What happened next: Businesses, new and old

NewsWorks went back to check in on several of the stories we covered in 2014. These “what happened next” updates will run by topic. 


Repair work continues after Bakers Centre flooded with 13m gallons of water [updated], Jan. 13

The story: Disaster struck just months after the brand new shopping center opened in East Falls. A 48-inch water main burst below the parking lot, sending thirteen million gallons — enough water to fill nearly two- dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools  — over the concrete expanse and into storefronts.  There was so much water that some employees had to be evacuated on rafts. A 20-foot deep hole hung afterwards for weeks afterwards as Philadelphia Water Department crews repaired the century-plus old pipe.

What happened next: PWD spokeswoman Joanne Dahme said the water main was repaired in February. The parking lot was completely patched up in June. Shopping center businesses, like Hair Buzz, couldn’t be happier things are back to normal. Manager Andy Kim, who had to replace the shop’s floor, said all is well now.

-Aaron Moselle

A redo on the way for West Oak Lane’s shuttered Green Soul restaurant, Jan. 28

The story: The owners of Green Soul, an eatery that opened in 2011, had hoped a new location in Chestnut Hill would offset the costs of running the less-profitable West Oak Lane location.

When that didn’t pan out, they decided to close the Ogontz Avenue location in Jan. to regroup and work up a new concept. 

What happened next: According to Peter Breslow, a spokesperson for the Bynum family, who owns Green Soul along with other restaurants in Northwest Philadelphia, the space at 7169 Ogontz Ave. is no longer affiliated with Green Soul. A family who has owned a flower shop on Ogontz Avenue for many years bought the space and opened a Jamaican restaurant called A Taste of Jamaica. 

-Neema Roshania

Roxborough native Justin Bogle returns to Philadelphia to head up Avance, Jan. 30

The story: The stars seemed aligned for Roxborough native Justin Bogle when in Dec. 2012, the New York restaurant Gilt, which received a two-star Michelin rating under Bogle’s lead closed its doors. Bogle was ready for a new challenge, and it came to him by way of the building that housed his hometown’s famed Le Bec Fin for over 30 years. On Dec. 13, 2013, 1523 Walnut St. officially re-opened its doors, this time as Avance, toting a fine dining experience with a progressive American menu.

“From the front of the house to the back, we’re pushing the envelope at Avance…we want each experience to be a new one,” Bogle said at the time. “We’ve cast a wider net to allow ourselves to be more approachable. Whether you want to grab a burger and a beer from the bar downstairs or the 14-course chef’s tasting, we can provide the experience you’re looking for.”

What happened next: After a 10-month run, on Oct. 11, Avance held its last dinner service.

“One last ride @AvancePhilly,” Bogle said over social media before closing the doors of his restaurant, which had been named one of the best 25 new restaurants in the country by GQ restaurant critic, Alan Richman.

“Bittersweet but I could not have asked for a more talented crew to do it with,” he added.

The restaurant had been met with mixed reviews and in June was threatened with eviction. Regarding the closing, a press release stated: “The modern concept did not work in the location as the team had hoped and the property was up against many growing expenses. Although chef Just Bogle’s cuisine got great reviews from national press and had a loyal clientele of diners, the restaurant could not withstand the financial pressures put upon it.”

1523 Walnut Street remains shuttered, and Bogle has remained relatively silent on any impending projects.

-Emily Brooks

Insomnia Cookies opens its doors on Main Street Manayunk, Feb. 5 

The story: In 2003 University of Pennsylvania freshman, Seth Berkowitz, found himself with limited options when it came to late night food. Craving something on the sweeter side rather than the typical slice of pizza, Berkowitz began baking cookies and delivering them door-to-door to friends and fellow students.

Bringing Insomnia’s sweet stuff to Main Street in Manayunk was a no brainer, according to Renee Sarnecky, the director of marketing. “We mainly focus on city and campus markets due to the volume of nightlife and need for late-night treats,” she said.

Insomnia offers a selection of warm fresh cookies from traditional chocolate chunk to double-chocolate mint and s’mores, as well as brownies, ice cream and cookie cakes served until 3 a.m.

What happened next: A year later, the college kids continue to crave their cookies. The Manayunk location has proven to be a fruitful addition to the growing Insomnia family, says Sr. Marketing Director, Megan Brock, with its delivery option being one of its major successes, however also one of its biggest challenges.

According to customer reviews, delivery orders must be placed through a corporate office rather than the individual stores themselves. This has proven to be troublesome when orders get lost or are delayed. A narrow scope of the store’s “delivery range” has also caused some contention. Addressing the phone issue, Brock stated “it is our sole intent to provide the best product and service to every one of our guests and we believe our call center is the best way to do this so that we are giving consistent information in a timely manner without having to keep our customers on hold for very long, if at all.”

As far as delivery, Brock stated delivery ranges are chosen to ensure the best possible quality of product. 

-Emily Brooks

Newly reopened Black Writers Museum positioned as tourist-friendly draw for Germantown, Feb. 25

The story: It was a big year for the Black Writers Museum. In February, the museum celebrated its grand reopening and relocation from Maplewood Mall to the historic Vernon House, 5622 Germantown Ave., in Vernon Park. The museum’s executive director, Supreme Dow, laid out plans and began fundraising to add a Parisian-styled café to the list of the museum’s may resources and attractions available for writers and residents of Germantown.

What happened next: Dow says that project is still underway.

“The café is coming along pretty well. We’ve generated a lot of support for the museum as a whole as well,” he said.

Dow said the museum will continue hosting its popular annual jazz and poetry events in the park. The museum will also have some offerings in the new year, including an increased collection of literary materials.

As for the café, Dow says he and his team hope to meet a summer 2015 open date.

“It will require a lot of money but we have a really ambitious fundraising plan going into the new year,” he said. “We’re looking ambitiously toward a summer open. We’re going into the new year really excited about what’s ahead of us.”

Historic sliver of Germantown Avenue now home to new yoga studio, April 22

The story: Tracy McNeil marked the opening of Sandalwood Yoga studio, located at 5310 Germantown Ave. in a historic sliver of the neighborhood, with a meet-and-greet celebration that drew more than 50 locals.

What happened next: McNeil says she is humbled by the support that she’s received from members of the Germantown community since she opened Sandalwood Yoga studio in April.

“We’ve had a lot of neighborhood people coming in. We’ve been well received, and well supported, and it’s been a very humbling experience to have students come and come back again and again,” she said. “We’ve been growing slowly, but steadily.”

McNeil hopes to entice more area residents to become regulars at the studio by adding even more workshops, classes, and class series in the new year.

-Queen Muse

Citibank’s Chelten Plaza branch closes two years after much-ballyhooed grand opening, May 28

The story: Despite the early optimism surrounding the opening of a Citibank branch at Germantown’s Chelten Plaza, the branch was closed down as part of a citywide withdrawal by the international bank.

At the time, the closure meant that four of the eight properties available at the plaza were vacant.

What happened next: Since May, two additional tenants have moved into the plaza — Aaron’s, a national home goods leasing store, and LabCorp, a national clinical testing company. Neither tenant moved into the former Citibank corner location.

The plaza’s developer, Pat Burns, said he is still looking for a tenant to move into the bank’s former space.

-Marcus McCarthy

Germantown art gallery celebrates anniversary after two roller-coaster years, June 13

The story: When Maplewood Mall art gallery, iMPerRFeCT, celebrated two years over the summer, owners  Rocio Cabello and Renny Molenaar reflected on the path that brought them here. 

“Some days, I feel like this just started,” said Molenaar. “Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been here 10 years.”

What happened next: Two and a half years after launching their storefront gallery on Greene Street at Maplewood Mall, Renny Molenaar and Rocio Cabello are still wearing a lot of hats, but there has been some financial progress after more than one fundraising crisis over the last year or so.

“We have actually been able to pay ourselves a little bit,” Molenaar said of iMPeRFeCT’s autumn 2014 successes, when NewsWorks stopped by the day before the space’s current exhibition opened, from world-renowned album cover artist Calvin Schenkel.

That’s partly because “a handful of people are making monthly contributions,” a system the gallery has been trying to implement for the last several months, but still hasn’t launched in any sustainable way.

Molenaar says they’re going to restart that initiative, because “we didn’t have the manpower to follow up on it, so it kind of sputtered.”

But a recent $5,000 grant from the family of artist and writer Andrew Simonet has helped to keep things running, and after a few dry months, a “phenomenal” season netted the gallery several thousand dollars in sales.

As for the exhibitions and programming in 2015, plenty is already planned.

“I think I want to do more things outside. That was part of the original intent,” Cabello says of her hopes for the coming year.

Molenaar says exhibitions are booked through next spring, including one in March that will cover the gallery from floor to ceiling in tiles made of matzo. The gallery’s associated monthly “Last Supper” potluck fundraiser will be a Passover Seder.

Molenaar is also planning to welcome artists beyond the Northwest neighborhoods with a citywide open call show, dates TBA. He says it’s time for the increased notoriety these artists will bring. iMPeRFeCT previously limited its open calls to Germantown residents.

“We put a lot of energy to build our ground strong,” he said of beginning with a local focus, and then expanding the invitation.

-Alaina Mabaso

After 60 years, a barber’s scissors go silent in Mt. Airy, Sept. 15

The story: For 60 years Don Murphy cut hair at 7149 Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy, but a fatal car accident silenced the barber’s scissors on a Tuesday in Sept.

Being a barber for six decades had garnered the 81 year-old Murphy the credentials of being a true community institution, said David Fellner, the shop’s building owner and one of Murphy’s longtime (nearly 20 years) clients.

Customers “didn’t go just for a haircut. It was a social experience,” Fellner said at the time.

What happened next: The funeral of C. Donald “Don” Murphy took place at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Manayunk. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery. Don is survived by his daughter, Suzanne, his son, David, five grandchildren and three siblings.

A music store is slated to open at the barber shop. 

-Neema Roshania

If you have any Northwest Philadelphia stories from 2014 that you’d like NewsWorks to follow up on, please email us.

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