Young at Art: Queen Village Art Center offers art for all ages

Along with offering art classes for adults, Queen Village Art Center also provides a bevy of classes to teach the little ones to think outside the box.With four studios outfitted for sculpture, ceramics, painting, and more, Queen Village Art Center is a wonderland of art-making. The hallways double as gallery spaces, showing off students’ work. And the huge skylights on the second floor flood the entire 3,200 square-foot space with light. Housed in what was formerly the Philly AIDS Thrift building on 5th and Bainbridge Streets, every aspect of the design by Solerno Ziegler Architects was carefully considered to match the art center’s mission. “We believe that learning happens in the process, so our studios are spaces that allow for collaboration,” says founder, director and lead teacher Jill Markovitz. “They’re very open, so the creative process can be heard and seen by everybody.”
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The Rice Harvest: Geechee Girl cuisine is both Lowcountry and local

Valerie Erwin, who owns GeeChee Girl Rice Cafe, wanted a restaurant that offered something distinct, so she chose a staple from her Southern background.A veteran of notable Philadelphia restaurants such as the Commissary, La Terrasse, Roller’s and Jamey’s, Valerie Erwin had long thought about opening a restaurant, especially in her own neighborhood. But 10 years ago, when a restaurant became available near her Germantown home, she was at a loss as to what cuisine to offer. 

A friend suggested a noodle theme, but noodles didn’t inspire her. Then Erwin’s sister came to the rescue. “Alethia said to me, ‘What about rice?’” 

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Market Driven: Mariposa Food Co-op expands its role in the community, along with its retail space

Bull Gervasi, Mariposa's expansion project manager, at the new co-op location.Food co-ops are hardwired to work with others—other co-ops, other businesses, their neighbors. It’s part of their founding principles, their bylaws and their DNA. When Mariposa Co-op expanded to a nearby location after 40 years in business at 4726 Baltimore Ave., they quintupled in square footage, tripled their staff, doubled their membership and quadrupled their sales. But perhaps the most important expansion was their involvement in the community. 
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Layered Success: The Night Kitchen sustains a reputation for more than great cakes

The Night Kitchen has been an institution in Chestnut Hill for 30 years, but not always the same one. When Amy Beth Edelman bought the business in 2000, it had a core of enthusiastic customers and a reputation for hearty, seedy breads and signature challah. Edelman wanted to make changes, but she knew to tread carefully. “I didn’t remove any products for some time,” Edelman says. “I just added them.”
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Jungle Nook: From a lush oasis, Curt Alexander is creating a more verdant Passyunk Avenue

After the popularity of Urban Jungle, owner Curt Alexander found an ever-growing demand for his green thumb.East passyunk avenue was in the midst of a retail renaissance in 2010 when Curt Alexander opened Urban Jungle, selling plants and self-watering planters, window boxes and green wall systems. That change has accelerated, and Urban Jungle has been a big part of it. “When I came in I felt like somehow I became the biggest small business owner on the avenue,” Alexander says.
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Two Scoops: Ice cream shops whip up tasty concoctions using local ingredients, but that’s where the similarities end

Some of Little Baby's non-traditional scoops.Philadelphia’s ice-cream history just keeps getting richer. Already home to Bassett’s, America’s oldest ice cream company, and the birthplace of “Philadelphia Style” (an ice cream that does not contain eggs), our city boasts two unique, independent businesses that are philosphically similar, yet quite distinct from each other. Little Baby’s Ice Cream and Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream share a dedication to local ingredients, unorthodox retail venues and a knack for social media marketing, but their flavor profiles are wildly different.
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City Spending: The Merchants Fund offers another round of grants to local businesses

Image via shelfconsumed.com.While the challenging economic times don’t seem to improving, The Merchants Fund (TMF) is offering local Philadelphia businesses another chance to stay in the black.

TMF, a private fund that evolved out of the Mercantile Beneficial Association, is set to award another round of grants to keep local Philly businesses stable and viable. The Fund was established in 1854 to provide grants to established Philadelphia businesses facing financial hardship.

This fall, they are awarding business stabilization grants, up to $10,000, as well as business loan matches, ranging from $10,001 to $20,000.

Grant applications are due Friday, Sept. 14, but a preliminary project discussion is mandatory first to strengthen applications and discuss project goals. Only businesses legally established for at least three years in Philadelphia are eligible.

For more information on TMF, how to apply for grants, and past funded projects, visit merchantsfund.org.

City Spending: The Merchants Fund offers grants for Philly businesses

Image via technicallyphilly.comThe current economic situation can make running a successful business these days a challenge. But for established Philadelphia merchants, there is a local option for help. The Merchants Fund, a private foundation established in 1854, offers financial assistance to current Philadelphia merchants demonstrating legitimate financial need. In the past they’ve given grants to city favorites like Metropolitan Bread, Fabric Horse and Feast Your Eyes Catering. This winter they're offering two grant opportunities: a $10,000 Business Stabilization grant and a $10,001 to $20,000 Business Loan Matches grant.

The application deadline is Wednesday, February 15. However, all applicants must complete a preliminary discussion about their project and application prior to that date. This preliminary meeting helps focus and strengthen applications. For more information about The Merchants Fund and how to apply for the upcoming grants, visit merchantsfund.org. For printable applications and detailed guidelines, contact the Fund directly at info@merchantsfund.org or call 215-399-1339.