Summer on Gay Street

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It’s Friday, June 2:  In honor of Global Running Day, we look at what happened to West Chester’s once dominant running culture. Plus, Restaurant Reports for May – including a West Goshen market that’s failed nine inspections in the last six months! And it’s a birthday weekend in the borough. Turk’s Head turns one, vintage maven Malena turns 20 and Turks Head Music Festival reaches the big 4-0. What you need to know about all the celebrations. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

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Where Did All the Races Go? 

Dub-C 4 Miler kids' race
Dub-C 4 Miler kids race circa 2018

In honor of Global Running Day, which is today (fittingly, it’s also National Donut Day), I wanted to take a look at the West Chester running scene and how it has changed over the years. When I started this site more than five years ago – still a baby blog of random local musings, – I was so moved by the sheer volume of racers coming past our Union Street house that I felt the need to capture that scene in a post: 5 Iconic West Chester Races. 

That West Chester, however, is no more. In April, the Borough hosted three races. In May, I found one. Even the town’s big signature events haven’t been immune to these buckling trends. Of the five races I profiled, only two are being held today – and one of those, Brian’s Run is just holding on. “It’s kind of on its last leg,” says Henderson Track Coach and Brian’s Run veteran Kevin Kelly. 

Also, dead or gone are the Dub C 4-Miler, quietly killed by the Borough. “We had to fight each year to finish on Gay Street,” says Kevin. Eventually, the fight wasn’t worth it, and the race was canceled. The Color Run in Everhart Park was moved to Exton last year. The Jingle Run also died last year, a casualty of the downsized West Chester Christmas Parade. Only the Unite For Her 5K continues to turn the street pink each September. 

In some ways the trajectory of West Chester’s racing scene can be tracked through the evolution of West Chester’s once biggest and most prestigious race, Brian’s Run. If you don’t know the story, Brian’s Run started as a one-time event to help raise money for Brian Bratcher, a Henderson football player, who was paralyzed during a practice scrimmage. This was in 1978. The race soon took on a life of its own. The famously challenging 10K route was acclaimed by Philadelphia and Runner’s World magazines. At its height in the early 1980s, more than 4000 people were showing up to run. 

“A lot of big-name runners from the region would compete,” says Kevin. “Runners and fans would be in the street by the West Chester University stadium where it ended.” 

But by last year the race had been downsized to a 5k and moved out of the borough and over to Rustin. Less than 200 runners participated. So what happened? It seems a number of factors were at work. 

Going it solo: running habits have changed since the pandemic

Community support. During its height, Brian’s Run had profound support from both the Borough and West Chester University including free access to resources. Over time that changed. WCU stopped supporting the event and began charging for the use of the stadium lots. The race was downsized to a 5-miler and moved to Henderson but the Borough has also changed its race policies, increasing fees and requiring police presence on the route which can be costly. The Borough also limits race routes available to a couple of pre-approved loops. These restrictions are especially limiting to any race over a 5K.  

Increased competition. When Brian’s Run began it was one of the few races run that late in the season. Now a quick search turns up more than 20 December races in the Philadelphia area. It is feasible all those pre-pandemic races led to race fatigue, one that no one is yet ready to revisit. 

A new breed of runners. The pandemic, it seems, may have also changed the runner. While it helped to raise the profile of running, it kind of killed the race. As this research found, pandemic runners are more motivated by health – and less by competition – than their predecessors and many prefer the COVID invention, the virtual 5K. “In 2020, we transitioned the race to a virtual setup as did numerous other organizations,” said Catherine Clauhs, organizer of the Crime Victim’s Center’s Race Against Violence. The long-running race was virtual again this year. “The virtual platform was extremely successful and the feedback we received from it caused us to continue the race virtually and extend it through the month of May.”

In the end, it all adds up to fewer bibbed runners in the streets come Saturday morning.

“The races are all the same, the people are not showing,” says Kevin. That is not to say that people aren’t running. No, West Chester still has a vibrant running community – if you know when to look.  

“It’s a really good running community if you are there before sunrise. In the morning, there are a lot of groups out there,” says Kevin, who runs his own group practice on the Henderson track each Tuesday and Friday morning at around 5:30 a.m. Then another group of 25 or so meets outside the Bryn Mawr Running Company on High Street on Monday and Wednesday mornings (5:45 a.m. if you’re so inclined.)

Regardless of form, it seems there is no stopping running in West Chester. Really, who needs a 5k when you have friends to pace with? 

For fun or for competition, Kevin posts weekly workouts to the Chester County Racing Services website. You can also find the group run info there.

Restaurant Inspection Reports: May

Opa Taverna busy on Thursday night.

May reports give us an inside look at the sometimes hidden preparations of catering companies including Bella Cucina Foods, the West Goshen caterer and specialty food retailer that has failed nine follow-up inspections since originally being found out of compliance in December of last year. Also out are Wawa on West Chester Pike, Opa Taverna, and East Goshen Elementary – which continues to wage war with the ants. 

Osteria Ama, 34 PA 926, out, 5 violations, including refrigerated crab meat stored in a metal can, mussels without ID tags, and no certified food manager on staff. 

Bella Cucina Foods, 3 N. Five Points Rd, out, 2 violations – but that was after four follow-up visits this month – and eleven (!) in the last six months – nine of which they failed. Down significantly from the original 19 violations, the latest inspection still found concerning fly activity on the premises. “Fly activity is still present but has significantly decreased inside the facility. Moderate to heavy fly activity continues in exterior refuse area. Facility must take aggressive measures to control, reduce and eliminate flies.” 

Wawa, 1010 West Chester Pike, out, 4 violations, including cleaning requests for the ice machine in the smoothie station, the taps of the self-service coffee dispensers, the lid dispensers, the floor behind the sandwich prep area and the ceiling, lights, and tiles in the food prep area. Makes you wonder – what is going on in this food prep area?  

Boston Market, 726 E. Gay St, out, 10 violations, including a litany of broken or improperly functioning pieces of food service equipment; brownies without labels; and ceilings, hoods, ice scoops, and knife racks in need of a good cleaning. 

Buddy’s Burgers, Breast & Fries, 13 W. Gay St, out, 8 violations, including a soiled ice cream scoop not being cleaned between uses, chili not being properly stored or reheated which ultimately led to the loss of a lot of chili. “Chili was discarded,” the report states on two separate occasions. 

Mizuna Catering, 510 E. Barnard St, out, 9 violations, including ready-to-eat foods being stored without a date indicating when they were prepared, and a deli slicer, floors, and walls all in need of a good scrubbing.   

Opa Taverna, 44 E. Gay St., out, 14 violations, including employees changing tasks without washing their hands, chicken improperly cooled, and pre-made, ready-to-eat foods stored without dates indicating when they were made.  

Oriental Pearl, 1550 Paoli Pike, out, 8 violations, the Oriental Pearl halved their violations from their first visit this month but it still wasn’t enough to please the health inspector. Still needing work – proper storage of raw meats, chicken, and fish to prevent cross-contamination, cleaning of non-food contact surfaces, and a new food-safe method for thawing fish. 

East Goshen Elementary, 800 N. Chester Rd, out, 1 violation, end of the year can’t come soon enough for the East Goshen kitchen staff which once again failed its health inspection report due to ants in the dry storage. 

You can find all reports here. Search by location for more detail.   


Lock your doors. This week West Chester Police shared that they are investigating two burglaries that occurred on E. Union Street on the evenings of May 23 and May 24. Please contact Officer Turner at 610-696-2700 if you have any information about either.

Missing girl found. This week West Goshen Township Police sought assistance locating Marlie Evalee Henry of West Chester. Marlie was believed to be staying with her friend Adriana Lafferty, also of West Chester, also reported missing. Thankfully Marlie was found safe on Wednesday after a disappearance that lasted nearly a week. Adriana’s case is reportedly with the West Whiteland Police Department but I could not find an official mention or an update on its status.

Lost pup missing owner. West Chester police found this little guy in the area of W. Gay and Everhart Street. If you have any information, reach out to them at 610-696-2700.

Vandal missing (but may be found). West Chester police are seeking assistance identifying this guy wanted for an incident of vandalism occurring at approximately 3:10 a.m. on the 500 block of S. Walnut Street.  


Spontaneous browsing at Malena’s Vintage Boutique.

Congratulations this week to Malena’s Vintage Boutique on their 20 years on Gay Street. In some ways, 20 years at something must feel like both yesterday and a lifetime. 

“Can you believe it’s been 20 years?” I ask Malena’s Vintage Boutique owner Malena Martinez just ahead of the pending milestone. 

“I can’t believe it,” she says with a laugh – and I believe her, but when she starts talking about what’s changed – man, does it feel like a different era. 

When Malena’s opened in 2003 there was no Etsy or Instagram. TikTok wasn’t even a glint in its founder’s eye – now it’s dominating sales. Mail orders were for cross-country clients only. Now it’s so easy that a Philadelphia teen in want of a vintage vibe for prom can request a shipment. 

“When I started out, I was selling on eBay and I would have to go to the post office and print labels. Now I can download a shipping label and have it picked up at the store,” says Malena.

Retail functionality has also been revolutionized. 

“Then a point of sale system would have cost $4000 and a computer. Now I just need an iPad and some barcodes. People come into my store and pay with their watch,” she says. 

It’s modern retailing for this vintage maven who has found herself shuffling priorities over the years. In 2015, she started calculating her environmental footprint which by her estimates has saved nearly 99 million gallons of water, 458,975 lbs of CO2 emissions, and 77 tons of clothing from landfills over the years.

“There is a different impact buying vintage than buying new,” she says. 

To limit impact even further she reuses and recycles materials as best she can. She collects used Amazon boxes from a fellow business owner and drops off dry cleaning bags at the grocery store to be recycled.  

“I started doing all that stuff really just to save money as a new business,” she says. “Now it has become a part of our mission.”

It’s a mission that also includes relentlessly pursuing vintage fashion. Last week she traveled to upstate New York collecting 700 pieces from a closing retailer. She then shares her new treasures with the world in her popular Instagram reels. By doing so, she has quietly grown into a global force in the industry. From her Gay Street base, she routinely presents and ships her one-of-a-kind finds to Hollywood costume designers and international collectors alike. 

“Like, who?” I ask. “I can’t say,” she says. Nondisclosure agreements and such, but it turns out there are a few she can mention. 

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? She’s outfitted there. Peaky Blinders? My fave. She’s there too. Also, the Washington Plumbers (watching now) and Netfilx’s Philadelphia-based, The Servant.

Typically these extra special pieces are housed in the private showroom next door but this weekend those doors will be open to the community in celebration of 20 years in the books.

“I honestly still love it,” says Malena, and I believe her. 

Malena’s will be celebrating all weekend starting tonight with extended hours (open until 9 p.m. tonight, 7 p.m. Saturday), sales, and drinks to toast with. There will also be lots and lots of fresh merch – “We just bought 700 pieces from a vintage seller in upstate New York,” says Malena. The bulk of these will be ready for discovery come Friday. Cheers to 20, Ms. Malena!

Also, this week some spring sports shoutouts as teams battle through the post season. Here’s a look at who’s still standing. 

  • Track and Field wrapped up last weekend at Shippensburg. Familiar West Chester names once again proved they are among the best around. Rustin’s Ava Alexander took home first in the triple jump and second in the 400M with a personal record of 54.88. Meanwhile, teammate Keturah Darwon grabbed third in the 300 hurdles with her own personal best of 42.75. The girls then combined with teammates Maddie Miller and Julia Snelling to grab fourth in the 4 x 400. 
  • High fives to the Rustin Boys’ Lacrosse team, your new District 1 Champions! After downing Bishop Shanahan last week, the second-ranked Golden Knights faced #1-seeded Marple Newton in the District Championship on Wednesday. After the Tigers ended their District run last year, Rustin was ready for the rematch, this time getting the win thanks in large part to the brilliant play by goalie Billy Carney. The District Championship is a first for Rustin. Now it’s on to state! 
  • After losing to Strath Haven on Friday night, the fourth-seeded Rustin Baseball team needed a win to secure third in the District and advance to states – and they got it, holding on to beat 12th-seeded Oxford 4 to 3. Tenth seed to third place – not a bad run. The state run starts Monday against Father Judge. 
  • Not to be left out, the Rustin Girls’ Softball team also made some serious progress in their District tournament, facing cross-county rivals Oxford this week in the championship match. Unfortunately, this time it would not be a win for the Golden Knights. The girls fell in the title match 8 to 5, but their play was enough to secure them a spot in the state tournament and a chance to play another day.


Barclay Park

Helloooo, summer reading. Still some of my favorite reading times of the year. This Saturday the West Chester Public Library kicks off its “Together Now” summer reading quest with a celebration in Barclay Park. The program encourages kids from kindergarten through fifth grade to read during the summer break with reading challenges and incentive prizes. 

Bring the kids over to Barclay Park, corner of N. Church and W. Marshall Streets, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to register and while you’re there enjoy the games, balloons, face painting and more. This event is free and open to the public.

Speaking of summer activities, here’s a new one for you. For the first time ever Uptown! and Taylor Music are hosting a Singer-Songwriter Competition. Think of it as West Chester’s version of America’s Got Talent – if all the entrants were singer-songwriters. 

According to the official announcement, the contest will celebrate “the unique talent of solo musical artists in and around West Chester.” To do this there will be three rounds of competition. The first round consists of pre-recorded materials and is open to all who meet the requirements (see below), from there nine semi-finalists will be selected to perform their songs upstairs at the Uptown! Knauer Performing Art Center and the evening’s six finalists will return in August for the final mainstage event. 

If you would like to participate you must record yourself performing an original song (it can be co-written but only one person can sing). Besides being your own material, it must be under five minutes in length, be able to be performed live, and you must be willing to let Taylor’s use it in promotional materials should you make it through to the final rounds. Also, you must be at least 16 years of age. Deadline to enter is June 16. 

Performances are being judged by a mix of industry professionals and community folk (full disclosure I’ve been tapped for team community). All the details and sign-up information can be found here. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

Speaking of people ready to see what talent is out there, say hello, to Steven Fitch, the new Athletic Director at Henderson High School. Mr. Fitch may be familiar to you if you’ve been with the district for a while. He served first as a fifth-grade teacher at Hillsdale and most recently as a social studies teacher at Pierce. Mr. Fitch will replace Ken McCormick who is retiring after 26 years with the district. Browse the full list of teachers saying goodbye here.  

Also, the West Chester Area School Board said hello to a new budget. The 2023-2024 Fiscal Year Budget was approved unanimously and includes no tax increase for Chester County residents and a slight 0.1 percent increase for Delaware County residents. Despite the seemingly good news, board members urged administrators to remain vigilant toward ongoing increases. “We must continue to be good stewards of the resources we have. We can not turn a blind eye to the staggering rise in the cost to live in our district even with some of the lowest tax rates,” Board member Stacey Whomsley said. 

Finally, say hello to a summer full of discounted drinks. Last week, after what I can only imagine was weeks of painstaking research, our friends at Drunks of West Chester released their definitive Guide to Summer Happy Hours in the borough. It’s a day-by-day review of drink specials at all your favorite West Chester watering holes. To them all I can say is, thank you.   


The 40th anniversary poster has a little of everything.

For years, decades really, the Turks Head Music Festival was held during the hottest days of July, then last year organizers finally took a leap of faith, bucked tradition, and moved the event to the beginning of June. The event was a huge success with near-record attendance (I can confidently say this, as I am pretty sure there are no official counts.) Now, it seems they are staying with the new course. 

The stages for the concert’s 40th year are in place and ready for bands to arrive. 

“We’re blowing it up,” West Chester Parks & Rec Director Keith Kurowski told members of Borough Council in May. 

This year’s event will feature two stages, 70 artists, and a variety of craft and food vendors. Music begins at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday and is scheduled through 7 p.m.

Also saying goodbye, QVC employees to their Zulily discount (if any ever used it). It was announced this week that parent-company Qurate sold the struggling flash sale site to LA-based private equity firm Regent. The digital shopping retailer will instead focus on expanding its video streaming services. 

Pay it forward.

Gorgeous weather led to big crowds at Chilifest 2022.

So, who’s ready to whip up a big ol’ batch of their world-famous chili for a few thousand of their closest friends and neighbors? Well, get ready. The date has been set for the 21st Annual West Chester Chili Cook-off. Mark your calendars for Oct. 8 and get ready to eat. 

Last year the Rotary Club of West Chester capitalized on a beautiful fall day to raise $60,000 in support of the needy of Chester County. This year, they are hoping to do even better. 

“For our 21st year, we are turning up the heat on the streets in an effort to raise more money than ever before,” they shared on their website

So, get ready to support any way you can – If not cooking, you can at least eat (sponsor or vend).   

Looking for something a little less labor-intensive? The Melton Center has an easy one for you that will keep you far away from the heat of the kitchen this summer. This week the Miner St. community center shared an urgent and immediate need for assistance with watering their vegetable and perennial gardens. This is a perfect opportunity for high school students in need of some volunteer hours or families looking to show their kids where veggies come from. If you are able to help, sign up here

The freakin’ weekend.

Browsing on Gay Street

What are you up to this weekend? We will be heading over to Barclay Park on Saturday for the library’s Summer Reading Kick-off. We went last year and even in a light drizzle, the kids had fun. Plus, anything that encourages page time over screen time is a win in my book. I would also like to make it over to Malena’s for the big anniversary sale. We are heading to Spain in September and I feel like the trip begs for a nice vintage dress.  

Also, it’s First Friday Downtown tonight. There will be a free concert by Caya Sol at the Courthouse and face painting in front of the Post Office. Align.Space at 2 W. Market will also have music and snacks. Downtown events begin at 5:30 p.m. Align at 6 p.m. It’s a great space if you’ve never had a chance to check it out. Then on Saturday morning grab your mat (and $5 cash), yoga returns to Gay Street. 

Plus, for the best place on Gay Street to catch live music this summer and the scoop on Saloon 151’s latest venture, check out my latest County Lines magazine article

And this week a very special thank you to this week’s Community Sponsor Dunbar Fence. This West Chester-based family business believes success is built through superior craftsmanship, genuine customer care, and long-lasting client relationships. They are also active community supporters! Visit their website to browse their portfolio of gorgeous fencing options.

Dunbar Fence, Inc. is a family-owned and operated, local small business that focuses on working with clients who value and appreciate the safety, security, appearance, and functionality that fences can bring to their lives. We operate through and live by five main principles: integrity, safety, communication, teamwork, and pride. Connect with us at to make your fence dreams a reality!

View the full list of our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but limited ad space remains in June and July. Send me an email if you are interested and I’ll send you details.

Enjoy getting these updates each week? Enjoy not having to click through a dozen annoying pop-up ads? Me too. I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited. Please, consider supporting these efforts!

Mark your calendars:

  • June 2 – John Hay PA Distance Festival, Henderson Track, races start at 5:30 p.m. with the 400 meter dash. Races are seeded by ability and all are welcome. There will be limited race day entries allowed but spectators are welcome. $20 to run; $4 to watch
  • June 2 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Enjoy a free concert at the Courthouse by Caya Sol, face painting in front of the Post Office by Birl Girl Designs, and free street level metered parking after 5 p.m.
  • June 2 – First Friday Open House, Align Space, 2 W. Market Street, 6 – 8 p.m. Music by Peter Peak and light refreshments provided. Plus, tours of the space upon request.
  • June 2, 3 – Malena’s 20th Anniversary Party, 101 W. Gay Street, 5 – 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday. Enjoy sales, showroom access and libations to toast with.
  • June 2 – Kiss the Sky – Jimi Hendrix, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. KISS THE SKY recreates Jimi Hendrix’s most iconic concert moments LIVE from Monterey Pop to Woodstock. Touring nationally since 2016. Tickets: $45/advance; $50/door
  • June 3 – West Chester Library Summer Reading Kick-off, Barclay Park, 10am – 1pm
  • June 3 – Rustin Senior Prom
  • June 3 – Yoga in the Street, Gay Street (near the Post Office), 9 – 10 a.m. No registration required. Just bring a mat and $5 entrance fee (cash only!)
  • June 3 – Penn Fusion Cares 5K, Church & Market Streets, 9:30 a.m. 5K registration: $35
  • June 3 – Year 1 Anniversary Celebration, Turks Head Cafe, live music and vinyl spinning from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • June 3 – Phriends Murder Mystery Dinner, Elks, 401 W. Washington, 6 p.m. Murder Mystery Dinner with your 6 favorite friends. Tickets $60 includes dinner.
  • June 4 – Outdoor Yoga at the Orchard, Highland Orchard, 12 p.m.  Yoga class led by Triple-Threat Fitness Yoga. Class cost: $15.
  • June 4 – Turks Head Music Festival, Everhart Park, 12 – 7 p.m. This is a free Borough event. Rain date: June 11
  • June 5 – $5 Movie Monday – Kinky Boots, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Includes free popcorn!
  • June 6 – East Graduation, East High School
  • June 6 – Drawing with Light: A History of Photography, 7 – 8 p.m. This is a virtual pay-as-you-wish event from the Chester County History Center.
  • June 7 – Henderson Graduation, Henderson High School
  • June 7 – One Alternative – Acoustic Fusion, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. The sound of ONE ALTERNATIVE can be best described as an “acoustic fusion”; blending the  compositional form of classical music with the spontaneity of jazz, rock and folk styles. Tickets: $25
  • June 8 – Kid Craft Time, Monkey Fish Toys, 10 – 11 a.m. Free craft time. Come in anytime between 10 and 11 a.m. Good for kids 3+.
  • June 8 – Rustin Graduation, Rustin High School
  • June 8 – Town Tours & Village Walks: West Chester, meet at the United Methodist Church, 129 S. High Street. Walk the neighborhoods and learn about the people, architecture and many agri-businesses that developed here. Tours generally last 50 minutes. Tours begin at 5:30 with the last on leaving at 7 p.m. Learn about the agricultural history of Westtown Township’s longest operating school.
  • June 8 – Trail Blazer Run, 6:30 p.m. CCWA Paradise Farm Camps property, 1300 Valley Creek Road, 6:30 p.m. 5 mile race. Proceeds go to support the East Bradford trial system. Race registration: $25; 1.5 mi Fun Run: $15.
  • June 9 – Better Than Bacon, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Better Than Bacon performs in completely unscripted improvisatial games, all driven by audience suggestions. Tickets: $25/advance; $30/door
  • June 9 – 11 – West Chester University Poetry & Creative Arts Festival, University’s new Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons. The theme for the 2023 festival is Will’s Survival: Shakespeare’s Legacy. Poetry workshops are offered on a variety of topics related to Shakespeare and hosted by published poets of national and international renown.

Psst. Like to plan ahead? Check out the new Summer Event Guide full of photos and videos from West Chester’s favorite summer events or visit the Calendar page for events through September!

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

Oh, one more thing, if you think one or more of your friends would like Hello, West Chester, too, please forward this newsletter and tell them to come and join us. 

And hey, if you’re that friend? So nice to see you! You can subscribe here.

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