Kevin Manning, Singer Songwriter, at Melodies Cafe

UPDATE: Kevin will not be playing tonight. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist this week and will have to sit this one out. But I’m sure he’ll back soon, and I will post more details then. Thanks!

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Hi friends! I’ve taken quite a break from blogging, but I’m happy to be back today and hoping to get back in a regular routine posting happenings around Ardmore. You know what my plans for this Friday are? I will be heading to Melodies Cafe at Lancaster Ave. and Cricket Ave. for a show! One of the performers, Kevin Manning, is my very own brother. My brother performing right here in Ardmore? There’s almost nothing that could make me happier.

Kevin Manning, singer songwriter

Kevin Manning, singer songwriter

I know, I know. He’s my brother, so of course I think he’s great. And I do. A long-time songwriter, Kevin writes and performs soulful, poignant, and catchy tunes with thoughtful lyrics that stick with you after the show is over. He’s a steady performer in local bars and for weddings and other gatherings. When Melodies Cafe was still Milkboy, he was the winner of their 2012 Songwriting Contest. Currently, he’s finishing up an EP that will be available sometime this year.

Don’t just take my word for it, though! Check him out on the XPN site. If you like what you hear, be sure to join us at Melodies Cafe on Friday, June 13 at 8 p.m. Other performers at the show will be Angel Ocana, Tiffany Foster, and Alec Stewart. For tickets and more details, visit the Melodies Cafe web site.

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Deirdre Murphy, Local Artist, at Gross McLeaf Gallery

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may recall an article I posted a few months back about local artist and Ardmore resident, Deirdre Murphy.

Deidre Murphy in her basement studio in Ardmore

Deidre Murphy in her basement studio in Ardmore

If you’re looking for something fun and lovely to do tonight, why not go support her at the opening reception for her new show, Signs & Systems, at the Gross McLeaf Gallery in Center City? The reception is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 127 S. Sixteenth Street, Philadelphia. If you can’t make it tonight, don’t worry, the show runs until June 28. Look at this artwork. Don’t miss out!

"Convection 1"

“Convection 1”

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U.S Open

Sorry for the blog hiatus, Around Ardmore readers! Life has been keeping me busy, but I’m back now.

The U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore begins in just a few days, running from June 10 to June 16. Isn’t it exciting? I read today that Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott, the top three players in the world, will play the first two rounds together. You have to love that if you’re a golf fan! I’m hoping that Ardmore gets some good exposure and an economic boost from having all these people in town for the tournament.

Merion Golf Club

Merion Golf Club

Tomorrow, Ardmore is holding a Mini-Golf Family Festival to kick off the festivities. It runs from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. in Schauffele Plaza (12 E. Lancaster Ave.) and has a bunch of great activities for everyone. Check it out if you can!

Mini-Golf Family Festival Information

Mini-Golf Family Festival Information

The Ardmore Initiative is also looking for ambassadors to assist visitors to Ardmore next week. For helping out, you’ll receive a T-shirt and a voucher for an Ardmore restaurant. I would love to do this, but I will be traveling for work. If you can, please help out!

Hope everyone has a great weekend! If you see any celebrities or athletes in town for the U.S. Open, drop me a note and let me know. Look for new posts soon.

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John Henry’s Pub: Time for a Change

A few weeks ago, I gave you a peek of the new John Henry’s Pub menu with a quick overview of the renovation going on at the Cricket Ave. restaurant and bar. Last week, I stopped in at John Henry’s to speak with Kathy Kearney, who owns the bar with her husband Jim, to get the scoop on the changes.

I have to start by saying that I have been a John Henry’s regular since I moved to Ardmore. In fact, I was a regular when it was Annie’s, which Kearney’s mother owned. It’s one of my favorite spots to see friends and watch sports games, and I have many, many fun memories there. So I was thrilled to hear more about the changes happening.

John Henry's Pub on a recent afternoon

John Henry’s Pub on a recent afternoon

John Henry’s Pub opened eight years ago, and according to Kearney, now “just felt like the time to make a change.” When she and her husband opened the bar, they had young kids, and as she says, “they wanted to get out of Chuck E. Cheese,” where they were frequently spending time with their children. Their goal was to have a bar that was kid-friendly and attracted a young clientele, so that it would be a place where they would feel comfortable hanging out their family and friends.

Newly painted walls in the bar area

Newly painted walls in the bar area

Eight years later, Kearney’s tastes have evolved, and many of the ideas for the re-launch came from her own desires. “My personal wants and needs have changed. I want to eat risotto when I go out. I want to hang out with 30, 40, and 50 year olds.” And since she and her husband are very hands-on owners who work regularly at the pub, she was worried things were getting stale. So the idea for renovations was born!

Back part of bar area

Back part of bar area

The updates are already underway. The renovation part of things includes painting, lighting, décor changes, and the addition of a cell phone charging bar, much of which is already complete. You won’t see any more sports memorabilia on the walls; the goal is to create an “upscale, family-friendly” spot, according to Kearney. But don’t worry—you will still be able to watch your favorite Philadelphia sports team there. I checked since that’s one of the main reasons my husband and I go there. Upcoming renovations include flooring updates in the dining room, updates to the bathrooms, a new outdoor sign, and eventually a redo of the back patio.

New Cell Phone Charging Bar

New Cell Phone Charging Bar

Some other exciting additions are already available with food and drinks. A new menu, which was put together by new chef MJ Smith, is 50% of the old menu and 50% new, including additions that incorporate their new craft beer options. I’ve had one of them—the Lagunitas wings—which uses Lagunitas IPA in the sauce. Yum! They will have 10 rotating beers on tap and a nice selection of bottled beer. They also have a new cocktail menu.

One of the unique things they are now offering is John Henry’s Pub growlers (see picture below). They let customers carry out a pitcher of beer. You have to buy the growler for $5 and then just pay for a pitcher. As Kearney said, “it’s a great way to try out a beer without buying a whole case.” Great idea, don’t you think?

New growler for take-out pitchers

New growler for take-out pitchers

The goal is to have all the renovations done by May 1. Keep an eye out for a possible re-launch party and celebration sometime in early May. In the meantime, the hard work is already paying off for John Henry’s Pub. Sales are up 20-25% since the new menu launched, and the regulars seem like they “were looking for something new and different too,” according to Kearney. Some are stopping by more frequently to try out the new menu and drinks.

I can vouch for the excellent new food. In addition to the Lagunitas wings, I’ve had the new Lobster Mac [and Cheese] and the Balsamic Chicken Sandwich. Everything I’ve had has been delicious, and I’m a little more excited than usual to stop by to try out something new next time.

New Balsamic Chicken Sandwich

New Balsamic Chicken Sandwich

What are you waiting for? Get out to John Henry’s today!

Posted in Business, News, Sights and Sounds of Ardmore | Leave a comment

A Snapshot of the Ardmore Initiative

One of the things I love most about Ardmore (and there are many, which you know if you read this blog regularly) is that it has a vibrant business district. I love that there are so many nice shops to browse to find the perfect gift for someone or the perfect item for my home. I am not a fan of big, overwhelming shopping malls and try to avoid them as much as possible. I much prefer to stroll along the sidewalk in Ardmore, do some window shopping, stop in a few stores, and follow up my shopping trip with dinner or a drink!

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Ardmore Sign on Lancaster Ave.

So one of the things I’ve been curious about is how our local businesses are doing and what is happening in town to support them. That’s why I was so happy to have the chance to speak to Christine Vilardo, the Executive Director of the Ardmore Initiative, an organization in town that supports local businesses.

Vilardo has been Executive Director since 2007. She has a background of being very involved in Ardmore as a business stakeholder: in 2000, she moved her scuba diving business, the Aqua Hut, to Ardmore; she served on the board of the Ardmore Initiative before becoming Executive Director; and she is a former officer for the board of the Ardmore Business Association. What a perfect person to talk with about businesses in Ardmore!

The Ardmore Initiative was created in 1993, and according to its web site, is the “business district authority responsible for physical improvements and economic development in downtown Ardmore.” According to Vilardo, Ardmore is “a business improvement district, and [the Ardmore Initiative] serve[s] the commercial property owners within the district.” Wondering what areas are included in the business district? Check out the map below.

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Ardmore Business District Map

It’s the heart of Ardmore and a place that so many of us who live count on for all sorts of things. The organization does many important things for local businesses in its district:

  • Business recruitment efforts
  • Advocacy for businesses and property owners with Lower Merion Township
  • Street improvements like the Ardmore “A” lights and snowflake lights on Lancaster Ave., flower pots and beds, benches, and trash cans
  • Marketing for the business district through their web site, emails, newsletters, and social media
  • Grant programs for façade improvements from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development
  • Business assistance grants, which provide startup funds for new businesses

As for how business are doing in Ardmore? Vilardo said “it’s looking very positive.” Most businesses have gotten through the economic recession pretty well, and many businesses are seeing improving numbers. According to Vilardo, “2012 was a better year than 2011, [and 2011] was a better year than 2010. That’s a good trend.” There are fewer vacant businesses too. All good news for Ardmore!

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Materials picked up at the Ardmore Initiative

But it can’t all be perfect. There are challenges, which Vilardo discussed with me. The general economic climate, including the difficulty in small businesses getting funding from banks, and the prevalence of online stores and Big Box stores, which pull business away from local stores, are issues that many businesses have to deal with, including those in Ardmore.

Ardmore specifically also has to deal with a lot of traffic, which means that “Lancaster Avenue is not a pedestrian friendly street,” according to Vilardo. Insufficient parking and insufficient signage about parking is another issue, which prevents people driving by from stopping in Ardmore to shop. Fixing these issues with more parking, better signage, and informational kiosks in the downtown area that include a business directory are key goals for the Ardmore Initiative.

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Ardmore “A” logo

If you’re familiar with the long-planned project to improve the business district with updates to the train station and the addition of condos, retail space, and parking, you’ll be interested to know that it sounds like it may be moving forward with developer Carl Dranoff. The township recently separated the plan for condos, retail space, and a parking garage on Cricket Ave. from the improvements to the train station and approved an agreement with Dranoff that allows him to proceed with planning. There are still a lot of steps that need to happen to finalize the plan, but renewed momentum of this project seems like a good thing for Ardmore.

In 2013, the Ardmore Initiative will be involved in several things to help bring business to downtown Ardmore, which according to Vilardo, is the main goal of the organization: “Really in a nutshell, what we’re about is getting more people in the downtown.” More people means more business, of course. Here are some of the highlights for 2013:

  • The U.S. Open is coming to Merion Golf Club, so there will be a big push from the Ardmore Initiative to get those visitors into Ardmore to visit local businesses.
  • Clover Market, the outdoor art and antique marketing, will continue this year, which boosts business for local shops and restaurants.
  • First Friday Main Line, which is run by volunteer Sherry Tillman who owns Past, Present, and Future in Ardmore, will also continue.
  • Taste of Ardmore in the fall, which is the organization’s main means of fundraising and highlights products and services from local businesses.
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Merion Golf Club Web Site

Good stuff! Interested in working with Ardmore Initiative to ensure our local businesses continue to do well? The organization has volunteer and donation opportunities. They have several volunteer committees, including marketing, streetscape, and business recruitment, and residents are welcome to participate. If you’re interested, email Christine Vilardo directly. You can also donate a tax-deductible amount to help the Ardmore Initiative keep our thriving downtown in good shape this year and in the years to come.

I could have written ten posts from my interview with Vilardo because we covered so much ground. I learned a lot about our downtown district. As we were finishing up our interview, I asked what Vilardo tells other people about Ardmore. She mentioned many of the positives I love about my town—it’s socioeconomic diversity, the fact that you can get most of what you need right in town, and you can walk many places if you’re a resident—and then she said, “What I tell people is that’s a real town, and it’s a real community.”

I agree!

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John Henry’s Pub: New Chef, New Menu, and Relaunch!

Did you know that John Henry’s is currently going through a revamp? They are! I’m excited to hear the news because it’s one of my favorite local haunts.

Taps at John Henry's Pub

Taps at John Henry’s Pub

They have started a renovation, but they are still open as they are revamping things. They have also ,hired a new chef–MJ Smith–and they have a new menu. Kathy Kearney, the owner, sent me the new menu, which starts today and includes this week’s chef’s specials. I’ll be catching up with her soon to get more details on the remodel.  In the meantime, check out the new menu below.

John Henry’s New Menu

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A Post-Snow Saturday Night in Ardmore

Hope you all enjoyed the little snow storm we had last night and this morning! I have to say that I was a little bummed we didn’t get the 2-3 feet that New York and New England did, but I’ll take a little bit of the white stuff anytime. So you know how everyone freaks out when snow comes and buys milk, bread, and eggs? We like to do things a little differently in my house. Instead of the normal staples people like to buy, we like to mix things up and buy food (locally in Ardmore, of course!) to make some special, gourmet meals at home.

Even though we didn’t get stuck because of the snow, we still stocked up for the weekend, and tonight, we enjoyed part of our stash. Homemade pizza! We used Pillsbury pizza dough and made two delicious pizzas. I can’t take credit for the recipes–that’s all my husband–but I helped out and savored every bite.

We had a white pizza with red and long hot peppers, mushrooms, garlic, and a mix of cheeses–gouda, provolone, and fresh mozzarella–in a cream sauce.

Vegetable Pizza with White Sauce

Vegetable Pizza with White Sauce

And a pepperoni pizza with fresh mozzarella. It sounds so simple, but my husband made a special red sauce with honey, so there was nothing run of the mill about this beauty. Yum!

Pepperoni Pizza

Hope you’re enjoying the weekend and staying warm! I have a few stories in the works and will be posting more soon.

Posted in Sights and Sounds of Ardmore, Uncategorized | Leave a comment