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It’s Friday, Oct. 7. This week we get our first look at the plan to make the seasonal Gay Street closure permanent – and spoiler alert – the plan is gates. Yes, gates. Plus, we talk to the Chili King about what to expect when the Cook-Off returns on Sunday (and where to say ‘hi’ – I’ll be there this year!) and restaurant inspection reports for September. It was a no-good, very bad month, for one local food service provider. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Street-gate: The plan to close Gay Street
Drumroll please, after three years of closures and months of planning we have our first look at the $33K plan to close Gay Street and I think I can safely sum it up in one word: gates. Yep, gates. We switch out the cement barriers with gates, add some “activation zones,” portable handicap ramps for improved access, and voila, we are done.
Amazing you say, that you can solve all those concerns over parking, deliveries, and emergency access just by adding a few gates.
Yes, it would be and they are nice, aesthetically pleasing gates, but unfortunately, they are not magic gates. What does make those problems disappear is not addressing them and instead defaulting to the easy answer of weekend-only closures. According to Randy Waltermyer, Planning and Municipal Services Lead for Traffic Planning and Design, the consulting firm behind the proposal, the team was given their “marching orders” at the first steering committee meeting back to look at a Monday-to-Friday closure. Interestingly, that meeting took place in July well before the resident survey launched in mid-August asking for feedback.
Luckily for the borough, there is evidence to support this approach. (Not from me clearly.) While the survey does not ask whether or not respondents would prefer a Friday to Monday or a 7-day of week closure, it does ask how people felt about the length of the weekend-only closure. Nearly 60 percent of the 1500 respondents said they felt it was just right.
Traffic Planning and Design closure recommendations:
- Gates. Under this proposal, the cement blocks that have been used for the last three seasons are replaced with gates. Wrought iron gates mounted to brick columns would create an aesthetically pleasing solution that requires minimum labor once installed. Also explored were bollards. Retractable solutions were discarded due to the amount of wiring under the street.
- “Activation zones.” Even with the “vitality” of all the restaurants, there are some “areas without tables,” Randy explained to the crowd of about 25 residents, business owners, WCU students, and council people. To back up this statement he presented a “Marketplace Need Study” which consisted of a map of the closure area with six areas of little activity highlighted including two on the 100 block and one on the 50 block of W. Gay Street; and one on the 50 block and two on the 100 block of E. Gay Street. What to do with these new “activation zones” was not on the table. “We are not here to exactly decide what these zones could be,” said Randy.
- Temporary ramping. To improve handicap accessibility TPD recommended adding six to eight temporary ramps. These ramps could be removed when the street is reopened so as to not encourage mid-block crossing.
In all the full build-out is estimated to cost $1.1 million to complete. In a small bit of good news from the meeting, the planners did suggest that amount should be “very financially digestible” for the borough if they make use of numerous available grant opportunities.
A final presentation is tentatively scheduled for November. The borough did have a signup sheet at the meeting where residents could leave their email to be notified of any project updates. If you would like to be included, I would send an email to Borough Manager Sean Metrick and let him know.
Meet the Chili King
“It’s 58 degrees and sunny this weekend. So perfect chili weather,” Bill Friedman tells me of Sunday’s big event. If you are local to the West Chester area you may know Bill as the owner of Blue Dog Printing and Design. If you are a member of the West Chester Rotary Club, you know him as this year’s “Chili King.” After a two-year COVID-induced hiatus, Bill, who is chairing his second event, and the remaining 109 members of the local service organization are ready for a big day.
“We’ve received dozens, if not hundreds, of calls, messages, and Facebook posts asking if it is coming back. They just can’t wait,” said Bill.
While the Chili King doesn’t make chili anymore there are plenty that will. “We have 45 teams this year,” said Bill. These include restaurants, nonprofits, businesses, and hometown cooks whom Bill lovingly refers to as, “Six idiots from a neighborhood that get together.” Just a group of friends, a big pot of chili, a tailgate-like setup, and lots of ribbing. Perennial favorites the Paratroopers are a group of local guys that have been participating for years. After they cook their chili they change into grass skirts. Another group comes dressed in lederhosen to serve their German-themed chili.
Sure anyone can pay a fee and serve chili all day as a way to get their name out to a large group of hungry guests – between eight and 10,000 people are expected to descend wooden nickels in hand on Sunday morning – but that’s not really the magic that’s kept the event going for 20 years.* The magic is in the community that comes together to make it happen.
*Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. I will be there this year with my first booth. No worries, I will not be serving chili.
The Chili King’s Ingredients for a great day
Get there early. “We expect a huge crowd,” said Bill. “We release the chili at noon but show up at 10:30-11 a.m. and visit all our vendors.” Right before noon, there will be a color guard presentation and the lead guitarist of the Manny Trio, who will stay to provide your soundtrack for the day, plays the star spangle banner Jimmy Hendrix style. There is also a kids’ zone with inflatables and face painting and more than 50 non-chili serving vendors.
Buy your tickets ahead of time. For the first time ticket are available for purchase ahead of the event. Order online, pocket yourself a small discount ($2 and change) and skip the lines on the big day. “Presales are open through Friday night,” says Bill. You’ll receive an email with a QR code. When you arrive on Sunday you’ll go to a line, show your code to one of the Chili volunteers and collect your wristband and nickels to vote for your favorite chili.
Explore the town. “We have a lot of great restaurants here in West Chester that serve things other than chili,” said Bill. Grab something to eat. Have a beer. Enjoy some football. You know make a day of it.
Event details: Gate opens at 10:30 a.m.; chili service begins at 12 p.m. Winning entrants are named at 3:30 p.m. event ends at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door; $10 (plus service fee in advance.) All proceeds go to support the Rotary Club of West Chester which in turn awards the money to more than a dozen local nonprofits each year.
It’s that time again when we take a look at the monthly restaurant inspection reports and I don’t know if it’s something in the October air, but this month is pretty scary. Let’s start with Aramark. The Philly-based food service provider who holds major contracts with WCU, WCASD and a number of other local organizations had a rough month.
First, there was the Fugget Middle School cafeteria which was ruled out of compliance after a number of key appliances were found to be out of order including the reach-in refrigerator, the dishwasher and the ventilation hoods, the last of which also happens to be a fire code violation. Work orders have reportedly been submitted for all. In the meantime, maybe limit your selections to items that need neither heating nor refrigeration.
Also, out this month WCU’s Aramark-managed Twisted Taco was cited for four violations including precooked chicken, steak, and shrimp not being reheated to safe temps. These are professionals. That’s food safety 101. To quote the Preston and Steve Morning Show’s Steve Morrison doing a Slyvester Stallone impersonation, “COME ON, YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS.”
Now over to Pocopson Home (which, yes, is still technically West Chester and yes, still Aramark). The senior living facility, which according to their spring newsletter serves 15,500 meals per month is out of compliance for mice. According to the Health Inspector’s report, “Mouse droppings observed in the dry storage room and on plates in the storage area adjacent to the dry storage room.” Poop on plates is bad. Just bad.
In non-Aramark managed establishments, out of compliance this month is the West Goshen Philly Pretzel Factory with four violations including dirty food prep utensils and evidence of an unreported kitchen fire. Oops. Don’t look up at the Wawa on West Chester Pike. The West Goshen destination was cited for dirty ceiling conditions and potential improper ventilation. Asuka sushi on West Chester Pike was doled out 11 violations including one that stated: “thorough cleaning of the facility is needed including but not limited to…” Not a good sign when the inspector can’t even list all the areas of your restaurant that need to be cleaned. And finally, Split Rail Tavern was out with nine violations including a hole in the ceiling, prepared food left uncovered, and ready-to-eat foods with no or incorrect date markers.
And one follow-up from last month, this time congratulations to Chris’s Pizza on S. Walnut Street. After failing their opening health inspection, they got their act together and breezed through this month with no violations.
You can find all the reports and more here. Just search by location or establishment.
Now in non-food related warnings, the West Chester Police Department is seeking help locating 22-year-old Francis Bango of West Chester (he has also been known to reside in Coatesville among other places). Francis is wanted in connection with a string of burglaries that have occurred in the southeast section of the borough over the last couple of months. If you have any information about his whereabouts contact the Borough Police Department at 610-696-2700. If you were a victim of recent burglaries and you had your credit card stolen, make sure the police are aware. Same number as above. If you think a picture may help jog your memory, here you go.
Congratulations to West Chester University which enrolled its largest first-year class in history this fall. WCU has reportedly registered 3,006 first-year students, up 14 percent from last year. This includes a 25 percent increase in out-of-state students and a 24 percent increase in students of color. With an annual tuition of $7,700, compared to $20,00 to 60,000 elsewhere, expect those numbers to continue to grow.
Also a standing ovation to the West Chester Area Day Care Center on 60 years of taking care of the borough’s littlest residents. The daycare center on E. Neilds Street opened its doors in 1962 with five children, a director, three teachers, a cook, a janitor, and some dedicated volunteers. Today it serves more than 100 local children with a focus on providing quality care to low-income families including many from shelters. In addition to providing a Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning 3 STARS experience, they serve students a free nutritionally balanced breakfast, lunch, and snack each day. Impressive, many centers catering to the area’s wealthiest residents don’t offer that.
Also, high-fives to Gemelli on eight wonderful years in the borough. They are celebrating by resurrecting their delicious gelato-filled-donut partnership with Yori’s Bakery. Available this weekend only.
And a woohoo to West Chester’s Hillary Torchiana who made her debut on the Voice this week. If you missed her rendition of Adele’s “Easy on Me,” you can find it here. Go, Team Blake!
And last but not least, a well done to the organizers of OutFest. By all accounts, it was a great event full of love, support, and community. Just as intended. If you would like to see pictures, you can find them here, here, and here.
Say, hello to the ghosts. I don’t know if you’ve heard but West Chester is haunted by a dark and gruesome past and there is more than one walking tour dedicated to making you aware of it. Are all ghost tours created equal? I’ll let you decide. Here are your options.
Tour: Chilling West Chester: A Dark History Walking Tour
About: From the horrors of the Chester County Prison to the cold-blooded killers tried at the courthouse West Chester’s streets and alleys witnessed two hundred years of spine-chilling history.
Host: Chester County History Center
Dates: Wednesday to Saturday now through Oct. 28. The tour takes about one and a half hours.
Differentiator: The historians and educators at the Chester County History Center. Look for new stories this year if you’ve taken the tour before.
Tour: Haunted History of West Chester
About: A lantern-guided walk through West Chester’s spooky history from haunted taverns to forgotten burial grounds, and the traces of the past which might still remain there.
Dates: Most nights between now and Halloween. Look for times between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Tour lasts one and half hours.
Differentiator: Access. Want to talk ghosts on a Monday? This is the tour for you.
Tour: “Spirits Haunting Spirits” Pub tour
About: Ghost Stories of macabre events that took place in downtown buildings. You will be escorted by a “Ghost Host” and explore the catacombs of the buildings.
Date: Oct. 22
Differentiator: Alcohol. Cheers!
Tour: Back Alley Bedlam Prowl and Restless Souls Lantern Stroll
About: Choose between back alleys and haunted streets as you listen to 300-plus years of Borough ghost stories.
Dates: Every Thursday through Sunday now through Halloween.
Differentiator: Complimentary “aura” reading from a professional medium
Also don’t forget the Halloween Parade is returning on October 26, 7 p.m. and tonight stop by Marshall Square Park at 7 p.m. for a complimentary showing of Hocus Pocus. Bring your blankets and chairs. Popcorn and candy will be provided. Movie and snacks compliments one community-minded neighbor. Thank you.
And if you prefer your monsters fuzzy, orange, and way into hockey, you’re in luck there too. This Friday swing by the Jack Loew Plaza at 44 West (the area with the fountain and the tables) to say hi to Gritty. The Flyers’ lovable mascot will be on the plaza from 6 – 7:30 p.m. greeting fans.
Finally, a welcome to the neighborhood to Love Struck Tattoo. Love Struck is the private Church Street studio with the eye-catching logo of tattoo artist Dylan Curry.
This week the West Chester Area School District was forced to come to terms with the fact it will soon be out $2.55 million. Unfortunately, that high figure won’t be going to anything fun or educational, instead, it will be heading to the E.R. Stuebner construction firm for work not completed.
In November the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ruled the District had wrongfully terminated the construction firm’s Greystone Elementary contract and ordered the district to pay $2.81 million in damages and legal fees. The good news, kinda, is it could have been worse. With the continued legal back and forth and growing interest, that number was up to $3.1 million. So you can look at it either as a loss of $2.5 million or a gain of $500K – depending on how you’re feeling today.
Finally, this week we say goodbye to West Chester University’s Baker Bob. A full-time baker for the school’s dining halls, Bob, no last name needed, retired this week after twenty-five years of delivering oatmeal cookies and smiles to students. Congratulations, Bob on a much-deserved break. (He’s been working since he was eight!)
Pay it forward.
I don’t know if you noticed but the West Chester Public Library was closed on Saturday due to a lack of staff. (Eek.) Ok, I’ve been told, no, need to panic but maybe use this as a reminder to let your Borough Council member know you use and support the library? You can find members by location here. Want to invest a little more? The library is looking for an Early Literacy Program Coordinator to help execute their popular story time program. You can find those details here.
Got a little extra love in that heart? The Brandywine Valley SPCA just received a batch of 66 adoptable dogs and cats from the coastal regions of Florida. The animals came in after Hurricane Ian washed them out. They were evaluated by SPCA medical team on Monday and on Tuesday the first little faces were available for adoption at the West Chester campus.
If you would like to help, donate here, adopt here. (Warning, don’t look if you’re not ready to give one a home.)
Finally, Dance for Her in support of Unite for HER is taking place this weekend. The first-time recital will bring more than 200 of the area’s best dancers from 13 local studios to center stage at West Chester Univerisity’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall. The event is this Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. All proceeds will be donated to Unite for HER in support of integrative therapies and other services for breast cancer patients.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a slew of soccer games on Saturday but if we can make it, I’d love to check out the Library’s Octoberfest. Then on Sunday, we are heading to Chili Fest. It is all family on deck as Hello, West Chester makes its festival debut. I am very excited. Stop by and say “hi” if you attend – check out our new branding. We will be on Gay Street just west of Iron Hill.
If you’re around, it’s a busy one this weekend. In addition to the Gallery Walk, Gritty, and the Chili Fest – it is West Chester University homecoming. To help manage the expected crowds the West Chester Police Department has offered a few tips for visitors, residents, and students (cough) this is all for the students (cough).
- Watch the parking regulations or your car may be towed.
- Public intoxication is a crime. So are open containers.
- Noise violations are real.
- Manage the size of your party – and be careful what you post to social.
Remember this is coming from the cops. Hint. They will be watching and aggressively enforcing all alcohol-related laws and ordinances. Ok, now, have fun!
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Mark your calendars:
- Oct. 7 – Flyers Town Takeover, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Jack Loew Plaza at 44 West, Gritty and friends will be there.
- Oct. 7 – West Chester Gallery Walk, Downtown West Chester, 4 – 8 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 8 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Oct. 8 – Fern Hill PTO Shoe Donation Drop Off, Fern Hill Elementary, 9:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.
- Oct. 8 – Outdoor Movie Night: Hocus Pocus, Marshall Square Park, 7 – 9:30 p.m. This is a free event. Popcorn and candy provided. Costumes encouraged. Bring chairs and blankets.
- Oct. 8 – Oktoberfest Open House, West Chester Public Library terrace, 1- 4 p.m., Enjoy free bratwurst, hotdogs, and pretzels, along with a craft beer and wine cash bar. Plus, a make-and-take craft for the kiddos!
- Oct. 8 – Jungle Cruise, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 8 – Dance for Her – Unite for HER fudraiser, West Chester Univerisity’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7 p.m. Tickets are $20.
- Oct. 9 – West Chester Chili Cook-Off, Downtown West Chester, 12 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. Gates open at 10:30, chili eating begins at noon. Wristbands are $10 in advance; $15 at the door.
- Oct. 9 – Humphry Marshall Birthday Party, Marshall Square Park gazebo, 2-3 p.m. Cake will be provided.
- Oct. 9 Botanical Watercolor Class, Pine + Quill, 2 p.m. Class $65, Registration required.
- Oct. 12 – The Shadow of Humphry Marshall: Delaware Valley Horticulture in the 19th Century (virtual), 7-8 p.m. This is a Chester County History Center “Pay as You Wish” event. Registration is required.
- Oct. 12 – Haunted Tales Dinner, The Social Lounge, 6 p.m., 3-course price fixed menu followed by haunting tales of West Chester. $42/plate. Can’t make the 12th? Also available on the 19th, 26th, and Nov. 2nd.
- Oct. 13 – Simplify Weekly Meal Planning, West Chester Public Library, 7-8 p.m. Event is free but registration is required.
- Oct. 14 – Food Truck Night, Fame Fire Company, 4 – 8 p.m.Food trucks, craft vendors, parking – what more could you want?
- Oct. 15 – Encanto, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 15 – 16 – Dracula, Emile Asplundh Concert Hall, 4 p.m. (10/15) or 2 p.m. (10/16) This is the fall performance of the Brandywine Ballet. Tickets range from $25-45 depending on section.
- Oct. 16 – Boo @ the Park with Lulu’s, Marshall Square Park, 9:30 – 12 p.m. character trick-or-treat, spooky sensory stations, games, pumpkin painting, costume contest and more. Tickets: $30/child, $5/adult. For Tickets – Email email@example.com
- Oct. 22 – Chester County Flu Vaccine Clinic, Fugett Middle School, 9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. flu shots and COVID boosters will be available. Flu shots are available for those 6 mos and older. COVID boosters to those 12 and older. There is no cost to receive a shot but if you have insurance bring your card and wear your mask – and be sure to register.Oct. 22 – Community Book Discussion: Caste – the Origins of Our Discontent, Melton Center, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Hosted by former WCASD Director of Equity Dawn Mader. This event is free and open to the public. Registration encouraged.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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