Maybe it’s the historical fact that the Centennial Café is housed in the only remaining State House from the 1876 Centennial that brought people from all over the world to Philadelphia. Maybe it’s the modest prices. Or the ease of parking that’s free and on the property. Maybe it’s the charm of sitting in Victorian rooms with 16-foot ceilings and sunlight streaming through the windows, or until last week, sitting outside under ancient sheltering trees with acres of parkland stretching into the beyond. Maybe it’s the idea that you can come and just stay between 8 am and 4 pm, eating, reading, talking, or working on your computer on the free WiFi, and no one will ask you to leave. They’ll just smile and refill your caramel latte for less than Starbucks.
But probably, it’s because of David Groverman.
Groverman is one of those guys whose boyish handsomeness belies not only his age but his hard work ethic and his deep commitment to making the world a better place. Despite keeping a low profile, he’s an entrepreneur, an antiques dealer, and a real estate maven who loves to do something in “transitional communities” to create an atmosphere of inclusion.
In 2006, working with every committee from the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust to the Zoning Board, David signed a lease on the Ohio State House in Fairmount Park. Once elegant and substantial, it was the only one of the 26 state houses that was built entirely of stone, and that stone came from twenty Ohio quarries whose workers raised the money and built the 40-foot square two stories on the site. By 2007, after renovating and planting, David had it up and running as a restaurant — a restaurant open seven days a week and often at night for parties. David’s wife Linda was recruited to work a 35-40 hour week, and David works even longer hours.