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The 9th annual ACANA Festival will draw thousands to Penn's Landing

The ACANA Festival started small, but after eight years, it’s exploded into an event that draws thousands to Penn's Landing. Attendees come to explore the modern and traditional music, foods, crafts, and cultures of the African diaspora.

The African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA) is our current On the Ground home in Southwest Philadelphia (check out this recent profile of the broad-based African and Afro-Caribbean social services organization). August 7 will mark the ninth year that ACANA has hosted the event as part of the PECO Multicultural Festival Series, which brings eight free festivals to the waterfront between June and September.

ACANA originally made the series roster nine years ago with the help of a recommendation from the Kimmel Center. The nonprofit's founder and executive director Voffee Jabateh served on the community advisory board.

In 2015, the ACANA Festival drew an estimated 10 to 12 thousand people to the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing in a single day. This year, with headlining singer Pape Diouf -- a Senegalese star -- those numbers will only grow. Other performers at this year’s festival include Sharon Katz and the Peace Train South Africa, Chilton James Reggae Band, Deng, and the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble.

Jabateh says the festival is gaining international traction and becoming a destination for African artists who want to connect with the vibrant African diaspora in the United States.

"[Diouf] is top of the charts in Africa," says Jabateh, but "many in the [American] community cannot afford the cost" of traveling to see him. So the ACANA Festival is bringing him here, free of charge to fans.

"Most of the artists in the ACANA Festival for the last five years have come from outside the United States," he adds. They’re "doing very well in their career back in Africa, and the diaspora group wants to see those artists here in America."

ACANA makes it happen.

The fest will also feature a huge range of African food, arts and crafts, and activities for kids.

The ninth annual ACANA Festival is coming to Penn’s Landing on Sunday, August 7 from 2 - 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Voffee Jabateh, ACANA

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

MilkCrate for Communities helps companies and institutions reward sustainable living

About a year and a half ago, local startup MilkCrate began an incubator residency through Project Liberty. This came after a potent mix of bartering, bootstrapping and crowdfunding helped to launch the sustainable-living app. Now the company is ready to add a major new level to their platform that goes beyond individual users.
 
The free MilkCrate app officially launched in early 2015 as a resource for people who want an easy way to connect to socially and environmentally conscious businesses and services. It has since expanded beyond Philly to Denver, Boston and Asheville. Co-founder and CEO Morgan Berman, who earned a master’s degree in sustainable design from Philadelphia University, was pleased to see traction from the original concept, but the team quickly realized that more was on the table.
 
"We actually took a pretty radical approach to both our business model and our product," she says of the revamp, launching this month.
 
MilkCrate for Communities isn’t replacing the original free app -- it’s an add-on service that companies, universities and other enterprises will be able to purchase and extend as a perk to their employees, students or residents. It will also let buyers quantify and collect data on real-life social- and eco-conscious practices within their organizations, which can be harnessed both for external branding and marketing as well as internal messaging, all while encouraging sustainable living.
 
The company realizes that app platforms aimed at boosting sustainable practices at large institutions or companies already exist, but MilkCrate has a major edge because they already have a comprehensive localized directory and calendar within their existing product.  
 
Berman says MilkCrate for Communities is a premium, private "game-ified" social experience that clients can tailor for their users. Members of participating groups can download the free app and, unlike in the public version, log in and begin earning points for things like checking into a farm-to-table restaurant or fair-trade coffee shop, signing up for a composting service or CSA, or volunteering.
 
Participating companies and schools can use MilkCrate to tabulate the eco-friendly and socially conscious steps users make, and incentivize them with quarterly or semester-based rewards.
 
The first official buyer of the MilkCrate for Communities platform is Berman’s own alma mater, Philadelphia University, which will launch the experience for students and faculty this summer. Other clients are already in the pipeline, including the co-working provider Benjamin’s Desk, home to MilkCrate’s offices. Berman says a customized pilot product for Comcast is also in the works.
 
"We are looking for more corporate and academic clients that want to be part of the big launch this summer,"she adds. Anyone who wants to bring a demo of MilkCrate for Communities to their campus or office can get in touch.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate 

Primal Supply Meats brings sustainably-raised, nose-to-tail products to the masses

Even for farm-to-table chefs who are invested in serving humanely and sustainably sourced meat, connecting to the right supplier is difficult.
 
"It’s just a really broken chain," explains former Kensington Quarters (KQ) head butcher Heather Marold Thomason. Many chefs and home cooks want to minimize waste and know exactly where their meat comes from, "but it’s not easy for anybody to use whole animals."
 
Enter Thomason's new company Primal Supply Meats.
 
Over the last year, the idea for the startup evolved as she got to know her customers at KQ’s retail meat counter. Word was spreading around the city about the quality of the locally sourced meat for sale at this Frankford Avenue retail/restaurant hybrid.
 
"More and more people were approaching us," she recalls. "We had a really awesome relationship with people in the Fishtown area who were our everyday customers." She also began to notice shoppers coming from other parts of town -- from South Philly to Mt. Airy -- saying they wished KQ delivered or had other locations. "I also had a lot of chefs approaching me, saying, 'How are you getting this meat? Can you help me?'"
 
She realized there were farm-to-table chefs all over the city who aren’t able to take a whole animal into their kitchen, but didn't want pre-cut frozen meat either.
 
Primal Supply Meats, while not a retail counter like KQ’s, bridges that gap, acting as a liaison between farmers and chefs. The entire butchered animal is used, but shared among as many as three or four different clients asking for different cuts.
  
"I think that our customers have actually been receptive to what we’re doing and their responsibility as customers," says Thomason. With a fresh, whole-animal model at the KQ counter, part of her job was guiding customers to what was available that would also suit their tastes and needs. "Our customers were super-receptive to that."
 
That’s part of why she has high hopes for the CSA-like subscription model Primal will launch in a few weeks (those interested can visit the website). Individuals or families will be able to purchase meat packages on a rolling month-to-month basis, and have confidence in knowing where their meat is coming from.
 
While she hopes Primal will eventually gain its own space, it’s currently operating in West Philly via a partnership with the new FDA-certified facility 1732 Meats. For trucking and cold storage, Primal is partnering with North Philly’s Common Market.
 
This summer, things are still getting off the ground -- Thomason is visiting farmers one-on-one, learning both sides of the business.

"We’re working on getting all the infrastructure in place, making sure our supply chain works and our production processes are solid," she says. "[That way] we can make sure we’re ready to meet demand as it comes."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Heather Marold Thomason, Primal Supply Meats

Empowered CDC expands community-driven change in Southwest Philly

Regina Young never set out to found a community development corporation. A New Haven, Conn., native who now lives and works in Southwest Philadelphia, she had a career in teaching and social work before going back to school for her masters in community development.

She says her inspiration for the CDC simply came from living in the neighborhood and interacting with friends and family there. In 2014, she launched Empowered Community Development Corporation out of Meyers Recreation Center at 58th Street and Kingsessing Avenue, not far from Flying Kite’s new On the Ground digs.  

Southwest CDC has been operating in the neighborhood for decades, but Young still saw a need for her group.

"The geographic area of Southwest is so large," she says. "It’s just pretty evident that one organization cannot possibly effectively handle all of the community in this particular area."

Young sees Empowered CDC as part of a local matrix that will see success in cooperation.

"This has to be a collaborative approach," she explains. "There’s not anything that can be done that’s sustainable if we’re an island. We have to deal with other organizations; we have to really get the community reinvested in beautifying and building and transforming the Southwest area."

Currently, Empowered holds some programs out of Myers, but because of needed building repairs there, the organization has moved its offices temporarily to nearby Tilden Middle School.

Their health and wellness program is the one Young is most excited about: A recent community garden initiative in a former vacant lot has spurred beautification, education, healthy food access, safe space for seniors and youth, and community cohesion. Empowered obtained a lease for three lots on the 2000 block of Cecil Street, and in the course of a year, formed a community garden club and installed benches and garden beds for flowers, fruits and veggies. This summer, the CDC is launching new educational programs around the garden for youth, seniors and everyone in between.  

"I charged the community with really leading the design of what this parcel of land looks like," says Young.

And the transformation there is spreading.

"It started with the garden," she explains, but now locals are saying, "if we can do this with a parcel of land, what can we do with our own block?" It’s lead to new painting, more street cleaning, a movement to get planters installed, and "really being a more cohesive block. That’s what Empowered is all about."

The organization is still new, but Young has high hopes for building and utilizing the skills of community members.

"Our biggest asset as an organization, being very new, is simply human capital: understanding how relationships matter, how communities have a voice," she says. "That’s what really propels us as an organization."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Regina Young, Empowered CDC


Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

What's on tap at The Oval for summer 2016?

For the fourth straight year, Eakins Oval will become The Oval, bringing a little summer fun to the Parkway. Running July 15 through August 21, this year's installation will also feature special events related to the Democratic National Convention.

"It’s a wonderful time in Philly," says Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. "We’re having this renaissance of things to do outside in the summer. It’s really becoming something [Philly is] known for."

The eight acres of the Oval feature lots of lawn, shady trees and a new 25,000-square-foot ground mural from the Mural Arts Program (Ott Lovell says the artist will be announced soon). The beer garden is also returning, and will have Sunday hours for the first time. A rotating food truck line-up will be on hand offering plenty of dining options. Last year’s popular themed days are returning, too, with Wellness Wednesdays, Arts & Culture Thursdays, Food & Flicks Fridays, Game Day on Saturdays, and Family Fun Sundays. (Click here for the full line-up.)

The annual pop-up park is a partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philly Parks & Rec, with support from PNC Bank, Warby Parker and Park Towne Place.

The site will host a wide range of summer programming, including games, live music, movie nights, workshops, performances and Saturday Quizzo. Offerings in honor of the DNC (July 24-29) will include special beer garden hours -- Sunday, July 24 from noon to 5 p.m. and July 25 - 29 from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (featuring Ales of the Revolution from Yards Brewing) -- and an "All-Presidents" Political Quizzo night, 7 p.m. July 25 with Johnny Goodtimes.

Ott Lovell says the park attracts a diverse mix of people from across the city, as well as plenty of travelers.

"I was stunned at how many tourists came through," she recalls. "They’re not from here, so they don’t know the Oval as anything but this beautiful park. They don’t realize that in December it’s actually a giant parking lot."

Over the last few years, Oval participants have pushed for expanding the park’s dates of operation, but it stays the same year to year due to the Welcome America and Made in America festivals.

That doesn’t mean Parks & Rec doesn’t have its eye on how to utilize the space year-round.

"I think longterm we need to start thinking about the future of the Oval," adds Ott Lovell. "Do we continue to pop it up every year [or] do we continue to think about longer-term investment? What’s a more permanent way that we can activate the Oval year-round?"

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Meet Broad Street Ministry's new executive director

Last summer, we featured Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a powerful local organization offering an ever-expanding range of services and resources for thousands of Philadelphians experiencing homelessness, poverty, housing or food insecurity. This month, BSM is installing a dynamic and dedicated new leader: Michael J. Dahl.

"I had a desire to start working with the most vulnerable in our community at the grassroots level," says Dahl of what prompted him to make this career shift (he’s former senior vice president of Pew Charitable Trusts, overseeing the Philadelphia program). "It became a personal matter -- where do I think I could have the most impact at this point in my life, in my career? I was looking around for what the next chapter could be."

He was impressed by BSM’s model and services. He went and volunteered, and participating himself is what confirmed his desire to get involved.

A Stanford alum, Dahl is taking over for BSM founder Rev. Bill Golderer, who left the organization last November to seek a seat in U.S. Congress (Golderer will remain on the BSM Board of Directors through the transition).

Before his 15 years with Pew -- which encompassed planning, public policy, fundraising, evaluation, research, finance and legal affairs -- Dahl had a hand in two successful business startups spanning strategic advisory, and insurance and financial services software. He was also an economic, tax and policy advisor to Senator Bill Bradley.

Dahl argues that it’s become far too easy for us as a society to "dehumanize" entire populations. He appreciates BSM’s rigorous approach not only to programming (including offerings as diverse as art classes and mail service for people without homes), but to evaluating and strengthening its approach.

"I come from the model that if ain’t broke, fix it," he says of applying ongoing, measurement-based improvements. "How can we do a better job of helping these people, people who are facing hunger or housing insecurity? Can we help them find their way to reclaim their lives and become more productive citizens?"

Dahl especially appreciates the existing Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative, "but I think the real upside is once you gain the trust, what are the fleet of services and supports that can be provided that truly let these people move back into society?" He’s also a fan of BSM's inclusivity as a faith-based organization that’s "open to all faiths, and people of no faith."

Dahl will officially start as BSM’s new executive director on June 13.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael J. Dahl, Broad Street Ministry 

Weckerly's Ice Cream to open its first retail location in Fishtown


Philly ice cream connoisseurs have something to look forward to. Currently, if you want some top-rated Weckerly’s Ice Cream, you have to buy it by the pint (or sandwich) at a local cafe, food retailer or farmers' market, but now the company is gearing up to open its very own brick-and-mortar location on a bustling stretch of Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

Fronted by husband-and-wife team Jen and Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s launched in late 2012 in West Philly’s Spruce Hill neighborhood. In 2014, the micro-creamery moved to Port Richmond’s Globe Dye Works.

"At that time, we really did want to open a retail shop eventually in West Philadelphia," says Andy. But the search proved difficult, so they broadened the hunt. With some help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation, they discovered a 350-square-foot shop at 9 West Girard Avenue, and knew it was the perfect place (they’ll still make their ice cream at Globe Dye Works).

"We definitely wanted a neighborhood," says Andy. "We wanted to be amongst families and homeowners, and people who engage in activities in their neighborhood."

Jen is an experienced pastry chef (her maiden name, Weckerle, inspired the company's moniker). A former bicycle mechanic, Andy eventually left his job to focus on the business full-time.

"[Jen] is the reason we make ice cream and have an ice cream company," he insists. "She’s the heartbeat of everything."

The company is known for unusual flavors such as buckwheat sour cherry and lemon verbena black raspberry, but "we do embrace the classics," he adds. "There’s a place for a vanilla ice cream made with grass-fed milk and cream and good-quality vanilla bean…that tastes like ice cream would have tasted 50 years ago."

Weckerly’s more adventurous combinations are inspired by the company’s mission to source seasonal ingredients from local farms. This is partly why the Satinskys need to grow their business with a retail location, rather than increasing wholesale production. With their own shop, they can stick with their model and showcase small batches of exclusive flavors -- perhaps only five gallons at a time.  

"There are aspects to the way we operate that don’t lend themselves well to a rapidly growing wholesale business," explains Andy, noting the difficulty of scaling up while still working exclusively with local farms.

The new Girard Avenue shop will be open year-round seven days a week, offering a selection of signature ice cream sandwiches and hand-dipped cups and cones, with six rotating ice cream flavors and two sorbets.

They couple isn't sure of an opening date yet, but hope to launch by late summer or early fall. Fans can follow along for the latest @Weckerlys on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andy Satinsky, Weckerly’s 

Philadelphia makes another prime showing in latest Knight Cities Challenge


After nabbing more project grants than any other U.S. city in the Knight Foundation's inaugural 2015 Knight Cities Challenge, Philly has more reasons to be proud. As announced at an April 12 celebration at Reading Terminal Market (RTM), local winners received the largest share of the national grant program’s $5 million pool for 2016: over $873,000 for four local initiatives.
 
This year’s contest, which invites individuals and organizations nationwide to submit their ideas for improving city life, drew over 4,500 applicants. That was narrowed down to 138 finalists and 37 grantees. Philadelphia's winners include the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) for its 20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses; Reading Terminal Market Corp. for its Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers; Little Giant Creative for its Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, and Benjamin Bryant for his Little Music Studio.
 
Caitlin Quigley of PACA spoke at the celebration. Her organization will use its $146,000 grant to launch 20 book clubs in 20 Philly neighborhoods. Attendees will focus on studying cooperative business models, and then use what they’ve learned to launch a co-op business serving a need in their community.
 
Quigley hopes the initiative will "activate Philadelphia residents to be lifelong agents of change in their neighborhoods."
 
RTM General Manager Anuj Gupta spoke on behalf of Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers, recipient of $84,674. According to Knight, the project will build "cultural bridges to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities with cooking classes celebrating ethnic food," led by RTM chefs.
 
RTM is one of the city’s most diverse public spaces, explained Gupta, and it’s known "as a place where one can expect civility," no matter where you come from, over the common enjoyment of food.
 
Tayyib Smith's Little Giant Creative is receiving $308,640 for its project that boosts "economic opportunity by using hip-hop to provide hands-on business training to members of low-income groups." As Smith noted, one third of our city’s population lives in poverty. With a GED and two semesters of college, he’s now the founder of four businesses, and he wants to see Philadelphia's entrepreneurial community talk as much as they can about local poverty.
 
Bryan's The Little Music Studio, which netted $334,050, will be a "traveling playground for musicians," making musical instruments accessible in public places to anyone who wants to sit together and play. The "project is not about performance," says Bryan, but about diverse people connecting through spontaneous jam sessions. (He’s leading the project through his role as director of planning and design at Group Melvin Design.)
 
As Knight Foundation Philadelphia Program Director Patrick Morgan put it, "Each of these ideas represents the best of Philadelphia."
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Patrick Morgan, Knight Foundation Philadelphia, and Knight grant recipients 

 

Temple Blackstone Launchpad student wins pitch contest with campus food delivery app


Recent Temple graduate Andrew Nakkache and his business partner, fellow grad Mike Paszkiewicz, got the idea for their winning 2016 College Pitch Philly concept Habitat when they grew frustrated with the student meal plans. The resulting startup is a food-delivery app linking local food trucks and restaurants with campus-dwellers.

The duo -- who both graduated about a month ago -- met on their very first day on campus and soon identified a couple things about student life that weren’t ideal, including the fact that they (or their parents) were wasting money on meal plans with meals that expired weekly.

"Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was an off-campus meal plan?" Nakkache remembers wondering. It was just a concept at that point, but a year-and-a-half later, he and Paszkiewicz launched the initial version of Habitat, a general "student-to-student marketplace."

"It failed big-time," recalls Nakkache. It was "buggy" and they released it in April, shortly before the summer exodus. People were downloading the app, but in one month, they didn’t book a single transaction. There was work to be done.

The partners headed to San Francisco for some mentorship -- one successful entrepreneur assured them that they had a great market, but needed to zero in on a much more targeted service. They realized that there was a huge opportunity in food alone.

Nakkache points to existing meal delivery apps and websites like GrubHub; they realized none of them were focused on the college market. The revamped version of Habitat, launched September 1, 2015, operates with "runners" (exclusively Temple students) delivering food to campus sites within a half-mile or less of participating restaurants and food trucks for a $2.50 in-app delivery fee.

Since launch, Habitat has clocked about 1200 orders, with over 400 in the last month. Nakkache touts a 75 percent success rate with vendors: out of 28 food trucks and restaurants approached by Habitat, 21 came on board.

At the February 24 College Pitch Philly competition, Habitat took top honors, nabbing $7,500 out of a total $15,000 prize pool. (The contest is sponsored by the Philadelphia Regional Entrepreneurship Education Consortium and partners StartUp PHL, Blackstone Foundation, and Quorum at the University City Science Center.) Wins like this -- including a $21,000 boost from the Fox School’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl -- have helped propel the young company, which now has six full-time employees.

Habitat’s latest update speaks to the founders’ original inspiration: a stored-value feature that allows app users (or their parents) to buy tiered plans that include a certain number of pre-paid meals (at $8 each) and some free deliveries.

Next up? Burnish the metrics at Temple and expand to University City. The founders hope the prize money from College Pitch Philly will help bring Habitat to Penn and Drexel by fall 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Andrew Nakkache, Habitat

Food News: Eclectic Double Knot brings coffee, pastries, banh mi, sushi and more to Midtown Village


Coffee. Pastries. Banh mi and lunch bowls. Sushi. Japanese-style small plates. Robatayaki. You can get them all at Double KnotSampan's exciting new neighbor on 13th Street. For Michael Schulson and his MJS Restaurants (of Atlantic City's Izakaya, Sampan and the Independence Beer Garden) the new spot came after a quick turnaround -- it took less than a year from lease to launch. The dynamic space is an intriguing addition to Midtown Village's exploding restaurant scene.

There’s so much happening at Double Knot (120 S. 13th Street) that it's good to have a tour guide. The space has two levels: about 1100 square feet upstairs and a larger downstairs space offering about 3000 square feet including dining rooms, a bar (under beverage manager Zachary Davis), and a twelve-seat sushi and robatayaki bar.

The Double Knot day starts at 7 a.m. in its street-level coffee bar where they serve a buzzy proprietary blend through a partnership with Elixr; the menu also includes coffee cocktails and pastries (from pastry chef Roxxanne Delle Site). From there, it's on to lunch: Schulson says his mid-day patrons have been especially enthusiastic about the midday offerings: create-your-own lunch bowls or banh mi for just $7.

At 4 p.m., the cocktail lounge opens, serving a daily punch, wine and beer on draft, desserts, and selections from the downstairs sushi and robatayaki menus. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. with 35 seats upstairs -- along with a full bar serving sake by the glass and bottle -- and 80 seats downstairs, plus the sushi bar.

"We wanted to do something that made the downstairs feel a little bit more exclusive, more hidden," says Shulson of building a space that patrons will discover "tucked away" down a hallway and back stairwell.

And dinner?

Executive Chef Kevin Yanaga supervises a menu featuring sushi, Japanese small plates (Schulson recommends ordering about eight for a table of two) and 38 robatayaki options. Robatayaki is a Japanese-style skewer slow-grilled over open charcoal; Double Knot’s offerings include duck hearts, lobster, shrimp, venison, chicken breast and asparagus.

As for the small plates, take your pick. The menu has nine sections including meat, fish, sushi, sashimi, hot, cold and crispy. Schulson's favorites include the hearts of palm salad; the tuna tartare with chili oil, avocado and rice pearls; and the rib-eye for two served with sushi rice and lettuce for wrapping.

Kate Rohrer of Rohe Creative designed the space. Upstairs patrons will find a light, earthy palette including exposed brick, reclaimed wood, tile, antiqued mirrors and industrial-style lighting. Downstairs, there's "dark and moody" velvet booths, industrial fixtures and two hand-painted murals.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Michael Schulson, MJS Restaurants

 

Historic Fair Hill Burial Ground works to get its due

Historic Fair Hill (HFH), a landmark burial ground on Germantown Avenue, houses the remains of some of America’s most prominent abolitionists and women’s rights advocates. After decades of neglect, the rejuvenated site is planning another year of programming growth under new executive director Jean Warrington.

A Philly native and current Chestnut Hill resident, Warrington got involved with the project over a decade ago. In 2004, the HFH board hired her as its part-time program director and as of January 1, 2016, she took on the role of the organization’s executive director.

The HFH site dates all the way back to the early 18th century. It was started by George Fox himself, founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the land’s original owner. According to HFH, his will asked that the space be used "for a meeting house, a burying ground, and a garden and grounds" for kids to play and learn.

The site’s adjoining Quaker meeting house at Germantown Avenue and Cambria Street was sporadically active from 1703 all the way until 1967, when shrinking attendance led the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to sell the property. Maintenance of the grounds -- the site of the graves of American luminaries such as Lucretia Mott and Robert Purvis -- deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, "it was the biggest open-air crack cocaine market in the city," says Warrington of the five-acre site. In the 1990s, a dedicated cross-cultural neighborhood coalition slowly reclaimed the site as a safe green space. Outreach to local Quaker leader Margaret Hope Bacon (a Mott biographer) resulted in renewed attention and eventually a nonprofit that raised funds to buy back the grounds in 1993.

"What we’re doing is using a historic site…to carry forward the values of the people buried there. We’re using the past to serve the present," explains Warrington of HFH’s current work, which hearkens back to Fox’s will by focusing on urban gardening -- both on and off-site -- and a reading program at the neighboring Julia de Burgos School.

There are currently 20 HFH "reading buddies" who volunteer in the classroom there and work to restore the school library that was closed down (along with many others across the city) in 2010. A large local Hispanic immigrant community means this kind of support is crucial: Many local kids have parents who don’t speak English, so bridging the English-speaking literary gap is important.

"The kids are so lovely," says Warrington. "They are respectful, eager, curious, bright. They’ve got to have a library. They’ve got to have books. They’ve got to have people who can read with them."

In her new role as executive director, she wants to increase the number of reading buddies to 50 and expand the site’s existing gardening programs. Working outside "increases the peace," she argues. It correlates with better performance at school and is "just a good thing in this society that is so wired and pushy and loud and unjust."

Also on the horizon is increasing the site’s visibility with an improved website, better social media presence and monthly events. That includes an upcoming Women’s History Month tour on March 12 honoring the graves of leaders of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s right’s convention.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jean Warrington, Historic Fair Hill

 

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
 
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
 
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
 
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
  
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

On the Ground: Callowhill's W/N W/N shakes up the restaurant model

If I were running this business, what would I do differently? It’s a question most restaurant, café or bar staffers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers. Last year, a group of Philly entrepreneurs came together to answer it for themselves.

In summer 2014, six Philadelphians began to take a serious look at developing a cooperatively owned and operated bar and restaurant. One has since left the venture, but five service industry veterans remain to run Spring Garden Street's W/N W/N Coffee Bar: Will Darwall, Michael Dunican, Max Kochinke, Alden Towler and Tony Montagnaro.

The crew soft-launched the location at 931 Spring Garden in December of last year, and held a grand opening in late January 2015. Since then, the five coworker/owners have been experimenting with their model in a democratic government-by-consensus process (they have three additional employees who are not partners in the business).

Chatting with Flying Kite about their first year in business, Darwall says the ownership model is based more on "sweat equity" than the capital brought to the venture (that capital was treated as third-party loans, and does not entitle the owner-investor to a greater share of the profits). Each of the five owners works multiple shifts each week cooking, serving, bartending, busing tables or performing maintenance.

"What worker/ownership gives us is equal legal ownership over the company, which means a right to participate in decision-making and a right to accrue profits from the business," he explains. "The way that we pay out those profits is proportional to how much work we all do, counting the hours up.

"We thought that coming together and working as a cooperative, we’d be able to create a structure where we could support each other…and use our collective creative energy and potential to come up with good solutions to the problems we faced, rather than feeling frustrated about things that we thought could go better."

W/N W/N's menu features local, sustainably sourced foods, with a focus on canning, preserving and pickling. (Ed: Flying Kite recently held a meeting there and the food was phenomenal.)

The innovative business model extends to the customers: patrons can buy membership shares. They run $25, and each time the member buys something, 25 percent of their bill is deducted from that pre-paid fee – meaning that W/N W/N members infuse the business with $25 up front, and then receive that money back as they pay only 75 percent of the purchase price on any given item.

Darwall estimates that about 10 percent of the café’s customers have bought into the membership model, and that’s fine for now -- as the founders tinker with their business plan and assess what worked and what didn’t in their first year, they’ll continue to explore what kind of cooperative model might thrive going forward.

W/N W/N will be scaling back its food menu beginning in January, though food service will still be on offer. It currently opens at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, closing at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, when it’s open until 2 a.m. The doors open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for brunch.

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).


On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Will Darwall, W/N W/N Coffee Bar

Federal dollars from ScaleUp America come to West Philly

In December, the Enterprise Center (TEC) in West Philly announced a special program to augment their 25-year mission: giving local women- and minority-owned businesses the tools they need to grow. TEC is one of only seven organizations nationwide -- and the only one in Philly -- chosen to receive over $1 million in federal funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration's ScaleUp America Initiative.

According to TEC, ScaleUp provides "growth-oriented" small businesses with a targeted twelve-week curriculum and six months of one-on-one mentoring from experts aimed at developing a three-year strategy. TEC narrowed the field of applicants down to 25 businesses featuring minority owners or executive managers.

Iola Harper, TEC's executive vice president of business programs, says that the companies served by TEC and ScaleUp America are often "sandwiched" between early startups "in the idea phase" and large firms that can attract venture capital. To qualify for participation in the ScaleUp program, businesses had to have local impact and have proven themselves in the market via $150,000 to $700,000 in annual revenue.

"We call them scalers," says Harper, and they are often neglected in the venture capital world.

One marker of companies like this is a relative lack of managerial experience, in addition to inadequate access to capital and technical assistance.

"I find that these businesses tend to work in their business and not on their business," explains Harper. "So this program forces the participants to step out of their businesses," encouraging management to look at the big picture: business goals, scalability and understanding the numbers.

The ScaleUp initiative is a mentoring curriculum, but another component of working with TEC is the access to capital. The organization can make in-house loans of up to $200,000 to qualified participants, and if a business’s capital needs exceed that, there are banking partners on hand.

Harper is excited about "the fact that these are all local or minority-owned firms, and they’re typically the pool that has the hardest time accessing these services that we’re offering."

That difficulty is two-fold: Not only does TEC focus on women and minority entrepreneurs who get a smaller percentage of America’s venture capital in general, but it also targets companies outside of the tech and pharmaceutical realms. Current ScaleUp participants include food, manufacturing, personal service and construction businesses.

TEC is focused on ventures that "bring a lot of social capital to our community," enthuses Harper. "They bring a lot of intellectual capital to our community, and most of all they bring jobs to our community."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Iola Harper, The Enterprise Center

 

Philly tableware mavens Felt + Fat earn fans far and wide

Port Richmond ceramics company Felt + Fat was founded in 2013 by Nate Mell and Wynn Bauer. In May, over 200 Kickstarter donors raised $26,256 for the young Philly business, which provides custom-made tableware to restaurants such as Fork, High Street on Market, South Philly’s Laurel and other fine dining spots in Brooklyn and beyond. They also offer direct sales to individual consumers through their website and wholesale distribution through shops across the country.

According to Mell, Felt + Fat would have continued without the Kickstarter infusion, but it helped them grow much faster than they could have on their own, adding a new kiln to their studio, acquiring other smaller pieces of equipment and bringing on board a paid employee.

"It’s been full-time since day one," says Mell of the hours he and his partner have put into the business; that said, they also worked part-time elsewhere while the company grew. Mell spent about seven years in local restaurants, which helped him connect with chefs who were looking to showcase their locally sourced ingredients on custom Philly-made tableware.

This past summer the founders were able to quit their part-time jobs and focus exclusively on Felt + Fat.

The name is a homage to mid-20th century German sculptor Joseph Beuys -- they liked his artistry and use of materials, most notably soap and animal fat.

"We were just trying to make a name that could exist in a few different realms of craft and art and design," explains Mell.

The founders have perfected a slip casting method for their unique wares, which feature different textures, finishes and colors, including a distinctive swirl. They also make their own porcelain.

"To a degree, it’s kind of like cooking or baking something. It’s a recipe," says Mell of the specially "tweaked" clay and mineral combo they use. Initially, they were mixing the ingredients themselves, but now a distributor does this for them; they then add water and the necessary materials to cast their plates and cups.

In slip casting, the liquid clay -- or "slip" -- is poured into a plaster mold. Wherever the slip meets the moisture-wicking plaster, a hard edge forms. When that layer is thick enough, the excess slip is poured out of the mold. What’s left forms the body of the cup or plate. When dry, it's removed from the mold and fired in the kiln.

All that takes time and space, which Philadelphia has in spades.

"Philadelphia is a particularly good place right now to be an artist and a creative person, because of the rapid growth of the moment," argues Mell. He appreciates the large client base a Philly location offers, without the living and studio costs of New York City.

Next up, the duo are hoping to expand into lighting fixtures and furniture accessories; they eventually aim to open a local showroom for their wares. They’ll certainly have more space to experiment: In January, Felt + Fat (currently at 3237 Amber Street) will expand to a second location in a Kensington studio building at the corner of I and Venango Streets.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nate Mell, Felt + Fat 
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