the open air market if it was a couple days a week, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” one respondent wrote. “The way [it] was done the last two years was unfair to so many businesses.”

The discussion also included an assessment by the police department which also supports a part-time or a permanent closure of the road. In a memo from Police Chief James Morehead to Mayor Jordan Norley, Chief Morehead cited traffic concerns, emergency access, delivery, limited access to handicap parking and business impacts as his reasons against a permanent closure. He also recommended the borough invest in removable locking bollards that could be easily installed by Public Works employees and removed if needed to allow for emergency access or street repairs. 

If you have thoughts on the Gay Street Closure you would like to share, the Public Works Committee meets next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. No agenda has been released for the meeting yet but there is always an open comment period at the start of the meeting. 

But will there be events and things to do?

Ok so, it’s just not the closing of Gay Street. Over the last couple years, the borough has quietly eliminated a number of events from its annual lineup with no plans to bring them back and while COVID restrictions may have masked that impact, the business community is seemingly anxious about those effects going forward. Recently they have been looking for new ways to draw crowds to downtown (see this and this). Then last week Downtown West Chester posed this question on their Facebook page: “What type of event do you want to see in downtown West Chester?” The responses were numerous. Sharing some below – so, you can get a little excited about the future. 

  • Fourth of July Fireworks
  • Dog Halloween Parade
  • Sidewalk Chalk festival
  • Pumpkins carving contest
  • German style Christmas market
  • A festival with timed-tickets to manage the crowd sizes
  • Food truck festival
  • Arts Festival 
  • Kid’s bike parade
  • Metaphysical fair
  • New Year’s Eve drop
  • Progressive dinners – participating restaurants each prepare a course and as you dine you meander through town trying various restaurants. 
  • Harvest festival
  • Halloween house tour and contest
  • Magic weekend
  • And of course, Beer fest was mentioned more than a few times (with multiple likes and a few memes.)

If you are sensing a theme here, you wouldn’t be wrong. Over the past few years, borough streets have been pretty quiet. Now it seems the business community and residents are ready for action. 

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Pausing here for a second to let you catch your breath – pace yourself, you still have a ways to go – and to remind you to subscribe to get the latest issues of Hello, West Chester delivered right to your inbox. You can do that here. Ok, now back at it.

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The warnings

He may be armed. He is likely dangerous. West Chester police are looking for help locating 23 year-old Odell Johnson of Coatesville. Mr. Johnson is wanted for attempted homicide after he stabbed an individual at a residence in the 600 block of Downingtown Pike. If you have any information regarding this ongoing investigation, please contact Detective Corporal Harry O’Neill at 610-457-5874.

Local authorities are also looking for 14-year old Jayla Smith is 5’ 5”, 115 lbs of West Chester. She wears her dark hair in long braids that extend down to the middle of her back and black glasses. She was last seen December 1 at 7 a.m. If you have any information about her whereabouts, please contact the Westown-East Goshen Regional police department at 610-692-5100.  

See something, say something. This week a resident witnessed what they suspected may have been animal abuse along a West Chester street however it is believed the man got away before authorities could intervene.  If you witness animal abuse, you should contact the West Chester Police immediately. They are able to respond quickly and can notify all other appropriate offices. Also take a video. Otherwise, unless there are signs of physical abuse, it will be your word against theirs. 

A gift is given, not stolen. Earlier this week four pieces of jewelry were reportedly stolen from Green Eyed Lady on Gay Street. The woman suspected of the theft can be seen in this photo taken at a shop down the street. After a lull during the early months of the pandemic, thefts have reportedly been on the rise of late. 

Speaking of which, the West Chester police are also looking for help identifying an individual wanted in connection with a series of vehicle thefts from cars parked in the 900 block of Kenmara Drive. The individual can be seen making his way up the driveways of a number of residences and removing property from the unlocked vehicles. 

Don’t be that guy. I am also sorry to report, not that you probably didn’t already see this coming, but the Grinch has once again been spotted around the streets of West Chester

The Accolades.

@RustinStrength on Twitter

Shout out to the Rustin football team who lost a heartbreaker to Strath Haven in the District 1-5A Championship on Friday night. After trailing 13 to 19 midway through the third quarter, the Golden Knights roared back and looked like they were going to close it out in regulation after a(nother) Dayshawn Jacobs rushing touchdown. All the Golden Knights needed for the win was to complete the extra point. Which they did – twice. However, on both occasions the Panthers were called for offsides, the play whistled dead and the kick re-attempted. Sadly the third time was not a charm and the game headed to OT where the Golden Knights lost 34-33. 

“We did not get some calls tonight but we left it all out on the field and that is all you can ask,” Rustin quarterback Kolbe Freney told PrepLive. Just four years ago the Golden Knights were an 0-8 team. “When we were freshmen we did not win a game and now as seniors we are in the district championship. It took a lot to get here,” Dayshawn was quoted as saying.  

While, we’re here, we can’t leave without giving kudos to Dayshawn who not only had a great game Friday but a great high school career. This year alone he rushed for 2,741 years and 43 touchdowns – blasting the Ches-Mont single season rushing record. That’s an average of 211 yards of game, in the 13 games he played. Now that’s impressive. Figures courtesy of Daily Local reporter Nate Heckenberger via Twitter

Also, a round of applause to Carousel Ballroom. West Chester’s ballroom and Latin dance studio danced its way to lucky number 13 last month. Congratulations on your anniversary!

And finally, high-fives to West Chester’s own Ann Carozza, the West Chester East alumni and current WCU swimmer, was named the PSAC swimmer of the week last week after shattering several records and posting multiple NCAA qualifying-times. That was one heck of a weekend. 

Hello. 

Last Sunday’s Menorah Lighting on the steps of the Historic Chester County Courthouse. Photo credit: Gary Altoonian Photography

Say hello to the holidays. The borough’s holiday season officially kicked off last weekend with a series of events that was capped off by the annual lighting of the Menorah marking the start of Hanukkah. Events continue tonight with the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. 

But that’s not all, also making it known they are ready to return, the Chili Cookoff. The West Chester Rotary Club has been quietly getting word out its popular bean and beef-based event will be back next year. Mark your calendars for October 9, 2022 and get ready to eat. 

Also say hello to the future’s environmental stewards.  Earlier this fall the West Chester Area School District opened their new Water Quality Education Center at Stetson Middle School with support from Stroud Water Research Center and a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection. The district, with the help of its students, hopes to restore the watershed area to its original condition.

“The students are going to be the caretakers and stewards of their educational center as we move forward,” said Dr. Steve Kerlin of the Stroud Water Resource Center. “This is their watershed. They need to make informed decisions because their actions impact the future.”

Already staff and students have removed invasive species and replaced them with native trees, constructed a series of outdoor classroom spaces and filled the trees with birdhouses – while the teaching staff has constructed a curriculum around the education center that can be used with kids third to sixth grade.

And lastly say, hello to  Bar Avalon – Bryn Mawr edition. The popular West Chester eatery is getting a sister site. The new location will be the former home of Marbles, next to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Expect a similar vibe to the OG West Chester location, just maybe a little more Main Line.

Goodbye. 

Say goodbye to West Chester Area School Board members Chris McCune, Randall Speckman and Brian Gallen. While next month is technically their last month on the board, their fellow members recognized them this month – so I will too. During their tenure, all three participated in the opening of Greystone Elementary and the execution of a redistricting plan all while maintaining the lowest tax rate in Chester County. Despite serving during a particularly tumultuous couple of years, the members of the board were able to maintain civility and understanding toward each other. Hopefully that tradition will continue.  

Pay it forward. 

Christmas at the West Chester Library.

According to the headlines Americans are either awash with unspent cash, or struggling to pay the bills. So, depending how your finances are looking this December here are three ways to pay it forward that require varying levels of cash. 

Free to spend. Do you have someone that is particularly hard to shop for? Or do you just live for the opportunity to surprise and delight those on your gift list (or maybe yourself)? Well, then this is the event for you. Green Team annual auction is now live and full of a variety of wonderful (and diverse) gift ideas. Bid on one-of-a-kind trips (a week in Bulgaria had no bids last I checked), artwork from local artists, the event space at the Chester County History Center, two weeks at summer camp, a Harry Potter basket, fresh bread and jam – the list just goes on and on and on- but hurry, the auction ends Saturday at 4 p.m.

Something to give. It’s an oldie but goodie, Toys for Tots is back in force around the area. Grab an extra toy on your next retail outing, leave it unwrapped and drop it off at one of these locations. Know of others? Leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list.

West Chester Toys for Tots drop off locations 

  1. West Chester Police Department lobby
  2. West Chester Public Library
  3. Goodwill Fire Company (drive through event Dec. 5 – 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.)
  4. Bar Avalon (on Dec. 12 – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. bring five unwrapped toys and get a voucher good for one family-style dinner.)
  5. Avante Salon, Bradford Plaza

Saving up. The next three weeks are huge for small businesses, especially when you consider holiday sales make up 20 percent of all purchases – higher for some retailers. So if you have a favorite local establishment consider including them in your gifting plans. Here are 3 ways to support them without ever spending a dime:

  1. Comment on when you see their posts on social media. It can be as simple as an emoji. 
  2. Share their posts with your friends
  3. Instead of just liking, love or wow! the post. 

All these actions feed into Facebook’s algorithm and help get the posts more views (works for your favorite weekly news posts, too.) Thanks to local small business Birl Girl Designs for these helpful tips!

The freakin’ weekend. 

Checking out the professional decorated gingerbread creation at Yori’s bakery.

What are you up to this weekend? We are a going to an office Christmas party. I know. And it’s the kind you have to dress up for an everything. It’s been so long I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. Plus, we have to get the tree and hopefully we can head downtown tonight for the tree lighting. Tis the season. Remember, High Street, from Market to Gay Street, will be closed from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. for the event.

Also this weekend, a Holiday Market and Green Sale at the Chester County History Center and production of Scrooge! by West Chester Dance Works at West Chester United Methodist Church. Get the complete list of holiday events here.

Also, looking for gift ideas? Here is your mini gift guide: For the music lover in your life (or anyone that grew up in the 80s), for your best friend (or my best friend, just don’t tell her), for the hostess with the most-est, for those that love beer and hats, for anyone who loves West Chester.

Mark your calendars:

December 3 – Traditional Tree Lighting Ceremony, out the old courthouse, 6:45 – 8 p.m. West Chester University Gospel Choir and the WCU marching band to perform.

December 3 – Artist Blast Boyo, Hop Fidelity, 6 – 9 p.m. Stop in to see the art and enjoy a free pour. Remember its First Friday so metered street parking will be free. 

December 3 – Green Santa at the Chester County History Center, 4 – 5:30 p.m. take a photo of your kids or your pets with Santa dressed in his traditional green garb. Event sponsored by the West Chester Green Team.

December 3-4 Holiday Cheer Concert, Uptown! Theater, 5 p.m. Tickets $15 adults; $10 kids

Dec. 4 – 33rd Annual West Chester Friends West Chester Charity Ball,West Chester Golf and Country Club,  6 – 10 p.m.  Tickets $200/each

Dec. 4 – Holiday Market and Green Sale, Chester County History Center, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

Dec. 4 – Little Lincolns Gettysburg Address Competition, Historic County Courthouse, 11 a.m – 12 p.m. Middle school students from across Chester County put on their best Lincoln attire and recite the Gettysburg Address.

Dec. 4 – Scrooge!, West Chester United Methodist Church, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.  Tickets at $12; $10 kids and seniors.

Dec. 4 – Santa on a fire truck, Downtown West Chester, 3 p.m.

That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

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