From community identity initiatives to the resurgence of local businesses, here’s what Germantown residents can expect in the upcoming year.
We have officially ushered in a new year with new possibilities. There are a good number of things and concepts that Germantown was introduced to the previous year, and this year, we hope to see some of those things come to fruition. Here’s what Germantown neighbors should expect between now and December 31.
Germantown Community Identity Project
Creating a Visual Tapestry of Unity
Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) is known for providing resident services, corridor enhancement, and more. Last year, GUCDC launched a visual identity initiative to uplift the small business community. It started with a community survey. Moving into this year, more phases will be introduced to craft a community identity collectively. GUCDC Executive Director Emaleigh Doley expressed her excitement about the upcoming phase of the community identity project, which includes designing street banners, which Germantown residents will also have a chance to review and then install.
“Local business owners consistently express a desire for more customers, increased foot traffic, and stronger neighborhood support,” she says. “Establishing a unified visual identity is an essential component to supporting broader efforts to revitalize the commercial corridor, especially in a diverse and expansive neighborhood like Germantown with multiple distinct commercial areas. The goal is to unite Germantown, visually connecting positive pockets of activity, while also positioning the area as an appealing destination.”
You can learn more about the Germantown Community Identity Project by visiting www.germantownunitedcdc.org.
Germantown Espresso Bar 2.0
A Brewing Reunion on Germantown Avenue
In September 2022, Germantown Espresso Bar ceased operations at its old Maplewood Mall location, which the Lily of the Valley Cupcakery and Cafe now occupies. Within a few days of closure, they announced that a 2.0 version of the cafè would be coming and gave us the new location at 6369 Germantown Avenue. While they were initially slated to reopen last year, the opening was delayed, and we are still waiting. We all hope to see it return sooner rather than later.
Co-owner Miles Butler lends the following update for neighbors: “Germantown Espresso Bar 2.0 is well on its way to brewing for our neighbors again soon!! While the process has taken us much longer than expected, we are working at a much quicker pace and are looking at an early 2024 opening. It’s hard to pin down exactly when, but know our strong-hearted, funky, artsy, and insanely delicious espresso bar will be opening soon!
“Until then, keep an eye out for community paint/build days and follow our sister roasting and mobile coffee company, Many Hands Coffee Co.! Rooted in profit-sharing, Many Hands Coffee only roasts and brews Fair Trade and Organic Coffees while sharing profits and connecting coffee lovers with local non-profits and mutual aid funds.”
Mighty Writers Germantown
Empowering Youth through Writing
Mighty Writers (MW) Germantown helped usher in 2023 with new energy and mentorship with a mission to help young people “think clearly to write with clarity.” They’ve been in the neighborhood for officially one year and have launched programming, like their Germantown Academy, to enrich youth learning and expression.
They have programs like the Academy, Comic Book Writing, and Mighty Connections. In 2024, you can expect new programming and some returning, like Girl Power, Mighty Playdates, and a distribution initiative, where they’ll begin providing diapers and menstrual products every Thursday.
MW Germantown is actively looking for volunteers to help support and be after-school mentors. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can support their programming. To learn more about upcoming programming and general questions about MW Germantown, contact Mrs. Asha at email@example.com.
GREAT’s Housing Justice Work
Building the “Beloved Community”
Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together (GREAT) is no stranger to organizing neighbors to seek solutions and create a network of mutually supportive neighbors. Aside from their community dialogues to collectively imagine what housing could look like, we’ve seen various activities from them, like their emergency preparedness workshops, seed exchanges, item swaps, and community learning circles.
In the next 12 months, GREAT seeks to further enhance its housing justice work. In about two weeks, on January 15, they’ll host their annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day gathering, discussing neighborhood organizing in service to building the “beloved community.” Throughout the year, they’ll encourage neighbors to share stories from their history as they pertain to themes around housing and development so they don’t become forgotten and can amplify solutions for the future.
GREAT will host a Fire Safety and Prevention Workshop on Saturday, January 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Green Street Friends Meetinghouse at 43 West Schoolhouse Lane. You can stay updated with GREAT’s housing-centered activities by visiting www.greatgtown.org.
Portland Loo in Vernon Park
Awaiting Activation and Sustainable Maintenance
While initially slated to come to Vernon Park by the end of 2023, the Portland Loo is still closed to the public. The Loo can be seen physically at the park but awaits some plumbing parts for proper operation. Its existence has not come without questioning from neighbors and stewards of the park, with the primary question being, “Who will keep it clean?”
In December 2022, the Friends of Vernon Park (FVP) steward and President Angela Miles said that the entity would be a great addition to the park, which, unlike other parks around the city, does not have a recreation center. However, they questioned the long-term sustainability without a proper maintenance plan, raising that it also didn’t feel fair to place those conditions on a seasonal Parks and Recreation employee.
Germantown Info Hub followed up with the FVP about their sentiments, and they maintained that stance. Without a maintenance plan, neighbors could see the Loo sit locked, like many other parks with bathrooms around the city, which defeats the purpose of having it.
Germantown Arts Festival
A People’s Festival of Creativity and Connection
The Germantown Arts District (GAD) launched in the second quarter of 2022, helping to bridge the gap between the wider Philadelphia arts and culture scene and Germantown’s. GAD launched its Fourth Friday event series to help connect business and district partners to Germantown neighbors in a more intimate way and to celebrate the neighborhood mutually.
GAD Founder and Executive Director Kristen Clark said this series would evolve into an inaugural Germantown Arts Festival, where neighbors can expect an interactive and immersive experience with engaging art forms like dancing, photography, painting, and more.
Clark shares her sentiments about the upcoming festival: “Building something that’s lived as an idea for so long is a testament to so much, but most present right now is patience. This festival is my liberating act. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to live a life where I have an idea as to where I’m going, and learning how to execute it is the biggest obstacle. This festival will grow far beyond what we’ll see in 2024 — but the feeling of being at the first one is an energy and experience we can’t recreate. This festival is about you. 100% of you. It’s a people’s festival. And I dare you to show up as your full self with an open mind and heart of love. Let’s see what we can create.”
Weavers Way Germantown
A New Cornerstone of Cooperativeness
Weavers Way plans to open a new store in Germantown at the corner of Chelten Avenue and Morris Street. The store will be located in an old ACME Market, which is currently being renovated. Camille Poinvil, the Community Outreach Coordinator, and the Weavers Way Germantown Outreach Committee have been active in the community. They’ve organized events like meet and greets, outreach programs, and workshops. They have also worked with various organizations on cooperative community programs.
A product survey was conducted to see what groceries people want in the store. Germantowners have been most interested in employment opportunities and when the store will open. The store is expected to do so in March 2024.
Other Business Shifts and Newcomers
A Changing Landscape
Unfortunately, small businesses don’t have a great track record of long-standing success, meaning that not all will accumulate the necessities to continue business. This means we will continue to see some businesses close their doors, like Black Soul Vintage, which blossomed in 2022 but had to cease physical location operations last month. But while it’s closed its physical doors, the owner and operator, Tomarra Sankara-Kilombo, shared on Instagram that she hopes to share new plans for the business when things are settled.
As always, we will also see the emergence of new businesses, like Das Good Cafe, an Asian-Hawaiian fusion eatery, which is expected to launch before the end of the month.
Maplewood Mall Reignition
Empowering Black and Women-Owned Businesses to Thrive
While Maplewood Mall hasn’t been the busiest in recent years, a good portion of the remaining foot traffic left when Germantown Espresso Bar closed its doors. However, the corridor is filled with Black- and women-owned businesses. These women, like Shirley Wardlaw of Way 2 Grow Nursery, Kiki Buford of 387 Grooming, Starla Smith of Hair Sanctuary, and more, have coalesced to improve the mall’s recognition and get more foot traffic.
In a recent interview with Germantown Info Hub, Wardlaw shared that the newly formed Maplewood Collective has already done things like festivals and giveaways, packaging over fifty bags, to help reignite a sense of community. She says, “Since the coffee shop left, people didn’t know we were here. So our goal, right now, is to get that traction and people in the community know that businesses are open and we’re thriving.”