All Things Worth Trying

Welcome to our seventh annual Worth Trying Issue. Though we feature Worth Trying suggestions monthly, each January we devote much of the magazine to personal recommendations from staff, contributors and friends of Out & About. These suggestions on where and what to eat, drink, see and do are scattered throughout these pages, interspersed with our usual assortment of feature stories, news items and other fun stuff.

Enjoy, and have a very happy New Year!


Annual Book Sale
Fellow bibliophiles, rejoice. Each year, the dead-of-winter dullness—at least for my admittedly-nerdy self—is brightened in anticipation of this event. Friends of the Hockessin Library hosts a sale at Hockessin Memorial Fire Hall, from which funds go to the upkeep of the Hockessin Public Library. Heaps of books of all genres fill a massive room outlined in rows on tables, in piles stacked on the floor—everywhere, books! Here’s the rule: you purchase a large paper bag (or two, or three) for $7 or $8 and fill it to the brim. Veterans know to bring a sturdier burlap satchel for added support, of course, and a few hours later, you exit with ample texts to last through the coming year. This year’s sale is Jan. 26-29.

— Krista Connor, Associate Editor

meals_on_wheelsDelivering Meals and More
Studies have shown that people who volunteer their time live longer. So live a longer, richer life: volunteer to be a Meals on Wheels driver. These hot, nutritious noontime meals are much more than sustenance. Often, the volunteer driver is the only person the shut-in senior will interact with during the entire day. This nonprofit is in desperate need of drivers. It takes only about two hours of your time, and you can volunteer for as few as two deliveries a month. Call the Meals on Wheels center nearest you: City Fare/St. Anthony Center, Wilmington, 421-3731, or Newark Senior Center, 737-2336.

— Bob Yearick, Contributing Editor

penn-cinemaPenn Cinema
For years, many pleaded for a Wilmington movie complex – former Mayor James Baker being one of the most vociferous. Today we have a state-of-the-art one on the Riverfront and though it’s been around since 2012, there are still plenty who haven’t paid a visit. You owe it to yourself. Penn Cinema has 14 screens plus IMAX, comfortable leather seats, ample leg room and now serves beer and wine. And it’s within walking distance of a half-dozen restaurants for a meal before or after the show.

— Jerry duPhily, Publisher

reply_all“Reply All”
I subscribe to a couple of dozen podcasts, but there’s only one I follow with a first-season-of-“Serial” intensity, and that’s “Reply All.” Every weekish, hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman unearth stories that could only exist in our digital age, stories that are at turns riveting (I swear you will care about the story of Wayne, the guy in the episode “Boy in Photo”), heartbreaking (a game designer works through his son’s struggle with cancer in “The Cathedral”), and mind bending (I truly believe it’s at least plausible that Pizza Rat is part of an armada of highly-trained rats unleashed on New York City to create viral content and modern myths, as investigated in “Zardulu”). Technology changes how we relate to one another in the world. “Reply All” gets right to the heart of it.

— Matt Sullivan, Contributing Writer

Be a Good Human
I know. Who am I to tell you what to do? Consider this just a gentle nudge…a friendly reminder to do something small today to support the notion that there are still good humans living among us. Hold a door. High-five a stranger. Pick up litter and toss it in a trashcan. Say hello to your neighbors. Easy things to overlook, but even easier to accomplish.

— Matt Loeb, Creative Director & Production Manager

vinyl_districtThe Vinyl District Record Store Locator App
So, let’s pretend you’ve been plopped down in Poughkeepsie and you’re wondering if there’s a record shop where you can buy Herbie Mann’s “Push Push” on vinyl. Never fear, that is if you have The Vinyl District Record Store Locator App on your phone. It’s absolutely free for iPhone and Android users, and lists some 3,200 independent record stores in 40 countries, some of them imaginary! If there’s an independent record store in Pyongyang, North Korea, the app’s GPS-based locator will tell you exactly where it is. And the app also displays a vast list of record fairs around the globe by date and location. Finally, it includes a TVD Record Store Club feature that will tip you off to new releases, as well as a host of giveaways, contests, and more. Go to and download the app today!

— Mike Little, Contributing Writer

westworld-posterWestworld on HBO
Two decades before Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park ran wild on the silver screen, he wrote and directed Westworld, a 1973 sci-fi film about another kind of over-the-top tourist attraction going off the rails. Instead of genetically resurrected dinosaurs running amok, Crichton first imagined malfunctioning androids gunning down thrill-seekers in a Wild West-themed vacation spot. Same game, different park. While the DNA (or binary code) of Crichton’s original Westworld repeats itself in the overall structure of this recently adapted HBO series, the show-runners have cleverly tinkered with the original formula. In this iteration, the robots are drawn as the more sympathetic characters while humans are cold and heartless. The show trudges somewhat aimlessly through its middle episodes, but the finale delivers plenty of twists and tense action. That said, Westworld ultimately is compelling because of the questions it asks along the way about identity, memory and what exactly constitutes consciousness.

— Jim Miller, Director of Publications

seinfeldiaA Book about a Show About Nothing
If you’re in the search of some “serenity now,” get your “man hands” on Seinfeldia, a compendium of stories about how one of the greatest sitcoms became a cultural phenomenon. There’s plenty of “yada, yada, yada” about the cast, characters and storylines that produced one of the most influential television shows of all-time.

Rob Kalesse, Contributing Writer

Train Your Brain
Forget all those invites you keep receiving to play mindless smartphone games like “Farmville” and “Candy Crush,” and instead download “Peak.” This mental gymnastics app will keep your brain jumping through all sorts of hoops, helping you focus and sharpen your memory. In no time, your mind will be as sharp as a tack, and you’ll forget about all those other mindless games.

— Rob Kalesse, Contributing Writer

chef_lhulierChef Lhulier Dinner Party
This year, my wife and I hosted two dinner parties at the home of Chef Robert Lhulier. We invited three other couples, carefully selecting a motley crew who didn’t know each other well but would enjoy each other’s company. Chef Robert prepared four courses of food (for $60 a head) and everyone BYO’d the wine and bubbles and brandy. The results: Fantastic, relaxed, delicious evenings filled with great tunes, loud conversation that probably would have gotten us kicked out of most restaurants, and personalized attention from one of the best chefs in Delaware. Chef Lhulier will come to your house too – but he sets a fine table (that you don’t have to clean) at his, while you Uber home. Check out how it works at

— Matt Sullivan, Contributing Writer

mozart-in-the-jungleMozart in the Jungle
If you think a TV show about a symphony is stuffy, then think again. Amazon Prime’s original series Mozart in the Jungle, whose third season debuted in December, is devastatingly clever. The witty script boasts such well-drawn characters as the eccentric Maestro Rodrigo, played by Emmy winner Gael Garcia Bernal. Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell are also at their hilarious best. The appearance of real life classical heavyweights, including Yo-Yo Ma, add fun and flair. Catch up on Prime.

— Pam George, Contributing Writer

bringing_nature_homeBringing Nature Home
I bought a new (old) home this past spring, and although the lot isn’t very large, it was very overgrown. We ripped everything out and planned to start fresh. While researching ideas, I came across Bringing Nature Home, by University of Delaware professor Douglas W. Tallamy. He makes the case for biodiversity in city and suburban home gardens. He explains how over-development has threatened our ecosystem, why alien plants are problematic (bugs and animals can’t eat them), and provides practical suggestions for how home gardeners can use native plants to make a serious impact. The book made me reconsider my whole landscaping plan, and has me really looking forward to spring.

— Marie Graham, Director of Digital Media & Distribution

lafate_galleryLaFate Gallery
Jamaican-born self-taught artist Eugene LaFate has a cozy, colorful gallery that houses her vibrant work in the LOMA district of downtown Wilmington. With a personality as warm and charming as her artwork, LaFate has established herself as one of Wilmington’s artist advocates. The gallery sells her originals, prints and postcards; she also offers a variety of workshops and classes. At 227 N. Market St. 656-6786.

— Mark Fields, Film Reviewer

rei-_optoutside_anthem_film_15REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.)
During an REI kayak-camping trip I took this summer in Wyoming’s Teton National Park, I got a firsthand look at how this company operates in a friendly, fun and professional manner. The co-op offers discounts and annual rebates to its members. In addition, it treats employees with tremendous respect: all REI locations are closed for Black Friday, a traditionally huge shopping day during which staffers are encouraged to get out of the store and enjoy outdoor time with their family and friends instead.

— Jim Miller, Director of Publications

Lewinsky’s on Clinton
The name of this Delaware City pub has created quick a few chuckles, but this cozy tavern is a great destination for a beer and a sandwich—perhaps after a stroll along the Castle Trail or a visit to Fort Delaware. The food is tasty, the craft beer selection is solid, and the joint is jumping on weekends with performances by local bands and acoustic acts.

— Jerry duPhily, Publisher

stuff_you_should_knowStuff You Should Know Podcast
How does a fireplace work? What’s the chemical make-up of Play-Doh? Stuff You Should Know is a podcast that answers these random questions, plus so much more. Pop it on while you’re working or doing chores around the house. Knowledge is power!

— Matt Loeb, Creative Director & Production Manager

PACE Network
Have you ever thought about getting involved in the betterment of Wilmington’s public education system? The PACE (Parent Advocacy Council for Education) Network, an initiative of Christina Cultural Arts Center, allows parents and community members to do just that; it joins adults, youth, and educators to imagine, create, and advocate for equity, access and more effective learning in schools and community places. To learn more or get involved, email

— Sarah Green, Special Projects

dirkgentlyDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – BBC America (On Demand)
Years after the death of author Douglas Adams, his character Dirk Gently—who solves crimes by surfing along with the interconnectedness of all things—finally made it to TV this fall. The result is a great short-run series that combines the sci-fi, comedy and over-the-top weirdness Adams fans came to love in his Dirk Gently novels—with excellent modern updates. Now that the entire series is available On Demand, let the binge watching commence!

— Scott Pruden, Contributing Writer

avoid_the_kioskAvoiding the Kiosk
There is a Panera next to my daughter’s preschool, and we find ourselves there more than I care to admit. They have “Fast Lane” kiosks there—touchscreen computers that allow customers to order for themselves. We walked in the other day and there was no line, but there were three people using the kiosks. My son asked if we could use one too and I said no. Why? Because if everyone uses the kiosks, jobs currently reserved for humans will be replaced by computers. Same goes for the grocery store self-checkout. If the place is packed, I get it. But otherwise, why not contribute to keeping someone employed?

— Marie Graham, Director of Digital Media & Distribution


traderjoes-this-cranberry-walks-into-a-barTrader Joe’s “This Cranberry Walks Into a Bar…” Cereal Bars
I’ve gotten so many “winning” grocery items from TJ’s, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But this seasonal-only (they usually disappear after January) oat & fruit cereal bar is one of my go-tos—tart, chewy, the perfect-sized mid-day bite. I persistently badger the staff to carry them all year long…so far, no luck.

— Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald, Contributing Writer

tbaar_incTbaar Inc.
Whether you’re looking for a delicious bubble tea, a healthy wheatgrass smoothie, or a sweet or savory crepe, Tbaar at 108 East Main St. in Newark is the place to go. Tbaar may be a chain, but you wouldn’t know it by the scrumptious handmade crepes. I’m the savory type, and I always order the “Yo! Check It Out,” a Chinese style crepe that comes with ham and tofu plus several pungent sauces that make each bite a glorious adventure for your taste buds. And it’s spicy! Order it with the Honey Jasmine Tea, or the Bubble Milk Black Tea, and I guarantee you an experience equal to anything Anthony Bourdain may be eating this week. And you don’t have to go to China to find your bliss.

— Mike Little, Contributing Writer

grub_burger-barGrub Burger Bar – Concord Mall
I didn’t want to like Grub. I don’t like chains, don’t go to malls and thought it was a terrible name for somewhere you plan to eat. There are enough places to get a decent burger, but Grub has become my go-to spot. Turns out it’s a very small (under 20 locations) chain, its burgers are creative and delicious, and though I still don’t like the name I do like the logo. It also turns out I really like milkshakes with alcohol; a bourbon & caramel milkshake takes the edge off being at the mall. And the Scorpion burger with Trinidad Moruga scorpion sauce is intense. Decent food, great concept and surprisingly fast service is a welcome change.

— Joe del Tufo, Contributing Photographer

Cooking with Anchovy Paste
It’s a secret ingredient that will have your tongue saying, “Ooh mommy, umami!” Just don’t tell your uncle about it. He hates trying new things.

— David Hallberg, Special Projects

thug_kitchenThug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook
This vegan cookbook was probably the best thing my wife and I bought as newlyweds. As we approach our 30s, we realized that we often made the same meals, week after week, since both of us are not very advanced in the kitchen. We’re not vegans but we were looking for a way to expand our culinary horizon, as well as trying to eat a bit healthier and eat less meat. I came across the blog for this book, and was impressed by how easy it was to follow recipes. It explained a few uncommon ingredients and cooking techniques in a straightforward way. I should also mention that the tagline for the cookbook is “Eat Like You Give A F**k” and it uses lots of expletives, so I would not recommend it for children. But for us, it always makes us laugh when we’re reading a recipe out loud, and it made cooking a much more enjoyable activity.

— Tyler Mitchell, Graphic Designer

MKTSTLOGOfinalBLACKMarket Street Bread and Bagel
This small tidy shop has endured some start-up issues in its first year (It opened January, 2016), but it has settled into a welcome addition to Market Street. I won’t evaluate the coffee since I don’t drink the stuff, but I can heartily attest to the quality of the breakfast and lunch offerings. I especially like the sticky buns with their nice blend of stickiness and flakiness. For lunch, I always struggle to choose between the curried chicken salad and ham and brie, all offered on bread baked on the premises. The menu is compact, but what’s there is dee-lish. At 832 N. Market St. 482-2553.

— Mark Fields, Film Reviewer

J’s Café
Located inside Janssen’s Market in Greenville, this cafe was always a great place for breakfast or lunch, but now you can indulge in a mimosa with your breakfast or a beer with your sandwich, and, of course, pick up a few grocery items before you leave. J’s specializes in wood-fired pizza and a wide range of sandwiches and entrees. My favorite is the Janssen’s turkey, arugula, havarti cheese & sun-dried tomatoes panini paired with an interesting craft beer.

— Julie Miro Wenger, Event Allies

angelos_luncheonetteAngelo’s Luncheonette
It’s small (five tables, 12 counter stools) and the food isn’t fancy, but this old-time diner (1722 N. Scott St.) has been feeding happy Forty Acres people for almost 50 years. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch and the menu is pretty standard, but the quality of the food, the reasonable prices and the friendly staff make this place special. Try one of the house specialties, a Provoroni Dog—a hot dog with pepperoni and melted provolone cheese.

— Kevin Noonan, Contributing Writer

ghirardelli_hot_cocoaGhirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa
Looking through the aisles at the grocery store, it can seem impossible to find something chocolate that doesn’t contain dairy. After reading the ingredients on almost every brand of hot chocolate, I finally found Ghiradelli Double Chocolate, which had the lone ingredient list that did not include milk. So, for any lactose intolerant friends or vegans, this is for you.

— Deanna Daly, Local Artist & Educator

la_madera_bistroLa Madera Bistro
This cozy, rustic BYOB eatery in historic Kennett Square, Pa., offers an eclectic mix of entrees, gleaning inspiration from Mediterranean and Latin American styles, to name a couple. Most sandwiches are served with some variation of fresh, roasted vegetables, and the very-necessary side of roasted potatoes are sublimely balanced between crisp and smooth.

— Krista Connor, Associate Editor

Fried Pickles
These deep-fried delights offer a delicious detour from standard appetizer fare like wings, nachos and hummus. Equal parts salty and bitter, they also offer a satisfying crunch and are clean and easy to eat, unlike many other starters. Chelsea Tavern in Wilmington was one of the first in the area to feature fried pickles on its menu. More recently, Newark’s Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen brought its version to the table, which comes with a zesty cilantro-lime dipping sauce.

— Jim Miller, Director of Publications


paradocx_vineyardParadocx Vineyard
Visiting the Landenberg, Pa., winery and vineyard each autumn and winter has become a non-official tradition for me and some friends. The family-run estate features a handful of wines grown on the surrounding 100 acres of land. Guests are welcome at the informal tasting room to sample full glasses or flights and to hang out indefinitely in the warmth, taking in the bucolic winter landscape outside.

— Krista Connor, Associate Editor

delaware_growerThe Delaware Growler
If you’re a craft beer fan in the area and haven’t checked this place out, I suggest you go, now! Located right across from Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street in Newark, it has roughly 50 beers on tap at any given time for growler fills, plus much more in bottles and cans. I have found myself checking the website weekly to see what’s on the tap list because there’s usually a beer I’ve been trying to find. Bring your own growler or choose one of theirs, which come in a variety of sizes.

— Tyler Mitchell, Graphic Designer

cascade_brewingCascade Brewing
The resident beer expert at Trolley Tap House, Greg Safian, recently introduced my husband and me to Cascade Brewing. Cascade is a Portland, Ore., based brewery that focuses on fruit-forward, barrel-aged sour beers, and they just recently arrived in Delaware. I’ve tried the Kriek and the Apricot Ale—an American Wild Ale—and really enjoyed both. If you like sours, keep Cascade on your radar.

— Marie Graham Poot, Director of Digital Media & Distribution

Liquid Alchemy Beverages
I recommend that you get your mead from this new spot in South Wilmington. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, we have not gone back in time. This cozy little tasting room off Maryland Avenue holds regular weekend hours and special events. The most recent limited release, Black-302, became available on Jan. 1.

— Ryan Alexander, Contributing Designer

1984 and Oddity Bar
If ever two Wilmington bars were destined to be neighbors, it was these two. As with many memorable duos—Simon & Garfunkel, Starsky & Hutch, R2-D2 & C-3P0—the two bars build upon their similarities and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. With the variety of bands they book, both venues attract similar crowds: people looking for something other than Top 40 cover bands. While both offer the finest craft beers in the area, Oddity also pours cleverly concocted mixed drinks while 1984 offers an assortment of vintage video games and other arcade favorites. But most important, inside each bar you feel like you are very much in a unique place. Which, in another way, makes them quite the pair.

— Jim Miller, Director of Publications


The Nomad Bar
I love The Nomad Bar. For anyone who, like me, works late or goes to evening meetings more often than I get out to the many, many shows and performances I wish I had time to see, The Nomad is a perfect go-to spot when you finally find yourself free. It’s a ready-made scene and completely welcoming place to enjoy local artists playing live jazz and other genres that get your blood pumping (and skilled bartenders help that along). I always run into great people there—coworkers, neighbors, community leaders—and you don’t need to worry about who’s playing. Just show up, it will be great music and a great vibe. I’m not a regular at The Nomad, but whenever I’m there, I feel like one. 905 N. Orange St., Wilmington.

— Elizabeth Lockman, Director of the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE) at the Christina Cultural Arts Center

Kate Bush’s Before The Dawn
In 22 nights at Hammersmith, London, in late summer 2014, 75,000 lucky people saw the first live headline concerts by Kate Bush in more than 36 years. In those years, she went from cult heroine to self-produced radio smash to seemingly retired earth mother in the British countryside—until her latest concept LPs. Before The Dawn, an extravagant Broadway-caliber stage production, was assembled over 18 months before this mixture of live concert and dramatic rock theater had its one-month run. We now have a complete live recording on three CDs or four LPs or by download. Experiencing “The Ninth Wave” side 2 of Hounds of Love (1985), performed by Kate, actors and dancers and her live band remains one of my most emotional concert experiences. Experience it!

Ron Ozer, Producer at Arden Concert Gild

My current favorite local music project is Erin Silva’s (of Tracy Chapstick) solo project “Eyebawl.” Her quiet-rocking confessionals will hit you right in the feels. Catch her at a local venue or hit up her Bandcamp page.

— Miranda Brewer, Owner of Rainbow Records

The Local Music Scene
I can understand if folks feel this is a cop-out. It’s like saying oxygen is worth trying. But hear me out… I’ve been at Out & About for more than two decades. In that time, I have played in bands, booked clubs, managed bands, promoted shows, and helped produce local concerts. And as you can imagine, I’ve also heard and seen a lot of bands play live. A lot. But never have I been more hopeful for the local music scene than I am right now. More clubs are booking live music than they have in years, and thankfully there are a variety of interesting acts to fill them. It feels like an awakening, and whether you are a musician, club owner, or avid fan, I encourage you to take part in it. It’s an exciting time for local music.

— Jim Miller, Director of Publications

Rusty Blue
If you miss ‘90s rock, check out Rusty Blue. I saw them during Musikarmageddon this past summer, and couldn’t believe that sound was coming from teenagers!

— Sana Bell, Community Events Manager at The Grand


Russell Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge
Did you know that Wilmington has a 212-acre wildlife refuge right in our backyard? Located at the end of the beautiful Christina Riverwalk, this urban oasis is a great destination for a peaceful walk, a glimpse of a bald eagle, or a drop-in program for kids to see what critters they can find in the pond. Whether you’re just interested in strolling through the marsh on the boardwalk loop or coming out for one of Delaware Nature Society’s many programs, this spot is well worth a visit any time of the year.

— Sarah Green, Special Projects

The Woodlands at Phillips
Looking for a way to boost your immune system? Then head to this delightful little mushroom museum and retail store in Kennett Square, Pa. (1020 Kaolin Rd.), and pick up some Maitake mushroom. This edible mushroom, known as the “hen of the woods,” is great on the grill or in stir-fry and has anti-cancer, anti-viral and immunity-enhancing properties. It also may help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. The Woodlands is the retail store of Phillips Mushroom Farms.

— Julie Miro Wenger, Event Allies

Northern Delaware Greenway Trail
This 7.2-mile trail provides a unique and spectacular view of some of New Castle County’s recreational treasures, including Alapocas Run State Park, Bellevue State Park, Rockwood Park and Bringhurst Woods Park. Walk, run or ride it.

— Jerry duPhily, Publisher

Oddball Art Hall
Have you ever found yourself at a craft fair or arts festival and thought the selection was tacky or basic? If yes, check out Oddity Bar’s Oddball Art Hall. This local artist collective is held on the third Friday of every month, the next date being Jan. 20. Support some great local artists, including Dea Daly, Kristen Margiotta and Cori Anne.

— Ryan Alexander, Contributing Designer

South Chesapeake City
Come visit a quaint little historical town separated by the C & D canal. It’s a charming town with lots of interesting shops and some good food with local lodging available. Take a walking tour and see the restoration of lovely homes and gardens. Less than an hour’s drive from Wilmington, it will transport you back in time. Visit the website:

— John Murray, Proprietor, State Line Liquors & Contributing Writer

Embrace the Season
Winter can be an easy time to stay inside and hibernate, but I say try to do something outside to embrace the season. Why not lace up your skates and enjoy the Riverfront Rink on the Wilmington Riverfront? The kids love it and it feels great to get outside and do something festive around the holidays.

— Matt Loeb, Creative Director & Production Manager

Ready for the Challenge

The new mayor faces a lot of old problems in Wilmington. Here, Mike Purzycki tells Out & About how his administration will address them.

After leading the redevelopment of the Christina Riverfront for more than two decades, on Jan. 3 Mike Purzycki will take on a much broader challenge—serving as mayor of Wilmington for the next four years.

Purzycki, a lawyer, former New Castle County councilman and onetime pro football prospect whose career ended when he injured his knee during the New York Giants’ preseason 49 years ago, scored a resounding victory in the November election, securing 82 percent of the vote while topping Republican Robert Martin and Independent Steven Washington.

Despite that overwhelming number, Purzycki takes over what is in many ways a fractured city. He got less than 24 percent of the vote in an eight-way Democratic primary in September that, in this heavily Democratic city, is tantamount to winning the general election.

Contributing to Purzycki’s victory were about 1,250 city voters who heeded a suggestion from Jane Castle, wife of former Republican Gov. Mike Castle, that they change their affiliation from Republican to Democrat so they could vote in the primary. Those switches likely provided Purzycki with the edge he needed to top youthful runner-up Eugene Young by 234 votes and former City Councilman Kevin F. Kelley by 415 as he ended the controversial Dennis P. Williams’ bid for a second term. (Williams finished fourth.)

Purzycki becomes the first white mayor in this majority black city since the late Daniel Frawley concluded his second term in January 1993.

Williams’ term was marked by repeated debates over policing strategies, an ongoing struggle to reduce shootings and violent crime, staffing battles between firefighters and their chief, and the move of the headquarters of the DuPont Co., the city’s most prominent business for more than a century, into suburban New Castle County.

Those episodes overshadowed some of the positives of the last four years, including the first steps toward development of a Creative District downtown, forward movement in community revitalization efforts called West Side Grows Together and Eastside Rising, and the launch of co-working spaces downtown that offer the promise of filling the void created by the departure or downsizing of larger business entities.

As Purzycki puts it in the following interview, “One minute we’re the Chemical Capital and the next minute we’re Murder Town,” a label pinned on the city by a highly critical December 2014 article in Newsweek.

As he prepared to take office, Purzycki sat down with Out & About to discuss key issues facing the city and how he plans to address them.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and space considerations.)

What will the first year of the Purzycki administration look like? What are the key priorities?

I think I’d like to change the aspirations and the culture of the city and city government. I think we have a fine workforce that just needs direction, and I’d like to get them focused on a mission that’s a lot bigger than all of us and go to work every day excited about reaching it.

Are you suggesting that there has been complacency within city government?

I don’t know if there is complacency as much as it is a lack of direction. I hear there are morale issues. I’m not sure where that comes from. If you have direction, if you have goals, everybody doesn’t have the time to indulge every little irritation.

Who will be on your team?

I can’t say right now. I know 60-70 percent of it. I want to bring in people who are genuinely committed to seeing the city turn around.

(Since this article was originally published, members of the new administration have been announced.)

Will any members of the Williams administration stay?

There are people there who have talent. It’s irresponsible to change personnel just to change them.
You have a new council president (Hanifa Shabazz) and major turnover on city council. There’s going to be a lot of “new” in city hall. What are your expectations for getting started right away?

Hanifa and I have been friends for a long time. We share a mutual respect. I know a number of people on council and I have met every single one of them. I don’t expect to agree with them all the time. What is important is how we disagree. Respectful disagreement is good. We’re going to work together. Everybody shares a deep concern for the wellbeing of the city.

Why did you decide to run for mayor? You had the Riverfront, you had plans mapped out. It was a safe position for you.

The concern is that if the Riverfront thrives and the city falters, the Riverfront can only go so far by itself. Watching the city fail while the Riverfront was progressing would not have been very satisfying.

The second thing is the Riverfront, like everywhere, was suffering from the reputation the city had to deal with. One minute we’re the Chemical Capital and the next minute we’re Murder Town. This restrained economic growth. We had to create a cause for optimism. I believe in my abilities to lead the city. I think my skills are right for being mayor at this time.

Since November, the Fire Department has been using brownouts and staffing changes to cut overtime spending. The union says this impacts response time and public safety. What are you going to do about it?

Today there is absolutely no confidence between the rank and file and the chief. There have been a lot of hard feelings that have not been productive for the smooth operation of the fire department. I don’t have to ascribe blame. For me to weigh in (before taking office) would be counterproductive. I intend to have a new chief one of these days. I’m going to select a chief in whom I believe in his or her judgment and that chief will tell me what we should be doing.

By “one of these days,” do you mean soon?

Yes, I expect to have a new fire chief.

The police department has taken its share of criticism over crime problems and varying approaches to community policing. Do you have any preferences on deployments and strategies, and what will your relationship be with the police department?

I have no interest in telling my police chief how to run the department. My sense is, it’s your department. If the department succeeds, you succeed. If it fails, you fail. I intend to hire the best police chief that I can.

I have no particular expertise on how to evaluate the department. Some of the problems have to do with administration, and some of them are structural. We are not competitive with other departments. We have acquiesced to our financial realities and have not acknowledged the impact that has on the performance of our officers. Every time we have negotiations we say “we can’t afford to pay you.” The state and county and University of Delaware continue to outstrip our officers by something on the order of 20 percent. Morale is poor. The pay scale is corrosive and really hurts the functioning of our department. It’s hard for me to make a judgment on leadership. Everyone weighs in on community policing. I believe the job of the mayor is to hire the very best individual to run the department and to be guided by his or her judgment.

I’m going to find the finest police chief around. It could be the incumbent. I’m not going to make that selection on my own. I’m going to be guided by professionals and get recommendations.

The fire and police departments have significant impact on city budget, which has been stressed by the loss of the DuPont headquarters, uncertainty over Chemours and vacancies in downtown office space. Where do we go next? Are we going to have a property tax increase?

The mayor hasn’t raised taxes in four years. We keep getting farther and farther behind. Our deficits aren’t just financial deficits. Our baseline can’t be what it’s going to take to pay this year’s bills; it has to be what it’s going to take to run the city properly in the future. We will put everything on the table. I’ll be as transparent as possible. There are things that are costing us money. We can’t have $45 parking tickets, we can’t have $110 red light fines … everything can’t be directed at raising revenue. My ideal budget is going to be scaling back on some of those punitive revenue measures.

The situation is not dire, but it is daunting. But the variable is the ability of the administration to create such optimism in the minds of the business community and in the residential community that they believe that the people who are running the city can really bring it back and make it something terrific.

The Creative District is aiming to bring cultural entrepreneurs into town. You’ve had experience at the riverfront. How do you see the Creative District having an impact? How big a deal is it?

I think it’s potentially a very big deal, or potentially a lot of noise and nothing much else. If we can support the Creative District, it can be a very big help to redevelopment of that part of the city. If we ignore it, if we just do one or two houses at a time, it will collapse of its own weight. What’s been missing with every little redevelopment in the city has been a coordinated plan to buttress the efforts of the people who have been working hard on it.

You have to concentrate resources. We’re going to identify a very small number of parts of the city that we believe are receptive to concentrated effort by virtually all of our agencies, that can help create some progress, and focus our efforts in those areas. Licensing and Inspections, Parks and Recreation, Public Works—if those resources are concentrated in specific areas, and we take advantage of the land bank that’s being established, we can have an impact.

You have community-based planning initiatives under way—West Side Grows Together, Eastside Rising, Blueprint Communities and others—but there is no strong coordination at the top. Do you need that coordination?

If you don’t have coordination at the top you’re going to wind up achieving very little. If we try to do everything, we’ll get nothing done. Too often we spread out our assets in a way that nothing really meaningful gets achieved.

The Riverfront had four different development areas on the original plan. There were four places we could have gone. We concentrated on one area, to the chagrin of those on the Brandywine, on the Seventh Street peninsula. You’ve got to take an area and work hard and bring your assets together.

Will all these community plans underway go forward, or will they be cut back?

They can all go forward, but everybody has to manage expectations.

There’s a police chief in Charleston, S.C., a former military guy, who says it’s just like the military. You have to take one hill, and hold it, and then you go on to the next one. If you try to take every hill, you’ll get beaten every time. We’re going to take one hill at a time, and right now we’ve got too many hills.
We have to take one or two neighborhoods where we have the best chance of succeeding. I haven’t made up my mind which ones. There are pluses and minuses in a lot of these neighborhoods.

But if you look at what which ones have it most together now … doesn’t that put others who need more help farther behind?

The question is not who needs it more, the question is who is closer to success. We have to go to areas that will be most receptive to our work. Do they have community organizations, nonprofits and private developers working together? Is it a community that wants to support the police? There are a lot of factors. I have no emotional preference for one neighborhood over another.

A racial divide impacts the city. You’re the first white mayor since Dan Frawley left office in 1993. This is a majority black city. How will you address this issue?

I’ll do it head on. I think I understand race in America as well as most people. I have remarkable sympathies with people who have to deal with the wrong side of racial issues all the time. When people get to know me, I think (they’ll see) I can be trusted.

I got a letter from a 17-year-old Howard High student who was worried that I would gentrify her neighborhood. She is genuinely concerned. I’m impressed. I wrote back to her. I want to meet with her and her parents.

Race is a deeply felt division in our society. I don’t expect to walk in the door and change that anytime soon. Over time, you’ve got to prove to people by your actions how you feel about things.
Wilmington cannot be immune to those very powerful national currents about race. If something happens in Missouri, it reverberates throughout the entire country. Wilmington is subject to that. We have to keep the frustration level low enough—by providing jobs and opportunities, by respecting communities, by building community centers and paying attention to people—so when something national happens people aren’t inclined to take it out on local government and on their own neighborhoods.

You’ve worked with Hope Commission, helping ex-offenders when they are released from prison. You’re familiar with the problems of recidivism and structural unemployment. Does that give you more credibility on the East Side?

It does with some people. With some people I don’t think it means much at all.

In a city like this, I think race can be dealt with at a very personal level. You can get out every day to where people live. You can pay attention to people’s concerns in their neighborhoods. You can get licensing and inspections and police out to neighborhoods where people are having problems. You can show up at their homes and talk to them. In a city this small, in a year you can touch a whole lot of people.

You know University of Delaware professor Yasser Payne pretty well. He drew much attention with “The People’s Report,” studying structural unemployment in Southbridge and on the East Side. How will you address this issue?

At the local level we can be so much more effective at incentivizing people to provide jobs (than at the state and national levels). I intend to have an executive to do high-level job creation for people who are generally unemployable. I think you have to be very aggressive about it.

Private employers always have a reason not to hire people with poor employment records but now people are beginning to understand that the only way to restore our city’s health is to get people working. Every restaurant is a potential service job provider. The hospitality business needs to hire. We can talk to our large employers and ask them for their support, to either provide jobs or to fund jobs. We have to go to the state as well, and say you have to help provide some energy around the job situation. I look at this as a very important function of our government. I think Yasser Payne will be very happy with it.

As for the business community, DuPont is largely gone and we don’t know where Chemours will be in a couple of years. You have a lot of things in transition. What are you expecting?

We want to be competing for our young entrepreneurs. We want to build that infrastructure.

I have not given up on large employers. If we build an attractive enough environment, we can attract strong employers. We have lost large employers to the county. People made the easy decision to move to the county. I think we can get them back in time.

We are much more business friendly in many ways than Pennsylvania. If you create an environment that people are drawn to, we can get businesses to come here.

You mentioned the change in labeling from Chemical Capital to Murder Town. The last two years the city has taken a tremendous PR hit. What are your thoughts on changing that story line?

I think there are two sides of it. One, you have to improve the fundamentals, and then you tell your story. The people who say it’s the News Journal’s fault, I think they’ve got it wrong. The newspaper has a responsibility to tell the truth. If someone is getting shot, that’s a story.

People are very afraid to come to the city. All you need is an occasional incident to occur and it reawakens every bad story that people have heard about.

I believe leadership is very infectious. If people believe the people in charge can really manage the city and that there’s a bright future, they will be positive. If people see that there’s a problem solver in charge, with energy, I think there will be optimism about what we can do.

A divided school system has harmed the city. Although the mayor has no control over education, can you offer suggestions and solutions?

Except for the governor, I don’t think anybody has a bigger platform to effect change on any issue that impacts the city than the mayor. You have to advocate.

Part of the dissolution of our city has been because of busing; they have taken all of our kids and scattered them to a dozen high schools all around the county. They’ve lost the stability and the identity that a community school brings. It’s a devastating problem. I hope that we can bring a high school back to within the city.

But we do have the Charter School of Wilmington.


You’ve got several charters in the Community Education building.

They’re not public high schools.

So charters are not public schools?

For my purposes, no. To me, a public high school is when all the kids in the area can go to the same school. The Charter School of Wilmington has its purpose, and that’s fine. But we’ve got kids getting on the bus at 6 in the morning. Instead of getting an additional hour of sleep, they’re getting up an hour early to take a bus to the suburbs. That’s just wrong.

For the Purzycki administration, what are the yardsticks you will use to determine whether your administration is successful?

One of those measures has to be the incidence of violent crime, not necessarily the number of fatal shootings, but the number of incidents. We’ve got to reduce the violence. We have to build communities so violence is not normalized.

If you start to look at your community, and you reduce blight, you reduce the poverty rate. It would have a tremendous effect to start getting people off the poverty rolls, to build good housing stock.
Objective measures are difficult. I’m not afraid of being accountable, but it’s sometimes difficult to quantify things that are qualitative in nature.

A Toast to Holiday Events

We’ve compiled a list of every manner of merriment to help get you into the bell-ringing, carol-singing, candle-lighting, reindeer-sighting, eggnog-guzzling, mistletoe-nuzzling mood. Happy Holidays to all!

Longtime Holiday Traditions

Yuletide at Winterthur
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Winterthur Museum & Gardens
Yuletide is one of the most beautiful times at Winterthur, with tree displays adorning the rooms and the Conservatory; sparkling trees and American Christmas vignettes—scenes inspired by Currier & Ives, holiday decorations from Mississippi in the Civil War era and the White House in the early 1900s. New this year in The Galleries stair hall: a 6×3-foot, slate-roofed, fully electrified dollhouse inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse, created by Nancy McDaniel and donated to Winterthur.

A Longwood Christmas
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.
The sounds of the season resonate through the gardens in this year’s musically inspired display. Highlights include an 18-foot Fraser fir adorned with a garland of musical instruments in the Music Room; holiday horticulture showcasing more than 6,000 seasonal plants; organ sing-alongs, strolling carolers and performances throughout the estate; and three fire pits—at the Hour Glass Lake Pavilion, Peirce-du Pont House Plaza and Dogwood Plaza—available (weather permitting) for guests’ enjoyment from 4:30–10 pm.

Family Holiday Fun

Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, Dec. 3, 11 am | Delaware Museum of Natural History
Enjoy a special pancake breakfast and a visit with Santa. Get your picture taken with him and let him know if you’ve been naughty or nice. Afterward, take an afternoon tour at the Museum. Tickets are $5 for members and $9 for non-members. Pre-registration is required at

Holiday Sing!
Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 pm | The Music School of Delaware, Wilmington Branch
This musical sing-a-long for the whole family is hosted by the Early Childhood Department of the Music School and marks their 26th annual seasonal celebration. Music School faculty and friends provide instruments, singing and fun. Free, and good for ages 1½ and up.

Chesapeake Brass Band
Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm
Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington
This 35-piece award-winning brass band presents a high-spirited performance of classical, traditional and popular holiday favorites. This event is free.

Holiday Family Festivities at the Delaware Art Museum
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10:30 am
Delaware Art Museum
Enjoy a host of family-friendly activities at the Museum this holiday season. In Kids’ Corner, explore a geometric winter wonderland, add to the interactive igloo and build 3-D snowflakes. Families can also take a wintry walk through the Copeland Sculpture Garden to search for geometric shapes. Free with museum admission.

Legos & Latkes for Kids: A Pre-Chanukah Program
Sunday, Dec. 18, 12:15-2 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
This popular, community-wide event helps parents and kids enter Chanukah with spirit—by making their own Lego Menorah and delicious latkes. Cost is $12-16 per Lego Menorah set, and online registration is required to guarantee a Menorah. Register at

Chanukah Family Fun Festival
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 5-7 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
Bring the whole family to this party, which will feature a public menorah lighting, a professional entertainer, a delicious Chinese buffet dinner, a moonbounce, games, Chanukah crafts, festive Jewish Music, face painting, prizes and more. Early-bird tickets (purchase before Dec. 23) are $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Register at

Holiday Theatrics

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)
Friday, Dec. 2–Saturday, Dec. 10 | Chapel Street Players, Newark
Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told—plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop culture, and carols too. A madcap romp through the holiday season! Tickets to $18.

Christmas by Candlelight
Now–Friday, Dec. 23 | The Candlelight Theater, Arden
Back by popular demand, this heartwarming yuletide celebration features some of your favorite holiday tunes performed by some of your favorite “Candlelighters.”

A Christmas Carol
Wednesday, Dec. 7–Friday, Dec. 30
Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
Ebenezer Scrooge returns to the DTC stage as he transforms from a stingy miser to a man who generously celebrates the spirit of the season all year long. Don’t be left out in the cold for this stunning adaptation of a timeless holiday classic. Tickets are $40-50 and available at

Sparkling Holiday Dance

Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance —
50th Annual Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 | The Playhouse on Rodney Square
Kick off the season with one of Wilmington’s most enduring holiday traditions—the story of young Clara on Christmas night as she is tangled in a battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King in the Land of Sweets. Wilmington Ballet’s performance features New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Live music will be provided by the Wilmington Ballet Orchestra and Chorus, and the beloved Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will perform. This year, Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell will make a cameo appearance in the Dec. 3 2 pm show to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Christina Cultural Arts Center — Eleone Dance Theater’s 25th Anniversary of “Carols in Color”
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | The Grand Opera House
For a unique holiday treat, check out this one-day-only performance in Wilmington. “Carols” is a stirring holiday musical that retells the story of Christ’s birth according to the gospel of St. Matthew using contemporary music, exuberant dance and powerful narration. Tickets are $25-35, available at or 800.37GRAND.

First State Ballet Theatre — The Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 and 7 pm and Sunday, Dec.18, 2 pm
The Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Delaware’s only professional ballet company presents Wilmington’s favorite holiday tradition, The Nutcracker. Experience the magical journey through the land of sweets in FSBT’s lavish production. Tickets are $14.99-45 and are available at or 800.37GRAND.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Holiday Music!
Thursday Noontime Concert — Cartoon Christmas Trio
Thursday, Dec. 1, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music welcomes back the Cartoon Christmas Trio for one of downtown’s favorite holiday traditions. Jazz music from the beloved cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will fill the sanctuary of First & Central. The concert is free to attend, but donations are gratefully accepted.

First State Symphonic Band Christmas Concert
Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 pm | Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
First State Symphonic Band gets you into the season with some of the most popular holiday music—Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis and medleys of popular and traditional Christmas carols. The concert will conclude with the Leroy Anderson classics, “A Christmas Festival” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Festival Concert — Mastersingers of Wilmington Nativity Carols
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music’s holiday concert features its own Mastersingers with conductor David Schelat and organist Marvin Mills. Their program includes music by Marvin Mills, Neil Harmon, Paul Manz, Jonathan Dove and more. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at

A Jazz Christmas — featuring The Wilson Somers Trio
Sunday, Dec. 4, 7:30 pm | Laird Performing Arts Center at The Tatnall School
Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Wilson Somers leads his jazz trio—Somers on piano; Pete Paulson, contrabass, and Glenn Ferricone, percussion—along with guest artists Ed Kirkpatrick, tenor saxophone; Wes Morton, vibes; The Tatnall Singers and singer Annie Fitch in traditional and contemporary treatments of holiday favorites, all to benefit Family Promise of Northern New Castle County. Tickets are $15-20 and are available through the event Facebook page,

An All-Star Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4, 8 pm | World Cafe Live at The Queen, Wilmington
A star-studded seasonal celebration featuring regional music scene faves Jimmy McFadden, Kevin Walsh, Billy Penn Burger, Steve Prentice, Samantha Desper Poole, Chris Duncan, Ritchie Rubini and Tony Cappella. Tickets are $12 and are available at

The Wilmington Children’s Chorus Annual Candlelight Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm & Sunday, Dec. 11, 5 pm | First & Central Presbyterian, Rodney Square
Join the Wilmington Children’s Chorus as they celebrate the season, showcasing holiday music from around the world. The performance features all 150 members of the Youth Choirs, Select Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Choir at First and Central Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $10-$20; call 763-3637 to order.

Holiday Choral Concert
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington
The Music School of Delaware’s Delaware Women’s Chorus and Adult Jazz Choir join the Choir from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, singers from New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church and Brandywine Brass in performance. Music for chorus, chorus with brass quintet and brass quintet alone will round out the program. A community carol sing will follow the concert. Admission is a non-perishable food item.

Thursday Noontime Concert — Center City Chorale’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
Thursday, Dec. 15, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music continues its musical holiday celebration with delightful carol arrangements sung by Wilmington’s Downtown Choir, including brilliant arrangements of well-known carols by Howard Helvey. Guest pianists Neil Harmon and Hiroko Yamazaki join the chorale. The concert is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Halls that Are Decked

Rockwood Holiday Open House
Friday, Dec. 2, 6 pm | Rockwood Museum
There’s something for the entire family at the 16th Annual Holiday Open House: live entertainment, children’s activities, refreshments, free photos with Santa, museum tours and a festive light display in the gardens of the Mansion and Carriage House; and New Castle County Youth Entrepreneur’s Secret Santa Shoppe, selling gifts for the whole family. Entertainment includes Delaware Arts Conservatory performing excerpts from The Snow Queen; Delaware Children’s Theatre performing a preview of Willy Wonka; the Imagination Players; Kathryn Ciminello Dance Troupe; Cab Calloway Middle School choirs; the UD Children’s Choir and more. The event is free to attend, but families are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or new mittens, hats or scarves for the Giving Tree.

Holiday House Tour
Saturday, Dec. 10, 9 am | Delaware Art Museum
The Museum’s holiday house tour enters its 30th year. Start at the museum with artisan shopping followed by a tour of historic Greenville houses decked out for the holidays. Homes open at 10 am. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational programs. Tickets range from $25-60 and are available at

Old Fashioned Christmas at Bellevue Mansion
Now – Dec. 18, 10 am-4 pm | Bellevue State Park
Step back in time into the beautifully decorated Bellevue Mansion at Bellevue State Park. Visit with Father Christmas, sit and listen to the storyteller, view the train display, custom-designed for the holiday by the First State Model Railroad Club. The Mansion provides not only an old-fashioned experience but also many holiday picture-taking and “selfie” opportunities. Tickets are $15 (children under 2 admitted free) and are available at

Hagley Twilight Tours
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, Dec.13-14 through Dec. 27-28, 4:30-7 pm
Hagley Museum
Enjoy a rare opportunity to see Eleutherian Mills—the first du Pont family home in America—dressed for the holidays with softly glowing lights, lace, fresh greenery, poinsettias, and dried flower arrangements. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 658-2400, ext. 261.

Holiday Greens Workshop
Saturday, Dec. 3, 9 am | Delaware Center for Horticulture, Wilmington
Add sparkle and beauty to your holiday decorations at the annual Holiday Greens Workshop. Create a beautiful wreath or table arrangement from an unusual collection of fresh greens, dried flowers, seeds, fruit and ribbon. Experts will be on hand to provide guidance. Bring hand pruners and gloves to work with prickly materials. Tickets are $45 for members and $55 for non-members. Space is limited, so reserve by calling 658-6262.

Gifts Made in Delaware

Look no farther than The First State for your holiday shopping


Delaware By Hand
406 Federal St., Dover
Pieces are created by the artist and artisan members of the Biggs Museum. The retail store is located at the Biggs in Dover.

Terrance Vann
The Wilmington-based artist is working with the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation on the 7th Street Arts Bridge.

Christmas Decorations

Marcia Poling Bird Ornaments
Wild Birds Unlimited
7411 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin
These bird-themed Christmas tree ornaments are hand-painted in lovely detail by Dover artist and naturalist Marcia Poling. Each ornament offers a unique design, perfect for the bird lover on your list.

Dea Daly
From Newark, Dea Daly offers one-of-a-kind ornaments this holiday season. She also sells incense burners and charms made from polymer clay. Orders and custom pieces can also be placed on Facebook or Instagram.


Brandywine Coffee Roasters
1400 N. Dupont St., Wilmington
Price: $10 & up
A great option for the local coffee-lover, Brandywine Coffee Roasters offers delicious, hand-roasted blends, sourced from the world’s best coffee. Sample some at the closest Brew HaHa!, or learn more at The products feature very cool artwork as well.

Highland Orchards
1431 Foulk Rd., Wilmington
Stop by this family-run fruit and vegetable farm for some delicious, seasonal apple cider, made fresh from the farm’s harvest.


Fierro Cheese
1025 N Union St., Wilmington
Price: $10 & up
This family-owned and operated maker of quality Italian dairy products, including ricotta, ricotta impastata, mozzarella, curd and queso fresco, is located in the heart of Little Italy.

Maiale Deli & Salumeria
3301 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington
Price: $49 & up (platters)
More than 30 varieties of sausage and 10 types of salami are available here. All sausages and dried salami are handcrafted in house and made fresh daily.

Walker’s Apiary Honey
351 Wedgewood Rd., Newark
Price: $10 & up
Located near White Clay Creek Preserve, this apiary also produces honey—along with wax and ointment.


Local Music at Rainbow Records
54 E. Main St., Newark
Price: $10 & up
The entire store is a music and book haven, and we particularly recommend perusing the section showcasing area artists. It features an impressive assortment of records, CDs and tapes by local favorites.

The War on Words Book
Price: $9.95
Local wordsmith and O&A editor Bob Yearick has compiled a collection of his columns into a book. Each page is a spot-on, somewhat snarky attempt to eliminate the grammatical gaffes that plague our everyday communications.

Home Goods/Furnishings

Etcetera & Stitches
Price: $3-$30
This online shop by local artist Kristen Vaughn features her individually-designed cross-stitch patterns, hand-crafted kits and finished pieces. Versatile with nerdy and pop culture references, along with modern embroidery hoop art, these pieces are a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone.

JKB Design
1004 Wawaset St., Wilmington
From custom cabinets to natural-looking wood tables and desks, Jim Buckley creates carefully crafted furniture to suit your unique specifications and reflect your personality.

Kitchen Accessories at Creations Gallery
443 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin
Among the varied home items offered at Creations you’ll find the kitchen accessories that Middletown native Michael O’Grady creates from olive wood imported from sustainable sources in Bethlehem, Israel. The growth habit of the olive trees results in spectacular swirly figures—and, hence, unique conversation pieces for your home.

Michael Quattrociocchi
A member of the Delaware State of the Arts Council, Quattrociocchi focuses “on the true beauty of natural wood while providing an object with functional use.”

Well Born Clay
619 Harrington St., Wilmington
Price: $15-$65
Specializing in functional wares for people who like to cook and eat naturally.


Homespun for Everyone
Custom made hats, scarves and more for children and adults.  Also offering lessons in knitting and crochet for adults and children. No experience necessary!

Lolah Soul Jewelry
She creates “wearable art,” including rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings.

Monserrat Elements
Sara Monserrat Teixido has been making one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted jewelry creations and amulets for more than 22 years.

Olga Ganoudis Designs
1313 Scott St., Wilmington
Olga Ganoudis’ hand-made jewelry includes some pieces with Game of Thrones themes.

Midwinter Co.
Vintage and minimal classics in modern form, featuring natural gems and unique diamonds. This husband and wife team run a socially responsible business from their home studio in Wilmington, and 10% or more of their profits go to local charities.


Getting Sew Crafty
Price: $5-$30
A Newark-based business, Getting Sew Crafty provides stylish and functional teething and nursing jewelry and accessories for mom and tot.


904 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach
Price: Wearables & Accessories $21-$50
Created in 2000 by skimboarding aficionado Corey Mahoney, this Dewey Beach-based company produces its own line of skimboarding gear and skateboard decks. It also runs nationally-acclaimed skim-boarding camps at the Delaware beaches—one of the top skimboarding destinations in the world.

O’Neill’s Fly Fishing
Dedicated to all aspects of fly fishing culture, including seminars, lessons, instruction and custom fly tying. Flies range from $3.95 to more than $10, depending on the pattern. Tim O’Neill operates the business out of his home in Hockessin. Contact him at

Out of the Ordinary

Sore Thumb Designs
New Castle-based pop artist Lawrence Moore re-utilizes pages from comic book classics to create custom-designed storage trunks, which add fun and a dramatic splash of color to any playroom, studio or even an office. If you’re set on storage, Moore takes the same “pulp fiction” approach to the leather tote bags that are also for sale on his site.

Zexcoil Guitar Pickups
Lawing Musical Products, LLC
For the musician on your list, these locally-made guitar pickups boast great tone without the nagging hum that comes from most conventional pickups. The unique design is the product of Delaware local Dr. Scott Lawing, an engineer with a PhD from MIT who also happens to be a veteran guitarist with the band In The Light.

Super School

In a national competition, the two-year-old Delaware Design Lab is one of 10 schools that have been awarded $10 million each over the next five years

Sometimes dreams don’t work out as planned.

And sometimes real life can turn out better than anyone could have imagined.

Just ask Cristina Alvarez and Martin Rayala, cofounders of the Delaware Design Lab High School.
Alvarez, a former principal of Philadelphia’s Charter High School for Architecture and Design, turned up in Delaware in the fall of 2012, with the dream of creating a new school in downtown Wilmington. She had teamed with Rayala, a veteran educator and consultant, to write her proposal and, on the recommendation of a friend, recruited Matt Urban, president of Mobius New Media, a graphics and design firm with offices in the Grand Opera House, to head its board of directors.

The State Board of Education approved Design Lab’s charter application in early 2013, but the school opening was delayed until the fall of 2015. Alvarez was unable to find a suitable downtown Wilmington site and wound up settling in Christiana, in a building in the Faith City Church complex that had previously been used by another charter, the Delaware Academy for Public Safety and Security. It started with 233 students, about half of them African-American, in grades 9 and 10. With 11th grade added this year, enrollment is now pushing 300, Rayala says.

But Alvarez and Rayala won’t be surprised to see the demand for seats soar by the Jan. 11 deadline for choice and charter applications for the 2017-18 school year.

After all, who wouldn’t want their child to attend a school that had just won a $10 million grant in a national competition to create a next-generation “super school”?

That’s right—$10 million, a cool $2 million a year for the next five years. Considering that the school’s budget is currently $4.2 million, having the ability to tap into another $2 million gives Design Lab the potential to do more—a lot more.

“It’s a huge amount of money, and we were shocked to get it,” Alvarez says.

Re-Imagining the American High School

The money is coming from XQ: The Super School Project, funded by the Emerson Collective, an education and immigration advocacy group run by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers. XQ put out a call for proposals that would re-imagine the American high school for the 21st century, and Design Lab submitted one based on its academic plan.

The competition was fierce. More than 1,400 schools expressed interest in the competition, 700 applied, and that number was whittled down to 350, then 50 semifinalists and ultimately the 10 winners.

Other winners in the competition included charter schools and traditional public schools with plans to focus on high-needs students, academically successful self-directed students, homeless students and one that would operate out of a museum.

“It’s not like anything else we have in our state. The award validates that we brought an innovative model to Delaware,” says Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

Massett, however, offers a cautionary note. “It’s still a second- year school. Infusing money into a school does not make it perfect. I hope nobody thinks they’re not going to have challenges. Every school has challenges. But now they have a cushion to have a failure here or there.”

The next steps for Design Lab, Alvarez says, are to prove that the model works and to create opportunities to replicate the model in other settings—one of the key objectives of charter schools.

Cristina Alvarez (in red) and the Delaware Design Lab team receiving the XQ Super School award for educational innovation and excellence from famed rapper MC Hammer. (Photo courtesy of The Design Lab High School)
Cristina Alvarez (in red) and the Delaware Design Lab team receiving the XQ Super School award for educational innovation and excellence from famed rapper MC Hammer. (Photo courtesy of The Design Lab High School)

Core Educational Philosophy

At the core of the school’s educational philosophy is a concept called “design thinking,” which, Rayala explains, means “taking the ideas and processes that designers use to solve a problem, learning those processes and applying them to any aspect of your life.”

Design Lab students take the same subjects that other high school students do—English/language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign language—but they learn the material differently.

Teachers don’t stand in front of the class and lecture, and students don’t memorize facts.

Instead, teachers present a problem and students use the design process to find a solution. First, they discover, examining the issue to ensure they are attempting to solve the right problem. Then they visualize, considering all the possible solutions. Next comes prototype, testing the most promising solutions. Then they present, describing their idea or solution in a clear and compelling way to their teacher and the rest of the class—much like the presenters at TED talks or entrepreneurial hopefuls on the Shark Tank television series.

“In traditional education, the teacher is the holder of the information, the all-knowing person,” Alvarez says. But today, she says, “we’re living in a world where kids have access to information through their phones. Technological development has pointed us toward realizing that schools must change their learning model away from the teacher as the source of all information and power into something else … into students taking more control of their learning.”

Students entering Design Lab aren’t always ready for this new approach, Alvarez says, because “traditional schools are based on socialization and compliance and they spend a lot of time taking the curiosity of a child and tamping it down for them to fit this model.”

The Design Lab staff encourages curiosity. The freshman social studies class, for example, doesn’t include traditional civics lessons. It’s called “regional planning,” and students start out by learning about New Castle County and all of Delaware, its culture, geography, economics and politics. “Students have to reach out into the community, to discover what mayors do, what urban planners do,” Alvarez says.

Students do a lot of their work as teams, not only as partners but also in critiquing each other’s work—developing skills that Rayala says will be essential within a 21st-century workforce.

“Businesses are decentralizing, working toward smaller units, so workers have to be more nimble, more problem-solving, more able to take on new challenges,” he says. “We all have to be creative. We all have to wear many hats.”

Design Lab doesn’t plan to pour its $10 million into a new building or into expanding its staff, Alvarez and Rayala say. Doing so, they explain, would defeat the purpose of the grant because it’s easy to make a model succeed when you equip it with more personnel and lots of bells and whistles.

“Our mindset is not going to be ‘how do we spend $10 million?’ It’s how we use the $10 million as leverage to get the money we really need,” Rayala says.

Design Lab students, he says, will see some improvements in the short term—things like another counselor a semester ahead of schedule and improvements in the science labs.

Over the next few years, the money will make it possible for the school to add more teachers than it would have on its regular budget, but the school’s leaders have no intention of building a staff that would have to be cut significantly when the grant money runs out.

Alvarez and Rayala anticipate using some of the prize as matching funds should they seek corporate or foundation grants to make long-term improvements, whether it’s for buying new computers or working toward construction of a new building for when their current lease at Faith City expires after the 2019-20 school year.

And some of the money will be used for testing new ways of putting “design thinking” to work, whether it be through more use of computers, getting students outside the classroom and into the community more often, or changing the way teachers and students interact.

New Partnerships

The outcomes of those learning experiments will help Design Lab leaders package a model curriculum and instructional process that it can replicate in Delaware and elsewhere in the country.

They won’t be doing it alone, Rayala says, because the award increases the probability of developing new partnerships to drive the school forward. “With $10 million and the validation of internationally known people, we can go to the business community and to universities and say ‘pay attention to what we’re doing.’”

No matter how Design Lab evolves, its development won’t go unnoticed.

In 2014 and 2015, when the school was recruiting its first students, “we didn’t have a campus, we had nothing you could touch, feel or see,” Urban says.

In January, Alvarez and Rayala won’t be surprised if they wind up with more applicants than available seats and have to use a lottery to determine which students will be admitted.

“We’ve gone from under the radar to way above the radar,” Urban says.

Delaware’s Beer Scene: Fermenting

Three new craft breweries have sprung up over the past few months

Note to craft beer enthusiasts in Delaware, particularly New Castle County: With Thanksgiving almost upon on us, you have plenty to be thankful for—namely, three new breweries that have tapped their kegs and are pouring and distributing to the beer-swilling public.

We talked to folks behind the scenes at each of the breweries to get their story and discover where they are in terms of kegging and construction. To see what we found out, read on.

Bellefonte Brewing Company

Despite its geographical namesake, which is north of Wilmington, Bellefonte Brewing Company is located near Prices Corner in a warehouse unit fitted with a tasting room and bar made of California redwood. But co-owner Craig Wensell started BBC years ago as a home-brewing supply shop out of his house in —you guessed it—Bellefonte.

“I’ve been exposed to brewing since a very young age; my father, uncles, cousins, brothers, all of us have been involved in home brewing since the mid-‘80s,” Wensell says. “So I began opening up the front porch of my home in Bellefonte as a supply store for the advanced brewer, where people could taste what I’d brewed and purchase brewing products at the same time.”

Now Wensell, along with fellow home brewer Joe Jacobs and business partner Neil Shea, is running his own full-fledged brewery, which tapped its first commercial keg on May 20. The menu at Bellefonte relies on rye, with these four beers on tap: Grapefruit Rye IPA, Rye IPA, Rye Stout and Red Rye Abbey.

“I really like rye as ingredient, even though it can be a sticky mess for brewers to deal with,” Wensell says. “It’s got a very distinct flavor and crisp spiciness that goes really well with the citrusy hops we use, like the Simcoe, Cascade and Citra.”

Jacobs, meanwhile, brews what has been a very popular beer at Bellefonte since opening, according to Wensell. Called the Orange Street Ale, it’s a refreshing specialty ale made with orange blossom, honey and orange zest, though not heavily hopped, Wensell says.

While no food is served at Bellefonte, there will be occasional food trucks on site, at 3605 Capitol Trail. Hours are Thursday and Friday from 5-9 p.m., Saturday from 1-10 p.m., and Sunday from 1-6 p.m.

Growlers to go are $20 brand new and $15 for a refill. Bellefonte’s beers also are available locally at the Bellefonte Café (naturally), as well as North Quarter Creole, 1984 and Oddity Bar, all in Wilmington.

Twin Lakes Brewing Company

Almost a year to the day after closing its original digs in Greenville, Twin Lakes Brewery was up and running again in Newport in early August of this year, pumping out kegs of its popular pale ale and pilsner. Brewer Jack Wick, who had stepped away from the business for a few years after 2010, is thrilled to be back.

“We’re in a better place now. We’ve got more room to brew and a 2,000-square-foot tasting room we’re working on where we’ll be able to sell our product,” Wick says. “Everything that we couldn’t do at the old place, we can do here.”

With a name like Twin Lakes, it’s a given that the water in each brew was important to the quality and consistency of the product. While Twin Lakes can no longer rely on the natural springs at the old Greenville facility, Wick’s family background in water and waste water management helped to ensure that the brewer gets as close as possible to perfection in the H2O department.

“Outside of the licensing and deciding on where to relocate, selecting the water we use for Twin Lakes was one of the most important things we did,” Wick says. “We are having our water sent to us via tanker from a particular well in Chester County, so it’s free of chemicals that would affect the beer negatively, while being rich in the right minerals we need.”

Co-owners Burke Morrison and Matt Day have also helped with the transition, which Morrison said has gone as smoothly as possible, although not without some concern. “We brewed as much beer as we could before leaving Greenville, but even that only lasted until about January,” Morrison said.

“We’ve been essentially out of the market for more than six months, but based on the feedback we’ve gotten, I’m certain we’ll be fine,” he says. “The craft beer community is more cooperative than competitive. If you’re making a quality product, you’ll survive.”

Some of the Twin Lakes quality products include the Jubilicious and Tweed’s Tavern Stout, along with the Twin Lakes Pale Ale (formerly the Greenville Pale Ale) and Blue Water Pilsner (formerly the Route 52 Pilsner), both of which reflect the change in location for the brewery.

Wick, Morrison and Day are hoping to have their tasting room open sometime in November, but say a December or even early 2017 launch might be in the cards. When it does happen, they plan to cater to the happy hour crowd from 4-7 p.m. during the week. They will have growlers to go, and there will be various caterers and food trucks on site. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on the tasting room opening and events throughout the fall and winter.

Dew Point Brewing Company

Nestled in the middle of acres filled with mansions, sprawling farms and woodland in northern New Castle County sits the historic mill outpost of Yorklyn. Blink and you may miss it, or make a random left or right off Rt. 82 and you’ll bypass it entirely. But keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see the area’s first microbrewery, housed in one of the old snuff mills, where passersby can stop in for a pint of freshly brewed ale or lager.

Dew Point Brewing Company, named for the area’s dense morning fogs and located along Creek Road in the heart of Yorklyn, opened its tasting room in mid-August. Dew Point boasts six regular beers flowing in a taproom where Marketing Director Nick Matarese also doubles as part-time bartender.

“This whole operation is like a family gathering; my uncle John (Hoffman) is a chemist and has been working out a lot of the technical issues, and my cousin Cody (Hoffman) is our head brewer,” Matarese says. “Everyone else you see around here is pretty much family helping the cause. I think there are five or six ‘partners’ altogether.”

Head Brewer Cody Hoffman developed a fascination with brewing at an early age when his sister, Alexa, gave their father a brew kit for Christmas. Only 16 at the time, Hoffman was hooked. He eventually worked unpaid internships at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, Pa., and Twin Lakes Brewing Company in Greenville before attending Brewlab for official training in England.

“No breweries would give me a chance to work at only 18 years old, so I had to work for free to get experience, like a lot of young, aspiring brewers,” Hoffman says. “When my dad and family agreed to go in on a brewery, we started doing the research and landed here.”

The renovated loft area of Dew Point’s tasting room features hardwood flooring, a 14-seat bar, plenty of communal high-top tables, and natural light pouring in from the surrounding valley. Some of the more popular beers, according to Matarese, include the Nit Wit, a traditional Belgian witbier, the Hopworts Express, a Harry Potter homage that is classic West Coast American IPA, and the delicious Dubbel Dip, a 7.1 percent Belgian dark ale.

“Right now we’re brewing a porter, and we will also brew some stouts and sours, as well as two Belgian red ales later this month,” Hoffman says. “I like everything, really. I like every kind of beer, every style, so I’ll try to brew anything I can. We’re right around 50 barrels of production right now, but that will increase. Once we get to 100, we’ll start sending to restaurants and festivals.”

A half-barrel produces about 124 pints, all of which you can only currently get at Dew Point’s tasting room, open Thursday through Sunday. Large growlers aren’t yet available, but mini growlers, or mason jars, can be purchased to go for $4. Four-beer flights, or tasting samplers, are $8, while pints are $5. If you bring in a large growler from another brewery, they’ll “consider” filling it, according to Hoffman.

“Just make sure you slap a Dew Point sticker on there,” he says, laughing. “We’re holding off on filling our own growlers until we’re at a production level that’s more comfortable. Last thing we want is to fill a bunch of growlers on Friday and Saturday and then only have one beer on tap come Sunday.”

Dew Point also features an outdoor picnic area, though they don’t yet have a patio license. Hoffman says they can seal the mini mason jars, which patrons can take outside to drink, but can’t allow for a random, open pint to travel outside, per state law.

No food is currently available on-site, but Matarese says they are planning to have food trucks come out on weekends, particularly in the spring. The tasting room is open Thursday from 4-9 p.m., Friday from 3-11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For updates on Dew Point’s tap list and events, follow them on Facebook or visit

Changing Tides for The Susquehanna Floods

The Perryville, Md.-based band won the 10th annual Musikarmageddon after getting a drummer from Craigslist and switching from covers to all-original music

It wasn’t just hard work that carried The Susquehanna Floods to the championship of this year’s 10th Musikarmageddon—the annual Wilmington-based battle of the bands open to regional artists.

For the Perryville, Md.-based foursome, it was a meld of specifics like pre-practice outlining of what would be accomplished during weekly practice, articulate shaping, polishing and reflection, and discussing and immediately implementing needed improvements. And talent, of course.
It all came together at the Oct. 15 finals at the baby grand when the band scored unanimous victories in both audience votes and by judges’ scores over the other three finalists, TreeWalker, Hoochi Coochi and Arden Kind.

“Phew, man,” says lead guitarist Zach Crouch. “To be honest, we were kind of shocked, although we were working really hard to fine-craft our set for that specific event.”

Surprisingly, the Musikarmageddon shows were some of their first gigs, Crouch says. Well, kind of.
The band—Trevor Biggers (lead vocalist, guitar), Brett Pearson (bass, vocals), Crouch and drummer Eric Picard—blends rock, blues and folk. It’s a tightly-knit crew, not least because Biggers and Pearson went to high school together and Crouch and Biggers are cousins.

“Eric we found last year on Craigslist,” Crouch says.

Picard, a 50-something thrown in with a group of guys in their late 20s, was a catalyst for total overhaul. Crouch, Biggers and Pearson had actually been a cover band for the last four or five years, Crouch explains, but that got old. They were exhausted by the local circuit and felt creatively unfulfilled, although they did make some money. Like a 1970s near-flooding of the Susquehanna River between the two Maryland towns of Havre de Grace (Crouch’s hometown) and Perryville (Pearson and Biggers’ hometown), they were about to burst. (That’s how they got their name, by the way; it gives a sense of the band’s roots, says Crouch.)

A Bold Move

“We finally decided to do originals, and wanted a drummer for that,” says Crouch. “Trevor and I wrote two songs and we all shared them with Eric one night, and before we officially decided if he was going to be in the band, he got up and said, ‘See you guys at practice next Thursday,’ and then left. It was kind of a bold move, but there was no discussion after that—he was in.”

Counting a handful of shows prior to Musikarmageddon, they’ve been playing originals for just over six months now. Crouch points out that, despite years of dedicating themselves to learning other peoples’ music, switching from cover band to original wasn’t too difficult. The Susquehanna Floods had a general idea of what they wanted to sound like, with folksy influences like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Jones, CCR, Eric Clapton and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

“We spend a lot of time around the kitchen table practicing harmonies,” Crouch says.

These harmonies, along with strong vocal focuses like catchy choruses or synced guitar solos, are specific musical aspects the band loved, and it’s probably these details that helped win over the Musikarmageddon crowd.

Says Pam Manocchio, the Grand Opera House’s director of community engagement: “Their songs were memorable, their voices and instruments balanced well, and their music had variety throughout the set. Smiling at the audience makes a big difference—you knew they were having a good time and that made us respond positively.”

The younger guys’ music experience traces back to high school theater productions and marching band, but Picard has been in touring bands and playing music, as Crouch puts it, “longer than the rest of us have been alive.”

“He has a level of wisdom, and it’s a good feeling ‘cause it comes from respect, to be like ‘I’m gonna come out of my musical retirement to play with these kids,’” says Crouch.

Serious Musicians

The band is clearly serious about their music, which they juggle around their day jobs for now. Crouch, who serves at Granite Run Taproom in Port Deposit, Md., says his managers are good at keeping his schedule open for the band, so he’s become the Floods’ designated social media manager/PR guy.

Biggers works at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Pearson works at State Farm Insurance and Picard is at Capital One in Wilmington. They manage to squeeze in about one practice session a week, meeting centrally in Newark—Picard lives in Middletown, the other guys in the Perryville area—at a rented practice space.

And as we already know, they are anything but slackers.

“We practice our tails off every time we’re in there,” Crouch says. “When we first go into practice, we will have already decided what exactly we’ll be working on—we’ll listen to soundbites ahead of time and discuss what our strengths and weakness are, then shape it up, down to enunciating vowels, vocal harmonies, everything. Most people are driven toward a career, and we’re driven toward ours—we treat it as such. Playing music is our ultimate goal, so if we have to take it seriously to get there, so be it, we will.”

Aside from the winners’ perks of free t-shirt designs at Spaceboy Clothing on Market Street, a photo session with Wilmington-based Moonloop Photography and a recording with West Chester’s TribeSound Records, the Musikarmageddon win has put them in the regional spotlight. Last month they were interviewed on WSTW’s Hometown Heroes, and experienced a surge of social media buzz. But they remain modest.

“Once all this blows over, hopefully we’ll have been a local model for other up-and-coming bands like us to follow, and if not a model, at least a friend to them,” says Crouch.

He hopes that’s true especially in Wilmington, which he admires as a tight-knit, supportive music scene—a scene Musikarmageddon has highlighted and celebrated in the past decade.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve presented 10 years of Musikarmageddon competitions,” says Manocchio. “It has nurtured a spirit of cooperation. Musicians support each other. It’s nice to see the finalists representing different geographic areas, musical styles and even experience.”

Crouch concurs. He says Kirby Moore of competing band TreeWalker—whose members have been friends with The Susquehanna Floods for years—was the first to encourage the band to branch from covers to original music. Other competitors, like Hoochi Coochi, had shared the stage at a show in Elkton, Md., with The Susquehanna Floods a few weeks prior to the competition, and when Crouch and crew met Arden Kind back stage at the competition itself, everyone hit it off.

Camaraderie, if not already existing, was inevitable. That naturally made the win bittersweet.

“The hardest part of the entire thing was being in a competition with our friends and not really wanting to win, because we wanted to see them win,” says Crouch.

Catch The Susquehanna Floods at Gable Music Ventures’ Wilmo Wednesdays at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Wednesday, Nov. 16, and again at The Queen on Nov. 18. For other shows and updates, visit

Fresher Than Ever

After 15 years and five stores, PureBread is running with the big dogs, and its commissary is keeping it near the head of the pack

Drive along most major roads in the Delaware Valley and you’re likely to be inundated with lunchtime options, ranging from sit-down restaurant to fast food joint. If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, the choices are virtually unlimited; it’s hard to blink without seeing a spot that proudly claims it serves the best subs, steaks, hoagies, hot dogs, burgers, etc.

It appears, however, that some of the classic, family-owned sandwich shops are becoming harder and harder to come by, what with the onslaught of national chains like Panera and Quiznos, and regional behemoths like Wawa. Multiple locations, kiosks for quick service, and even the addition of fuel service (particularly at Wawa) make them difficult to resist.

In 2001, when Mike Nardozzi opened his first PureBread location, he knew the battle against “Big Sandwich” would be uphill. Fifteen years later, he’s quietly challenging the chain locations with his five stores (Pike Creek, Greenville, Christiana, Wilmington, and Glen Mills, Pa.). His recipe for success calls for fresh-baked breads and house-roasted meats, all served with a friendly smile and a connection with customers that keeps ‘em coming back.

Building a Loyal ‘Bread Base’

Nardozzi opened the first PureBread location in September of 2001, but his love for working in the front of the house at restaurants goes back to his post-college days in the mid-1990s. After graduating from Clemson University in 1995, he went to work at a southern dining institution: Waffle House.

“Waffle House was one of my first jobs out of college, when I was living in Marietta, Ga.,” Nardozzi says. “I learned so much about the great system they have in place there; it really made an impact. Then I wound up playing in a golf outing with the CFO, and after that day, I was hooked.”

He soon moved home to Delaware, where he found work with the Shemp Restaurant Group (Scratch Magoo’s, Tyler’s). Shortly thereafter, he and a co-worker began brainstorming a new business. A dog lover at heart, Nardozzi wanted to use man’s best friend in the name and marketing for the restaurant, and thus, “PureBread” was born.

He quit his job in April of 2001, worked on a business plan, and opened the doors to the first PureBread in Pike Creek just five months later. Ever since, the menu and restaurants have featured a dog theme, with sandwiches named after breeds and photos of regular customers’ dogs decorating the walls.

“Our fall menu, which we just revamped, has 25 different dog-named sandwiches, and even our culture follows the notion of being friendly and loyal, a lot like dogs are,” Nardozzi says. “When we hire people, we expect them to adhere to our values. I really think it’s our friendly service and the smiles you see on our employees’ faces that brings customers back again and again.”

While most restaurants might save their mission or keys to satisfying guests for the employee training manual, PureBread features it proudly on posters and table tents. Five rules, covering quality products, accurate orders, legendary service, pure hospitality, and cleanliness, are posted throughout the restaurants. As Nardozzi says, “Our values and keys to guest delight are right there in plain sight. If we don’t fulfill them all, the customers will know it.”

Greenville resident Beth Friedman has visited all five restaurants, but frequents the PureBread closest to her house several times a week. She’s been going since it opened, mostly for the consistent product and cheerful employees behind the counter. Even a slight mix-up in her order years ago impressed her.

“They used to put a pickle on every sandwich and, well, I hate pickles,” Friedman says. “There was a pickle on my platter, and it was not good. I barely mentioned it, and they didn’t even blink. They insisted on making it right, immediately. No roll of the eyes, no attitude. Within a minute, I had a new sandwich. I’m not sure you get that kind of service at a lot of places.”

Commitment to service and making each store “achieve excellence” is a big reason Nardozzi hasn’t considered offers to expand downstate or farther north along the Main Line. He says he’s too focused on the five stores he already has, and with a newly built, half-million-dollar commissary in Newport, proximity to the five PureBread locations is key.

Food for 15,000

Plenty of sandwich shops rely on Boar’s Head or Sysco to provide their meats, cheeses and other delicatessen side dishes, but Nardozzi wanted to go the proprietary route with PureBread’s own recipes, roasting techniques, and homemade dough. While other places are figuring out how to cut costs, he says, PureBread added the commissary and is using better ingredients.

“Quality is everything to us, so we spent $500,000 on this new commissary that opened in January,” Nardozzi says. “We used to have bakers at all the stores, but it just got inconsistent. Everything is now from scratch, and is delivered to each store by midnight for service the following day, including our house-roasted chicken.”

Director of Operations Linda Morel says the Newport facility is a well-oiled machine despite less than a year of operation. Between five and seven employees are on hand at any time, making the dough from scratch and hand-chopping and mixing side salads like the popular coleslaw.

“Our delivery drivers—who work as mailmen during the day—come to the commissary every evening,” Morel says. “By midnight, all five stores are stocked with all the supplies they need for the next day. It’s the best solution for guaranteeing that everything is always fresh at each store.”

Nardozzi says the bakers typically churn out between 400 and 500 muffins a day, in addition to all the loaves of bread and bagels they make. On average, all the meat, vegetables and bread the commissary pumps out is enough to fully stock the five stores with food for about 3,000 guests, or 15,000 people a week.

Smile. Be Kind. Do Good.

Just as commuters might see hundreds of dining options out on the local roads, it’s also easy to spot one of PureBread’s best marketing tools. Any time you see a “Lend a Paw” car magnet, look a little closer while at the next stop light, and you’ll see the PureBread lettering in fine print.

“It’s part of a program we’ve had here for years, where we set money aside for employees who have fallen on hard times, and allot that money to a deserving individual,” Nardozzi says. “We’ve bought cars, furniture, helped pay bills, you name it. We see it as part of that whole pay-it-forward philosophy we impart.”

While the Lend a Paw magnets are still popular, the company’s mantra has changed to something just as meaningful, according to Nardozzi: “Smile. Be Kind. Do Good.” The change was implemented about two years ago, when former employee Phillip Bishop died as a result of a hit-and-run accident on Brackenville Road near Hockessin. The 27-year-old was pedaling his bicycle home from a shift at the Greenville location when he was struck and killed.

“You probably remember reading the story in the paper, but it was devastating,” Nardozzi says. “Phil had worked for us for about two years and was so genuine, so full of life, so willing to listen and take time with each guest; when we lost him, we felt it was necessary to keep his spirit going.”

Nardozzi says Bishop’s mother, Johanna Bishop, was quoted after the funeral as saying, “We have to live life now … according to Phillip’s principles, which was just to be kind and do good.” That motto has been featured on PureBread posters and in their corporate email response since soon after the funeral, and is now part of the company’s mission. “We just want to be positive and genuine, like Phil was, and hope our customers see and feel that when they walk in our doors,” Nardozzi says.

The Lend a Paw program still exists, as does PureBread’s Pups Calendar, featuring photos of customers’ dogs, for $25. Proceeds from the sale of the calendar go toward the fund that helps employees overcome financial hardships. The calendar includes $175 in PureBread coupons, and will be available at and in stores by early November, in conjunction with the new menu roll-out.