Unhappy in Pottstown? Maybe You Should Get Out.

After working with Mosaic Community Land Trust in the borough for several years, my family and I decided to sell our home in Schwenksville and move to Pottstown. Not only did we buy a home, but we are also starting a business. I love this town! I have met so many wonderful people in my work here, and now so many neighbors have become friends. I have deep friendships with the people I have met through Mosaic and my church, located in Pottstown, in which I have been active since moving to Pennsylvania 11 years ago. This beautiful old town has captured my heart. The architecture here is unique, genuine, and lovely, whether it’s a twin on Queen Street, a row home on Chestnut, or a 19th century mansion on Hanover or High. I like that I can walk to everything in town, and yes, I love the bike lanes that run right in front of my house. It makes me sad and a bit puzzled when I hear people disparage our town.

Pottstown isn’t perfect. I’m not a Pollyanna. Well, okay, maybe I am, but I’m not ignorant. I know there is crime here, and I know there is a drug problem. But those things do not define this town. I know these problems aren’t easily fixed, but if you aren’t happy with the way things are in Pottstown, then you should get out.

But not in the way you’re thinking.

First: Get out of your mindset. Part of place (or a person) becoming better is to start by believing that it is. Look for the positive around town. See the things that are good about this place and the people that live here. If you are having trouble doing that, talk to someone who likes it here about what they like. Focus on the good things rather than the bad, and then we can all come together and continue to work on making necessary improvements. And when you talk about the town to others, before you launch into the problems, mention the positives. (Can’t think of any? How about the many kind and committed people who live here? We have beautiful architecture and large, lovely street trees. You can walk from one end of town to the other in under an hour, and therefore almost the entire town is walkable. There are some good restaurants here, a top-notch theater, and a scenic river.)

Second: Get out of your house. Get out into the town. If you haven’t been downtown or to the river or Memorial Park in a while, go do it. Things are changing. There are new businesses downtown, and a lot of new ideas coming to fruition. Did you know that Pottstown has one of the only indoor Dragon Boat practice facilities in North America? There is a bead store downtown where you can learn to make jewelry yourself, and they teach classes there all the time. There is an indoor food court that has opened in the old Farmers Market building at the corner of Charlotte and High that has a great taco stand and a vodka bar, and soon a coffee shop and vegan place. And speaking of tacos, we seem to have an excessive number of good places to get them all up and down town. Three Brothers is great, Juan Carlos, The Pub, Los Aztecas and now Aye Caramba…it’s taco heaven! Did you know that a mural is about to be painted on the trail along the river? There’s a new Asian fusion restaurant opening where Brick House used to be, a delicious new doughnut shop near the bus station, a beer garden going in on High Street, and a Bed and Breakfast opening near Jack Cassidy’s Irish Pub. We have a gorgeous restored carousel, an indoor badminton facility, multiple breweries, and even an axe throwing place! There is a lot happening, so get outside and check it out!

Third: Get out of your comfort zone. Join a group, volunteer, get involved. Every person has something to gain and something to give when they involve themselves in their community. Find a church you like and start going. Join your school’s Home and School association and participate in meetings and events. Find a nonprofit or other community group that is doing work you find important and volunteer with them. Come to borough council or school board meetings. Walk next door with a plate of cookies and meet your neighbor. I work in community development, and I am a firm believer that the most effective way to develop a community is to strengthen interpersonal connections within the community. In return for stepping out of your comfort zone, you will find satisfaction in building community, contribute to problem solving, and probably even make a friend.

Things are beginning to change. We need our community members to think positively. Get out of the mindset that may have you thinking the problems are too big to solve or that things can’t get better. Get out of your house, office or car and have a walk around town and look and see what is new, and what’s there that has always been great. And get out of your comfort zone and get involved. We need YOU! We should care about each other, work together to problem solve, and look around and see the good that’s happening all around us. If you have lived here a long time, or used to live here and have moved away, it’s time to look at Pottstown with new eyes. Get out and do it!

FARM

Photo courtesy of Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation
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Calling All Entrepreneurs

With the just-announced closing of Weitzenkorn’s, I find myself a little puzzled, to be honest. There is so much happening along High Street, I can’t for the life of me figure out why our friends at that fine Pottstown institution would cut the cord and run right now.

In the last twelve months, several new businesses have opened on our main street and nearby, including Pottstown United Brewing Company, Splitting Edge Axe Throwing, Aye Carumba and the new wine bar inside the Farmer’s Market, The Avenue, the Ice Cream Shop, and my personal favorite, Studio 36, a lovely bead store, among several others. We have health food, a bakery, a beautiful bridal shop, divine doughnuts, vegan food, handmade woodwork, antiques, and many of my old favorite eateries (Grumpy’s, Lily’s, Argento’s, Juan Carlos to name a few).

I will concede that Weitzenkorn’s is probably too big to compete in this Amazon era, but its target demographic has never been foot traffic. Its loyal customers have always been the people who have shopped there for years. Moving to Phoenixville will likely alienate most of those customers. My family moved here last year, and we loved Weitzenkorn’s from the very beginning, but I never shop in Phoenixville. In fact, other than the occasional art house movie and some really amazing Thai food, I rarely go to Phoenixville. I’m so sad to see Weitzenkorn’s leave our lovely downtown district right as it is beginning to wake up. Why not move to a smaller space on High Street, or lease out part of the existing store and stay with its loyal customers?Downtown High Street

The revival has begun, but what we now need are more entrepreneurs. Having recently moved downtown, I walk to do many of my errands, and it has brought to light a few of the holes in our retail selection downtown. While remodeling my house, I have used Rich Ranieri’s Flooring and Lastick Furniture, but we need a small hardware store. I’m not talking about a place that competes with Home Depot or Lowe’s, I just mean a place I can buy a packet of screws, a tube of caulk, or some light bulbs.

Last month, I needed to choose a wedding gift, but other than a booth inside the Farmer’s Market (which is great), there wasn’t anyplace downtown that had new gift items. A gift shop would be great. A little book store would be wonderful…preferably one with a place to grab a cup of herbal tea and visit with a friend! Since Connections is transitioning, there is a coffee shop sized hole on High Street, as well. How about a small grocery store or co-op?

What are some of the things you would like to see on High Street?

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Hairspray Opening This Weekend At PHS

Over the last 5 years, the Pottstown High School Musical program has taken us from Rydell High to the City of Oz, from Skid Row to under the sea.

This year, the scene is 1960’s Baltimore! A cast of over 80 talented teens will present the hit Broadway musical Hairspray in the Davenport Auditorium March 1-3.  Add in stage crew, lighting, and hair and makeup and you’ve got over a hundred students working to bring this production to life. Long days with rehearsals stretching almost to midnight are just about over and the students are ready for opening night this weekend!

If you aren’t familiar with the plot of Hairspray, it’s the story of Tracy Turnblad, a chubby, vivacious teenager with dreams of dancing on the Corny Collins Show, specifically with her crush, Link Larkin.  It’s not just about young love; the story is set in a city undergoing massive change.  The show, and in larger part, the community is wrestling with ongoing segregation that

But, Tracy and her best friend Penny are out to change things for everyone!  Hairspray is ultimately about breaking stereotypes and changing the culture of the community, with lots of teen hormones, catchy music, and great dance numbers thrown in.

So, come on out this weekend for a great show and lots of hairspray!

The show opens tomorrow, March 1st at 7pm, with another evening performance Saturday March 2nd at 7pm and a matinee at 2pm in the Davenport Auditorium at Pottstown High School.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the door

https://www.showtix4u.com/events/15289

See you at the show!

 

“Stop Complaining & Start Caring”

Edgewood Cemetary

Join your Pottstown neighbors for a cemetery improvement event on Saturday, October 20th…

“Stop Complaining & Start Caring About Edgewood Cemetery”!

All are welcome!

9 a.m. – 3 p.m. October 20, 2018

Bring your own yard clean-up tools – Shovels, rakes, weed-whackers, pruning tools, etc.

Refreshments will be provided, but food contributions are encouraged. Bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket if you’d like to sit and relax while you eat.

Learn about Edgewood’s history, meet Pottstown neighbors, and beautify our ancestors’ burial place!

For more information, email amonastra@wolfbaldwin.com.

Monetary donations needed and appreciated!  Send your tax-deductible gifts to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, c/o 740 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464.

Event co-sponsored by Hobart’s Run.

Rain date: Saturday, October 27

Summer Youth String Orchestra Forming

 

A new summer youth string orchestra program is forming in the Pottstown area, and any strings player who is between the age of 12 and 20 who is interested in keeping up their skills over the summer is invited to participate. The Youth Orchestra of Pottstown is being organized through the Arts and Culture committee of Mosaic Community Land Trust, which has offices on South Hanover Street. The program is being directed by Niki Purdy, a teaching artist with Play On, Philly!, a nonprofit after-school music program. “Having been part of community ensembles for years, I’ve seen the good that music can do. As a teacher, I feel strongly that music should be accessible to any child who is interested and has a desire to learn and have these experiences. I think that Pottstown is the perfect place for a community ensemble.”

The program is free of charge, but students must bring their own instrument. Rehearsals begin this week at Coventry Christian Academy, 699 N Pleasantview Rd, Pottstown. They will be held from 6:30-8:30 each Thursday throughout the summer.

If you are interested in auditioning for seating in one of the sections (which is not required to participate), auditions will be held Tuesday evening between the hours of 4:00-8:00 pm at the Hobart’s Run offices, located at 701 East High Street in Pottstown, adjacent to the Hill School. All students under 18 who wish to audition must be accompanied by an adult during the audition. Auditions will begin at 4:00 pm and proceed until 8:00 pm. A link to the sign-up for the audition can be found on the Mosaic Community Land Trust website under the events tab . Please prepare 36 bars of a solo or etude, and you will also be asked to sight read a short piece.

A performance will be held in the later part of August which will be free and open to the public. The orchestra is still searching for a location in Pottstown to hold the final performance, so keep an eye on the Mosaic website for information later this summer. Any adult wishing to volunteer to help with the orchestra must have Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearances, obtained here.

If you have questions, you can contact Mosaic at mosaicclt@gmail.com, or call (610)287-7828.

A Week on the Town

So many new places have opened recently on High Street, I thought I’d try a few of them this past week.

The Avenue is a new Caribbean restaurant that opened in the old @107 location across from Borough Hall. I tried the Curry Chicken, Spicy Tomato Bisque, and the Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding. The chicken had a rich flavor, and the fried plantains were the perfect compliment. The soup was fantastic, and my only complaint about the bread pudding is I wish it were served warm, but it was still very good.

The next day, I was about to meet someone at Connections on High when we noticed the new pub across the street, Pottstown United Brewing Company, was opening its doors for the first time. We quickly changed plans so we could be among the first to say we had tried it (but don’t worry, I was back at Connections just a few hours later…I’ll never leave you, Gotta Love Rachel, the best sandwich ever!). We only had time for a quick stop, so I grabbed a soda and a plate of the tasty jalapeno poppers, but I will be back. FYI, the PUB is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays, but I’ll be back and to enjoy some live music and fun with friends.

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been to the new Ice Cream Cafe three times this week. I’d blame it on the fact that my mother is addicted to the peach ice cream, but it’s really just that the Banana Peanut Butter Chip ice cream is just so darned good! In my defense, one of the three times was during the FARM while happily listening to the live music. What’s a girl to do when it’s RIGHT THERE? Ice Cream Cafe is located at 250 East High Street.

Speaking of the FARM, if you read the last post, you know this was opening week of this seasonal market. FARM has relocated to the clock tower plaza at the corner of High and Charlotte, and it’s a change I highly endorse! The vendors are all closer together now, and the proximity creates a buzz and excitement that makes the market so much fun. It was great to try several products from the new vendors.  I’m looking forward to June 28th when FARM will be in Riverfront Park for the 5K Run to the River. I hope to see you there!

Back to the FARM

 

This week marks the beginning of the season at the Pottstown FARM. What is the Pottstown FARM, you ask? FARM stands for Farm & Artisan Regional Market, and it’s an open-air farmers market held every 2nd and 4th Thursday in downtown Pottstown at the corner of High and Charlotte Streets near the clock tower.

Kick off will be this Thursday, June 14th at 5:00 pm and runs until 7:30 pm. At the market, you can purchase fresh vegetables in season, flowers and plants, locally produced honey, soaps, wine, and local meats and cheeses, among many other items. There are always fun things for kids to do at FARM, including the Two Bites Club, which allows children 12 and under to try two bites of a new food in exchange for a $5 Market Coin good for use at any food vendor at FARM during the 2018 season! Stop by the Mosaic table for that and other fun kids activities. Convenient parking for FARM is available in all the usual downtown locations.

This years vendors include: Gladiolus Farm of Elverson, Grumpy’s, Stonekeep Meadery, Stony Hill Farm, New Bee Ranch, Snouts and Sprouts Farm, Ethel’s Artisan Vinegar, Kaiya’s Naturals, Blue Zen Wellness Collective, KenCrest self-grown and handmade items, Scentual Gardens Soaps, Brook’s Flowers, Sew Bee Mine, Candle Krazy, Geneva’s Joy, Words of Art by Ali J, Tale of a Snail, Chef’s Duds, Beverly’s Pastry, and Balanced Living.

On Thursday, June 28th, FARM will temporarily relocate to Riverfront Park for the Run to the FARM 5K race. Information on registration for the 5K can be found on the Special Events section on the Pottstown FARM website, Pottstown FARM.

FYI – Pottstown FARM is not the same thing as the recently reopened indoor Farmers Market on the Southeast corner of the same intersection. Watch for a future post about that exciting new venture, but in the mean time, join your friends every other week at the FARM!

(Photo credits: Patti Klein and Audra Ross)

Dragons Spotted in Pottstown!

Many people know that Dragon Boating exists in Pottstown, but did you know that Pottstown has one of only three indoor paddle pool Dragon Boat practice facilities in North America, and the only one open in the United States?

From outside, there is nothing about the Pottstown Athletic Club, located in the Armory at 263 King Street, to indicate the unique facility that is housed inside. In 2016, club owner Rob Matthews installed ergometers, exercise equipment which allows Dragon Boaters to practice during the winter, and then in 2017, added an indoor paddle pool to allow the athletes to have a full spectrum of indoor training for the sport. Pottstown Dragon Boater Laura Cousins trains at the facility because the ergometers (located in the upstairs “Erg Room”) allow her to increase her strength and power as she paddles, while the pool allows her to work on technique. She loves the card tracking system in the Erg Room that allows her to track her distance, speed, and total work-out time. Cousins is a member of the Pottstown Dragon Warriors, a competitive team that practices in both Pottstown Athletic Club, as well as on the Schuylkill, several times a week.

Laura Cousins

Pottstown Dragon Warriors team member Laura Cousins practicing in the Erg Room at Pottstown Athletic Club

Rob Matthews thinks the popularity of the sport will only grow. “We want to build Dragon Boating in the Pottstown area not just because it’s fun, but because it’s a physical skill set that anybody can adapt to. Dragon Boating is team work and timing, you must work together. You have to do that more than be a physical specimen.” Matthews is so excited about growing Dragon Boating that he encourages beginners to attend a free practice session, once indoors in the unique practice facility, as well as to join the more seasoned boaters for an outdoor practice on the river. Dragon Boating is great for kids, too. There are community members as young as 10 who practice in Pottstown.

The indoor practice facilities have been used by teams from all around the Philadelphia region, and are available to reserve at hourly rates. Matthews encourages families to come join in “Open Paddles” and organizations to book the facility for team building events. The amenities of the club are drawing visitors to Pottstown from all around the region, which have easy access thanks to Pottstown’s location at the junction of Routes 422 and 100.

Paddle Pool(1)

The paddle pool indoors at Pottstown Athletic Club, one of only three indoor paddle pools in North America

To find out more about Dragon Boating in Pottstown, go to http://pottstownathleticclub.com/index.php/pottstown-dragon-warriors-1, follow the Pottstown Dragon Warriors on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PottstownDragonWarriors, or email Rob Matthews directly at rob.1@pottstownkarate.com.

Positively Pottstown is back!

The Positively Pottstown blog is back! From 2010 to 2013 the blog actively promoted the people, events, businesses and organizations doing positive things in the Borough. Then, when I got a full-time job teaching at The Hill School, I could no longer keep up and Positively Pottstown quietly stepped out of the conversation. I have since moved to Maine, where I continue to teach and write, but I have always hoped that Positively Pottstown would come back to life in some way or other. There are lots of wonderful things going on in Pottstown every day, so I was ecstatic to hear from Tracy Purdy a few months ago about her interest in taking over the blog.

Tracy brings a wealth of knowledge about community development and urban planning to Positively Pottstown, along with years of experience working in nonprofit organizations with youth and adults, including in Pottstown, where she is active with Mosaic Community Land Trust, Pottstown Housing Coalition, the Pottstown/Boyertown Home Garden Contest, and Pottstown FARM. I’m so excited that all that Pottstown has to offer will be amplified by her voice. Please join me in a virtual cheer to Tracy for undertaking this volunteer role for the benefit of Pottstown!

Onward!

Sue Repko
Creator of Positively Pottstown

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