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It’s Friday, Sept. 22, 2023: Can I say a record number? I don’t know but a whole lot of new restaurants and eateries are coming to the Borough over the next few months. We take a look at them all. (Yum.) Plus, the Borough approves preliminary plans for a new 185-unit apartment complex, Bert’s Ice Cream opens in Bradford Plaza and West Chester University’s Gordon Nature Area celebrates 50 years. It’s an origin story with some lessons for today.
Who’s ready? Let’s catch up!
West Chester Welcomes 11 (count ‘em 11!) Dining and Sipping Establishments
Downtown West Chester appears to be experiencing what can only described as a bit of a dining explosion. Starting with the beginning of summer and continuing through the fall, West Chester is on pace to welcome nearly a dozen new restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and bars. Not since before the pandemic has Downtown West Chester welcomed so many new establishments at one time.
Think you can name them all? Stop scrolling now and see how many you get.
Cafes and hot beverages:
- Twin Valley Coffee opened earlier this month on the ground floor of the Church Street Market House building. This marks the third location for the coffee shop that has seemingly built a reputation with millennials and Gen Xers.
- Mimi’s Tea Cottage – is a traditional English tea room complete with floral garlands, brocade chairs, and dainty tea cups. Tea options range from full service to a quick catch-up over a cuppa and a scone. Mimi’s Tea Cottage opened this summer on High Street.
- Lacava Coffee Company, formerly Calabash Coffee, is opening a shop on Gay Street. According to their Facebook page, they supply the “best quality retail roasted coffee” from Central and South America. Originally, scheduled to open in June, that date appears to have been pushed to “Summer 2023” and maybe later.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dessert
- Rose’s Little Donuts is the new donut shop coming soon to 22 N. Darlington St. Originally planned for this summer, it seems like building renovations are taking a little longer than expected. (That never happens.)
- Steaks West Chester is a new enterprise from Speer Madanat, owner of Pizza West Chester. It is coming to 698 E. Market Street, the former home of Peter Clark Kitchen. Don’t know much yet about the new concept but you can bet those steaks will be stuffed on fresh-baked bread.
- Happy Bakery, or City Buns 2.0, is the revised vision of local baker Vicky Lambert. Vicky is still testing recipes; the new format will allow Vicky to offer an array of sinful creations beyond her decadent cinnamon buns. But, don’t worry, there will still be cinnamon buns. Opening is planned for later this month – location is still 34 S. High Street.
- 9 Prime – Opening on S. High Street in the old bank building, 9 Prime is the highly-anticipated 11th location from celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani. The expansive 400-seat restaurant is being described as a “modern Italian steakhouse” and will include multiple bars across several floors, year-round outdoor dining, and a below-ground speakeasy set inside the original bank vault. The opening is currently scheduled for later this fall.
- The Basement at Santinos – Once the Basement at Ram’s Head, the underground location was revamped and re-opened in August under the Santino’s name. Not sure what to expect? Shot pitchers are $10 – all day, every day. Which I think pretty much sums it up.
- Serum Kitchen and Tap House is the latest concept from the Imprint Beer Company. It is being described as an “elevated neighborhood experience” and it is rumored Chef Carlos Centeno has been tapped to lead. Expected late 2023.
- Turks Head Wines is a new tasting room and bottle shop opening on N. Church Street, again in the Church Street Market House building. According to their website, they specialize in wines from the north coast of California. The bottle shop is scheduled to open next month – with the larger tasting room following next summer.
- Saloon 151 Tequila Bar – Earlier this summer, Saloon 151 opened its new tequila bar concept aptly named “The Tequila Bar at Saloon 151.” While essentially an extension of the main bar, it is located where Star of India used to be, The Tequila Bar does have its own drink menu and feel.
Loosen those pants people, because this doesn’t include in-the-works projects, like the Greystone Oyster House expansion and the restaurant that will eventually anchor the new Gay Street hotel; those coming just outside Borough limits, like Bert’s Homemade Ice Cream, the new ice cream shop opening in Bradford Plaza (see Hello); or non-restaurant additions like the Green House or the Corner Art Collective (not that those will affect your waistline.)
So what do we think? Good or bad? And which are you most excited to see?
Fight for Your Rights: WCU Gordon Natural Area Turns 50
Fifty years ago, it was 1973. You would probably have been reading this update in the Daily Local (which actually had a staff of reporters at the time) while wearing a pair of bell bottoms – and you may have started worrying about the future of our natural habitats.
“That was a time when there was a lot of growing awareness of the environment,” said West Chester University Biology Professor Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer.
That was the case for WCU students Bradley Gottfried and Dave Fluri, dorm mates and members of the Biology Club, who made it their mission to save the campus’s southwest corner from development.
“Sometime in my junior year, I learned of the college’s plans for this valuable tract. I was shocked when I looked at the plans—the buildings and sidewalks were widely spread out– designed to take up the entire forest. While I could see that many of the beautiful trees would remain, it would definitely not be the same,” said Bradley – now Dr. Gottfried – in a 2006 remembrance.
So, he and Dave set out to find a compromise. They drafted alternative plans, mobilized the student body, and engaged the media.
“So much is hazy from those days, almost 40 years ago, but the yellowed front page article in the Daily Local News brought back memories,” said Bradley.
While details may have faded, the legacy of what was saved remains strong.
“There’s forest, meadow, grassland, three miles of trails, and a stream down there. It’s kind of an amazing spot,” said Jessica of the 126-acre plot. Over the years more than 2000 different species have been identified on the land that stands as one of the area’s last remaining forests.
“It’s a really important link. In southern Chester County the patches of forests are few and far between,” she said.
A celebration of the milestone is planned this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be food, live music, nature tours, and demonstrations by West Chester students and faculty including a series of drone flights conducted by the WCU Department of Geography.
Visit the event website for more details and a complete schedule of activities.
Keep your doors locked and items secured. According to the August Police Report, burglaries were down for August but thefts were up over last year. Assaults were also up. Speaking of which West Chester police are seeking help in locating a suspect wanted in connection with a Sept. 10 assault. The incident took place at 2:55 a.m. in the 50 block of S. Matlack Street. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 5’ 8” tall of average build with a buzz cut. If you have any information about this incident give Officer Ensor a call at 610-696-2700.
Extreme collecting comes with serious consequences. Last week Monkey Fish Toys reported having their glass front door smashed during an early morning burglary. According to an account provided by the store, two young men broke into the store around 2 a.m. and stole a bunch of Pokemon cards. West Chester police have released security video of the incident and are seeking resident assistance in identifying the culprits. If you recognize either or have information about the incident contact the WCPD at 610-436-1137.
Something doesn’t add up. On a recent visit to Iron Hill a resident found the precalculated tip amounts to be off. According to the receipt’s “suggested tips,” a 20 percent tip on their $95 meal was $21.87, and 22 percent, it said, would be $24.06. Of course, 20 percent of $95 is not $21 but rather $19, and 22 percent is $20.90, not $24. The General Manager was notified of the error. She said the tips were set by corporate and she would make them aware of the error. In the meantime, maybe just double-check the math.
Flu season will soon be upon us. The Chester County Health Department has announced the dates for its fall flu/COVID vaccine clinics. The first event is scheduled at Great Valley Middle School on Sept. 28 from 3 – 6:45 p.m. Don’t wish to leave town? There will be an event at Fugett Middle School on Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. There are no charges for the shots but registration is required and you should bring your insurance card if you have one.
Congratulations to St. Agnes School which last week cut the ribbon on the newly renovated Laurence Kelly Hall. According to the St. Agnes Facebook page, Kelly Hall is now “the one and only ‘stand only’ Catholic Middle School in Chester County.”
Research has shown increasing low-level activity, such as standing, can help engage students with the curriculum, boost energy, and encourage collaboration. The festivities began at 8:30 a.m. and were followed by a procession and mass in the church.
Speaking of celebrated reopenings, the West Chester Railroad had a little photo op of its own this week. The West Chester Heritage Railroad has finished work on its E. Neilds Street crossing.
According to a release the WCRR shared on the upgrade, “The new, concrete crossing eliminates the need for ties and helps ensure that it can be used safely without potentially damaging passing vehicles or railroad equipment.”
So, that’s good news.
Also, this week, shoutouts to:
- Henderson graduate Dr. Jason Wingard. The American academic and former president of Temple University was officially inducted into the B. Reed Henderson Hall of Fame this week.
- Pierce Middle School’s Mia Rodriguez. Early this month Mia represented in midtown Manhattan as part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk. Mia was selected from a pool of more than 2400 entrants to participate in the annual event that raises awareness for the Down syndrome community. In addition to having her image on Times Square JumboTrons, Mia gave opening remarks at the event and sang the National Anthem. You go, girl!
- East Girls’ Field Hockey Team on one heck of a week. The girls started things off on Monday by handing a tough Kennett team their first loss of the season. They then came back on Wednesday to face Great Valley on the road. The Vikings held a 4 – 1 lead going into the fourth quarter but a spirited comeback by Great Valley nearly erased all that. Unfortunately for the Patriots, it was too little, too late. East hung on to win 5-3. This is the first time in four years that East has beaten either team.
- Henderson Boys’ Soccer Team. The “clutch” Warriors remain undefeated this season in Ches-Mont play including wins this week over Unionville, Great Valley, and an overtime win last week against an undefeated Downingtown East. That win marked Henderson’s third OT win this year.
- East Girls’ Volleyball. The Vikings are off to an impressive 8-0 start this season. This included a 3-0 win over Great Valley this week. Nicely done.
Finally, high five to the West Chester Park and Rec Department on what sounded like another fun Restaurant Festival. According to the Daily Local, roughly 25,000 people packed the streets to attend the annual Gay Street gathering. We were unable to attend this year but from what I could tell not even a little rain could calm things down.
Hello, to Bert’s Homemade Ice Cream. Last weekend a new ice cream shop from South Philly siblings Jill Persico and Chris Anderson soft-opened in Bradford Plaza. According to Jill, “We make everything on-premises and will be open year-round, offering seasonal flavors and novelties.”
In addition to hard ice cream and Italian ice, a nod to their South Philly roots, they will also have soft-serve ice cream.
I have not been out yet to try myself but fortunately, I have dedicated readers for these things. Here’s your review:
“It was so good. The Cookies and Cream had super large chunks of cookies. The Black Raspberry Truffle had dark chocolate pieces in black raspberry ice cream.” Yum.
Hello, parking permit season. Yes, it is still going on but, rejoice, this may be the last one – ever. Last week, Parking Director Ramsey Reiner gave an update on how things were going so far – and the consensus seems to be – it’s not great.
“It’s been a bumpy start,” admitted Parking Director Ramsey Reiner of her first parking permit season. “I do apologize. I know people are upset and I understand.”
I think residents would agree. There have been reports of trouble scheduling appointments to get permits and guest passes (which have to be picked up in person this year), and when trouble arises getting answers has also proved difficult.
“It says to schedule an appointment but no one responds to emails,” one resident told me.
That said some progress has been made. Glitches in the Calendly scheduling system have reportedly been fixed and discussions are happening about how to better communicate changes in the future.
“I know it’s taking longer than expected but rest assured we are not out there ticketing anyone,” Ramsey told Parking Committee members.
According to Ramsey, if you do get a ticket, you can dispute it as long as you are actively trying to get a permit. Progress is also being made on the guest pass process which moved to in-person this year to lessen the number of permits that get “lost” in the mail.
“Right now we are issuing guest passes for homeowners and long-standing renters but we are not issuing them for student rentals.”
Still, it isn’t all bad news, the lottery system, it turns out, was not as scary as expected.
“I can tell you they were all very happy,” said Councilman Bernie Flynn, who represents the residents using Lot 6.
And better yet, this could be the last year anyone ever has to deal with permit season.
“The other thing we are changing that will hopefully be successful is the expiration date of the permits so there won’t be a permit season anymore,” Parking Director Ramsey Reiner told Parking Committee members last week. Under the new guidelines, permits will expire one year from the date of purchase.
Finally, it may be hard to believe right now but falling leaves will soon be upon us and West Chester will be ready. The Borough’s Public Works department has released the Leaf Collection schedule for 2023. Collections will begin on October 30 with the Northwest quadrant and occur every two weeks for a total of three collections per quadrant. Find the complete quadrant-by-quadrant schedule here.
West Goshen is giving a little longer for those leaves to fall, holding Fall Leaves collections on Nov. 18, Dec. 2, and Dec. 16 and so far Westtown and East Bradford have not announced a special leaf collection but East Bradford’s next yard waste collection will be held on Oct. 14.
It’s been years now since anyone’s handed me a purple Mitch’s Gym balloon at a Borough event, and now it’s time to say goodbye to the building. This week Borough Council voted unanimously to approve the preliminary land development application for a new 185-unit, 60-foot-high apartment complex on the corner of Wayne and Market Streets.
The approval hasn’t come without concessions nor will all be happy with the decision. The building’s design has been modified multiple times based on resident and Planning Commission feedback, as recently as a week ago, and while, it is possible more tweaks may come, it was agreed that the building as it stands today does in fact meet the Borough’s design guidelines.
Area of further concession would regard material and color choice, decisions that will be made in real-time as panel replicas go up on the constructed facade. Design tweaks, however, do not, and perhaps, as Carol Quigley, Chair of West Chester’s Historical Architecture Review Board committee argues, cannot make up for the building’s size.
“I applaud the developer of this project for the “amenity courts” that face the alley, and I appreciate the concept of attempting to break down the mass of the street facades by small set-backs of upper-level facades and small steps in cornices, but when the moves are so small and the overall mass of the block so large, they do not achieve the goal or the intent of the Design Guidelines for the Borough,” she wrote in a letter submitted to the Planning Commission.
The building’s size was not raised at Wednesday’s voting session, either by Developer Eli Kahn, who addressed concerns around appearance and the required public amenity space, or by any of the Borough Council members. Eli did address his process and what his goals are for any residential project he constructs. First, he says, he looks to build something that follows town guidelines and fits into the overall aesthetic of the area. He looks to build something he can be proud of, “and I’ve been proud of every single thing I have done in the Borough,” he told Council – and finally, it must be something he can rent.
“I would not design a building I think would negatively impact the Borough nor negatively impact my ability to lease it,” Eli said.
With Borough Council approval the developers may now move forward and begin the process of demolitioning the site’s existing buildings. What to do about the required “recreation area” has been tabled until the final Land Development plan presentation.
Also, this week it’s goodbye to the G&G Cigar Company on High Street. Owned by cigar aficionados Doug Gianforte and Pete Garzia, the shop that had been a clouding presence in West Chester for the last 26 years is no more.
Fun fact: the shop used to host a regular Cigar Time TV show on cable.
And before we go, a couple of happy goodbyes for you. West Chester Public Works has identified the source of the “gray water” leak that has been contaminating the stormwater system. According to an article in the Daily Local last week, the leak was traced back to a pipe in the old Woolworth Building, or as it is better known to those of us who moved here post-2000, Iron Hill.
The leak has been fixed and the Borough is now looking to recoup its more than $100,000 in investigation and clean-up costs.
Also, could it be goodbye to speeding cars down Price Street? Well, that is yet to be seen but Borough Council did agree unanimously to move forward with submitting the following traffic calming measures to PennDOT for review and approval.
- Paint the curb yellow and install additional signage
- Box out the no parking area with an “X” on the pavement.
- Install pedestrian crossing signs at and before the S. Brandywine intersection.
Pay it forward.
Don’t be surprised when the streets of West Chester turn pink and teal on Saturday morning. West Chester-based Unite for Her is back with its 11th annual 5K in support of breast and ovarian cancer awareness and this year, event organizers are hoping it will be bigger and better than ever.
“Last year was an incredible return to our in-person event,” said Unite for Her Director of Communications Corianne Armstrong of the record-breaking event that saw more than 2,300 participants hit the streets. “This year we anticipate another incredible turnout, with 2,100 participants already registered!”
According to the CDC, more than 240,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer each year. Last year that number was 270,000, so some good progress is being made but there is still work to do.
For those interested in participating, the race starts at 9 a.m. on the corner of Church and Market. Registration is $35 and can be done here. Choose between the 5K run or a 2K walk and, as always, a post-race celebration is planned with music, face-painting, local vendors, and, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for participants to share their stories (see here, here, and here).
Speaking of going that extra mile, Giant employees collected over 1,800 back-to-school essentials to distribute across the 17 schools in the West Chester Area School District. Collected items included backpacks, tissues, pencils, crayons, pens, and more. “These supplies will undoubtedly help our students kickstart the school year on the right foot,” the district shared on its Facebook page.
“The Weekend Marquee” by Uptown
The Ledbetters – A Tribute to Pearl Jam | Fri. Sept. 29 @ 7:30 p.m.
Authentic and intense, The Ledbetters accurately pay homage to Pearl Jam’s deep catalogue of iconic songs. Get your tickets now!
The Freakin’ Weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are still trying to find our footing after an amazing trip to Spain. I expect to devote the entire weekend (or as much as life will allow) to normalizing.
If you are around this weekend, Downtown West Chester is hosting its second annual Oktoberfest all day Saturday. Look for drink and appetizer specials at many of your favorite downtown establishments. (You can find a list of those participating here). Otherwise, think of it as another reason to drink beer outdoors. Speaking of outdoors, Chester County History Center has a new ghoulish walking tour for you – this one is called “Plagues and Pestilence” and explores the effect of disease on early West Chester residents – and don’t forget, the Gordon Natural Area has its anniversary celebration. Both take place on Saturday.
Finally, this week a special thank you to our latest Community Sponsor, Athletes Untapped! Athletes Untapped helps kids meet their athletic goals, build confidence and grow their love of the game through easy-to-schedule personal coaching sessions. Visit to Athletes Untapped to learn more about their kids’ first philosophy!
Created by a West Chester couple Gene and Elaine Williams, Athletes Untapped connects parents & kids with private sports coaches for 1-on-1 training. Their coaches will help your child improve their skills & build confidence! Need help finding the right coach? Email Gene or do a quick search for West Chester coaches!
View a list of all 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 there still some limited ad space available. Send me an email if you are interested – but hurry, spaces are filling up fast!
Like knowing what’s happening in and around town? Same! I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year – we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited! Help keep readers first with a small donation below.
Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 22 – WCU Criterions Jazz Ensemble Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 7:30-9 p.m. This is a free event. Tickets are not required.
- Sept. 23- West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Sept. 23 – 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!)
- Sept. 23 – Plagues and Pestilence: A Walking Tour, Chester County History Center. Tours are being held at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Learn the astonishing, little-known history about the diseases that transformed the lives (and deaths) of the people of West Chester. Tickets are $15. Tour lasts 1.5 hours.
- Sept. 23 – Oktoberfest, Downtown West Chester, 11 a.m. Participating locations will have $6 fall beer all day.
- Sept. 23 – 11th Annual Unite for HER Run/Walk, Downtown West Chester, Registration opens at 7:30 a.m. race begins 9 a.m.; kids dash is at 8:45 a.m. $35 to run. Register: uniteforher.org/5k.
- Sept. 23 – A Forest Festival, Gordon Natural Area, 1 – 4 p.m. The Gordon Natural Area turns 50 this year. Celebrate with an outdoor festival featuring food, live music, tours, demostrations and more.
- Sept. 24 – WC Railroad History Special, West Chester Railroad, 230 E. Market St. 12 – 2:30 p.m. Join the WCRR for an interactive guided train ride that will showcase the rich history the railroad has to offer. Tickets: $25/adult; $20/kids 12-2
- Sept. 25 – $5 Movie Night: Back to the Future, Uptown Theater, 7:00 p.m. Free popcorn included with the price of admission!
- Sept. 27 – Composting: Managing a Backyard Pile, West Chester Public Library, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Learn everything you need to know to get started including choosing a container, what to put in your pile, understanding the compost process, and applying finished compost. Registration required. Hybrid option available for those who cannot attend in person.
- Sept. 27 – WCU Chamber Orchestra Concert, Swope Music Bldg Ware Family Recital Hall, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m. This is a free event. Tickets are not required.
- Sept. 28 – Author discussion: Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree, more details to come.
- Sept. 28 – WCU LatinX Communities Conference, Sykes Student Union Building, 12:30 p.m. This interdisciplinary conference provides a creative space to enhance the understanding of Latinx issues, contributions, and cultures. This is the 15th year for the conference. Register and find a complete list of planned activities on the event website.
- Sept. 28 – West Goshen Historical Society Speaker Event: Wade Catts, West Goshen Township Building, 6:30 p.m. Archeologist Wade Catts will discuss archeology and preservation of sites of America’s war for independence. This is a free event. Registration is recommended.
- Sept. 29 – Festival of Fright, Thornbury Farm, 3 – 10 p.m. Tickets required. Includes a showing of the original Ghostbusters.
- Sept. 30 – Race Against Hunger 5K, East Goshen Park, Veteran’s Pavilion, 8:45 a.m. Race proceeds support the West Chester Food Cupboard. Note: this race is being run in coordination with the larger Race Against Hunger being held at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.
- Sept. 30- West Chester Grower’s Market, 201 N. Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Local seasonal produce and craft goodies. Open sun or rain! Just don’t forget to bring your bags!
- Sept. 30 – Fall Festival, United Church of Christ, 1201 N. Chester Rd, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Rain or shine. Enjoy children’s games, food, crafts, apple butter and a golf ball drop raffle. All are welcome!
- Sept. 30 – Plagues and Pestilence: A Walking Tour, Chester County History Center. Tours are being held at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Learn the astonishing, little-known history about the diseases that transformed the lives (and deaths) of the people of West Chester. Tickets are $15. Tour lasts 1.5 hours.
- Sept. 30 – Jay Pharoah, West Chester University, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. Best known for his spot-on impressions, Pharoah spent six seasons as a cast member on NBC’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. In 2017, he shifted to his first leading role as ‘Floyd Mooney’ in Showtime’s WHITE FAMOUS. Tickets $25-35/adult; $20-30/student/senior
Psst. Like to plan? The new Fall Event Guide full of photos from West Chester’s favorite fall events is now live!
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week!