Category Archives: Local Businesses

Cenntennial Park CDC Talks to Parkside Residents

Christopher Scott of the Cenntennial Park CDC
Christopher Scott of the Cenntennial Park CDC

In the September 2015 issue of the Parkside Journal,

we introduced readers to Christopher Scott and his

new venture the Centennial Parkside CDC. Chris is a

resident of Parkside by way of his grandparents who

moved to the area in the late 1940’s. As a kid growing

up in North Carolina Chris would spend many

summers in Parkside with his grandparents. He

enjoyed those summer visits and bonded with the

community. Those feelings never left Chris, which

lead him to move here after his grandfather died. He

joined together with other long time community

residents and business owners and supporters from

neighborhood cultural centers to create his new CDC.

Recently Christopher Scott found the time to sit down

and discuss what progress Centennial Parkside has

accomplished over the last eight months.

PJ: Chris what have you and the Centennial CDC

been up to since our last story in September of 2015?

Scott: We have continued to stay busy with the many

organizational setup matters that, while not

glamorous, we needed to push through in order to start

providing resources to revitalize Parkside.

Principally, I am happy to report that since we last

spoke, the Centennial Parkside CDC received notice

that we are recognized as a tax-exempt organization

under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

This is a critically important achievement, since

foundations and other philanthropic sources can only

provide grants to organizations that have this

designation. Centennial Parkside CDC is officially

open for business!

PJ: Have you and your team developed a strategic

plan?

Scott: We recently completed our 5-year strategic plan

with the assistance of a nationally known consultant,

American Communities Trust (ACT). We spent six

months in Board of Trustees training and strategic

plan development sessions with ACT.

The plan carries 5 core priorities for the CDC’s

activities:

1) Housing and homeownership

2) Marketing and branding

3) Sanitation and greening

4) Commercial Development

5) CDC organizational sustainability

This plan is our roadmap for the next 5 years. We will

post the plan in its entirety on our website when the

website is live. In the interim, if you want a copy

please contact me and I will ensure you get a detailed

version of the strategic plan.

PJ: When do you expect to have your website up

and running?

Scott: We are actively working on establishing a

website and we expect to have one publicly

available in the coming weeks. We expect the

website to be a central resource for the community,

so we are investing time to ensure we have a great

website that does just that. Stay tuned and look out

for a website announcement by the next edition of

the Parkside Journal.

PJ: If Parkside residents want to reach out to you

how do they contact you?

Scott: You can reach me by email at:

CLS2X@yahoo.com or by phone: 917.254.2361.

The CDC also holds monthly meetings and we

encourage resident participation as we move

forward. Please contact me to learn more.

PJ: Is there a physical address to the Parkside

CDC?

Scott: We have made significant progress on identifying

and securing financing for the physical headquarters

of the CDC. One of our key requirements in a

physical office space is that the space be accessible

to everyone in the community as a place to gather,

learn and play together. We are excited about moving to our own physical office space before the end of 2016 and we expect to

have an announcement on the physical address of

where that will be by the next edition of the Parkside

Journal.

PJ : I know one of your early goals was to develop an

“Energy Improvement District” where you would

supply electrical energy to area residents from

renewable sources. Can you elaborate on this and has

there been any movement in that direction?

Scott: An Energy Improvement District

is certainly one solution we are exploring

as means to create wealth and opportunity

for Parkside residents. Low-income

communities are disproportionately

impacted by land use strategies that

negatively impact health. Fundamentally,

an Energy Investment District enables

communities – particularly communities

of color – to develop local renewable

energy generation and energy efficiency

programs that are accountable to the

community and produce healthier

neighborhoods, reduce energy costs,

create good jobs, and build the wealth for

those most in need.

PJ: And what kind of movement have

you had in that direction; is there anyone

out there listening?

Scott: I can say we have had some

success in building the case for an Energy

Improvement District in Parkside.

Leaders from across the city are taking

notice that we have an innovative solution

to transforming the structural inequities

borne by low-income communities like

ours. As an example of the notice we are

receiving, the CDC has been invited to

speak about the Energy Improvement

District solution at the Arts & Business

Council of Greater Philadelphia on June

9th. This is a conference that is hosted by

the largest Foundations in the city and

expected to attract 200 – 300 executives

and staff from across the nonprofit,

philanthropic and private sectors. This is

the type of platform that will help the

CDC continue to build momentum around

implementing this solution in Parkside.

PJ: Where do you get your funding?

Who are your Partners?

Scott: The CDC just completed its

strategic plan in April and we have been

using that plan as the basis to introduce

the CDC and its proposed activities to

potential funders, including the region’s

largest foundations. We are really pleased

by the level of interest the Foundation

community has in supporting our CDC

and we expect to cement those funding

relationships in the coming months.

This neighborhood is a focus area for the

philanthropic community, given the

Promise Zone and other assets we have

around us. Our job as a CDC is to harness

that interest and steer those investments

to the benefit of our residents. We are

working hard every day to ensure that

happens.

PJ:  What do you feel you’ve

accomplished over the past year?

Scott:  This has been a truly exceptional

year of growth and achievement for the

CDC. We started from nothing but a

concept exactly one year ago this month.

Yet, since that time we have:

1) Formally incorporated

2) Received 501(c)(3) designation

3) Raised over $20,000 in direct

donations

4) Advocated for the installation of bike

share stations in Parkside

5) Established new partnerships with our

cultural institution partners

And importantly

6) We have a direct working relationship

with Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell,

who is supporting our efforts as we move

forward

I’m proud to lead an energetic Board of

Trustees that is deeply committed to

providing an improved quality of life for

the residents of Parkside.

PJ:  Our thanks to Mr. Scott for sitting

with us.

Indego Bike Share Open for Business In Parkside

by Michael Burch

A look at the New Indego Bike Share Station on Parkside Avenue
A look at the New Indego Bike Share Station on Parkside Avenue

The City of Philadelphia’s INDEGO Bike share program is up and running in Parkside. INDEGO is a network of public bikes that can be rented for short periods of time and is a fun and affordable way to get around the city. You can check out a bike at any station, ride to where you want to go, and return the bike to any station. A $15 a month membership gives you an unlimited number of 1 hour trips.

The staff at INGEGO has been hosting various discussions with Parkside residents at local public meetings since early September 2015. The purpose of these meetings has been to inform area residents about the coming program and to get feedback on the best locations for the bike stations.

By now many Parkside residents have noticed and may have used the INDEGO bikes at their stations along Parkside Avenue. For those who have not noticed them,the stations in Parkside can be found in three locations:

  • on the sidewalk in front of the Philadelphia Zoo
  • along Parkside Avenue near the School of the Future
  • in the 4200 block of Parkside Avenue near the Case Building next to the eastbound 38 bus stop.
  • Negotiations are currently underway for a fourth station. If all goes well that station will be in the Parkwest Shopping Center at 52nd and Jefferson Streets. In the future new stations may be set up at the Mann Music Center, the Pump Track or the Please Touch Museum.

It’s important to note that the two Parkside Avenue sites are located in temporary locations. This is mostly due to the upcoming construction of the Park Conservancy’s Parkside Edge project.

Brown’s ShopRite Plans a Coming Jazz Attraction To Parkside!

by Nikia Brown

Parkside is an emerging community bustling with residents, businesses, and culture aficionados. It has undergone a number of transitions over the past several decades and continues to welcome changes that positively impact the community. One change, in particular, is the addition of the Brown family ShopRite located at 1575 N. 52nd. Street. Prior to the arrival of Brown’s ShopRite in 2008, the community was a food dessert with little to no access to fresh groceries or produce. In 2002, the Brown family partnered with the state’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative to bring healthy groceries to inner city neighborhoods. Brown’s Shop Rite was the answer to a 20-year cry for food justice in the Parkside community.

ShopRite Supermarkets is a co-operative chain of supermarkets that span across six northeastern states: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. With eleven stores in and around the Philadelphia area, the Brown’s pride themselves on a commitment to four brand pillars: authentic products, affordability, community responsibility, and the promise of an enjoyable shopping experience. The store has strong ties with local organizations such as the Parkside Business Association, Parkside Community Association, and Please Touch Museum.

Brown's Shop Rite in Parkside (Photo Credit: Brown's ShopRite)
Brown’s Shop Rite in Parkside (Photo Credit: Brown’s ShopRite)

“It is important to understand the people we serve and what’s going on in the community,” says Paul Brauer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Brown Superstores.

By summer 2016, the Brown family intends to take the promise of an enjoyable shopping experience to a new level. Soon, the store will break ground on an innovative development plan that will include a 15, 000 square feet expansion toward Lowes. “With the rise of e-commerce, there is a need for more of a destination and entertainment space,” explains Brauer.

The development will encompass an upstairs mezzanine with 165 seats, stage, and sound system for live musical performances. Brown’s ShopRite will partner with Settlement Music School and 23rd Street Jazz Café to display a wide array of local talent. “The stage will be a place for people to practice their craft,” says Brauer.

There will also be a Chef’s table upstairs that will offer food for guests during performances as well as cooking classes for interested community members.

Patrons will have the option to dine and wine on the mezzanine or enjoy an open beer garden on the lower level. Other attractions include an open flame grilled chicken station, salad bar, and more food options.

“We want to bring more of a higher end experience at an affordable cost,” enthuses Brauer. “People want more places to go that are safe and inexpensive.”

The Brown family is endeavoring to do something that no other grocery store has done before. In addition to the many new attractions, Philadelphia’s only black owned talk radio station, WURD, will be making Brown’s ShopRite its new home. “This is the first time that a local supermarket has incorporated a stage, sound system, and broadcasting station,” prides Brauer. With the aim of becoming a one-stop destination for their 2-3 mile customer base, the store will also add a health clinic, pharmacy, and nutritionist.

This development will not only bring a new flare to the neighborhood, but also more employment opportunities for community members. Brauer predicts a rise from 280 to 300 job associates. He has a very positive outlook on the project and is eager to unveil Parkside’s coming inner city attraction.

West Philadelphia’s Own Ice Cream Maker

by Manuel McDonnell Smith

Banana Pudding, Strawberry Shortcake, and Sweet Potato Pie. Home-style desserts we would have more often if it didn’t involve so much time in the kitchen. Now, a West Philly native is making these favorites available by the spoonful in your freezer.

Andre Andrews is the creator and owner of Dre’s Southern Style Ice Cream and Water Ice. He says the brand’s southern-style flavors are a “premium product that tastes better and costs less than the competitor.” Besides the flavors mentioned above, Dre’s pints also come in Butter Pralines, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, and Brownie Mint Chip.

Last year, his company closed a deal with Brown’s Family Shop Rite making the ice cream line available year-round in the chain’s locations at Park West Town Center, across Philadelphia, and in Camden, Delaware and even Baltimore. Although production is handled at a local plant, Andre makes time to visit each retail location on a regular basis to ensure proper merchandising and to introduce customers to the flavors. “I want people to know that this is a product that I would feed to my own family. It has no food coloring and no artificial flavoring”.

While the region is now getting their first chance at enjoying Dre’s flavors, they have been a staple of summer in West Philly since 2014 when Andre first started selling water ice from a pushcart. A missionary trip to Nicaragua inspired him to purchase a professional ice cream maker and grow the brand. Once the machine was delivered, he installed it in a garage and began creating and testing flavors. “I just started making my own product and giving away free samples until I found a perfect match of flavors”, he said.

12647074_1062787483773782_2996386098356604708_n
A look at some of Dre’s Flavors. (Source: Dre’s)

Right now, Andre and his small staff of two are working to grow the brand and they have their eyes set on building a headquarters location in West Philadelphia in the future. For now, he’s hoping that in addition to delivering a premium product, he will be an inspiration to others to also follow their dreams. For those looking to do something different, the Overbrook High School graduate offers this recipe for success, “Just go out and do it. Be Fearless. Don’t be scared of failure. Just work hard and learn from your mistakes. Your success will be next to follow and when you finally achieve, be sure to make time to give back to someone who is less fortunate.”

Andre recently joined the PACTS (Partnership for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science) Alumni Board, at the Franklin Institute. He was a member of this group as a youth and now hopes to shape the future of other young people in the city.

James Burnett Takes the Mic on Capital, Cause, & Community Engagement

by Nikia Brown

Thirty years ago, James Burnett was a different person. He was a typical college student trying to navigate the uncertainties of life.

Today, he is the Executive Director of West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution (WPFSI). He also serves as a Board Member on a number of community organizations such as the Business Association of West Parkside, Philadelphia Parks Alliance, Mt.Vernon Manor, and Entrepreneur Works.

While thereare a series of events that led him to his current position, Burnett’s interest in finance and community development has not wavered. In high school, he witnessed the grave disparities that existed between poor and affluent neighborhoods and asked himself, “How can we make our communities more stable?”

Even at a young age, he understood that access to capital was the answer to that question. “Finance offers more flexibility,” says Burnett. “Having capital makes a difference.” In his current role, Burnett collaborates with key stakeholders in the community to generate greater economic sustainability for various West Philadelphia neighborhoods. He provides activity grants as well as scholarships for leaders seeking community development training. “I want to help the community impact itself,” says Burnett.

By providing resources and pertinent information, Burnett aims to help business entrepreneurs and community members make sound decisions. His institution offers seminars on budgeting, creating bank accounts, and the value of saving. His organization also runs a youth program known as Wes Gold Fellows—a paid high school internship that engages students in the areas of job readiness, financial education, college planning, and civic participation.

Mr. James Burnett speaks before an audience. (Photo: Parkside Journal)
Mr. James Burnett speaks before an audience. (Photo: Parkside Journal)

When asked about his greatest accomplishments as Executive Director of WPFSI, Burnett responds, “Watching people grow—getting young people to grow in their roles.” Currently, Burnett is preparing to launch a community planning and revitalization project in seven neighborhoods: Dunlap, Mill Creek, Cathedral Park, Carroll Park, Hestonville, and East and West Parkside. He stresses that this project is entirely collaborative as he will be partnering with CDCs, resident associations, and community stakeholders to assess and meet the specific needs of each community.

WPFSI is also collaborating with Global Leadership Academy, Discovery Charter School, and Philadelphia University to design a play space behind Lowes in Parkwest Town Center. Students from Global Leadership Academy and Discovery Charter School will brainstorm design concepts for the play space and then pass the baton to Philadelphia University students to develop a concrete plan.

Burnett approaches the community with a realist perspective and sees it evolving in either one of two ways: “People will begin to pay attention and get involved or our community will be developed around and over top of us.” He sees the potential influx of new residents as a growth opportunity rather than a threat. “We must engage quickly,” Burnett asserts.

He credits the resistance to change to a lack of trust from community members who have been taken advantage of or lied to in the past.

While he doesn’t negate the validity of these feelings, he says, community members “must be willing to have a conversation.” He encourages community members to be open to progressive change as well as take ownership of how their community expands and develops.

Burnett has come a long way from that “young college student,” but his appetite for people and development seems to only deepen with time.

According to him, the time to maximize land and capital potential is ripe and long overdue. To reach the offices of WPFSI call 215-452-0100.

New CDC launches- Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation

by Christopher Scott

Here is a group shot of a few of the members of the New Community Parkside Development Corporation. The Parkside community gets a new CDC under the leadership of Mr. Christopher Scott. He has pulled together a team of highly skilled individuals made up of long time community residents, Parkside business owners and supporters from cultural institutions. Scott, like many of us living in Parkside, has a real love of the area and the people that live here.
Here is a group shot of a few of the members of the New Community Parkside Development Corporation. The Parkside community gets a new CDC under the leadership of Mr. Christopher Scott. He has pulled together a team of highly skilled individuals made up of long time community residents, Parkside business owners and supporters from cultural institutions. Scott, like many of us living in Parkside, has a real love of the area and the people that live here.

Parkside is home and we each have personal reasons for why we consider it home. Some of us were born here…it is home. Others of us have moved here…it is home. Still others of us may not live here but we work here or we worship here or we play here… and so it is home.

These are just a sampling of the personal accounts that have galvanized a group of 14 community leaders over the last several months to create the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation (CDC) to benefit all those that, for whatever reason, call Parkside home. I’ve been elected as President of the CDC and I’m honored and humbled to serve one of the truly special neighborhoods this city has to offer.

I must confess I didn’t always call Parkside home. My Grandfather, Bismark (“Bizzy”) Trotter, moved to this neighborhood in 1949 and he stayed here until his death almost 50 years later. I, however, was raised primarily in suburban North Carolina and that was my home.

But when I visited my Grandfather as a child, I always found myself fascinated by the neighborhood’s rhythms. Trips to Parkside meant seeing kids playing double-dutch in the street; that was one of the coolest things this suburban southern kid had ever seen. There was a palpable energy and vibrancy to the neighborhood, but I would not say I considered it home at that point.

Later in life, as a sophomore at the University of Virginia, I left college abruptly with no plan but to drive as long and as far away from college as possible; I wanted to drop out of college. I drove North, 7 hours later ultimately ending up at my Grandfather’s Parkside home, unannounced.

My Grandfather and I spent a joyful couple of days together, by the end of which he somehow convinced me to return to college.

In the bleakest moment in my life to that point, I was drawn to this place for no other reason but to find solace; that is when Parkside became my home.

But Parkside also felt very different during that trip; the kids weren’t playing double-dutch like I had recalled in my childhood visits; the ethos of the neighborhood I had remembered had seemingly vanished.

Then, upon returning to college, just 3 weeks after that impromptu trip to Philadelphia, my Grandfather died, suddenly and unexpectedly. And in his death was the most powerful lesson I’ve experienced in my life. That lesson goes as follows: when you feel moved to act (as I felt moved to leave college bound for Parkside) you must act, even if you don’t know the reasons why.

Christopher Scott relaxing with neighbor, longtime Parkside resident and community leader Callalily Cousar.
Christopher Scott relaxing with neighbor, longtime Parkside resident and community leader Callalily Cousar.

I found out my “why”, as I was fated to be the last person in my immediate family to see my Grandfather alive. And that is a gift I will treasure forever.

This neighborhood has transformed me; it has been there for me in my transformation. Through this CDC we will all be stewards of transforming this neighborhood back to the healthy, vibrant and diverse neighborhood that is its founding ethos.

As of the September 2015 publication of this article, Parkside has a formal CDC.

We call it the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation…And WE ARE READY!

Unique new mural unveiled in Parkside

Senator Vincent Hughes speaking at unveiling ceremony
Senator Vincent Hughes speaking at unveiling ceremony

On a beautiful afternoon in August, a ceremony was held to honor the victims of a 100 year old atrocity, the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  Some area residents may not see the immediate connection to Parkside, but look a little closer and you will discover the international connections that exist in our area to this day.

Third generation Philadelphia business owner Bob Zakian’s rug cleaning business has been a cornerstone of the Parkside neighborhood of the city for more than 92 years. Zakian’s grandparents opened Zakian Rug Cleaning in 1923 shortly after emigrating from Armenia and surviving the Armenian Genocide of 1915. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the genocide, Bob Zakian knew he wanted to pay tribute to his family’s heritage as well as give back to Parkside, the neighborhood his business has always called home.

Bob Zakian , along with local artists Kathryn Pannepacker and Angela Crafton, unveiled their painted mural interpretation of the world famous Armenian Orphan Rug, which was woven /hand-knotted by more than 400 orphaned Armenian girls in Ghazir, Lebanon, and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire’s government (present-day Turkey) initiated the systematic extermination and deportation of an estimated 1.5 million men, women, and children of ethnic Armenian Christian descent.

In observance of the 100th anniversary of this genocide, Zakian Rug Cleaning opened its doors to celebrate Armenian culture with all of Parkside. The free event featured Armenian food, music, and a live rug repair workshop to welcome the neighborhood as part of the Zakian family.

“I’m excited to couple my reverence for my family’s Armenian heritage with my adoration for the neighborhood that has supported our business for 92 years,” said Zakian. “Parkside has gone through so many changes over the years, and I’m delighted to take part in the renaissance the neighborhood is undergoing. I’m delighted to invite our friends and neighbors to gain a better understanding of our culture and celebrate what’s happening here.”

In recent years, Parkside has seen a resurgence in development including the opening of Park West Town Center shopping plaza, which generated several retail spaces and more than 300 jobs; two new charter schools — Discovery Charter School and KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy; the creation of the Negro League Memorial Park and Mural; the opening of the Please Touch Museum’s new ‘Imagination Playground’ and ‘Good Morning Garden’ programs; the addition of the new Skyline Stage at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Add to that the Philadelphia Zoo’s expansion, which includes Big Cat Crossing, part of Zoo360 a network of see-though mesh trails where animals can roam around and above the grounds.

From the start, fate seemingly played a vital role in the creation of Parkside’s newest mural. While visiting Washington, D.C. last year to view the Armenian Orphan Rug in-person, Zakian bumped into his niece Lizzy Mamourian, who immediately suggested Zakian should create his own version of the rug. Thanks to his niece, Bob found mural artist Kathryn Pannepacker. Zakian conceived the perfect way to venerate his lineage and the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Kathryn has worked on several notable Mural Arts Program murals including her “Wall of Rugs” at Belmont and Girard Avenues; “Wall of Rugs, #2” at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue; and “Nana Blankets,” the third in the Wall of Rugs series.

Bob Zakian, along with artist Kathryn Pannepacker, State Rep. Vanessa Brown and Senator Vincent Hughes
Bob Zakian, along with artist Kathryn Pannepacker, State Rep. Vanessa Brown and Senator Vincent Hughes

Joining Pannepacker on the Armenian Orphan Rug project is her assistant, Angela Crafton, who worked on many murals over the years via the Mural Arts Program with the non-profit’s re-entry programming. After completing Temple University fine arts classes, Crafton continues to focus on outreach, and making art.

“This project is totally in line with my creative style, and it’s been a freeing and expressive undertaking with Zakian Rug’s support,” said Pannepacker. “I believe this is one of the greatest pieces I’ve ever worked on & I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to interpret this very beautiful & meaningful rug.”

Zakian Rug Cleaning is located at 4930 W. Parkside Avenue. It provides area rug cleaning, oriental rug repairs and new carpet sales.

To learn more about Zakian Rug Cleaning, visit http://zakianrugs.com.