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It’s Friday, Oct. 6, 2023: After 28 years, there have been rumblings about the health of the West Chester Growers Market. We meet the new market manager and discuss vendors and her plans for the future. Plus, Split Rail loses its battle to reopen. After 9 years, the N. Walnut Street restaurant closes for good. Restaurant Inspection reports for September and an exciting new restaurant opens on Market St. Something completely new this time. October is off with a bang.
Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
West Chester Growers Market is Under New Management
After ten years, this summer the West Chester Growers Market welcomed a new market manager. West Chester resident Juliana Pash joined the WCGM team after collecting years of cross-country market experience starting with a move to Philadelphia in her 20s.
“I would take the trolley or walk,” she said of her routine trips to Reading Terminal Market. “It is still one of my favorite places to visit in the city.”
When the family moved to the Seattle area in 2005, she signed on as a volunteer with the town’s newly formed market and within two years she was running it. Then when the family moved back east, she took over the Downingtown farmers market in Kerr Park. During COVID, she tendered her resignation hoping to regain her Saturdays. Well, as it turns out, Saturday mornings were meant to be spent at the market.
“It’s a joke in the family when we travel. If there’s a farmers market we have to go,” she said with a laugh.
So perhaps it is no surprise she continued to stay in touch with local producers including Don Ervine, owner of Tally Ho Coffee and longtime member of the West Chester Growers Market. Earlier this year, he reached out about the position.
“I’m super excited,” said Juliana, who accepted the position in July and has spent the last couple of months learning the inner workings of the market. “It’s taken me this long to get my head around the who, what, when,” she said but now that she has a good understanding of the operation, she is ready to look to the future.
“I do think it needs a little jolt,” she said of the market which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in just two years. “I think it’s like sitting on a good ol’ comfy couch. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
And to be clear the market is not broken. Weekly attendance averages between 1,500 and 2,000 people, making it one of the largest markets in the area. Still, there are rumblings of declining attendance and lagging sales, especially during the winter months – and the market has seen a decline in vendors since the pandemic. In 2019, the market had 36 different vendors. Today the website lists 26 full-time members and between two and eight guest vendors depending on the week.
“There were holes on Saturday,” Julinana said, speaking both of the physical holes where a vendor booth should be and the gap in the offerings.
Some vendors were lost to closures. Others to the ease of online retailing.
“We miss seeing our wonderful customers at the market,” popular vendor Ellen April Handcrafted Soap shared on their website, “but we don’t miss the rigors of setting up and breaking down each week.” They left the market in 2021 after 16 seasons.
Vendor recruitment is one area Juliana would like to devote time to. She has begun digging through vendor applications and has already found three that have been approved by WCGM board members. Juisibox, a new fresh-pressed juices and smoothie vendor, will be onsite on Saturday. Katydid Hill Farm, a tea producer, is set to begin in November. She also wants to look at the market’s definition of “producer-only.” Not to change it, per se, but to better understand what it allows. Would a small market olive producer in Greece that presses the fruit locally to their production site qualify under the definition? “I think these are things that we explore,” she said.
She is also planning to redo the website and update the newsletter – “We need to have consistency with our communications,” she said. And she wants to work more closely with the market’s neighbors. “I do think we need to do a better job within the community,” she said.
By now the ideas are flowing – we chatted about vendor needs – what would you like to see? she asked me – onsite performances, kids’ events, giveaways, and market days. It’s clear she’s not yet come up with all the answers but it is also clear she is excited to be back at the helm of a market.
“That’s my passion,” she said. “Making sure the market and the vendors are successful and it’s an asset to the community.”
West Chester Restaurant Inspection Reports: September
After relatively few health code violations were reported over the summer, I was beginning to wonder if there was even a need for this series. Well, friends, those doubts were put to rest this month. We are back with a full slate of violators, many with multiple infractions. No forced closures, but a lot of questionable actions are well worth your attention, including some support to Split Rail’s claim that all restaurants, especially those downtown, will battle cockroaches at one time or another.
China Palace, 1251 West Chester Pike, out, 4 violations. After a brief moment of improvement last month, the China Palace, which has been fighting a summer-long battle with cockroaches, is again out of compliance. In mid-September, they were cited with 14 violations including storing fried chicken on cardboard trays outside on the patio furniture and bags of rice and flour under an awning in the alleyway. They were also directed to, “Clean the interior and exterior of all kitchen food service equipment including wok, fryers, steel tables, shelves, refrigerators/freezers, hood (and filters).” By the time of its latest inspection on Sept. 20, just four violations remained. Unfortunately, one of those was the continued presence of cockroaches.
While I normally don’t go back to previous reports, preferring to give management and staff credit for correcting what was wrong, sometimes it’s a useful tool in understanding a more chronic problem.
The Red Sombrero, 1528 Paoli Pike, out, 13 violations, including food stored improperly and uncovered, an employee seen washing his hands without soap, and all the dishes being washed without being sanitized. The restaurant was ordered to hang signs reminding employees to wash their hands, and to “retrain employees on proper handwashing procedure” and “how to properly wash, rinse and sanitize dishes.”
La Rancherita Mexican Taqueria, 323 E. Gay St., out, 3 violations, including improperly stored foods and a cooler that wasn’t keeping foods cold enough.
Kung Fu Tea, 2 E. Gay St., out, 12 violations, including tongs used for handling raw chicken observed still marked with chicken residue from the previous day, opened foods not date marked, and foods not stored at proper temperatures to limit bacteria growth. The milk was discarded and the chicken and eggs were moved to a colder location.
Nudy’s Cafe, 300 W. Market St., out, 12 violations, including chocolate chips found in an open box in the basement on a shelf under a rusty HVAC vent. “Once open, store these in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid,” the report read. Seems like good advice. Also, the grill is leaking, the dumpster has no lid, and employees were found lacking in basic food safety knowledge. “There appear to be no cooling procedures in place. Staff must take temperatures, use shallow pans, ice baths, ice wands to quickly cool foods. Retrain staff,” the inspector noted.
Los Alquisiras. Inc, 501 E. Gay St., out, 9 violations including cleaning chemicals being stored over the beans in the back, a restricted pesticide being applied by an unlicensed operator, and a refrigeration unit unable to keep foods properly cooled.
Pietro’s Prime, 125 W. Market St., out, 9 violations, including raw meats stored above produce and other ready-to-eat foods. One employee was observed adding a food garnish to plates with bare hands and another was seen returning a used knife to storage without a proper cleaning. Broken glass was found on the floor and shelves, and German cockroaches were found in the kitchen and bar area. According to the report a “treatment” had “recently taken place.” Still, management was advised to, “Continue to work with licensed pest control to reduce and eradicate pests.”
Also, out of compliance this month the kitchens of three West Chester Area schools including Pierce, whose cafeteria was found to have a malfunctioning ventilation duct and a refrigerator that was letting foods get too warm. Fortunately, there was a technician onsite and the unit was serviced immediately. Glen Acres was cited for having a few broken appliances lying around. On the positive side, they weren’t being used, just in the way. Fern Hill was out for using a malfunctioning fridge and not having a Chester County Food Certified Food Manager onsite.
Finally, as you may recall CVS Pharmacy on Pottstown Pike was out of compliance last month. I am not sure why you would need to, but if you find yourself dining at the CVS take comfort in knowing they are back in compliance with the Health Department.
You can find all the Restaurant Inspection reports here. Search by location for more detail.
October is Fire Prevention Month. It’s also a great time to get those heaters, chimneys, and other appliances inspected before the start of winter weather. Earlier this week the West Chester Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire on the 300 block of N. Darlington St. The source of the incident was found to be the water heater in the basement. Then later that morning they were sent to Turner Lane to investigate a reported chimney fire. Fortunately, it was determined that the fire was supposed to be there.
Sometimes even locked is not good enough. Part 1. West Chester police are investigating a burglary at Welsh’s Automotive on Downingtown Pike. The incident took place early last Friday morning. An unknown subject entered the offices, removed a set of keys and left with a 2008 gray Chevy Impala. Not sure why that’s the car you take or why you first choose to strap on your boldest backpack but I am sure these are questions the police will get to the bottom of once they have their suspect. Recognize the person or the backpack, give the WCPD a call at 610-696-2700.
Sometimes even locked is not good enough. Part 2. West Chester man Paul Geary was arrested last week after he was found attempting to break into a vehicle on the 50 block of S. Matlack St.
Someone is always watching. Part 1. Usually, it’s a camera. This week it was good Samaritan Shelly Karver who witnessed a hit and run in her S. Matlack neighborhood. After catching the incident on her phone, she sent photos to the police and posted details to Nextdoor hoping to connect with the owner of the damaged Toyota Sienna. It sounds like the outreach worked and hopefully, justice (or at least insurance information) is forthcoming.
Someone is always watching. Part 2. This time it was a camera and another little thief with a bold attire choice.
You have the right to serve and protect. West Chester PD is looking for a few good men and women. If you are interested in serving your community, they are accepting applications through the end of the month. Apply here.
Kudos this week to the Borough of West Chester which recently received a Lodestar Award from the PA Solar Center, a nonprofit organization supporting solar energy adoption. The award recognizes Pennsylvania-based organizations that are leading the way in the field of solar energy. West Chester was recognized for its 79kW solar panel installation on the top of the Chestnut Street garage.
According to a statement put out by the Borough, the solar panels, which were installed in 2013, are now close to generating 1,000,000 kWh of energy. In addition to the panels, the Borough is also operating a cost-neutral EV charging station at the garage. “Stop by and charge up your car with sunlight for the rough equivalent of $1 gasoline,” the statement read.
Also, congratulations to West Chester-based Stream Companies. The full-service, Phoenixville Pike advertising agency was once again named one of the Philadelphia region’s fastest-growing companies. This time by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
To make the list, the companies had to show sustained year-over-year revenue growth from 2020 to 2022. During this time Stream recorded a revenue growth rate of 146 percent. If anyone from Stream is reading this and has any growth tips they want to share, here’s my email.
Speaking of putting up impressive stats, here are this week’s sports shoutouts:
- Volleyball: This week Rustin senior outside hitter Jane Nelson recorded her 1,000 career kill in a home match against East. Who won that match? I cannot say because no one posts scores but congratulations to Jane, nonetheless, it’s quite an accomplishment.
- Golf: Rustin’s Anesti Kalderemtzis, took second this week in the 2023 Ches-Mont Golf Championship with a 70. The score helped the Golden Knights secure the final team spot in the upcoming PIAA District 1 Tournament. They will be joined locally by Henderson which topped the National Division of the conference during the regular season play. On the girls’ side, Rustin again took second, this time thanks to the play of senior Sophia DeSantis.
- WCU: West Chester University’s Bill Zwaan and Deirdre Kane are among the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s 38 nominees for the prestigious 50th Anniversary Gold Award. Coach Zwaan, who is serving in his 20th season as the Golden Rams head football coach, was selected for his performance on and off the field. Currently, the all-time Division II wins leader among active coaches, he is also an avid supporter of many campus programs including autism awareness programs, the Thanksgiving Dinner Project, and the Travis Manion Foundation Hero fund. If the name Coach Kane doesn’t sound as familiar it may be because she retired in 2014. Still, her 27 years at the university continue to leave a mark. She is being recognized for her stellar record which included 447 victories and 16 postseasons and her work to secure fair and equal pay for women coaches. The PSAC will narrow these 38 nominees down to just two. The finalists will be named on Nov. 6.
Finally, congratulations to Gemelli Gelato which is celebrating nine years in the Borough with a collaboration you won’t want to miss. In honor of the milestone, they are making available an extra special Affogato. If you are not familiar, an affogato is a shot of espresso, topped with farm-fresh gelato and this one also has an amaretto cookie crumble, whipped cream, and an Eclat chocolate Mendiant to top it off. Yum. But hurry, the exclusive matchup will only be available on Friday and Saturday.
This weekend we welcome back Downtown West Chester’s semi-annual Gallery Walk – and with it a new outlet for your creative energy. Now open on Walnut St. is a new painting studio from local artist and painting instructor Randall Graham. Unlike most of the art studios downtown, this one is not about showcasing Randall’s talents, although he will have paintings on display, but rather about helping you discover yours.
“Basically I teach adults how to paint,” he said in an email. “I have a curriculum that takes students from beginner or intermediate artists to mastery.” The school got its start in Malvern six years ago but demand outgrew the space driving the West Chester relocation.
“I needed more space to accommodate the growth of the student population. So I moved into a bigger space on the second floor above Pine + Quill,” said Randall.
Want to check it out? A grand opening event is happening tonight from 2 to 8 p.m. Stop in for a peek and some light refreshments – then make your way around to the 22 other gallery events taking place downtown. Including this one featuring award-winning photographer Claire Rosen.
Also, returning this week, East High School’s Cavalcade of Bands. The marching band competition that attracts schools from across the tri-state region took place on Saturday after a four-year hiatus. The event was paused during COVID and then canceled last year due to a hurricane. While, locally, only East participated and then only as an exhibition team, there was still a lot of on-field action. The event drew nine high school bands and their fans to the area.
Finally, this week, hello, to Momo & Sushi Cafe. Located at 209 E. Market St. this vegetable-forward casual dining establishment is challenging the assertion that everything West Chester does is the same. This new location promises a unique fusion of Himalayan and Japanese cuisines. According to their Google listing, they offer a variety of momos, or traditional Nepalese dumplings, and vegan sushi options. Whatever the combination, they are doing something right. In just three days they have racked up 10 five-star reviews.
This is just the latest in a slew of new restaurants that have descended on downtown. See who else is coming here.
This week a sign appeared on the door reading, “Closed until further notice.” But as it turns out, that may have been denial speaking.
“Oh yes, we are closed for good,” General Manager Lea Fredrichs confirmed via Instagram.
In late August the N. Walnut St. restaurant was forced to close after the Chester County Health Department discovered several health violations and a cockroach infestation at the property. The team buckled down, cleaned up the space, and worked with neighbors to find a solution for bugs coming from outside the building, but in the end, the closure and subsequent reopening were just too much. Investors walked away as the restaurant continued to lose money after resuming business.
“I want to thank our customers and the community for their support these past eight years,” said Lea. “I’ve been in restaurants since I was 15. 33 years. Split Rail has had my favorite customers and employees by far. It’s just been a lovely experience, and even knowing how difficult this ending has been, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Goodbye, Split Rail. You will be missed.
In a better goodbye, West Chester University is permanently saying goodbye to a wall in the Sykes Student Union. The utilitarian space is in the process of being turned into a work of art by renowned Chilean artist and activist Alejandro “Mono” Gonzalez. Mono is in West Chester to deliver the keynote speech at the university’s 15th annual Latinx Communities Conference which took place on Thursday.
During the 1973 coup d’etat and subsequent rule of General Augusto Pinochet, Mono provided a positive counter-voice for the country by “painting clandestinely during the dictatorship.” For WCU, he hopes his mural will serve as an “education monument” that honors the heritage of the university’s Latinx students and employees.
In addition to the mural, a collection of Mono’s works is on display at the John H. Baker Gallery in the E.O. Bull Center for the Arts through Oct. 13.
Finally, this week we say goodbye to the West Goshen Deli and hello to So Sabroso. The Westtown Road restaurant recently reopened after weeks of renovations with a new identity – or maybe a split personality is a better description? According to their new website, the restaurant is looking to be your go-to for “Latin American food” in West Chester. As such, the revamped menu now includes such south-of-the-border favorites as molletes chorizo, Honduras fried chicken, and tostadas con carne molida – but apparently, they couldn’t bring themselves to leave the past completely behind. They will continue to offer all your deli favorites as well. Another unusual mash-up; we’ll just have to see how well it works.
Pay it forward.
I know it’s October but who’s ready to spread some Christmas cheer? Want to do it while wearing a warm fuzzy hat and helping bring a great event downtown? Then do I have the volunteer opportunity for you. The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce is looking for 100 people to serve as marshals at this year’s Christmas Parade on Dec. 1. The parade marshals stand along the parade route making sure excited kids don’t sneak into the road trying to get a closer look at Santa (or late adults don’t cut off a parade float while trying to get to friends at the restaurant across the street). After the parade, they help with some light cleanup of the block. In addition to those snazzy hats, marshals also get a front-row view of the parade and the thanks of the West Chester community.
“Volunteers for the Christmas Parade are so important,” said Chamber president Katie Walker. “It’s one of the key elements to making the parade a long-standing and successful event for the entire community.”
Interested volunteers can sign up here.
Not a parade person? The Chamber is also looking for help hanging greens and tying bows on storefronts downtown in preparation for their annual Lights Up Holiday Weekends in West Chester event. Greens hanging will take place on November 18 (rain or shine). Volunteers are asked to select a two-hour time slot beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 3:50 p.m. If you are interested in helping, sign up soon. Many of the morning slots are already full.
And because he reached out, Quinn Bilyk, tight end for the East Football team, is raising money to support a series of team initiatives. If you would like to support the Viking football program, you can donate here. Overall the team’s doing pretty well, already raising $13,661 of their $15,000 goal. Maybe a couple of alumni out there would like to push them over the goal?
The Weekend Marquee by Uptown
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? With two weekends of rainouts and three playing the sport, we will be logging many hours on the soccer sidelines this weekend. Then on Sunday, I will be at the Chili Cook-off. If you are heading down, stop by and say hi! I had a lot of fun last year and I am looking forward to setting up again – just fingers crossed that the rain holds off.
If you are sticking around this weekend, don’t forget tonight is First Friday and Downtown West Chester’s Gallery Walk. Saturday West Goshen is holding its Fall Township Yard Sale. Here is the map of participating locations. Roots Cafe has a new appetizer – Scrapple Fries. Yori’s Bakery shows us how to make a pumpkin cake. May 23 has a new candle all you Swifties/Travis Kelce fans are not going to want to miss. Also, fall weather is coming. To make sure you are ready, Tish is holding a denim event during the month of October. Reach out, schedule an appointment, and one of their stylists will hold your hand as you try on every item in the store in search of the perfect pair. Plus, Jawn Supply has your flannel.
And finally, a very special thank you to Mitten Systems this week’s Community Sponsor! Mitten Systems is an operations consulting firm focused on helping small businesses and nonprofits find more efficient ways to work. What small business couldn’t use that? Check out their website to learn how they can help your business do more with less!
Mitten Systems is an operations consulting firm that provides solutions for non-profit organizations and small businesses. With a focus in system development, process improvement, and technology integration, we deliver digital products that result in change leadership and transformation. To learn more about process improvements for your business, visit www.amitten.com.
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 is 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:
- Oct. 6 – Downtown West Chester Gallery Walk, Downtown West Chester, 4 – 8 p.m. Come explore the vibrant art scene in Downtown West Chester during the self-guided Fall 2023 Gallery Walk! This is a free event. Find a complete listing of participating venues here – and as it’s First Friday, street parking is free starting at 5 p.m.
- Oct. 7 – 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.
- Oct. 7 – West Goshen Fall Township Yard Sale, various locations, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. If you live in West Goshen and would like to participate you need to register by Sept. 29.
- Oct. 7 – Jess Zimmerman Band, WCU Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8 p.m. The Jess Zimmerman Band (JZBand) has won numerous Central Pennsylvania Music Awards including Best Band, Album of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. Tickets: $20/general admission; $10/with WCU student ID
- Oct. 8 – West Chester Chili-Cook-off, Gay Street, West Chester, 12 – 3:30 p.m. The West Chester Chilifest is returning for its 21st year. Sample dozens of the best area chilis at this funn community event. All proceeds go to support the Rotary Club of West Chester.
- Oct. 8 – Fall Foliage Express, West Chester Railroad, 230 E Market St, 12 and 2 p.m. Enjoy a brisk fall afternoon along the picturesque Chester Creek Valley. 90 minute journey. Tickets: $22/adult; $18/kids 12 – 2
- Oct. 8 – Westtown Day, Oakbourne Park, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. This family event features carnival games, live music, petting zoo, historical re-enactors, emergency service vehicles, kid’s architectural dig box, local businesses, and more.
- Oct. 11 – First Responders Appreciation Mass, St. Agnes Church, 9 a.m. Students of St. Agnes Church and residents are honoring First Responders and Law Enforcement personnel with a mass and apparatus parade. Please RSVP to secure a spot in the Church.
- Oct. 12 – John Thoma Memoirs: 50 years of the American Indian Movement, Philips Autograph Library, 3:30 p.m. This event is free and open to all.
- Oct. 12 – Haunted Tales Dinner, The Social Lounge, 6 p.m. Enjoy a 3-course, price-fixed menu followed by haunting tales of West Chester – including the very building in which you sit. Cost: $48 – reservations required. Seats are limited.
- Oct. 12 – WCU Chamber Winds Concert, Swope Music Bldg Ware Family Recital Hall, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m. This is a free event. Tickets are not required.
- Oct. 14 – Fall Festival, United Methodist Church of West Chester, 129 S. High St, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Come out for a great selection of crafts, jewelry, Christmas items, baked goods and lunch!
- Oct. 14 – STEM Fair, West Chester Public Libary, 1 – 2:30 p.m. Details coming.
- Oct. 15 – Fall Foliage Express, West Chester Railroad, 230 E Market St, 12 and 2 p.m. Enjoy a brisk fall afternoon along the picturesque Chester Creek Valley. 90 minute journey. Tickets: $22/adult; $18/kids 12 – 2
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week!