Malvern furniture store looks to find new home in Manayunk

A Malvern furniture company owner is trying Manayunk on for size this week. 

Bob Cronan, owner of C. Robert Furniture Concepts, accidentally stumbled upon an open Manayunk space at 4347 Main Street when he sought to expand his small Malvern business. Cronan currently sells locally made, mostly handcrafted refurbished pieces in two small Malvern spaces – one at Knots and Weaves and another in a cooperative.

“Instead of watching the Super Bowl, I went on Craigslist to look for another space in Paoli,” he said, adding that he instead saw an appealing listing in Manayunk. “I knew the space was for four days, so what’s the big deal?”

Cronan enlisted his friend and colleague Ben Hartshorn, a wood worker, to join him at the temporary weekend pop-up shop during the Manayunk On Ice festival this past weekend. But as the festival was nearing its end, Cronan convinced Gary Mann, owner of Gary Mann Jewelers and Cronan’s temporary shop, to let him stay for another week. 

“The people are off the hook,” said Cronan, of why he decided to look into moving his business to Manayunk. “I like these people. They’re creative people.”

Reasons for the extended stay 

After just a few days in a town he says is similar to his own—some folks call Malvern the Mini Manayunk—Cronan said the community’s values seemed to align with his own.

Cronan says he was impressed when he met with Manayunk Development Corporation Executive Director Jane Lipton to hear about the neighborhood. He says his shop’s locally made products seem to fit the neighborhood mindset of buying local.

Hartshorn gets all the wood for his projects from local trees that need to be taken down anyway. He considers them a piece of history and takes pride in the fact that his work—like the rest of Cronan’s suppliers—is all local from the crafting to the materials.

“Especially in Philadelphia and in the Western suburbs, these trees are on properties that might be where the Continental Army camped,” Hartshorn said. “I always say our stuff tells a better story than a slow boat ride from China.”

On a mission to help others 

Cronan said he’s also connecting with many locals through a sign in his shop that reads “A Zen Ben and Bipolar Bob Collaboration.”

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1997, Cronan, who gave himself the nickname, vowed to help others with the condition.

“One of my promises to God was that if I ever got well, I’d blab it to everyone,” he said. “People come in and talk to me because of [my sign]. “

While “it’s nothing to joke about,” Cronan said poking fun at himself helps him cope and it seems to help others.

In addition to interacting with others, Cronan said he’d like to build a “zen garden” in the back of his shop if he stays in Manayunk. His vision is to have an urban oasis of sorts and supply free tea for folks who need to relax.

“Business is a vehicle to be able to give to people at no charge things that they wish they had access to,” he said.

While Hartshorn said they’re looking for a more permanent space somewhere in the city, the duo enjoyed their pop-up experience in Manayunk.

“With all the underutilized space available, the pop-up is a place that benefits everybody, and renters and business people can try on something,” Ben said. “You can try on a $20 pair of boots, but you can’t [always] try on a $40,000 a year space.”

The team is also interested in location possibilities in Northern Liberties, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Fishtown.

The shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The pop-up shop’s last day on Main Street will be Sunday.

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