Heritage Farm are using Korean natural farming methods to improve the fertility of their soil and increase the farm’s output.Read More
In and around our fine city, CSAs are so commonplace (a wonderful thing!) that we almost considered skipping an explanation of what those initials even stand for. But for those new to the concept, and even just as a reminder for those of us who dutifully pick up our cardboard boxes every week, here goes: CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It’s a seasonal—sometimes yearlong—subscription to a farm or producer, which ensures them a steady cash flow throughout the highs and lows of the growing season and hooks the customer up with weekly deliveries or pickups of seasonal fruits, veggies and other tasty things to eat. It’s a way that, as a society, we can help independent farmers not just stay afloat, but actually thrive in the face of Big Ag. Amid a growing economy of subscription-based businesses, “CSA” has become a bit of a buzzword, and we urge you not to lose the true meaning of what it is: a symbiotic partnership between member and farmer.Read More
5 Locally Made Textiles to Keep You Warm This Winter
By Emily Kovach
Coats from Meri Fete
Meri Fete is a small fashion label founded by Meri Lazar and her daughters. Together, they create one-of-a-kind, demi-couture pieces meant for women who want something with better fit or quality than clothing off the rack. Much of their capsule collection comprises timeless dresses and separates with sleek, clean lines, but they also make gorgeous, sophisticated winter coats that don’t sacrifice warmth for style.
“As all our items, the coats are intended to be timeless statement pieces made from a collection of individually selected quality fabric,” says Lazar. “We start with the fabric as our canvas and then we create the basic design that evolves with the progress of execution: cutting from the initial pattern, basting and sewing, to the final hand finishing and addition of details.”
Though the label is just two years old, the concept behind its founding goes back 40 years, when Lazar coupled her engineering training with her grandmother’s basic sewing teachings and began cutting fabric. While studying in engineering school, she was asked to maintain a fashion column in the college newspaper, and she developed an appreciation for couture. Later, while traveling for work, she would explore vintage stores and high-end boutiques in various countries.
One of Lazar’s daughters, Ioana, inherited her mother’s love of fashion and now works as a stylist, and she has poured her skill and passion into the label. The label’s practices also reflect their commitment to certain principles: A percentage of the label proceeds benefit various causes, including the International Rescue Committee and Waves for Water.
Self-described as “slow fashion,” Meri Fete also sees itself as helping to encourage mindful consumption. “Items are designed to be ageless and timeless,” Lazar says, “thus aiming to contribute toward a more sustainable and less wasteful lifestyle.”
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Towels & Throws from Cuttalossa
Can fabric be light, airy and also cozy? Everything that Old City-based Cuttalossa makes points to yes. Its line of versatile cotton textiles feel equally ready for a warm winter snuggle as a relaxed summer picnic. The pestemals (like a throw blanket/towel hybrid), peskirs (good for kitchen towels, hair wraps or towels for little ones), and plush and ultra-plush towels (thick enough to double as a small area rug or child’s play mat) are soft and easy, with colors and textures that exude a modern minimalist comfort.
And if supreme coziness is what you desire, Cuttalossa’s line of alpaca socks, hats, mittens and blankets are just the ticket. They certainly will run you more than your average winter accessories, but their construction and quality means you’ll have them a long time.
Cuttalossa was founded in 2013 by Shannon Retseck. Community and sustainability are at the core of her mission; the organic hand-loomed textiles are sourced from a weaver’s collective in southern Turkey, and the wool is from a group of alpaca farms in rural New Jersey. You can shop online or visit its small setup in the back of Meadowsweet Mercantile, a home and lifestyle boutique in Old City.
Quilts and Fabric from The Village Quilter
Tucked into a charming cottage-esque building in Mill Race Village in Mount Holly, New Jersey, about 25 miles east of Philadelphia, is the Village Quilter, a quilter’s paradise. The cozy 1,000-square-foot shop offers bolts upon bolts of quilting cottons in all kinds of designs, patterns, books, classes and supplies. Twice a year, the weekends before Memorial Day weekend and Black Friday, the shops sells completed quilts. Village Quilter has been open for 15 years and doubles as a community gathering space where first-timers and seasoned quilters come together via classes, workshops, events and clubs.
At the end of 2015, the original owner retired, and local Joyce Doenges, a frequent customer at the shop, decided to take it over.
“I had always wanted to own a quilt shop, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity,” Doenges says. “I considered the Village Quilter my home shop... the perfect place to enhance my quilty stash, have a bite for lunch at the Robin’s Nest and do a bit of shopping. It was a bonus that I just loved the people that worked at the Village Quilter, and fortunately for me, they all decided to continue working for our incarnation of the shop.”
Doenges, who is also a second-grade teacher, reopened the Village Quilter in April 2016. In addition to relocating and expanding the classroom area and exposing existing barn doors along one wall of the shop, part of Doenges’ updating process has been harnessing the power of the local quilting community to do good. They support three charities: Project Linus, Ryan’s Cases for Smiles and Distributing Dignity.
“We have a large network of quilters that visit us from all over the tri-state area... Many of our customers consider us their home away from home,” she says. “We take our hashtag, #ittakesavillage, seriously.”
Clothes and Knits from West Oak Design
In February 2014, soon after the birth of her son, Christie Sommers wanted to find a way to work from home. Her goal was to open an online shop of some kind, and in preparation she started the Handmade Today Project and made one thing by hand every day for a whole year, posting each creation to Instagram.
“The Handmade Today Project was just the structure of accountability, feedback and productivity I needed to kick-start my business,” Sommers says. “The project itself brought a nice bit of attention to my work and legitimized me by showing I was tenacious and dedicated.”
When she’d built up an inventory of items, she opened West Oak Design, an online shop offering small-batch and one-of-a-kind clothing, bags and housewares. Sommers designs and handcrafts each piece with a zero-waste approach. Her clothing is loose and comfy-looking in a very effortless, cool way, and the rope plant hangers, fabric plant cozies and coiled rope bowls bring a tactile warmth.
She recently signed the lease on a new studio in Mount Airy that she’ll use to host workshops, offer shopping by appointment and host occasional open studio hours in addition to fabric printing, pattern cutting, product photography and general business operations. She’ll continue to dye fabrics and construct garments 2.5 miles away in her home studio in Wyndmoor.
Pillows from Dance Happy Designs
Dance Happy Designs is an independently owned silk-screen print studio located in Swarthmore. It prints geometric motifs on fabric in cheerful colors, which is used to create pillowcases, table runners, tote bags and more.
The company was founded in 2016 by friends Emily Scott, Julia Tyler and Liv Helgesen. The three met in 2012 when Scott, who owns a small shop in Swarthmore called Compendium Boutique, partnered with a Philly-based not-for-profit called Community Integrated Services, whose mission is to find meaningful employment for adults with disabilities. Tyler, who has Down syndrome, was placed as an intern at Compendium and was accompanied by her work coach, Helgesen.
“Julia is very capable of doing a wide variety of tasks but she's fairly nonverbal... and she has her own pace,” says Scott. “The three of us just really clicked and bonded from the get-go, and five years later, Julia is still working at my boutique as an employee.”
Tyler’s government funding changed when she turned 21 in March of 2016, and Scott and Helgesen brainstormed ways to help boost her employment. They tried screen-printing: Helgesen has a degree in it from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Tyler showed a knack for it. Now, together, they produce handcrafted, high-quality home decor and lifestyle products in small, limited runs. Tyler, the lead designer, applies her interest in pattern and color to the aesthetic of Dance Happy’s products and design patterns. She chooses colors and helps to transfer her patterns for the screen-printing process. Scott is the company business manager and Helgesen is the lead printer.
“From cutting out new patterns to printing fabric to assembling products, everything at Dance Happy is done by hand and with a whole lot of love,” says Scott.
Though they don’t have their own brick and mortar shop, their Etsy shop is stocked, a few local boutiques carry their products, and they often can be found at trunk shows and makers markets across the region.
This housewares and lifestyle boutique charms with colorful, whimsical style
By Emily Kovach
For Shannon Maldonado, owner and founder of Yowie, Fabric Row has always been special. As a middle schooler, she and her mom would search the fabric shops together for vintage patterns, trims and textiles. When she began looking for a home for her own retail concept, this bustling strip of Queen Village just seemed right. We chatted with her to learn more about her new housewares boutique on South 4th Street.
What’s the aesthetic inspiration behind Yowie?
SM: Yowie is a container for all of the things that I love... The aesthetic is meant to be modern with nods to past art movements, old films, and read as a collage of color, different raw materials and a bit of humor. I love the way all of our objects play off of one another and create a fun, inviting and bright space that people want to spend time in.
When exactly did you open?
SM: We opened on Friday, June 23, to a packed house of friends, family and people we’ve met through our year of pop-ups. We were working up to the minute that we opened. That being said, it was a perfect night and I wouldn't change one second of it.
How do you curate the shop?
SM: It’s mostly intuitive... There’s no exact process other than me falling in love with things, mostly on Instagram and through trade shows, and some interior sites that I admire. I try to find artists that are doing something different within the home goods space or ones that don’t create home goods that we can experiment with. I believe in every object in our shop.
What would you like to offer that you currently don’t?
SM: More soft goods, such as textiles and pillows. We’re working on solving that problem with our first in-house products that we will be launching next year. We’re also working hard to increase our exclusive product range through collaborations with our artists and friends. We always want the shop to feel new and refreshing.
How have you seen retail/boutique culture change or evolve in Philly?
SM: I was living in New York for the past 12 years before returning to Philly last summer, and part of the reason I opened Yowie here is that I felt the retail landscape was finally ready for something different. It’s exciting as we enter our fifth month in the shop to feel like we’re forging these deep friendships with our neighbors, customers and even passersby that just stumble upon us. I don’t think there’s been one day that I haven’t smiled when I walk through the door.
Yowie, 716 S. 4th St.; no phone
4th Street in Queen Village has fast become a shopping destination
By Emily Kovach
Many neighborhoods in the city are blessed with its own retail thoroughfare, offering residents and folks passing through a means to shop for anything from groceries to a new bike helmet. But none of the commercial corridors offer such a rich variety of independent retailers as Fabric Row.
A good number of the old-school fabric shops still line the stretch of 4th Street between Bainbridge and Catherine, with their bundles of textiles and baskets of buttons spilling out onto the sidewalks. But over the past decade the street has undergone a true retail renaissance: Previously shuttered storefronts now boast posh boutiques, a high-end wig shop, vintage shops, art galleries, yoga studios, luxe spas. A six-pack of craft beer? A new skateboard deck? An hour of play-time with kittens? Yup! Some of the best pastries in the city (here’s looking at you, Hungry Pigeon)? You can find all of that, and then some, on this charming stretch of 4th Street.
For boutique shopping, here are a few of our faves:
Little Moon & Arrow
This past September, Chelsea Pearce of Moon + Arrow opened a children’s extension of her popular boutique, just down the street from the original location on Fabric Row. Situated in a beautifully rehabbed corner storefront at 4th and Monroe that used to house the Philly Performing Arts Center for Kids, this shop is the antithesis of both big chain kid’s retailers and old-school baby boutiques. Comfy, bright and airy, the shop is inviting and unintimidating, though some of the price tags may cause a bit of sticker shock. But, like the original Moon + Arrow, the unstated ethos of the place is explicit through its curation: Handmade, high-quality items are worth paying extra for; they’re lovely to look at and use, they last, and they support hardworking artists and artisans.
A rack of children’s vintage clothes, plenty of soft, organic textiles and smooth wooden toys for babies, and a preschooler’s dream selection of fabric crowns, magic wands, naturally dyed beads, block sets and sweet stuffed animals are just the start. Books from local artists, adorable greeting cards, charming knit hats, gorgeous mobiles and locally made, small-batch sidewalk chalk (yes, that’s a thing) make splurging on your favorite little one a pleasure.
729 S. 4th St.; 267.457.5403
Bus Stop Boutique
“Life is short; buy the shoes” reads a little sign on a shelf in Bus Stop Boutique. Nowhere will the mandate be more tempting than at this award-winning shoe shop. For the past decade, owner Elena Brennan has curated a chic line of footwear that’s somehow both thoroughly modern and completely timeless. Simple leather flats go toe to toe with minimalist wool sneakers, low-heeled booties, wild wedges and strappy sandals. The selection for both men and women features brands that are hard to find elsewhere in the city, such as SeaVees, United Nude and H by Hudson.
In 2015, Brennan began collaborating with a brand, All Black, whose lovely Oxfords she’s been carrying since she opened. Her own brand, BUS STOP X, started out as a range of low-profile, laceless Oxfords in an appealing range of colors and textures. Each style was named after a female Hollywood icon, such as Jean Harlow. The newest collection enhances the neutral leather tones with glossy, metallic accents and bold pops of color. That classic Oxford silhouette remains, though, combining comfort and style in a way that is seriously stunning. Buyer beware: BUS STOP X also includes an in-house line of handbags that are gorgeous. All of these limited-edition shoes are exclusively available at Bus Stop Boutique.
727 S. 4th St; 215.627.2357
There are lots and lots of places to shop for vintage in the city. Many of them have their merits, but ever since opening in 2016 (they’d been doing pop-ups in Philly, Brooklyn and Baltimore since 2014) Cactus Collective has been rocking it extra hard with an ever-evolving selection of apparel, jewelry, accessories and other handmade items, such as herbal wellness products from Primal Apothecary. Owner Lindsay Fryer has an eye for the kinds of 1970s duds that never go out of style: leather jackets, well-worn denims, flowy skirts, wild-patterned blouses, cowboy boots, faded band tees and turquoise jewelry. And fringe... lots of fringe.
Cactus Collective stays true to its name by taking part in pop-ups, hosting other vintage collectors, promoting friends’ projects through its Instagram account (@cactus_collective) and hosting Fourth Friday art shows featuring local talent. As if that all wasn’t enough to justify frequent drop-ins, the pricing at this cozy shop is beyond fair. While very few vintage shops in Philly rival Brooklyn prices, Cactus Collective is extremely reasonable, championing a democratic, everyone-deserves-rad-vintage spirit. Stop by for a look and walk out with something special, every time.
739 S. 4th St.; 267.908.4178
Locally made and recycled options for last-minute gifts—or for you
By Emily Kovach
After the whirlwind of the holiday season, you may find yourself with a few last-minute gifts to pick up. Or, maybe it’s time to do a little shopping for someone extra special: you! After all, New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and last year’s bejeweled bow-tie needs a few other accessories to make friends with. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a refreshed work wardrobe for 2018, or just something to spruce up the apartment—winter does mean spending a lot of time indoors—it’s good to be ready for when the shopping mood strikes.
Philly hasn’t always had the best retail reputation, but that’s all been changing over the past few years. Just as the big chain retailers have taken over half-blocks in Center City, each neighborhood has welcomed independent shops and boutiques that offer a refreshing version of what local shopping can mean.
Artist Minna Aaparyti is the driving force behind this shop in Fishtown that focuses on eco-friendly gifts. Her background as a maker is apparent in the many handmade goods that are offered throughout the store; not all are strictly local, but each item has clearly been chosen with care. A variety of organic bodycare products, such as soaps from Idaho-based Orchard Farm and Philadelphia local Volta Organics, share shelf space with responsibly sourced teas from Wisconsin artisans Rishi Tea, essential-oils-based incense from Maroma, in India, and handknit mittens, hats and scarves. Select items for the home, such as journals made from upcycled paper and naturally scented soy candles, are available as well. There’s also a selection of earrings and necklaces, inspired by shapes in nature, all priced so you could give them as a gift or treat yourself without needing a special occasion.
Craft Foundry also offers a range of craft classes, all of which take place in the shop. For those interested in paper-based arts, the greeting card and basic bookbinding classes are great places to start. There’s also a workshop titled Two Books in Two Hours, which teaches participants how to make books with simple accordion binding as well as Japanese binding methods. Jewelry-making classes are available, too. You can choose from basic jewelry repair, introduction to silver clay jewelry and an intriguing class called Bronze Clay Adventure. Craft Foundry is a great place to celebrate the beauty and creativity in handmade arts.
701 Belgrade St.; 267.977.8499
Old City is packed to the gills with places to shop: There are the tourist traps hawking Rocky- and Liberty Bell-themed swag, the fancy-shmancy clothing boutiques, the high-end furniture design shops and so much more that we’re happy to walk right on by. But when Tiffica Benza, Ashley Peel and Jennifer Provost opened Philadelphia Independents in May of 2014, this bustling neighborhood finally had a store where local artists and makers are the focus. In fact, everything in this cozy shop is handmade and local.
Yes, you will find many Philly-themed items in Philadelphia Independents, but they are clever, well-designed items that actually represent what our city is all about. The T-shirts from Hog Island sport wry takes on local iconography (such as the word “Yous” in the famous “Love” square configuration), elegant screen-printed Philly maps from Eyes Habit, and stark, stunning black-and-white photos by Michael Penn featuring famous landmarks—not all souvenirs have to be schlocky. There is so much more, too: adorable, upcycled stuffed animals, all-natural body care, many styles of jewelry and one of the best selections of local greeting cards around. One wall of the store is dedicated to the 5x5 Gallery, which features work from a different local artist every month, usually with lively receptions on First Fridays. If you ever are in doubt of just how much talent is brewing in our fair city, take a spin around Philadelphia Independents for a potent reminder.
35 N. 3rd St.; 267.773.7316
For over 10 years, VIX Emporium has been holding down the corner of 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue in West Philly with super cute local gifts. A decade is a long time in our retail landscape—in 2007, there wasn’t as much retail in the Cedar Park neighborhood as there is now, and there certainly weren’t many artisan-focused boutiques in the city at large. But the selection at VIX, which is down-to-earth and offers a wide range of price points—and almost all locally made goods—spoke to the neighborhood in a way that resonated.
“When the Dollar Stroll started, we were the farthest thing West, but now we’re far from it,” says VIX’s owner Emily Dorn. “I’ve seen children grow up who have been coming to this store this whole time we’ve been open!”
Some offerings exemplify the location-appropriate bend to the political left—they sell T-shirts with the phrase “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to benefit Planned Parenthood, for instance—and the 1940s-era mirrored shelves are lined with all kinds of quirky, lovely gifts for the quirky, lovely people in your life. Check out the handmade ceramics, ogle the art prints, peruse the candles and bodycare, and don’t miss all kinds of jewelry and decorative home items. West Philly-branded T-shirts and baby onesies have become a symbol of local pride, and, hey, if you need an apron emblazoned with “West Philly is the best Philly,” VIX has that, too.
New for the 2017 holiday season, VIX is offering two exclusive 2018 calendars: one of paintings of West Philly architecture by artist Russell Brodie and the other by a local artist named Loretta Gary (owner of Radical Hearts Print Lab). Each month features a different radical figure or artist. They’ll print just 125 copies of each calendar, so if you’d like your very own piece of West Philly to appreciate all year long, get there soon.
5009 Baltimore Ave.; 215.471.7700
When I first moved to Philly in 2004, I needed to buy a suit for a job interview. As a broke and somewhat clueless recent college grad, the prospect of suit shopping had me feeling completely overwhelmed. An older, savvier friend suggested looking in Greene Street, and sure enough, when I stopped into the location at 7th and South, I walked out with a decent suit for under $50, which actually helped me pass for an adult (and, I might add, get the job).
That’s the beauty of consignment shops: Shoppers can go in with a specific mission, or simply just to browse. Either way, the odds lean much more toward success than the thrilling-but-unreliable vintage- or thrift-store hunt. The brands are recognizable, the sizing is modern, all of the garments have been vetted for good condition, and the prices are way, way less than what you’d spend at a department store.
Greene Street, which is based in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, has built a small empire on this concept. They began with one shop on the Main Line nearly 20 years ago and currently have nine locations across Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey. Each shop sells both women’s and men’s clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories, and some locations have clothing for kids, too.
This isn’t the store’s only strong suit (no pun intended!), though. Greene Street is also a great option for when you’re doing a massive closet cleanout. That snagged sweater will have to go to the thrift store, but contemporary apparel with minimal wear can be consigned to Green Street for 40 percent commission. The locations in Wyncote and Summit, New Jersey, also offer the opportunity to trade items (see the website for more details).
Whether you’re buying or consigning, Greene Street helps to keep clothes out of the waste stream.
Up Your DIY Game
by Neighborhood Bike Works Staff
To many people, bicycles represent personal freedom. As a means of transportation, biking means self-sufficiency (and in Center City Philadelphia, it usually means getting there faster than by car). Gaining the knowledge and experience to perform basic bike repairs oneself can take that self-sufficiency to the next level: Everyone loves a great bike mechanic, but learning the basics is just common sense. Here’s some expert advice from the staff at Neighborhood Bike Works, which is dedicated to getting more Philadelphians out on two wheels.
Fix a Flat
The key to repairing a flat tire is to be prepared. Whatever type of riding you’re doing, carry a pump, two tire levers, a patch kit and a spare tube when you’re on your bike. Make sure you’re comfortable removing either wheel from your bike, so that you’re not trying to figure it out for the first time on the roadside, in the dark or in the rain. Once the wheel is off, use the two tire levers together to remove the tire from the rim. Hook the first tire lever around a spoke before using the second lever to work the tire off the rim. Once the tire is off, inspect the tire for holes, rips, or shards of glass or metal lodged into the tread.
If you carry a spare inner tube, use it so you can patch the old one later, when you’re not late for work. Before installing the tube and tire back onto the rim, inflate the new tube just enough to give it a round shape. Then place the tube inside the tire, making sure to first insert the inner tube’s air valve into the rim, and then install one bead of the tire.
The second bead is trickier to install. Take a moment to ensure you won’t pinch the tube between tire and rim as you push the last bit of the tire onto the rim. Avoid the temptation to use your tire levers for this part—that will often rip the tube. As you inflate the tire, check every few pump strokes to see that the tire is properly seated on the rim. Remember that practicing this skill beforehand will give you confidence to fix a flat later, when you need it.
Adjust Your Rear Shifting
Being able to adjust your gear shifting while on a bike ride can greatly add to your comfort and confidence. Nothing is worse than failing shifting during a long, hot, tiring bike ride. The good news is that it’s pretty simple once you’ve taken the time to learn the basics. Try riding slowly and looking down at your shifter cables as you shift your rear derailleur up and down through your gears. Notice that when using your right-hand shifter, tensioning your shift cable (or using the shifter to pull the cable toward the front of your bike, to the shifter) will shift your chain into a smaller, easier gear.
Now, take a look at your barrel adjusters—you’ll have one, and often two, somewhere between your right-hand shifter and your rear derailleur. If you’re having trouble shifting into an easier gear, that generally means you need to adjust the tension of the cable. Use the barrel adjuster to increase or decrease the distance the cable must travel from the shifter to the derailleur. Try threading the barrel adjuster out (counter-clockwise) by a quarter-turn, and test your shifting again.
Maintain Your Bike Chain
A bicycle’s chain is easy to maintain, yet is often overlooked. A clean and lubed chain is more efficient, less noisy and will facilitate smoother shifting of your gears. Keep it lubricated by dripping one small drop of chain lube on each and every link of the chain. With the bike on the ground, do this by turning the pedal backward. Apply the slightest drop on each link—the smallest amount you can dispense from the bottle at one time. Once you’ve done the whole chain, then use a rag to wipe off any excess lube. To clean the chain, there are many chain cleaning products on the market. A simple solution, such as a clean rag, also works great. Pedal backward and vigorously wipe away as much grit and grime as possible. For especially dirty chains, use a degreaser (citrus degreasers are relatively eco-friendly) before relubricating. And don’t forget the pulley wheels of your rear derailleur. These can get caked with grease. Try using a small flathead screwdriver while backpedaling to remove the grease.
Check and Replace Worn Brake Pads & Tires
Your bike’s brakes and tires are key to your comfort and safety when riding. To identify brake pads that are worn to the point of replacement, look for the wear indicators on the pad. These are notches in the material of the brake pad, found on rim brake pads and on some disc pads, too. When the pad wears to the point that the notch is no longer visible, the brake pad must be replaced. But try to anticipate when pads are about to go. Many bicyclists will replace pads when they’re about 75 percent worn, especially if the bike is being used for commuting, racing or long-distance riding. And keep in mind that pads will always wear much faster in rain, mud or snow.
Tires can wear out in two ways: either from long-term use through which the tire’s tread slowly wears away, or from nicks, cuts or tears that occur from sharp objects on the road or trail. Inspect tires after every ride or so to look for signs of the former (tread marks that are no longer visible, bald spots or threads of the inner casing that show through the tread) and the latter (holes or slices in the tread or the sidewall of the tire). In a pinch, it may be possible to “boot” a tire with a patch or a dollar bill if there’s a small puncture in the tire. But tires with larger cuts or with casing threads visible in the tread should be replaced immediately.
Find a Bike Shop You Trust
For any bicyclist, it would take a lifetime’s knowledge of bikes, and a houseful of bike tools, to match the resources of a good bike shop. The best shops will treat you and your bike knowledge with respect, and meet you where you’re at. And whether it means doing the work for you or empowering you to do it, the best shop will help you get your bike safe and performing at its best. Find a shop you trust, where you can develop a relationship with a mechanic who can, in turn, get to know you, your bike and your riding style.
About Neighborhood Bike Works:
For 20 years, the nonprofit Neighborhood Bike Works has educated and inspired youth and adults through bike-mechanics education and bike riding. Located on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia, NBW aims to make bicycling more accessible for everyone - especially for youth, people of color, women and LGBTQ folks. Take advantage of out-of-school-time youth programs, adult bike repair programs and a full DIY bike repair workshop for adults. NBW also operates a community bike shop that sells quality, refurbished used bikes at affordable prices. Find out more at neighborhoodbikeworks.org.
Pledged to the Plant Life
by Karen Chernick
When LJ Steinig won her Grand Champion title at Philly MAC-Down 2016, the city’s first vegan mac and cheese cooking contest, she had the whole group of Philly Vegan Lady Gangsters rooting for her.
The gang is a closed Facebook group of more than 500 “vegan women who all work in a variety of ways to make the world a better place for animals and for each other.” Steinig, a high school English department chair for an online school, initially started the group in July 2015 to make more like-minded pals. A small group of her female Facebook friends had been meeting monthly for vegan dinners at Miss Rachel’s Pantry in Point Breeze (a practice that many of the gangsters still maintain), and Steinig turned those dinner parties into an ongoing virtual vegan feast.
The group also provides a space for the city’s lady vegans to share product recommendations, broadcast which local supermarkets stock plant-based canned tuna, ask for advice about how best to navigate a particular steakhouse’s menu, and vent about recent altercations with omnivores.
“Beyond dinner parties and talk of products,” Steinig says, “the gang has really evolved to do some wonderful things together.” The Lady Gangsters often fundraise for Woodstock Farm Sanctuary and the Humane League, volunteer their time and protest for animal rights.
Always eager to point a hungry lady (or fellow) vegan toward a worthy dining option, the Philly Vegan Lady Gangsters were happy to share recommendations for some of their favorite and least-known plant-based eats around the city. Below, please find their crowd-sourced advice.
The clientele at Kensington’s Memphis Taproom may be mostly bearded and meat-loving, but the gastropub promises that their vegetarian and vegan options will knock your nonleather shoes off. PVLG’s junk food vegans agree. Gloss over the menu’s meaty Mr. American Cheeseburger and McMemphis Chicken, and look for the Spaghetti Sandwich. Complete with lentil meatballs, marinara sauce, vegan cheese and, of course, spaghetti, the sandwich is a perfect precursor to the restaurant’s peanut butter pie (also vegan). If you can convince someone to go halfsies with you, have them order the Smoked Coconut Club with grilled lemon garlic tofu and tomato herb mayo.
Better yet, visit the taproom’s summer beer garden and order a jackfruit po’ boy with Creole remoulade (you might also try one of three other types of vegan burgers—or multiple varieties of vegan hot dogs).
This family owned Indonesian restaurant in Point Breeze doesn’t have a website, but somehow word got out among the Lady Gangsters that Hardena/Waroeng Surabaya caters to vegans. Rachel Klein of Miss Rachel’s Pantry recommends trying the vegan sayur singkong—collard greens simmered in a coconut milk broth. Other PVLG members swear by the sweet-braised jackfruit stew (served only on the weekend) and say that any of the tempeh dishes are bound to be delicious.
As befitting a Lady Gangster recommendation, Crust Bakery is owned and operated by a team of self-proclaimed sassy ladies (some of them PVLG members themselves). Since they have no storefront, their subscription boxes offer diners a way to keep abreast of what’s going on in their commissary kitchen.
Boxes ($30 each) include an assortment of five mystery desserts, combining both classic items and seasonal favorites. Past subscription boxes have included desserts almost impossible to find anywhere else: vegan twinkies, cannolis, dunkaroos and baklava. Each month is different, and subscriptions can be purchased on a month-to-month basis.
A punky South Street establishment for 20 years, Tattooed Mom’s menu is half-omnivore, half-veg. Steinig and the rest of the gangsters swear by the Vegan Pickled Fried Chickn Sandwich (which washes down nicely with a pickletini cocktail from the bar). The house-brined, fried chickn is topped with fried pickles and hot-sauce mayo in a sandwich that is sour, spicy, crunchy and sweet all at once.
Insider tip: Also order the Vegan Chubbsteak. Steinig heard from a friend to ask for it before it finally made it onto the menu, and says the vegan cheesesteak and tater tots in a wrap are pure magic.
Individual vegan Vietnamese dishes are found easily enough all over the city, but a full, vegan, 16-item pho menu is rare. Head to this mom-and-pop pho shop in East Kensington for vegan shrimp summer rolls, vegan seafood noodle pho, and vegan duck and mushroom egg noodle soup.
And it’s all at an affordable price—the vegan beef pho will only set you back $8, cheap enough to order another for tomorrow’s lunch.
PVLG’s answer to the Good Humor truck, this food truck serves a variety of banana whips—all-natural ice cream made entirely from frozen bananas. The whips and other fruit-based treats can often be found in West Philly’s Clark Park and Manayunk. Follow the truck on Facebook to find out where it will park next.
As a restaurant committed to sustainable practices and preserving Philadelphia’s natural resources, it is no surprise that Fishtown’s Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen has a respectable list of vegan and vegetarian options. The retro-American classic menu includes standard fare such as veggie burgers and plant-based breakfasts, but also boasts barbecue seitan wings served with an apricot horseradish cream and fried brussels sprouts.
Cedar Point also serves a twist on the iconic Philadelphian hoagie with its red curry cheesesteak, a sandwich stuffed with grilled seitan tips, red curry aioli, peppers, onions and daiya cheese. (Pairs well with a Beetlejuice cocktail from the bar, a gin-based drink made with fresh beets.)
Martha’s Vegan Jawn Hoagie is a plant-based Philadelphian sandwich at its best: Stuffed with eggplant, carrot terrine, radish and arugula—then dressed with tofu mayo—it is worth the trip to Kensington. If you’re not in the mood for finger food, try the vegan quiche with fermented ramps, chile roasted carrots and a crispy hash brown crust, or sample any of the house-made pickles.
PVLG recommends ending your meal at Martha with the vegan blackberry tea cake, garnished with a lemon berry glaze, fresh mint and raspberries.
Serving the Community, One Espresso at a Time
by Emily Kovach
Consider the archetypal barista: too cool for school, perhaps tattooed, serving and pouring your coffee with no lack of mild disdain. But at The Monkey & The Elephant, a nonprofit coffee shop in Brewerytown, prepare for that image to be shattered. The shop employs former foster youth with the goal of offering job and life skills to adolescents who might otherwise struggle to acquire a foothold in the job market.
Founder and Executive Director Lisa Miccolis spent time in her own youth working as a barista, as well as for social engagement nonprofits such as AmeriCorps and YouthBuild. After a trip in 2008 to South Africa, where she met a teenage refugee from Zimbabwe who was faced with a loss of refugee status, Miccolis was inspired to help youth in similar situations in the U.S. The idea of a coffee shop just seemed to make sense, she says, because of the variety of life and job skills that coffee service entails, and “the community element of coffee shops... the community that each café creates naturally.”
Six years and much research, planning and many pop-ups later, Miccolis hosted a pilot pop-up at the now closed Impact Hub in Kensington, which she sees as a touchstone for the development of the The Monkey & The Elephant. She remembers observing the two young men who were working side-by-side, making excellent cups of coffee and engaging easily with the customers. She knew she was really on to something.
“Watching them then, and even observing our youth employees now as they support one another, get to know our customers and generally build positive relationships within the community is what it is all about,” she says.
In 2015, M&E opened as a storefront café on West Girard Avenue in the Brewerytown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Raising the capital for the buildout of the existing space was a feat, and they relied heavily on donations and grant money. A real challenge came in the form of trying to convey to potential donors how powerful their mission of helping foster youth could be. “As a new nonprofit, we had to be able to tell our story and educate people on the importance of investing in former foster youth, and in our organization,” she remembers.
Under the leadership team and a robust board of directors, M&E’s doors have been open for two and a half years. In that time, they’ve seen six youths “graduate” from the program with 100 percent postprogram employment and housing. Miccolis describes the graduation parameters: “Completion of programmatic exercises, which range from crafting and practicing using your personal elevator pitch, to budgeting, to walking around two different neighborhoods and noticing what looks and feels different... all of the exercises are aimed at building hard and soft skills, self-awareness and self-reflection, and creating opportunities for new experiences.”
The shop, which serves a rotating list of local coffee roasters as well as standard café fare, is anything but ordinary. Every day behind its counters, lives are being shaped and changed.
“We’re really looking at guiding our young people to build a strong foundation for themselves, so the changes we see while they are in the program may seem small to some,” Miccolis says. “We had one young man who was pretty soft-spoken when he started at M&E, and he set the goal of wanting to find his voice and speak up more often. Every time he does, I can’t help but smile.”
Four Walls and a Cup
by Emily Kovach
Backyard Beans Coffee Co.
408 W. Main St., Lansdale, Pa.
Since 2013, Backyard Beans Coffee Co. has been roasting high quality coffee in Lansdale for wholesale, always favoring responsibly sourced beans from small farms and co-ops. Owners Laura and Matt Adams began selling their beans at farmers markets and, over time, grew to the level where they were on shelves at retailers such as Whole Foods. In the spring of 2016, they made a splash with their Punch in the Face canned cold brew, in both nitro and dry-hopped varieties.
On July 15, the duo celebrated the grand opening of a retail coffee shop, right near the Lansdale train station. This shop is all about coffee, naturally, but the menu also includes beer, wine and cocktails after 2 p.m. The bar program is a collaboration with Round Guys Brewing Co. and showcases local spirits and wines, as well.
The new café also houses a production facility, and thanks to the modern open floor plan of the shop, guests are able to see the “behind the scenes” aspects of the business in action.
While Backyard Beans has grown in size and scope, it has stayed true to its roots: The bags of beans, in compostable packages, are still available at plenty of local farmers markets.
West Shore Coffee
4600 Woodland Ave.
Many coffee shops have lofty goals about serving the best coffee for an ever more educated and adventurous customer base. But for Sochi Thomas, the idea of West Shore Coffee began with a different kind of objective: “I have always hoped to one day be able to create a space that could become a center for my community,” she says. Thomas is a single mom with two young kids, who lives a block away from 46th Street and Woodland Avenue in West Philly, the future site of West Shore Coffee.
Thomas felt inspired by the hublike nature of the location, with trolleys whizzing by, and the mix of families, students and neighborhood folks traversing the intersection. She envisions a place where coffee is accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay (thanks to a community coffee fund); where quarterly donations are made to local nonprofits; and eventually, a business that is worker-owned.
West Shore won’t open until 2018, but Thomas is busy promoting her GoFundMe campaign to raise capital. More info is available at gofundme.com/westshore.
Rival Bros. Coffee
2400 Lombard St. & 1528 Spruce St.
After starting up as a coffee truck, Rival Bros. Coffee staked its claim in Philadelphia’s coffee community with a sleek, hip shop at 24th and Lombard streets. Owners Jonathan Adams and Damien Pileggi recently moved farther east and deeper into the city grid with their second retail shop at 15th and Spruce.
While their original shop has a certain wry masculinity, with its matte gray espresso machine, dark wood surfaces and a hand-lettered sign that asks, “You gonna pull those pistols, or whistle dixie?” the new shop could easily be mistaken for a university club, or another place where one might expect to find many dapper people in pantsuits. Black walls are offset by a gorgeously tiled floor, blond wood accents, cream-colored columns, leather-cushioned banquettes and light fixtures that could be borrowed from Jay Gatsby’s parlor.
On the no-nonsense menu, discerning coffee drinkers will be happy to find Rival Bros.’ own roasted coffee in blends such as Whistle & Cuss, as well as single origins. Pastries, fancy toasts and weekend collaborations with South Philly favorite Stargazy round out the food menu.
by Emily Kovach
Maura Rosato, Lindsay Ferguson and Valentina Fortuna met the way so many chance encounters begin: at work. In 2013, they were all employed by The Farm and The Fisherman Tavern & Market, and all felt a natural connection with one another. A year later, Rosato and Fortuna kicked around the idea of hosting a pop-up dinner together, but before long, they were already dreaming much bigger. The idea of opening a café got stuck in their heads, and they set forth to see what was possible.
In the beginning of 2015, they signed a lease for a kitchen space at The Factory in Collingswood, New Jersey, a member-based co-op space for artists, and began the slog of converting the zoning to commercial and starting on renovations. On March 27 of that same year, they held a “kitchen warming party,” which they still consider to be the true beginning of their business. The Constellation Collective brick-and-mortar café in downtown Collingswood came later that year, in October.
They’ve been hustling ever since (Ferguson is out on maternity leave “till an unknown date”), doing everything from “the biscuits to the books,” as they put it. Rosato and Fortuna chose Collingswood because they have roots there from growing up in New Jersey, and it appears that the town shares that sense of connection—the spot quickly became a community favorite for coffee, treats, lunch and brunch.
Constellation Collective serves a full coffee menu from Revolution Coffee Roasters, another local business, which roasts a custom blend of Ethiopian yirgacheffe and Papua New Guinea beans specifically for the shop. The duo spends lots of time in the kitchen, cooking and baking everything from scratch, and sourcing from local and responsible farmers and producers as often as possible.
“We roll with the seasons, and mostly we like to feature our fave farmer D&V Organics’ produce,” Rosato says. Savory dishes such as hot chicken biscuits, frittatas, waffles and tacos, and sweets including French toast, housemade doughnuts and coconut macaroons are all on rotating offer.
What does the future hold? “We definitely have the desire to keep this party going,” she says, “but there’s nothing firm planned yet... We’re open to whatever our fair universe brings us!”
685 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, N.J.
Nice Ice, Baby
by Emily Kovach
1. Milkshake Lattes at River Wards Cafe
3118 Richmond St.
In a stroke of genius, Joe Livewell at Riverwards Cafe in Port Richmond blends three scoops of Bassetts vanilla ice cream with milk and a double shot of espresso to create a creamy, sweet and caffeinated treat. If chocolate is what you crave, try the Mocha Milkshake, similar to the above but with a hefty dose of Ghirardelli syrup.
2. Barista Signature Drinks at Function Coffee Labs
1001 S. 10th St.
Inspired by a rotating list of of single-origin coffees each week, the coffee geek crew at this Bella Vista shop dream up a special iced beverage to complement the tasting notes. Recent favorites include the creamsicle-esque Orange is the New Black: a citrusy, brown-sugary shot of Colombia El Mirador from NEAT Coffee that is mixed with a splash of cold water, a splash of half and half, and a housemade orange syrup, shaken in a cocktail shaker until frothy and served over ice.
3. Lavender Light & Sweet at Square One Coffee
1811 JFK Blvd. and 249 S. 13 St.
Square One’s hot-bloomed cold brew coffee is as smooth, robust and nuanced as it gets, which makes sense, since the staff roasts all of their own beans from their production space in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In this floral iteration, cold brew, local half and half, and housemade lavender syrup are shaken together and then poured on ice in an adorable, Instagram-worthy “Light & Sweet” banded Mason jar.
4. The Elixir at Elixr Coffee
207 S. Sydenham St.
Wake up on the double with this new specialty drink at Center City’s hippest café. The Elixir is a fizzy coffee soda made with Ethiopian Konga espresso and housemade syrup made from chamomile, smoked peppercorn and orange—and a splash of soda water. If that didn’t sound “mixologist” enough, the pint glass is garnished with candied orange peel. Don’t wait—the Elixir is only available in the summertime.
5. Chai Draft Latte at La Colombe
This homegrown (now national) company is back again with another canned drink sure to develop a cult following: the Chai Draft Latte. The “first and only canned chai tea latte in America,” according to La Colombe, this to-go beverage combines cold-brewed chai and a heady blend of herbs and spices, including ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Four-packs are available in La Colombe’s brick-and-mortar cafés, in select grocery shops and on its website.
Reaching for the Ring
by Emily Kovach
Jam and Ashley Murray are avid home cooks who love to make things from scratch. They moved to Philly from Doylestown last year, and started realizing that they missed the handmade corn tortillas they “were really in love with,” as Jam says, that they’d been able to buy in their old-old neighborhood in Brooklyn. After searching for something comparable in Fishtown, where they reside, the couple began to make tortillas themselves.
They started small, making batches of 70 tortillas at a time from their home kitchen, based off of classic Mexican recipes. Now, they make closer to 300 per batch. They source non-GMO yellow whole dried dent corn from Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown. The corn itself comes from Meadowbrook Farm, also in Bucks County. Jam says he would classify their tortilla style as “definitively Pennsylvanian.”
“While I’ve spent hours and hours honing my craft, I am neither a tortilla master nor do I come from a Mexican heritage,” he notes. “Rather, I’m a very meticulous taco fiend who is zealous about food origins and sourcing... so, I think ‘Pennsylvania-style tortillas’ fits the bill.”
For now, slinging tortillas is just a side gig for Jam and Ashley. Jam works as a manager at Riverwards Produce in Fishtown (currently the only retail outlet where Gold Rings Tortillas are available for sale) and Ashley is a web developer. However, Jam reports that the young company will soon be scaling up its operation, with hopes to expand distribution to more markets and grocers across Philadelphia.
On the Rise
by Emily Kovach
Since the spring of 2016, residents of South Philly have enjoyed the many sweets, treats and baked goods created by Chef Tova du Plessis at her “little Jewish bakery.” At Essen Bakery on Passyunk Avenue and Dickinson Street, signature loaves of fluffy challah bread, sticky-sweet chocolate halva babka and flaky pastries, as well as simple sandwiches and toasts, have become an indispensable part of the thriving food scene in the Passyunk Square neighborhood. As one customer enthuses on Yelp, “The fact that I can walk 20 seconds to get to Essen helps me get out of bed in the morning.”
Locals aren’t the only ones who’ve taken note of du Plessis’ way with butter and dough. Earlier this year, she was nominated for the 2017 Outstanding Baker Award by the James Beard Foundation. Though she didn’t win the award (she did make it to the semifinalist round), the nod was still a huge recognition of Essen’s quality and creativity, and counts as one more feather in Philadelphia’s cap as a rising food city in America.
Daniel Gutter, aka @Pizza_Gutt, runs “Instagram’s first pizza shop.” Confused? Here’s how it works: Every few weeks, Gutter posts a menu for an upcoming pop-up appearance at a friend’s café or restaurant—say Win/Win Coffee Bar or Martha—to sell a limited number of his signature, nostalgia-laden pan pizzas. Philadelphians can lay claim to one of these 10-inch square pies by following a link in his profile to a time-slot reservation website. On the day of the pop-up, they pick up their pizza at the specified location, perhaps a simple tomato pie with greens and roasted garlic vinaigrette, or maybe the decadent Uncle Gutt topped with mozzarella, sauce, pepperoni and fried onions.
Gutter began making pizza at age 14 in a mom-and-pop shop. After graduating from college in 2012, he started working at Kensington's beloved Pizza Brain. In the summer of 2016, Gutter was making pizzas in his parents’ new backyard wood-fired oven and posting photos of the finished pies on Instagram. “I sold a few as a quasijoke, but the next week I had more people asking!” Gutter says. “Soon, the weather got chilly and I couldn’t cook outside anymore, but I was kind of obsessed with IG followers and didn’t want to stop!” That’s when he decided to pursue the square pie format, because they can be made in any oven. “I like to cook all styles of pizza,” he notes, “but right now people really seem to like the fried cheese and spongy dough of these squares.” Gutter is taking off the month of July to go on a solo tour of some national parks, but he’ll be back in August! Just keep an eye on the ’gram.
If you’ve ever had a pillowy and perfectly chewy Philly muffin from Philly Bread, you’ve already experienced the results of founder Pete Merzbacher and his team’s exceptional sourcing and dedication to their craft. Their grains come directly from farmers and they coax the most flavor possible out of them with methods like fresh milling and the addition of ingredients such as mild sourdough and roasted barley. From its headquarters in Olney, Philly Bread produces those lovely muffins, as well as bagels, baguettes, burger buns, Pullman loaves and a line of heritage breads.
Though it’s not hard to find Philly Bread products on local grocers’ shelves, aspiring home bakers can also sign up for “breaducation” classes to absorb some professional wisdom. Some of the classes coming up in August (and later in the fall) include a sourdough class, where participants will learn the steps to develop their own sourdough starter; a homemaker workshop covering some of the most common missteps in home-baking adventures; a home-baking equipment class that will explore how to use common kitchen items to bake bread; and a milling 101 session that will uncover the magic of using a hand-cranked mill. They’ll also do a masterclass for intermediate bakers; students are encouraged to bring their own bread project. Find class dates at phillybread.com in late July.
A Well-Buttered Machine
by Emily Kovach
It’s a sunny Friday morning in South Philadelphia, and the wide ground floor of the hulking Bok Building, formerly Edward W. Bok Technical High School, is eerily quiet. A ride in the creaky elevator to the fourth floor reveals a different scene: Though many of the large rental spaces on this level are vacant, there is a chatty group of folks congregating in the corner.
Gathered around a charming display of pastries, breads and a large yellow Igloo beverage dispenser labeled “Energy Drank” (cold-brewed Elixr coffee), they use the honor system, leaving cash and helping themselves to goodies such as “everything” seed knots stuffed with goat cream cheese and gooey cookies studded with hunks of chocolate. It’s one of Machine Shop Boulangerie’s pop-up bake sales, luring the other tenants of Bok with the wafting smells of fresh-baked deliciousness.
Machine Shop is a new wholesale bakery owned and operated by Emily Riddell and Katie Lynch, two industry pros in their early 30s who met through a mutual friend while both working as bakers for local culinary legend Georges Perrier. The duo had been scheming individually for years on how to break away from working for other restaurants and bakeries—and strike out on their own.
Lynch says the decision to become small-business owners came over time.
“I worked for a lot of people, opening a lot of places… Sometimes you can’t help but think, ‘If I’m going to work this hard, I’m going to do it for myself.’” Since meeting in 2011, she and Riddell had developed a mutual respect for each other and decided to partner up last year. Riddell was contemplating a move back to her home state of California, but she first called Lynch in February 2016 to discuss the idea of starting a bakery together.
“We went to Chinatown and ate some noodles, drank some beers, hashed some things out, and by the end of the meal we cheersed to opening a new bakery!” Riddell remembers.
They signed a lease at the Bok Building in January, loving the open, airy room that’s now their home, as well as the communal nature of the building. Their fellow fourth-floor neighbors include photographer Stevie Chris, who took a series of “pastry portraits” for them, and across the hall is woodworker and furniture maker Brian Christopher, who created a beautiful Machine Shop pastry display box.
“Every time we think about what we need, there’s someone here who can do it!” Riddell says.
After the build-out, they stocked the space with used equipment and their personal collections of baking tools, and after licensing and inspection in mid-April, they sent their first order out to Elixr Coffee Roasters on May 8. Their other current wholesale customers include both locations of ReAnimator Coffee, Menagerie Coffee, Res Ipsa and Alchemy in Northern Liberties.
They chose to pursue a wholesale model primarily to avoid having to raise as much startup capital as they would have needed for a retail space, and to be able to have unrelenting daily oversight of the operation, a feat that is much harder to accomplish in a retail setting. To maintain that level of control, they’re committed to starting small and slow.
Lynch brings bread experience to the table, while Riddell is trained in pastry. Together, they name quality as their No. 1 focus. “We like things made well,” Lynch says. “We’re French-inspired, but we use Pennsylvania or East Coast grains, and [use] organic products when we can.” Seasonal produce is a source of inspiration as well—savory danishes and strawberry pastries on their bake-sale table are made with items from their CSA. “I’m from Philly,” Riddell says, “and I’m not going to use pineapples. I want to make things that are unique to this place as possible.”
Fit to be Tied
by Emily Kovach
Your wedding day is an occasion where you’ll see people from all different facets of your life. For maximum confidence and comfort, feeling good—in heart, body and mind—is paramount. For many of us, feeling good is inextricably linked to looking good, and while we’re not advocating any kind of drastic body “makeovers,” if there ever was a time to focus on your fitness and wellness regimen, the few months leading up to a wedding might be it. After all, feeling good isn’t about the number on the scale; it’s about standing tall and proud, feeling strong and self-assured. Local gyms and fitness centers offer different packages designed to help the wedding-bound create realistic goals and see them through. Paired with a clean, mindful diet, these programs can help you feel your best, banish stress about fitting into the dress or suit on the big day, and empower you to rock the thousands of photos you’ll be posing for at your wedding.
This small chain of local fitness centers offers programs called “Sweat for the Dress” and “Tighten for the Tux,” which are two-month packages of 24, 30-minute, personal training sessions. These are not one-size-fits-all sessions; trainers work with each client’s specific needs and goals to achieve the desired results. You pay the same whether you’re an existing member or not, and all eight Sweat locations run this special throughout the year.
If you want your workout to do double duty, Ploome should be your go-to. Every class at Ploome helps support REQ.1, a sister nonprofit that “empowers victims of violence to transcend trauma and heal through movement and art,” something that’s intensely personal for founder Christina M. Stolz, an assault survivor. Her community-driven fitness boutique specializes in pilates, though the class schedule at the Northern Liberties-based studio ranges from stability-ball core work to high-intensity interval training to a session called “Rage Against the Machine.” It offers a monthly, unlimited class membership that doesn’t require a contract, so you can hit it hard for just a few months before your wedding day.
If going to a typical gym just isn’t for you but fitness is where you want to spend your wedding dough, a personal trainer might be a better call. Bones Fitness in Rittenhouse is a membership-free personal training gym that pairs a certified fitness trainer to your exact goals and needs. Due to popular demand, Bones has developed a special wedding-prep regimen: “Final Fitting Fitness.” This five-week intensive program includes one evaluation and goal-setting session, five weeks of hourlong, one-on-one training sessions, and nutritional guidance and exercise homework.
Follow the Food
by Emily Kovach
Of all the things worth splurging on at your wedding, put food at the top of the list. Whether you want a casual family or buffet-style dinner, a more formal service or a refreshingly unconventional setup—maybe a favorite food truck?—every guest at your wedding will expect something to nibble and sip. It once was standard for wedding venues to offer only one approved caterer, and couples were stuck with whatever style of fare that company provided. Thankfully, that’s changing, as venues realize how important customization and personalization is to modern couples. Our city’s vibrant dining scene offers a bevy of fantastic options, no matter your taste, diet or budget.
Tried and True:
You simply can’t go wrong with the local, beautiful, delicious food from Birchtree Catering. For nearly 10 years, this woman-owned company has been knocking wedding and party food out of the park and has received a ton of recognition for its work both from wedding resources such as The Knot and review-based sites such as Yelp. From their kitchen in the Globe Dye Works, the team sources from farms and local markets, working with the best of each season’s offerings, and they compost and recycle waste in their facility, as well as at events. Call Birchtree, and you can call it a (delicious) day.
Miss Rachel’s Pantry
Soggy vegetable napoleons are so 10 years ago. These days, vegan and vegetarian couples expect and deserve the same level of creative, tasty and crowd-pleasing (because you know some guests will be skeptical) options that their omnivorous counterparts enjoy at their receptions. Rachel Klein and her team at Miss Rachel’s Pantry have vegan wedding fare down to a very delicious science, including snappy little hors d’oeuvres (try the hearts of palm mini crab cakes) and hearty, savory entrées, including roasted black garlic seitan with fresh herbs.
For the Budget DIY Set:
Local 215 Food Truck
Thanks to the easy mobility of food trucks, no longer are remote or kitchenless venues off-limits for couples who want to host their reception in the same place as their ceremony. The Local 215 food truck is an especially great option for this purpose, as the four-wheeled wonder is actually outfitted with a fully equipped kitchen inside it. (Many trucks prepare the food in a commissary kitchen and simply reheat and plate in the truck.) Bonus: The food is made from ingredients sourced from small, local farms.
Spin the Weather Vane
by Emily Kovach
We’ve all seen the photos on social media: the couple standing atop a grassy hill, backlit with golden-hour sunlight, slightly windswept and flush with love. To be sure, an outdoor wedding can be a romantic scene... if everything goes exactly according to plan. The trouble is that rain, excessive heat, strong wind—and even mosquitoes—can put a serious damper on an alfresco wedding. Then, there’s the question of restrooms (do you really want to spend money on a porta-potty?), accommodations for older guests, and so on and so forth, until the idea of a boring hotel or a good old-fashioned fire hall doesn’t sound so bad. Before you throw in the towel on dreams of an outdoor wedding, check out these three venues that split the difference on the indoor/outdoor debate. Each of them is also steeped in Philadelphia history, and will make for some gorgeous and iconic photos.
The Open Air Ceremony:
Tucked away in charming Germantown, Awbury Arboretum is home to 55 acres of meadows, wetlands and, of course, thousands of mature trees, including river oaks, sycamores and sugar maples. Every season here promises a stunning backdrop, whether that’s the cherry blossoms of spring, the abundant green of summer or the burnished leaves of fall. The historic Cope House on the property can accommodate up to 60 guests for an indoor wedding, and outdoor events may still make use of the home’s gracious porch, kitchen, bathrooms and lawn.
Trees and Stars Under the Greenhouse Roof:
Fairmount Park Horticulture Center
In a corner of Fairmount Park so verdant it’s hard to believe you’re still in city limits, the Horticulture Center is a seriously in-demand wedding venue in Philly. The space seamlessly blends the in- and outdoors, assuring that whatever the weather, guests will enjoy dinner and dancing surrounded by lush greenery and twinkly lights. The main indoor event space is in the center’s airy greenhouse, constructed almost fully of glass, letting in that glowy natural light even if it’s rainy. If the weather is fine, aspects of the event can be held outdoors, and guests are free to explore the surrounding gardens, fountains and fields.
An Outdoor Feel in Center City:
Colonial Dames Society
In 1891, a group of Philadelphia women founded the Colonial Dames Society of America in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to honor the colonial history of the country. Though their beautiful headquarters at 16th and Latimer streets in Rittenhouse Square is no longer used for meetings, the incredibly preserved (but still air-conditioned!) home can fit up to 120 guests in its period-correct upstairs ballroom. During cocktail hour or reception reveling, guests can also enjoy the highlight of the house: the sprawling outdoor gardens, designed in the 1920s by Marian Coffin, one of the first female landscape architects.
Upping the beauty quotient for your big day
by Emily Kovach
Besides food, there is one other wedding detail that is practically universal, making an appearance at even the most low-key backyard weddings or far-flung-destination nuptials: flowers. Whether in the form of bouquets, garlands, boutonnières, scattered petals or table arrangements, the colors, aromas and shapes of flowers signify romance and abundance. This wedding tradition may have some murky roots (to mask the smell of the couple in predeodorant days, for example), but these days, flowers are a lovely way to spiff up the scene and wink at fertility. There are countless florists around town, but what separates the good ones from the great? We think an excellent place to start is with florists who prioritize sustainable practices, as the flower industry is generally rife with problems, ranging from rampant pesticide use to child labor. Luckily, there are plenty of responsible, eco-minded florists to help you choose the perfect wedding blooms.
This East Falls flower shop (formerly Falls Flowers) is currently rebranding, changing its name to Vault + Vine, as well as moving from its old location on Conrad Street to an upgraded space at 3507 Midvale Ave., which will include a florist, café, greenhouse and locally focused gift shop, all under one lovely roof. From the start, owner Peicha Chang has made sustainability a focus that goes way beyond the flowers, all of which are locally sourced or organically certified. Nearly everything from ribbons to waxed paper is recycled or composted, and the company bears the honor of being a certified B Corporation.
Based in Fishtown, this husband-and-wife-owned florist is completely events-based. Designer Amy Bruck scours the area, building relationships with local farmers and nurseries, in search of the most stunning flowers and plants she can find. Vale Bruck brings a different set of skills to the table—formerly a large-scale art-installation technician, he helps clients dream up dramatic ways to use flowers in their event spaces that go way beyond traditional bouquets or table arrangements.
From an unbelievable urban flower farm in Roxborough, Jennie Love of Love’n Fresh Flowers grows nearly all of the blooms for her wedding clients. Sticking to the offerings of each season, Love’n Fresh’s floral services are guided by its design philosophy, which includes a devotion to locally grown flowers, an avoidance of the fussy and stuffy, and the belief that “flowers are living poetry.” Wedding options range from prix fixe packages, where couples trust Love’n Fresh to choose the specific colors and flowers in their floral décor, to à la carte and bulk botanicals, as well as full-service packages.
by Emily Kovach
If the thought of walking into a David’s Bridal makes you want to break out in hives, fear not. There are so many other ways to seek out the article of clothing that feels just right for your wedding day. If that is a more traditional white dress or black tux, consider shopping for a vintage or gently used version, which comes at a serious discount to you and is a bit kinder to the planet. And if a white dress or black tux is the furthest thing from what you want to step out in on your wedding day, or you’re seeking that one special detail or accessory, Philadelphia has no shortage of vintage shops and boutiques, which carry a rotating stock of incredible clothes and are staffed by enthusiastic and patient clerks who want to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Yes, wedding gowns and suits off the rack can be tailored and tweaked, but nothing will ever fit like a custom piece of clothing. Located in Ardmore, Janice Martin Couture brings over 25 years of experience to wedding couples who desire truly unique clothing for their wedding day. Natural fibers can be used for “green” gowns, and other custom-designed fabrics, often with hand-finished details such as beading and painted designs, are sourced from small ateliers. Found an amazing vintage gown that needs some restoration? Janice Martin also specializes in restoring and reinventing heirloom gowns, so if you’re planning to repurpose a relative’s dress, Martin will make it work.
A graduate of Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts who comes from a line of seamstresses, Philly native Ayasa Afi designs gorgeous, high-end wedding gowns that are anything but standard issue. Lace, clean lines and luxe fabrics can be found in all of Afi’s ultra-modern bridal silhouettes. If a white gown isn’t your thing, her other collections offer chic, creative options for the fashion-forward set who want to make a statement.
If finely curated vintage menswear is what you’re after, stop at this unassuming storefront on 7th and Girard for a chat with owner Erik Honesty. Racks of dapper vestments await the intrepid shopper who firmly believes “they don’t make them like they used to.” The accessories game here is strong as well, with ties and tie clips, belts, pocket squares and shoes from coveted designers such as Hermés, Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton.