Brainchild of two Wilmington natives, Stitch House combines microbrewery and pub
In 2016, the Brewers Association—a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers—reported that, on average, Delawareans drink 11.1 gallons of craft beer annually, good for sixth in the nation. Additionally, since 2007, the BA has tracked the number of breweries operating in each state, with Delaware’s total jumping from just seven to more than 20 in that span.
Obviously, Delaware’s beer drinkers not only support the craft industry, but with each passing year, they’re thirsty for more.
Enter Stitch House Brewery, which will give Wilmington’s Market Street its own microbrewery. Expected to open early this month, Stitch House is the product of local entrepreneurs Dan Sheridan and Rob Snowberger. The Delaware natives will join forces with Head Brewer Andrew Rutherford, who worked for more than a decade at Yards Brewery in Philadelphia.
Sheridan has been around the Delaware dining scene for quite a while, having worked at La Fia on Market Street, after which he opened Locale BBQ Post as well as the Wilmington Pickling Company. Snowberger, meanwhile, is a former Navy SEAL who also attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. The two grew up together in Wilmington and were raised by fathers who worked for the city.
“We’d talked about opening a place together for years, but Rob was the first one to see this site at 829 Market through his connections with the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG),” says Sheridan. “When I first took a look at the building, I knew there would be a lot of work to do. Fitting out four floors to fit apartments and a huge brewpub and brewery was an enormous undertaking.” (Stitch House encompasses the first floor and part of the basement for storage, while BPG outfitted the upper two floors for apartments to lease.)
Seating for 170-plus
That work would include months of renovations and construction on a building erected in 1909 that had served, at various times, as a coal house, ice house, tailor shop, and even a linen shop. Sheridan and Snowberger, after discovering the building’s past lives, decided on Stitch House, as a tribute to its history. The result is a full-scale restaurant that will seat upwards of 170, including more than 40 in the bar area and a back room for private dining.
“The guys at BPG told me they wanted to open up a microbrewery on Market Street, to specifically cater to all that was going on downtown, especially the huge Residences at Mid-Town Park project right outside our back door,” says Sheridan. “Once I understood the scope of that project, I went with it.”
According to Buccini/Pollin, the Residences at Mid-Town Park will feature 200 luxury studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, with a 511-space parking garage below and 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail along Shipley Street. The parking garage is expected to open this month, and the first phase of the apartments is expected to be ready in June, with the remainder finishing up over the summer.
Once Sheridan and Snowberger embarked on their new culinary journey, they quickly began scouring the area for an experienced brewer looking for a new challenge. Fortunately, they were able to woo Rutherford, a 10-year veteran at Yards.
“I was in a rut and needed a change, so I began entertaining the idea of making a move and maybe recapturing a little creative freedom in the brewery,” says Rutherford. “The guys came to me with their plan for Stitch House and we just jelled. This is a good fit and I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish on Market Street.”
Sheridan and Snowberger are ecstatic to have been able to bring on Rutherford, who put in many 18- and 20-hour days leading up to the restaurant’s opening. “The guy is a machine,” says Sheridan. “He’s super talented and we are beyond excited to have him on our team.”
Rutherford says that to start, Stitch House will fill nine of its 12 taps with house brews, including a lager, pilsner, stout, IPA and pale ale, among others. The remaining three taps will be filled with local brews, and they will only offer draft beer, rather than any outside bottles or cans.
Adds Sheridan: “Our hope is to have all the taps filled with our own beers by late in the spring, and then begin offering crowlers (large cans) to customers, so they can take our beer with them.”
Adding a Smoker
As for the menu, Sheridan, a chef by trade, will focus on catering to the downtown lunch crowd; several sandwiches, burgers and paninis will be featured, as well as skillet dishes like dips, nachos, and even scallops and the increasingly popular sautéed Brussels sprouts. While they’re forgoing a pizza oven (found at many brewpubs), Sheridan says an on-site smoker will contribute heavily to the menu.
“I don’t necessarily want to do barbecue, because I leave that to Locale BBQ, but I do want to offer a lot of good smoked meats that will be seasoned and prepared to specifically pair with our beers,” he says. “The skillet dishes are designed for sharing and will fall into the comfort food category because we want to establish a laidback vibe here.”
The interior features murals and beer menu boards designed by Against the Grain Arts, of Wilmington, a logo designed by Snowberger’s sister, Molly, and design work by Stokes Architecture, of Philadelphia. Many of the high-top bar tables and booths were crafted by the Challenge Program, a Wilmington-based organization that offers at-risk teens the opportunity to learn life skills like carpentry and construction.
Stitch House will be open seven days a week and possibly for brunch on the weekends. Sheridan says they will offer some sort of discounted parking validation at the Parking at Mid-Town garage, as well as some other Colonial Parking garages in the city. They are also looking into the possibility of offering valet service on weekends.
Starting with 100 properties priced from $2,000 to $5,000, the Wilmington Land Bank is hoping to transform blocks, even neighborhoods, that have seen better days
More than 40 years ago, Wilmington stepped forward as a national leader in creating initiatives to decrease the number of tax-delinquent properties in urban areas.
In 1973, Mayor Thomas C. Maloney and City Council established an urban homesteading program that awarded properties to qualified buyers who pledged to fix them up and make them their homes. The price: one dollar.
At the start, the program proved so popular that a lottery was held in 1974 to choose the winners of the first available houses. A DuPont Co. attorney, Daniel S. Frawley, was the first name selected. He chose and rehabbed a home at 801 W. 10th St., triggering a revival of the now popular Trinity Vicinity neighborhood. Frawley went on to become a member of the Wilmington Board of Education, a member of City Council and, finally, the city’s mayor from 1985 to 1993. (Frawley died of a heart attack during a basketball game in 1994 at the age of 50.)
Over time, the homesteading program fell by the wayside, and the problem of blighted and tax-delinquent properties endured. Currently there are about 1,400 vacant and blighted parcels in Wilmington.
So the city has turned to a new mechanism, the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank, to take on the challenge of transforming blocks, and even neighborhoods, that have fallen on hard times.
As the new year began, the land bank had assembled an inventory of about 100 properties and was getting ready to offer them to interested buyers, most likely by the end of January.
The purchase price will be more than the single dollar that Dan Frawley and the other early homesteaders paid, “but it will be relatively low,” on the order of $2,000 to $5,000, says Christian Willauer, the land bank’s executive director.
But the expectation, Willauer says, is that the buyers will have to spend $100,000 or so to make the properties habitable. “They’re definitely fixer-uppers,” she says. “They’re not move-in ready. Many will need new electric, new heat, new plumbing.”
Land banks got their start in the United States in 1971, in St. Louis. As with Wilmington’s original homesteading program, they were seen as a way to combat the blight that developed as urban industries collapsed and city residents fled to the suburbs. Interest in land banks revived about a decade ago with the real estate market collapse and the foreclosure crisis that followed. There are now about 200 land banks nationwide.
Interest in a land bank for Wilmington began developing about five years ago. Then, in 2015, the General Assembly passed a law authorizing local governments to create land banks, and the Wilmington City Council did that later in the year. It took most of 2016 for the land bank to organize a board of directors, secure its nonprofit status, write bylaws and take care of related legal issues. Last February, it hired Willauer, who had been the head of Cornerstone West, the economic development arm of the West End Neighborhood House, as its executive director. The organization’s only employee, she spent most of last year pulling the organizational pieces together—raising money, securing insurance, developing a system for managing properties, and figuring out a process for finding good owners for rundown properties.
The land bank is getting started with about $3 million in seed money, which will be used primarily to buy and manage properties. The city put up $1.5 million and the state kicked in $645,000 from its Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund. Then Barclaycard US stepped forward with a $1 million grant—“more than we’ve ever given before,” according to Joceyln Stewart, the bank’s community reinvestment officer and a member of the land bank’s board of governors.
The city and Barclaycard contributions have a shared purpose, but they were made for different reasons.
“The city has not supported this function very well,” Mayor Mike Purzycki says, referring to its oversight of blighted properties. He thinks the land bank can do it better. “You’re taking a responsibility away from agencies that have multiple tasks and giving it to an agency that has one focus: redevelopment and conveying properties to developers,” he says.
City Council President Hanifa Shabazz says she expects the land bank to “work in concert with the city to convert vacant, abandoned and blighted properties and lots to stimulate economic development and neighborhood revitalization.”
While Purzycki looks back and sees ineffectiveness, Stewart looks forward with a hopeful eye. “We believe this can make a difference—citywide,” she says. “There are a lot of us here who really believe in Wilmington, who love this city and will rally behind it.”
Three types of programs
The land bank’s current holdings, Willauer says, are a mix of structures and vacant land, most of them transferred from the city’s stock of abandoned properties. By the end of 2018, she expects the inventory to grow to about 300 parcels and anticipates it will stabilize near that level, with the land bank selling off about as many properties as it acquires on a year-to-year basis.
Willauer says the land bank, as it gets up and running, will have three types of programs: homesteading, urban gardening and side lots.
In the homesteading component, rundown structures will be sold to qualified buyers who commit to rehabilitating the properties within one year of acquisition.
As of mid-December, the details of the homesteading system were still being worked out. Basic rules will likely include requirements that buyers can’t owe the city any money for back taxes or delinquent utility bills and that they will have to meet rehab specifications within a year or risk having to turn the property back to the land bank. “There will be some clawback provisions to hold the buyer accountable,” Willauer says.
What is for certain is that prospective buyers would receive a set of specifications from the land bank, detailing improvements that would have to be made to the property. They could then share those specifications with contractors and financial institutions to determine how much the work would cost and how much financing they could secure.
Interested parties would then submit their plans to the land bank board, and those who submit the most complete proposals would be awarded the properties, Willauer says.
The homes, mostly traditional row homes, vary in size, but most have two to four bedrooms. They tend to be in neighborhoods that don’t get a lot of activity in the local residential real estate market. “They need a more targeted approach to get back into use,” Willauer says.
While she often uses $100,000 as a ballpark figure for rehabilitation costs, the actual price will depend on the buyer’s taste and needs, because the condition of the homes will give purchasers plenty of leeway on things like designing and equipping the kitchen, baths and laundry areas.
One of the goals of the homesteading effort is to provide housing opportunities to renters and to those who lost their homes during the foreclosure crisis, Willauer says. To help achieve that objective, the land bank plans to assist buyers by work with agencies like the Delaware State Housing Authority on financing packages and Habitat for Humanity for first-time homeowner counseling.
“We’re not looking for gentrification,” Stewart says. “We’re interested in growing wealth.”
A variation of the land bank’s homesteading initiative involves partnering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County. Habitat likes to secure packages of adjoining properties so it can transform entire blocks, and the land bank, by acquiring foreclosed properties through the city and purchasing nearby properties on its own, can make that happen.
Recently, Habitat transferred ownership of a property it owns on East 22nd Street to the land bank, which already owns an adjacent property. For now, the land bank is maintaining both parcels. When Habitat is ready to begin its construction project, the land bank will transfer ownership of both parcels to Habitat.
Similarly, in West Center City, an area that Purzycki and Shabazz have targeted for revitalization, Willauer expects the bank to become involved in assembling adjoining parcels into a contiguous package for redevelopment.
When Willauer speaks of “urban gardening,” she offers a range of possibilities for vacant lots or parcels that contain structures for which demolition is the best option. In some situations, residents of a block or a neighborhood association might want to acquire a lot that could be transformed into a community garden or a pocket park.
Rather than sell such properties, the land bank would consider lease arrangements with community groups, she says.
“Side lots,” smaller properties held by the land bank that are adjacent to owner-occupied homes, might not be suitable for redevelopment but they could make attractive additions to the footprint of the homeowner’s property, Willauer says. The land bank will work with homeowners on how to annex these side lots to their properties.
“Our overall goal is to get all these properties back into use,” she says.
The urban gardening and side lots programs were launched in early January. Regulations and forms to apply for acquiring properties are posted on the land bank’s website, wilmingtonlandbank.org.
“Our work should be consistent with neighborhood plans, and will require greater coordination,” she says. “If a community sees open space as a priority, or if it sees increased home ownership as an objective, we want to work with neighborhood organizations and civic associations to make sure we’re fulfilling the goals and the vision that residents have for their neighborhoods.”
By promoting home ownership and working closely with civic groups, the land bank should promote community development and help create safer neighborhoods, Willauer says.
To say the Halloween Loop is Wilmington’s grandest nightlife tradition is no exaggeration. The event is older than most of its attendees.
On Saturday, Oct. 28, Wilmington’s biggest night out continues as 12 clubs join forces to host this revered citywide costumed pub crawl. Everyone 21 years or older is invited. The official start is 8 p.m.
“In terms of annual nightlife events in Wilmington, nothing really compares to the Halloween Loop,” says Jim Miller of Out & About Magazine, the presenting sponsor of the event. “Three things make it such a supremely successful series: longevity, draw, and spectacle.”
This year’s Loop lineup includes Catherine Rooney’s, Chelsea Tavern, Dead Presidents, Ernest & Scott Taproom, FireStone, Gallucio’s Café, Grotto Pizza, Kelly’s Logan House, Lavish, Timothy’s Riverfront, Trolley Oyster House and Trolley Tap House. A one-time $10 cover gains you admission to all participating Loop venues. Attendees will receive a wristband upon paying the cover.
New this year is a partnership with Lyft, the nationwide ride-on-demand company. A special code will be printed on all wristbands, entitling attendees to a free or discounted trip (depending on their destination) on their first use only. It’s one discount per caller, but if you work as a team your group can utilize Lyft all night for minimal cost.
“We’re proud to partner with the 38-year-old City Loop Series to ensure attendees can rely on Lyft for a safe and convenient ride on demand,” said Andrew Woolf, general manager, Lyft Pennsylvania, Delaware. “Across the country, Lyft partners with brands and organizations to help passengers get home safely and I’m thrilled to be offering that same opportunity to Delaware residents and visitors.”
As for your Halloween Loop attire, dress to impress. By that we mean creativity is king when it comes to a costume. So don’t come as a cowboy, a Philadelphia Eagle or a Playmate. Think Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Sean Spicer, Justin Bieber…
There is no official starting point to the Loop. You simply select the nightspot you’d like to visit first, pay the cover charge, and receive a wristband that gains you admission to all other Loop venues without paying another cover.
Here are a few other Halloween Loop tips:
• Costumes are strongly recommended. This is a costumed bar crawl. Many venues have prizes. In fact, the Loop Patrol will be awarding on-the-spot prizes for costumes that catch their eye.
• Make it easy on yourself and have Lyft pick you up at your house. Then you’ll never have to worry about driving or parking.
• Wear a comfortable costume. Make sure it allows you to see where you are walking and use the rest room with ease. And make sure it doesn’t cause you to become overheated (Venues get very crowded on the Loop).
• Get there early. Lines begin forming by 9 p.m.
• If you don’t use Lyft, designate a sober driver or plan to stay in the city for the evening at a friend’s place or one of the city’s five hotels. There are also several complimentary Last Call Lots where you can leave your car overnight and pick it up the next day.
For a list of venues, Last Call Lots and updates on the Halloween Loop, visit outandaboutnow.com.
Opened in 2014, First State Montessori Academy is growing its enrollment, adding two grades, and finding its downtown location an advantage
Creating a new school can be a bit like completing a jigsaw puzzle. It requires vision to put the pieces together properly.
As it prepares to start its fourth year of operation in downtown Wilmington, the First State Montessori Academy is seeing all its pieces fit nicely.
Enrollment should top 500 students this year as the school adds a seventh-grade class, and could grow to 660 in the fall of 2018 when an eighth grade is added. The school received more than 600 applications for 91 open seats this year, so its waiting list has more than 500 names.
They must be doing something right.
“Every time I go into the school, I’m in awe,” says Meredith Rosenthal, whose son and daughter attend the school. “Every student seems engaged. You can see them engrossed in their learning, working together.”
As Rosenthal sees it, the school’s board of directors and staff adhere to a very basic principle: “They only do things if they know they’re going to do it well.”
That started in 2009, when the leaders of several private Montessori schools in New Castle County began meeting to develop a plan to bring Montessori education into a public school setting. An application filed that year with the state Department of Education’s Charter School Office did not win approval, but the group expanded its membership, refined its proposal and submitted a successful application in 2012 to open a new charter school. (A charter school is a public school, funded primarily by state and local tax dollars, but it is operated by a board of directors, not a local board of education, and is not subject to all the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools.) As originally planned, the school would open in the fall of 2013 with 241 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and grow to 325 students in its fourth year.
“We just did it one step at a time,” says Yvonne Nass, president of the school’s board of directors.
Preparing a charter school application is no mean achievement. The completed document totaled 635 pages, with details about curriculum, finances, discipline policies, health and safety, and the qualifications of the board members and staff.
But that was just the beginning. As has been the case with many new charters in Delaware, it took First State an extra year to open, partly because of difficulty finding a suitable building.
“We looked all over New Castle County,” says Courtney Fox, the head of school, a first-grade teacher for 15 years in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. “Old school buildings were not available. We looked at a lot of empty office space.”
They applied for space in the Community Education Building, the former MBNA/Bank of America office building acquired through the Longwood Foundation and retrofitted with the goal of housing up to four charter schools dedicated to meeting the educational needs of Wilmington’s low-income students.
The application wasn’t approved. “The schools that were accepted had in their mission statement that they would serve certain communities,” Fox explains. “Our mission was to serve a variety of communities.”
The Right Place and Space
As it turned out, First State would settle in another surplus MBNA/Bank of America structure, a former corporate childcare center at 920 French St., just two blocks south of the Community Education Building. “It was the right size, the right space, with the right amenities,” Fox says.
“The kids could move about, there were large hallways, the rooms had observation windows,” Nass adds. “We decided that it was our spot.”
And, since it was built as a daycare center, it didn’t require much retrofitting.
But there was one hitch. First State made an offer to buy the building, but the Buccini/Pollin group put in a higher bid. So First State wound up as BPG’s tenant.
First State faced two other significant start-up hurdles: ensuring that the Montessori curriculum would cover all the items in the Common Core standards recently adopted by Delaware (and many other states) and recruiting teachers trained in Montessori methods.
“Common Core tells us what to cover. We modify our content to fit lesson planning and methods,” Fox says.
“It wasn’t that hard,” says Liz Madden, a 17-year Montessori veteran and the school’s director of education. “The Common Core standards are more challenging, more rigorous, but Common Core doesn’t dictate how you teach something.”
Montessori educators require special certification beyond meeting the standards for a state teaching license. The certification involves taking a seven-week summer course and a series of projects that are completed while working in a Montessori classroom.
“A couple of our teachers live downtown, and a couple live an hour away,” Fox says. “Because there are fewer certified Montessori teachers, we have to cast our net wider.”
Hiring hasn’t been a big problem, Fox says, partly because teacher salaries at First State, while slightly below the range for teachers with comparable experience in traditional public schools, are higher than those offered at most private Montessori schools in the region.
Mary Falkenberg, who had spent 12 years teaching third grade in the Colonial School District, joined the First State staff last year after spending the summer taking her Montessori training. This summer, she says, she has to turn in the papers she completed during the school year and take a final exam for certification.
As with private Montessori schools, First State uses multi-age grouping, with kindergarten and first-grade students together, then second and third grade, then fourth through sixth.
Two Teachers Per Classroom
Each classroom has two teachers and there’s a Montessori-certified teacher in each one, Fox says.
Having two teachers working together makes a huge difference, Falkenberg says. “If I give a lesson and a student is struggling with it, he or she can go to the other teacher for additional support.”
The arrangement also allows teachers to play off each other’s strengths, she says. “I was more science, my co-teacher was more artistic. I love teaching third grade writing with essays, and she likes phonics and decoding.”
While Montessori teachers spend plenty of time instructing, students do a lot on their own, following weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their needs. A morning meeting starts the day, which includes some group instruction and special classes like art and music. But the biggest chunks are a pair of two-hour blocks during which students work on their own without interruption.
Look around a classroom and you’ll see some students reading quietly, others collaborating on a group project, and some using blocks or other materials as they work out their math lesson. “If a couple of kids want to do something at the same time, they have to learn to share, or to wait and check in later. They have to figure out a plan for how to get it done,” Fox says.
The biggest difference between a traditional school and Montessori is how students build their sense of independence, Falkenberg says.
“They have their own work places. Kids have more freedom in choosing their own work. Some will pick their favorite subject and work on it first. Others will save the best for last,” she says. No matter how they set up their agenda, “they get so excited at the end of them, saying, ‘I completed my work plan. I got all my work done.’”
Staying with the same teacher and classmates for two or more years benefits young students, Rosenthal says, because “unbelievable relationships are developed, both student-to-student and student-to-teacher.”
Rosenthal relates another positive she has noticed with her son Max, who just completed sixth grade. “Watching him in grades four through six, he really matured,” she says. “He felt responsible for the younger kids in the classroom. He became a mentor and a role model.”
Max’s maturation in the Montessori environment is one reason he is staying at First State, rather than transferring into a middle school in the Brandywine district, as the school adds seventh and eighth grades, his mother says.
Adding the two grades was an instance of a problem becoming an opportunity.
In the school’s first two years, Fox explains, it was losing students who would have entered sixth grade, largely because parents felt their children would be more comfortable moving into a middle school, which typically serves grades 6-8, for sixth grade rather than for seventh grade.
First State contemplated dropping back to a K-5 structure, but a survey of parents indicated that most would keep their children at First State if grades seven and eight were added.
In the fall of 2015, the school forged ahead with that plan, but had to find a second building to house the additional students. At about the same time, the Delaware MET, a charter high school that had just opened across the street from First State, failed. Due to a series of management, curriculum and discipline issues, the state ordered Delaware MET to close at the end of its first semester. The Charter Schools Development Corporation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that had purchased another former MBNA/Bank of America building at 1000 French St. and leased it to Delaware MET, now had an empty building on its hands. Just as 920 French proved to be an ideal initial location, the building across the street was just right for First State’s expansion.
A large part of First State’s appeal to students and their parents is the array of downtown amenities available through the school.
“Putting suburban kids in a city environment—new sounds, new sights, new experiences. It opens up a whole new world,” Rosenthal says.
While students at suburban schools might take a field trip to a play or a concert, First State
students regularly walk to musical and theatrical performances at The Grand, the Playhouse on Rodney Square or First & Central Presbyterian Church. Kindergarten students take dance lessons at The Grand, and grades four through six visit the Wilmington Institute Free Library once a week. “Their artwork gets displayed in the library. That’s a big deal for them,” Rosenthal says.
First State parents provide strong support for the school, Fox says. Some help with landscaping around the building, others staff the teachers’ workroom.
Another group takes regular assignments handling the lunch program. First State contracts with the Community Education Building to prepare and deliver student meals. Parents sort the lunches by class and take them to each classroom and, when they’re done, they assemble breakfasts for the next school day in the same fashion.
“We’ve got a core group of 10 to 15 parents, and others fill in. They try to take the same day each week. With seventh and eighth grade, we’ll probably need more,” says parent Corey Lamborn, who will be coordinating the assignments this year.
“It’s really fun to be there, to see your own kid at lunch time,” she says.
In addition to contracting with the Community Education Building for its lunches, First State uses the back office services of Innovative Schools, a charter school support organization, for its bookkeeping needs, and collaborates with other downtown charter schools on professional development for staff members.
First State’s enrollment is roughly two-thirds white and 25 percent African-American, Latino or multiracial. About 12 percent are considered low-income, and 8 percent have special education needs, according to the latest school profile report filed with the state Department of Education.
About a quarter of the students live in city ZIP codes; the rest come from all over New Castle County, Fox says.
There’s more than a little irony in those enrollment figures. A generation ago, when court-ordered desegregation began in northern New Castle County, student assignments were made with an eye toward setting school enrollments at about two-thirds to three-quarters white. Most white suburban parents were unhappy with their children having to attend city schools for up to three years; many black parents from Wilmington complained that their children endured long bus rides to the suburbs for up to nine years.
With the lifting of the desegregation order more than 20 years ago, and the subsequent development of charter schools and choice programs, few white children from the suburbs are now attending traditional public schools in Wilmington. But the enrollment numbers for First State Montessori demonstrate that there are suburban families who will choose to send their children to a public school in the city.
The Montessori curriculum is certainly a factor in the school’s popularity, board president Nass says. And it’s a plus that leaders like Fox and Madden were well known in the public school and Montessori communities, she adds.
“Parents are looking for choice. They’re shopping,” Nass says. “And we are very clear about our mission.”
Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz lead a stellar cast in this gritty, vividly violent story of old New York. Set in the 1860s Five Points district of lower Manhattan—an area ruled by various clans and gangs—this Martin Scorsese film is still strikingly relevant today. Bill the Butcher (Day-Lewis) leads a gang whose malevolent intent is to prevent the entry of immigrants, preferably by force. Intensely directed and solidly acted.
Long before Alec Baldwin impersonated the President and hosted salacious game shows, he was often cast as a pretty yet rugged leading man. Miami Blues is definitely not one of those movies. In this dark comedy with criminal overtones, Baldwin plays an unrepentant con-man and thief devoid of any moral compass. When he overpowers the cop (Fred Ward) pursuing him—taking his gun, badge and false teeth—he sets off on a one-man crime spree. Baldwin is strangely charismatic in this rather ugly role.
A controversial Oscar winner (too lightweight, said the critics), this musical movie based on the Kander and Ebb Broadway hit re-creates the feverish, tawdry intensity of Jazz Age Chicago. Focused on two women (Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones) accused of murder and their publicity-hound attorney (Richard Gere), the film is an indictment of our obsession with celebrity, but it’s also a rollicking, tune-filled good time. In smaller yet crucial roles, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, and Christine Baranski are all as good as the movie’s stars.
Meet Me in St. Louis(1944)
A more conventional, literally old-fashioned MGM movie musical, Meet Me in St. Louis is unabashedly sentimental and innocent. Following the lives of the Smith family in the days leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair, Vincent Minnelli’s well-crafted movie hits all the notes you want and expect from a vintage musical: romantic, sweet, wistful, melodramatic. The score, mostly by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, includes the classic holiday song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” sung by a dew-eyed Judy Garland.
L.A. Confidential (1987)
Based on a James Ellroy novel, this taut 1950s crime thriller helped launch the careers of its stars, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. The pair play very different kinds of cops (one earnest, one brutish) who eventually unite to face down the labyrinthine political corruption rampant in the City of Angels. The rat-a-tat screenplay by director Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland won an Oscar, as did the performance of Kim Basinger as a prostitute look-alike of Veronica Lake.
Sleepless in Seattle(1993)
After the untimely death of his beloved wife, architect Sam (Tom Hanks) and his precocious 8-year-old son Jonah (Ross Malinger) head to Seattle to start over. But Sam is still sadly stuck in the past. Jonah calls a radio advice show, which starts a fateful process to bring Sam together with unfulfilled reporter Annie (Meg Ryan). Briskly directed by Norah Ephron (who also co-wrote the screenplay), this charming and funny film succeeds on the appeal of its two stars, who are only brought together at the very end. The movie also features a delightful score with vintage songs performed by a disparate group: Harry Connick, Dr. John, Jimmy Durante, Gene Autry and Carly Simon.
And a shot…
Their Finest (2016)Screening Aug. 11 – 13 at Theatre N.
Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy are three unlikely compatriots brought together during the London Blitz to make inspiring propaganda films to boost the spirits of the British public. Directed by Lone Scherfig, the film beautifully depicts the tense juxtaposition of daily life in the midst of imminent danger and loss. Both the war backdrop and the stiff-upper-lip British resolve are familiar cinematic tropes, but the story and character still resonate. For a full schedule and more information, go to theatren.com.
Monthly Movies on Tap events offer brews and classic films. And best of all, 99 percent of ticket sales go to a nonprofit.
Like brewing beer, some ideas take time to come together.
Early last year Ryan Kennedy of Premier Wine & Spirits approached Penn Cinema and Out & About Magazine about partnering on a new concept. It was a special 21-and-older event series that soon became known as “Movies on Tap.”
Kennedy’s idea was to bring together a local brewery, brewers and moviegoers for a night of fundraising fun. Since then, each MOT brewery has been tasked with picking a cult or classic film, such as Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride and Pulp Fiction. Before the film starts, guests get to sample many of the featured brewery’s beers and chat with the makers of the beer. Movie costumes, props and movie trivia games are also part of the evening, and an unlimited supply of popcorn is always on hand.
More than one year later, the monthly event is still going strong. And the best part is, 99 percent of the evening’s ticket sales go to a charity or nonprofit of the brewery’s choosing.
As of last month, MOT had raised an impressive $28,270 for more than a dozen charities while attracting more than 1,700 paid attendees. Each event averages about 160. At its current rate, when the 2017 season ends, MOT will have raised a total of almost $50,000.
“When the series started, attendance was low, and we used one of our 100-seat theaters,” says Tom Potter, General Manager at Penn Cinema. “Now we use one of our larger 300-seat theaters. I think people really like the idea of bringing back classic films and drinking beer for a good cause. Ryan and his team really know how to put on an event.”
Fundraising events such as MOT play a crucial role in sustaining the life of nonprofit organizations. One of the organizations that has benefited most from MOT is the Food Bank of Delaware (FBD). So far, three Delaware-based Breweries (Mispillion River, Blue Earl and Dew Point) have chosen to donate ticket sales to the FBD. Together, they have raised more than $4,000.
Says Food Bank’s Larry Hass: “Nonprofits are always in search of creative fundraising events to engage their supporters and attract new friends while having a great time. Movies on Tap represents a partnership between multiple businesses to bring together a diverse group of people to the Riverfront in support of critical nonprofits.”
Big name breweries like Dogfish Head and Iron Hill have stepped up to show their support. Dogfish Head closed out the 2016 season in December with a premier of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The evening raised $6,300 for the Nature Society of Delaware.
In April, Iron Hill Brewery used its film of choice as a way to get people to ditch work or class and catch an afternoon showing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Coupled with an evening showing, the event raised slightly less than $2,000 for Pink Boots Society—an organization that aims to educate and advance the careers of women in the beer industry.
“The best part of the campaign is following up with the charity, meeting them, and doing the check presentation, then telling that story to our attendees on a monthly basis,” says Kennedy. “The money raised goes to everything from hunger programs, education programs for inner-city youth, counseling, cancer research and beyond. It’s amazing what $20 can do for your community if everyone chips in. We are all in this together, so why not support the community we all live, work and play in —while having a little bit of fun?”
This month, Victory Brewing Company, one of the largest and most popular craft breweries in the area, will host the event on Thursday, July 20, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The featured film will be the ‘80s comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Ninety-nine percent of the evening’s ticket sales will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Delaware.
So the next time you’re thinking about heading to the theater to watch the Incredible Hulk smash through a wall, or cry while Ryan Gosling confesses his undying love, why not check out what film is up next for MOT? It may be an old favorite and the charity of the evening may be one that does a lot more for your community than any super hero or heartthrob ever could.
Tickets are just $20 for a flight of beer, unlimited popcorn and, of course, the movie. For more information, check out the events page at facebook.com/PremierWineSpirits.
The ‘gym for innovators’ at Fifth and Tatnall is a significant addition to the Creative District
Lest anyone doubt that Wilmington’s Creative District is for real, the mid-June opening of NextFab, the Philadelphia-based “gym for innovators,” should be ample proof that the vision is coming to life.
Its 10,000-square-foot building at Fifth and Tatnall streets offers crafters a playground where they can transform their dreams into reality, and maybe even launch a new business.
“They have taken a corner that’s been quiet for several years and are bringing it back to life,” says Carrie Gray, managing director of the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, which has been spearheading redevelopment planning for the Creative District, an area bounded by Market, Fourth, Washington and Ninth streets.
NextFab members consist of “a mix of beginners and seasoned, knowledgeable craftspeople,” says location manager Kate Brown. “Our collaborative nature helps people develop their own ideas and see attainable goals.”
Entering the building, visitors encounter a reception desk featuring the NextFab logo designed by NextFab member Peter Brown and carved on a 3D cutter at NextFab’s main site in Philadelphia. The ground floor holds a large woodshop on one end and a laser-electronics shop on the other, with an open area suitable for small conferences in the middle. On the first and second floors are a half-dozen incubator spaces—private rooms designed for use by startup businesses—and a larger classroom area. The third floor remains open for now, available for crafters working on large projects.
NextFab’s opening raises the prospect of Tatnall Street emerging as the spine of the Creative District. The Mill, a small business coworking space, is housed in the Nemours Building six blocks to the north and Artist Ave Station studio and gallery is at the corner of Eighth and Tatnall, practically at the midpoint of the larger ventures. “This is a pretty significant presence,” Gray says.
“I think it’s great. NextFab has a lot of equipment that we can’t afford,” says Jessi Taylor, president of Wilmington’s Barrel of Makers, a community-oriented makers group whose members use the woodshop in the Highlands Art Garage, not far from Trolley Square, for some of its meetings. With its 3D cutters and laser tools, NextFab has “a level of intricacy that we don’t have,” she says.
Some Barrel of Makers participants have previously become NextFab members in Philadelphia and more will likely join to take advantage of the more convenient Wilmington location, Taylor says. She says she has been pleased with the friendly relationships that are developing between the NextFab team and members of the Delaware community.
Zach Phillips, creative director of the Short Order Production House, the video production business formerly known as The Kitchen, says he’s now scouting for space within the Creative District. In only two years, the business has already outgrown its digs in the Wilmington Train Station. “With NextFab, the Mill, and hopefully us in the Creative District soon, I think we’ve got the potential to spin out a lot of new businesses, not just one or two,” Phillips says.
NextFab Wilmington, at 501-509 Tatnall St., will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Membership rates range from $49 to $299 per month, depending on usage, with a discount equal to two monthly payments for a full-year membership. A pilot membership, covering classes only, is available for $19 a month. Members can use NextFab’s two Philadelphia sites as well as the Wilmington facility.
Every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. until Sept. 14, the Delaware Art Museum will host an evening happy hour on the Museum’s back terrace or in the Thronson Café (weather permitting). Food and drink options will be provided by Toscana. Guests are encouraged to tour the museum’s many exhibits before or after the happy hour or enjoy live music provided by local musician Seth Tillman on July 6 and 13. On July 27, the museum will have a Happy Hour Game Night with a variety of outdoor games, including cornhole and Jenga. The DAM is located at 2301 Kentmere Parkway in Wilmington.
A new restaurant, Bull Bay Caribbean Cuisine, opened in Wilmington last month at 900 N. Orange St. Jamaican cuisine and culture influence the restaurant’s dishes, which includes jerk chicken, coconut rice and shrimp and grits. The drink menu includes a full bar, beer, wine, and a variety of house-made specialty cocktails. Bull Bay is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lunch and dinner are served every day and brunch is served on weekends. For more information, go to facebook.com/bullbaycuisine.
With Firefly in their sights, this L.A. four-piece stopped in at the Trolley Tap House to talk new music, Firefly, and local cuisine.
O&A: How long have you guys played together?
Wilderado: As a four-piece, I think we’re coming up on two years. We used to have five. Got rid of someone, added someone. We recently split ways with our fifth member. That was a couple years ago. It was mutual, he had his own thing. Then we were looking for another bass player, but then we decided we liked the four-piece better, so Colton picked up bass. And we have a four-person van, so we don’t have room for a fifth.
O&A: Are there any tracks or releases you would like people to check out?
Wilderado: We have a single, “Morning Light,” that we’ve been putting a lot of attention behind on Spotify and I think that most of the fans around know that song. Probably more so than the rest of them. That and “Rubble to Rubble.” We’re getting ready to record some new music and we’re playing some new music in our set. Which is fun for us. I think you can expect that.
O&A: Especially on the day you’re playing on, are there any other Firefly bands that you know or recommend?
Wilderado: Kaleo is playing the day we are. We’ve played a couple festivals with them. They’re really nice guys. Maggie Rogers is really cool. Franz Ferdinand, yeah! Weezer, dude! So, on Friday, Judah & the Lion are playing, and we just got off the road with those guys. And they’re great dudes. They play booty popping banjo music. I guess that’s what they call it. We love those guys. Saturday, there is a band called Mondo Cozmo; they’re cool. I heard they’re incredible live. More people on stage than I expected. They have a lot of support right now. The Shins, we’ve worked with their drummer, who has mixed some of our stuff. Never met him, but he produces some really great stuff. We love emailing him. Oh, yeah, Rainbow Kitten Surprise – we’re going on the road with them.
O&A: What are some of your plans after playing Firefly?
Wilderado: We’re going to head home. We’re going to go back to L.A. We have a lot of new music. We’re going to record that when we get back. We have some dates in California and Colorado, but nothing major. We have titles for all the songs, but no name for the collective work. We’ve been doing a release through Spotify, about a song a month, and that has been cool. It keeps new stuff on the radio. It will be put up as soon as we can. We’ve been trying to figure out our song as a band and we’ve been putting out songs one by one waiting for more of a collective feel and making sounds we enjoy playing.
O&A: So, what do you think of the scrapple?
Wilderado: Basically, my definition is it tastes like chicken-fried-steak-fried-flavored oatmeal. Double-fried oatmeal, yeah. As a soup. It’s exactly like a dish I ordered at college, at Memorial. Yes, that is the specific steak.
It was great sitting down with Wilderado at the Trolley Tap House and we highly recommend checking out their set at Firefly Music Festival on Thursday, June 15. They go on at 5:30 p.m. at the Lawn Stage. If you would like to purchase some of Wilderado’s music, visit http://wilderado.co