Reimagining Maplewood Mall Festival celebrates Germantown

Jeff Smith, a Germantown native and 1964 graduate of Germantown High School, owns the “Germantown” logo designed in 1975.

Each letter is illustrated to represent the highlights of the neighborhood: the cobblestone, the historic SEPTA Route 23 streetcar, racial harmony, the lush trees, the battle of Germantown, the many churches, and the town hall.

“It was originally created as a morale booster,” Smith said. “A group of churches and organizations commissioned a graphic artist to create an identity for Germantown.”

Asher’s Chocolates owned the logo until 1998 when the company sold its factory and store and moved out of Philadelphia.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

That’s when Smith stepped in to buy the logo from owner Jack Asher.

“It didn’t cost much,” Smith said. “Then he offered to buy it back, but I declined.”

This past Saturday, Smith sold shirts, hats, and vanity plates displaying the logo at the third annual Re-imagining Maplewood Mall Festival between Germantown Avenue and Greene Street. Sponsored by the Germantown United CDC, the free event featured live music, food, arts and crafts, a moon bounce, and local vendors in an effort to raise awareness for the mall and boost morale for the neighborhood just like back in the 1970s.

“This particular mall was designed in the 60s by the redevelopment authority as a way of stimulating business,” Smith said. “But in many ways, it didn’t work.”

Because it’s a pedestrian-only walk way, it’s difficult to attract vehicle traffic, and then because of the numerous vacancies along Chelten Avenue, there’s even less of a reason for foot traffic.

“Everybody wishes there was more redevelopment money to make something special out of this,” said Ann Perrone, Boy Scout Troop Leader of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown.

“But at least it’s one day of the year to bring the Germantown community together.”

Perrone and the dozen scouts accompanying her to the festival performed quarter staff drills, recruited new members, and most importantly, increased visibility for their troop.

“As the boys walked the seven blocks from the church, any number of people stopped them and said, ‘wow, I didn’t know there were still boy scouts here,'” Perrone said.

Baba Tyrone says that unawareness is par for the course in Germantown.

“A lot of people around here don’t know about these shops, don’t even know about the Maplewood Mall,” Tyrone said.

A performing arts teacher at Imani Educational Circle Charter School, Tyrone has been working at the mall since 1981, when he was on the second floor of the Serves For Her beauty shop.

He’s seen businesses come and go, but is glad that mall staples such as Maplewood Music Studio, Maplewood Nutrition Shop, and the Flower Café at Linda’s remain pillars of the community.

“It’s our time,” Tyrone said. “It’s our time to bring Germantown back to how it used to be.”

Not just financially, but also aesthetically, as local artist Alicia Garrison unveiled a sparkling 5×6 foot mosaic on the brick wall lining Armat Street. Garrison worked with students from The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Germantown Friends School to complete the beautification/community engagement project.

“The students each brought their own type of artistic genius and vison to the table at each of our sessions,” Garrison said. “They’ll be able to build on this experience in the workforce.”

Having a keen eye for creative branding, Smith realizes the potential of the mosaic as well as the festival.

“As a place that has possibilities for bringing people back, this is a good way to start.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal