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Philadelphia Honey Festival offers three days of buzz-worthy culture and education

The annual Philadelphia Honey Festival, a celebration of the importance of bees and the honey they produce, has been in existence for just five years now. But to hear Suzanne Matlock of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild explain it, the three-day festival -- running September 5 to 7 at three historic locations throughout the city -- can trace its genesis back to Christmas Day 1810. That was the day Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born at 106 S. Front Street.
 
Widely known as the "Father of American Beekeeping," Langstroth is the man responsible for inventing the Langstroth bee hive. Consisting of movable frames and resembling a stout wooden cabinet, the Langstroth is still considered the definitive beehive for keepers worldwide. So important was his contribution to beekeeping that on the 200th anniversary of his birth, a historical marker noting his accomplishments was raised outside his former Front Street home.  
 
The first annual Philadelphia Honey Festival was also celebrated that year, largely to honor Langstroth's memory and his significant impact on the craft. Only 500 people took part.

But in the seasons since, the event has evolved into a family-friendly educational and cultural celebration promoting urban beekeeping. It aims to "increase awareness of the importance of bees to [the] environment" and "the impact of local honey on our economy," according to a release. Last year, over 2,300 bee-curious locals showed up. 
 
Organized by the Beekeepers Guild and hosted at Bartram's Garden, the Wagner Free Institute of Science and Wyck Historic House, the festival's free events range from bee bearding presentations and open beehive viewings to a honey-themed happy hour and honey extraction demonstrations.

For a complete schedule, click here. (Don't miss the Beekeeping 100 panel on September 7.)
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Suzanne Matlock, Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild

MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
 
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
 
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
 
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
  
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
 
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate

Calling Local Artists: Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas wants your work

In the riverward districts of Fishtown and Kensington, Frankford Avenue First Friday events have been showcasing the area's increasingly extensive creative output for some years. And it's not just the boulevard's art galleries, but also its cafes, eateries and boutiques.
 
According to Joanna Winchester of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), that creative and economic energy has been steadily inching its way northward along Frankford Avenue over the past few years.

"We've been wanting to put a highlight on some of the newer businesses that are coming in on the northern side of avenue," she says.
 
At the same time, NKCDC has been keen for local artists to become more involved with the avenue's monthly First Friday events. In an effort to satisfy both those goals, a new-and-improved event was born: the Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas, which Winchester describes as a fairly typical "art stroll-style event, but with a really energetic twist to it."
 
On September 5 from 6 to 10 p.m., Frankford Avenue between Susquehanna and Cumberland will be closed to traffic for the street party. "We're hoping to have performers, and food trucks, and artists selling their wares," adds Winchester.
 
NKCDC is currently soliciting applications from artists who may want to perform or sell their work at the Fracas. And while priority will be given to those from the 19125 and 19134 ZIP codes, anyone is welcome to apply, as long as they meet the August 20 submission deadline.

Applications can be found online at NKCDC.org and FrankfordAveArts.org

Source: 
Joanna Winchester, NKCDC
Writer: Dan Eldridge

Cooper's Ferry Partnership wins ArtPlace America grant to expand its Camden Night Gardens initiative

Cooper's Ferry Partnership, an organization that has been working for years to revitalize the city of Camden, was recently awarded a $475,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a group that supports creative placemaking efforts across the country.
 
According to Cooper's Ferry COO Joe Myers, it was largely the success of last April's Camden Night Gardens initiative -- a multi-disciplinary art festival held at the defunct Riverfront State Prison in North Camden -- that led to the grant.   
 
"We applied to ArtPlace with the idea of creating [a number of] smaller Camden Night Gardens events," explains Myers. The original event, which attracted roughly 3,000 attendees to the 15-acre former prison site and featured BMX riders and a Camden drill team along with art and music performances, created significant buzz throughout the community. "We wanted to use that as a kind of model to do [similar events] in smaller locations."
 
Those smaller events will take place somewhere within the North Camden and Cooper-Grant neighborhoods, which were most recently considered for redevelopment in 2008, when Cooper's Ferry released its North Camden Neighborhood and Waterfront Park Plan.
 
And while Myers says the future events might be similar in style to the original Camden Night Gardens, Cooper's Ferry plans to first spend the next four months consulting with the North Camden community.They hope to learn what local residents liked about the Night Garden, for instance, and get suggestions about underutilized sites that could be repurposed for events.  
 
Assuming that phase wraps up this fall, "I would hope we would begin the process of laying out new dates for these events," says Myers, "and having a conceptual idea of what they would specifically be."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Joe Myers, Cooper's Ferry Partnership

Federal Donuts crew hopes to use leftovers for good

Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov, partners in the ever-expanding Federal Donuts empire, are looking to transform all that leftover chicken into soup, and that soup into meals for the hungry. They have turned to Kickstarter to fund Rooster Soup Co., an innovative new restaurant venture.

According to a story in the Philadelphia City Paper, when the pair opened their first chicken-and-donuts spot in Pennsport (they are also partners in the upscale Israeli eatery Zahav and Percy Street Barbecue), they were frying 15 chickens per day. Now they're going through up to 1,500 across five locations, including one at Citizens Bank Park. 

That leaves them with a lot of Amish-raised, Indiana-bred, free-range, antibiotic-free chicken backs and necks -- the perfect thing to make soup.

Now they have teamed up with pastor Bill Golderer of Broad Street Ministries to kill two birds with one stone, if you will. The plan is to open a Center City restaurant serving chicken soup made using the stock from those leftover parts. The innovative part is the business model: Rooster Soup Co. will be a nonprofit restaurant with the proceeds benefiting Broad Street Ministries' hospitality services. 

Click here to check out their Kickstarter campaign; they've already raised over $114,000 as of this writing.

In other news, Federal Donuts is currently scouting locations in Washington, D.C.

Writer: Lee Stabert
 

Conshohocken's Zuppler changes the way we order from restaurants

When Conshohocken entrepreneur and former IT consultant Shiva Srinivasan founded the mobile-based technology company Zuppler back in 2009, the practice of ordering food from restaurants online was still in its infancy.
 
Nevertheless, Zuppler's service, which allows restaurants to customize their online ordering menus, was a fast success. It wasn't long, in fact, before the company was servicing some 4,500 restaurants worldwide, and thousands of hotels in the United States began using the Zuppler platform to expedite room service ordering.
 
But in the all-mobile, all-the-time retail environment of 2014, tech-savvy restaurateurs want something more than just a customizable and fully-integrated online ordering solution. They also want a way for their customers to pay online, preferably through a mobile interface.
 
So Zuppler recently joined forces with LevelUp, a Boston-based tech firm. The self-described "largest mobile payment network in the nation" offers extensively trackable marketing campaigns along with its payment-processing system.
 
Now restaurants using the Zuppler interface can access extensive customer reporting analytics, "so it's a way for them to take control of their online business, and to take advantage of it," explains Srinivasan.
 
Zuppler's analytics interface even provides users with a heat map showing exactly where its customer base is grouped. And along with 24-7 customer service and support, Zuppler's beefed-up system can offer coupons and loyalty rewards, which customers can redeem while paying for food on a restaurant's website, all of which are mobile responsive.
 
Together, Zuppler and LevelUp now service "more than 18,000 restaurants and over 2 million customers combined," according to a release.
 
"But the most important fact," says Srinivasan, "is that for restaurants that use our service, they own their customers."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Shiva Srinivasan, Zuppler
 

Downingtown's Victory Brewing Company announces its summer beer lineup

According to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, a trade group responsible for supporting the craft beer industry in the United States, that industry is now worth some $4 billion in Pennsylvania alone.  
 
And the Commonwealth's largest craft beer producer? That would be Downingtown-based Victory Brewing Company, best known for its wildly popular india pale ale, HopDevil.   
 
Victory also has a reputation for its limited releases and seasonal brews. They recently announced their upcoming summer lineup, which includes a variety 12-pack known as Summer Selection, as well as the return of Victory's WildDevil IPA, a Belgian twist on its flagship beer.
 
But the summer lineup's most unusual offering is a rotating IPA series known as Moving Parts, which will be released in a staggered series of "batches" -- the recipe will be slightly tweaked every four months.  
 
"We're referring to it as our 'ever-evolving IPA,'" says Victory's Melissa Thomas. "The idea behind it is that in each release in the series, there will be a part that 'moves. [Moving Parts] celebrates the simple yet really cool ingredients in beer. It's kind of fun for consumers, to have an idea of how just one small change to an ingredient can really have a significant impact on the flavor profile."
 
Along with WildDevil IPA and the Summer Selection 12-pack (which will include the Visit Philly-commissioned Summer Love Ale), the first release in the Moving Parts series, MP01, will be available in May.
 
Source: Melissa Thomas, Victory Brewing Company
Writer: Dan Eldridge
 


Grocery delivery-service Instacart announces same-day liquor delivery in Philadelphia

If the rise of Web 2.0 has taught us anything about why we love the Internet, it's probably that convenience trumps all.

Instacart
, for example, a grocery delivery service startup with roots in San Francisco and operations in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., has just announced that its Philadelphia-area customers can now have alcoholic beverages from Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores delivered to their homes in as little as one hour.
 
If you've never heard of Instacart, you're not alone. In fact, when the company launched its local service on February 18, Whole Foods was literally the only choice available to customers willing to pay anywhere from $3.99 to $14.99 for the convenience of having groceries brought to their doorstep.
 
Super Fresh and BJ's Wholesale Club have since signed on (customers aren't required to have BJ's memberships), and with the recent addition of its liquor service, Instacart seems primed to capture a large portion of the food delivery market.

The company's deliveries are handled by a team of "personal shoppers" who use their own vehicles. And because Instacart has no warehouses, trucks, retail locations or full-time drivers, their overhead remains manageable.    
 
"We're growing every week," says Instacart operations manager George Shotz. "It's just constant."

Asking customers to complete wish-list surveys is one way Instacart aims to fill its customers' needs. According to Shotz, liquor has consistently been one of the surveys' most-requested items.

Securing an alcohol delivery license with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was a breeze: "We just applied and followed their rules," he explains. "And they approved us. They were great."   
 
Visit the Instacart website to view a map of the company's local delivery area and to open an account. 

Source: George Shotz, Instacart
Writer: Dan Eldridge





A group of beer-loving mechanical engineers at Bresslergroup automate the home-brewing process

Three craft-beer enthusiasts who work for Bresslergroup, a local product design consultancy, have developed a consumer home-brewing appliance that may one day turn the growing home-brewing industry on its head. The Bresslergroup Brewery, as the team calls its new venture, has created an Arduino-powered automated system that brews computer-assisted beer.

The idea for the appliance was the result of an informal conversation between a small group of employees, all of them home-brewing hobbyists. "One of our partners thought, 'Hey, it'd be pretty cool if we could do this here,'" recalls Todd Sack, a Bresslergroup product design engineer. "Sort of leverage the expertise and talent we have at Bresslergroup to take [home brewing] to the next level.'"
 
And that is exactly what they did.
 
The team's "yearlong quest to innovate … and automate the typical home brew process" -- as it's explained in a company blog post -- has resulted in a setup that still requires a decent level of computer literacy to operate. Should the kit ever make its way to market, however, it would likely include a kettle, a heating element and a thermocouple, as well as an Arduino-operated control box with a user-friendly interface, and an app that could be controlled from a laptop or mobile device. The product would probably come with a retail price-point in the $500 to $600 range. (Similar commercially available units capable of brewing beer are generally priced in the $1,200 to $2,000 range.)
  
As part of this year's upcoming Philly Tech Week, a presentation of the automated system, complete with a beer tasting, will take place at the Bresslergroup offices (6 - 8 p.m. April 9). Reserve your seat here.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Todd Sack, Bresslergroup



Replica Creative uses social media to set up coffee dates with local innovators

The Center City design-and-print firm Replica Creative has been in the brainstorming business for some 34 years now. But it wasn't until Replica opened the doors of its now three-month-old University City location, Creative Cafe at Replica (which also houses a coffee shop), that Brand Manager Keith Leaphart stumbled upon an idea that might prove to be Replica's most impressive yet.
 
Leaphart calls it the #DreamCup Campaign.

"Our locations are all about bringing people together," he says. "So, when we opened the second location with a cafe in it, I was sitting there and thinking: Who would people want to have their dream cup with?"
 
Leaphart started by sharing his plan with friends and fellow employees: What did they think about the idea of knocking back a latte with their favorite local thought leader or entrepreneur? The response was overwhelmingly positive -- people wanted to pick the brains of Comcast EVP David Cohen or Philadelphia Style Publisher John Colabelli -- and the #DreamCup campaign was officially launched.
 
To enter, potential coffee klatchers share the name of their would-be #DreamCup date in a Vine video or a tweet sent to @designprintcafe. Once a month, a winner is chosen. Of course, the object of a DreamCupper's affection has to agree to the meeting, which also includes a $25 Replica gift card for the winner.  
 
The campaign's first recipient, City Fit Girls founder Kiera Smalls, happens to be an entrepreneur herself. She shared a cup with Mayor Nutter's Communications Director, Desiree Peterkin Bell.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Keith Leaphart, Replica Creative 



West Philly's Fresh Food Hub, a mobile farmers' market, now serving communities city-wide

America's obesity epidemic is often attributed to a lack of available and affordable unprocessed foods, especially for lower income and urban populations. The mobile farmers' market Fresh Food Hub offers a simple antidote while also supporting the local food system and economy.

Founder Ryan Kuck and his wife's personal gardening project in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia grew into a community garden on Preston Avenue, aptly named Preston's Paradise. Kuck used a pushcart to distribute fresh produce from Preston's Paradise, eventually partnering with Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington, to expand. When Flying Kite last covered the company, Kuck had purchased a bread truck and was operating it as a mobile store four days a week.

Now, the company is positioning to grow again.

"Our pilot has been pretty successful and we'd like to extend it to other neighborhoods," says Kuck. "If we really want to take this idea to its full potential, we need to invest."

Kuck launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $9,773 to branch geographically, support more local farmers, extend hours, hire more staff and upgrade the truck.

The community responded -- the Fresh Food Hub campaign exceeded its goal, raising $10,500 even before its funding period was complete.

One community that Kuck is particularly dedicated to serving is Philadelphia's older adults. In addition to food stamps, the truck also accepts produce vouchers from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). Kuck is currently working with PCA to identify additional senior centers in North and South Philly to add to the truck's route. 

Kuck's reaction to the community's support for the Fresh Food Hub is as simple as the food he grows and sells.

"People just are happier when they eat well," he says.

The Fresh Food Hub's Spring operations will begin on April 30; like them on Facebook for updates about the truck's route.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Ryan Kuck, Fresh Food Hub

Inventing the Future: Creative Café @ Replica, first-ever print shop/cafe opens in University City

Believe it or not, until December 2, there was no one-stop shop for caffeine and creatives—no Kinko’s/Starbucks joint venture. Keith Leaphart, the CEO who reimagined the graphic design firm Replica Creative at a time when many thought print was a dying business, saw this as an obvious opportunity. 

"I’m proud that Philadelphia is the birthplace of this concept,” says Leaphart. "The Creative Café @ Replica allows us to do what we love to do best, and that is provide great services, while meeting and greeting people. And what better way to do that than over coffee?”

The Creative Café @ Replica prints marketing materials, wedding invitations and custom wall graphics while serving up comfort food from DiBruno Brothers and coffee from Counter Culture. Leaphart hopes that the cafe/lounge/print shop hybrid will be more than the sum of its parts; its location at University City Science Center should be a huge asset.

"So much is happening in University City," he says. "The creative economy is truly thriving; and University City is one of the best places to be, to foster and grow original concepts. When we found this space in the Science Center, it was love at first sight…I was excited at the opportunity to launch the concept in the heart of the innovation zone."

Though two different groups of employees were hired to staff Creative Café (graphic designers and baristas), Leaphart looked for the same basic qualities when hiring

"Across the board, we like intelligent, energetic, creative types who understand that our corporate philosophy is ‘Grow or Go!’" he explains. 

The Creative Cafe @ Replica is located at 3711 Market Street; to learn more, visit replicacreative.com and follow @designprintcafe on Twitter. 

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Keith Leaphart, Creative Café @ Replica 

Local education initiative Fresh Palates to Palettes puts the 'art' in culinary arts

Featured on both Rachael Ray and WHYY-TV's Friday Arts program, the innovative program Fresh Palates to Palettes is back for a second round at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (SLA). The multifaceted four-month curriculum exposes SLA's students to some of Philadelphia's best culture and cuisine as part of a collaborative effort to fight arts funding cuts in schools.

The program's parent organization, Fresh Artists, is an award-winning local nonprofit that empowers children to create art in exchange for art supply donations to their schools. Fresh Palates to Palettes is a pilot project of the Fresh Artists Greenhouse Program, an incubator of entrepreneurial ideas, networking support and development acumen for art teachers.

Students in Fresh Palates to Palettes are connected with local restaurants, chefs and artists. This year's participants include Lacroix, Bistrot La Minette, Pub & Kitchen, and Vernick Food & Drink. SLA's art teacher, Deva Watson, or "Chef" to her students, leads the classroom implementation of the program.

Watson has spent many years working in local kitchens, and she carries over lessons learned in the hospitality industry to her classroom. Her mantra emphasizes working "hard, clean and with efficiency." 
 
Watson began the program by teaching her students about still life art. At each restaurant, students will be served the chef's signature dish, then sketch the meal. Acclaimed food photographers, including Flying Kite's Michael Persico, will then style the sketches. 
 
Fresh Palates to Palettes will culminate in the spring with several high profile exhibitions: a public pop-up of the entire project at Metropolitan Gallery 250; and a private reception for the chefs and project donors at Avance, hosted by Chef Justin Bogle. Each participating chef will highlight "Le Choix du Chef" (Chef's Choice). On March 20, those four selected artists will be honored with a special cooking lesson courtesy of South Philadelphia Taproom chef Scott Schroeder, hosted by COOK
 
Barbara Chandler Allen, founder and president of Fresh Artists, believes the previous run of the project showed its ability to break down barriers for students while introducing them to potential creative careers and honing additional skills.

"In our second year, Fresh Palates to Palettes, like a fine wine, continues to improve with age," says Allen. "Last year's pilot project has blossomed into a richer, deeper educational experience for the children and the generous culinary community supporting them. Our kids are learning there are real exciting jobs in the creative economy if you are passionately engaged in learning and connecting. Fresh Artists is committed to opening doors for city kids -- changing their scripts and raising the bar so high that they will aim to sail over it."

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Barbara Chandler Allen, Fresh Artists

Kensington Community Food Co-op holds '60 by 60' membership drive

After five years of planning and building membership, the Kensington Community Food Co-Op (KCFC) is ready to sign a lease. Their current campaign, 60 in 60, aims to bring 60 additional members to KCFC in 60 days, and to secure enough funding to ensure holding costs. If these goals are met, KCFC will open a location in 19125 early next year.
 
"It's going to provide healthy, quality food to the community," says Lena Helen, president of KCFC. "No grocery store in the area is committed to doing that completely."
 
To assist the membership drive, KCFC is holding two meet-and-greets this month: the first was held November 4 at Pizza Brain and Little Baby’s Ice Cream and the second will be November 21 at Adorn Boutique. The co-op also holds bi-weekly marketplaces at Circle of Hope church on Frankford Ave. The evening marketplaces give new and prospective members the opportunity to ask questions about healthy foods.

KCFC plans to increase educational activities once the permanent location has been established. Due to the density of low income residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, the co-op expects to offer food access programs such as "Food for All," a neighborhood fund for subsidized memberships. 
 
KCFC is supported by local organizations including the East Kensington Neighborhood Association and the Norris Square Neighborhood Project. The New Kensington Community Development Corporation helped the co-op raise initial funds and conduct a feasibility study. KCFC has also held marketplaces at Greensgrow Farms and staffs a booth at Greensgrow events.
 
Source: Lena Helen, Kensington Community Food Co-op
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Invisible Sentinel enters expansion phase, is hiring for various positions

A year after receiving their first certification from the Association of Analytical Communities International (AOAC), Invisible Sentinel -- the "garage" biotech startup -- is growing fast. They’re pulling in enough revenue to break-even on initial investment (over $7 million) by 2014. The company is graduating from the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator and will remain on the Science Center campus.
 
Invisible Sentinel makes disposable, rapid diagnostic tools that test for food contaminants such as Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter. Veriflow, the company's patented technology, cuts down on both time and human error, making testing easier, cheaper and more reliable. Invisible Sentinel has a broad client base -- so far their products have been popular among dairy farms, peanut butter factories, meat manufacturers and third party labs that use their technology to conduct outsourced testing for large processors.
 
"Everybody who makes and produces food is our customer base," says Ben Pascal, cofounder and CBO. "It's really countrywide."
 
That means the company has a lot of work to do. They're currently outfitting and staffing an in-house manufacturing center complete with a robotics system. Open positions include manufacturing technician, quality director, production manager, financial and accounting services, sales and scientist. They will continue to raise capital for this phase.
 
"It's all expansion capital," says Pascal. "A lot of the risk associated with research and development is gone. Our challenge now is scaling to be able to meet demand."
 
Invisible Sentinel -- currently an 18-person team -- will remain in Philly thanks to low-interest government financing and flexible accommodations from the Science Center. They've received FDA approval on two products and expect approval for two more in the near future. The company recently released a video demonstrating how their devices work.
 
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Dana Henry
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