New Business/Opening Category
It’s no secret that the Borough has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. Moving forward, Borough Hall goes to auction this week, the Ambler Cabaret will have a new owner by the end of the year, and two of the Borough’s long vacant spots are rumored to have new tenants moving in. All very exciting news.
While the Borough is typically the focus here, there is a new project just outside of the Borough that recently caught my attention. The project is a multi-millon dollar redevelopment called Ambler Yards. Ambler Yards will be located in the former BASF complex (previously Cognis, Henkel, AmChem), one block outside of the Borough on a 26 acre parcel, in Lower Gwynedd Township. The complex is an industrial site consisting of 23 buildings; a mix of lab, warehouse, office and other space. Ambler Yards plan is to adaptively reuse the existing structures and create modern workspaces, as well as an incredible campus including green space with meadows, walking paths, pollinator garden, fitness center, game room, bike room, dedicated food truck area and more. Visit their website for a taste of what’s to come, great detail and gorgeous renderings.
The campus is less than one mile from the Ambler train station, complete with sidewalks from point A to point B. This redevelopment will be fantastic for Ambler, bringing countless new faces into the Borough to patronize our businesses and stimulate our local economy.
Final approval is still pending from Lower Gwynedd Township, but I’m told that things are moving forward and redevelopment should begin in Spring of 2016. Leasing will be handled exclusively by Binswanger.
Unless you are under the age of ten, you know what follows those words. As a youngster, the Meatloaf tune was an anthem, as I grew older, it morphed into an overplayed ear worm. Thanks to local filmmaker, Joe Ronca, I can feel good again when I hear, By the Dashboard Light.
A little over a year ago Ambler resident, Joe Ronca, decided to take a break from Yes, Hello! (a sketch comedy group that you may have seen at The Ambler Theater in July of 2012) and focus on a feature film. This is something that he’s wanted to do for a long time and had a handful of half-written scripts and story concepts, but nothing concrete. He was driven to get to work right away and put an ad out on the ISA (International Screenwriter’s Association) looking for scripts. The ad brought in 80+ scripts; some were phenomenal, but were big budget epics that were just not feasible, and some not so good, as evidenced by only a couple pages.
Finally he found the script for “By the Dashboard Light” – a comedy. After being focused on comedy with YH! for the past 3 years, Ronca initially didn’t want to produce a comedy, but the script was so good, that he couldn’t turn it down. Keep in mind, the ISA is an international website and Ronca received scripts from the UK, India and numerous other countries. After falling for the script he learned that writer Sienna Golden Malik was from Media, PA. He took it as a sign and contacted her immediately.
In March of last year they held auditions at 1812 Productions in Philadelphia. They were casting the primary roles of the film and a handful of smaller parts. Close to 200 people showed up and provided some really good auditions (and a ton that weren’t so hot). Ronca also received countless video auditions from people who couldn’t attend. Interestingly, nearly all of the main character roles were filled with people who sent in a video read. The audition process was captured by filmmaker Trevor Senhouse. Shortly after, Ronca selected the primary cast. The lead role of Roger was to be played by the incredibly talented Keith Chandler. Some recent and very exciting news is that veteran character actor Jon Polito (The Big Lebowski) has also joined the cast!!!
They spent the next 3-4 months preparing a short trailer video that could be used as a fundraiser. Ronca and Malik selected their favorite scenes from the film and he wrote a screenplay for the trailer. After a loooooong SAG (Screen Actors Guild) battle over contracts, they finally got the go-ahead to shoot. The trailer was shot in 2 months and took another 2 months to edit. On Christmas day 2014, they launched the early version of the trailer. After some tweaking, the final version came to life (fellow Amblerians will likely recognize the house in the opening shot). The video is used on their Indiegogo fundraising page AND will also play at the Ambler Theater before movies in the upcoming months – followed by a special message from Ronca to the audience.
Fundraising began last week on 4/20. Their goal is to raise $30,000.00 for the film’s primary production, a goal that they’ve been told by fellow producers is very reachable and with our help, they can reach their goal. Aside from the warm fuzzies of contributing to the project, there are some pretty sweet perks for donations at certain levels, including admission to the premiere at the Ambler Theater, tickets to the VIP after party, and BEING IN THE MOVIE! Yes, that’s correct, you my friend, can be a star… Help support a local artist and who knows, Ambler could make the big time! Also, be sure to like the films facebook page to share the journey with them and be among the first to know about exciting new announcements.
How many at bats have there been at 34 East Butler Avenue? Really, I’m curious, as I’ve lost count. The Wyndham is the standout for me, otherwise, it’s a bit of a blur between then and now. Most recently, 34 East Tavern stepped up to the plate in June of 2013 after Finn McCool’s unexpectedly closed. A year later, 34 East was publicly listed for sale, and by next week, the building will have a new owner. With a new owner, comes a new restaurant, Gypsy Blu.
Although new to Ambler, the force behind Gypsy Blu is not new to the business, not by any stretch. Partners, Kim Strengari and Marianne Gere, are established restauranteurs, with three successful eateries under their belts. Stella Blu (2001), The Gypsy Saloon (2004), (see what they did there) and Southern Cross Kitchen (2012) are located just 20 minutes away in Conshohocken, and all three thrive within less than one mile of each other. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. I was not able to connect with the owners, so I cannot speak to the Gypsy Blu concept or menu, but am confident that it will be a welcome addition to Ambler. Their restaurants are known for great food and atmosphere, a fun bar scene, live music, alfresco dining (can’t wait to see what they do with the best patio in town), a rockin’ happy hour and exciting nightly specials. Brunch is served at two of the three locations (including bottomless bloodys and mimosas!), hopefully this trend will continue in Ambler.
I was told that after the final, last call at 34 East (this Saturday night) a crew will quickly step in and get renovations under way. Apparently, the plan is to close for only a short time (about two weeks) before reopening as Gypsy Blu. They have been hiring for several weeks and from what I’ve heard, training in their Conshohocken restaurants, so perhaps the staff will be ready go. Regardless, two weeks seems pretty bold, but cheers to them if they can pull it off. Also of interest, it was reported that the second and third floors will eventually be turned into 10-12 luxury apartments. Hopefully more on this to come.
For now, let’s welcome Gypsy Blu and hope that this batter hits a home run.
In the mean time, let’s help 34 East go out with a bang! They will be cash only and are offering HUGE discounts, as well as a DJ Thursday, Friday and Saturday, stop by, it’s a party!!!
UPDATE, April 7, 2015:
The property officially changed hands yesterday, April 6, 2015, sources say Gypsy Blu hopes to open sometime in May.
If you, like me, have been jonesing for Alice Bakery & Confectionary’s bread and baked goodies since the close of the Ambler Farmers’ Market in October, the wait is over! Well almost over, as we still have to wait for fit out and opening day, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Alice will be opening (hopefully in March) at 95 E Butler Avenue, the former site of Caffe Maida, on the corner of Butler and N Ridge.
This will be the second location for Alice Bakery & Confectionary; owner, Dennis Darr (right), opened his first bakery in North Wales just three years ago. Darr was formally trained at the French Pastry School and has worked alongside renowned chefs, pastry and otherwise, throughout his career. His well honed skill did not remain a secret for long in the sleepy town of North Wales, as word of mouth traveled and gushing reviews abounded.
Lacking a savory baker in town, we were very fortunate to have ABC join the Ambler Farmers’ Market for the opening season in 2013, and again this past year. What a treat Alice proved to be, a huge anchor for the market and undoubtedly, one of the biggest draws. If you’ve shopped the famers’ market, then likely, you’ve met Dennis. He is the friendly, tall, bald guy who has been up hours before the crack of dawn shaping, proofing and baking your the bread. Of course, bread is not all ABC has to offer, in addition to amazing breads you will find assorted pastries (scones, muffins, croissants, danishes, sticky buns), cupcakes, cookies and the like. If you only know ABC from the market, then you may not realize that it is also a fabulous lunch spot. Think charming french cafe offering delicious homemade soups, wonderful salads and sandwiches, quiche of the day (typically two varieties), and more. I’m totally addicted to their portobello mushroom soup (accompanied by a perfect French baguette, of course) as well as their chicken salad (loads of fresh dill, MMMM!). If you’re smart, you’ll save room for something sweet after lunch, my favorite is the pineapple upside down cupcake, or as I call it, party in your mouth. Last, but not least, Darr is also a chocolatier, he creates beautiful and decadent chocolates, and they offer custom cakes, as well.
Alice will open early in the morning, serve lunch from 10:30-2:30pm and close @ 6pm. Eventually (hopefully by Spring), they will extend their hours and stay open late to accommodate the after theater and dinner crowds. It has been said that a bakery is the heart of a town, and I believe that having this keystone in place will be an important part of Ambler’s continued growth. ABC will be a wonderful addition to our town and I can’t wait for opening day!
Be sure to like their facebook page for updates.
As many of you have heard, On Tap Philly is taking over the former Finn McCool’s (YES!). I spoke with both new partners two weeks ago and was waiting to find the time to put together a cohesive piece, but judging by all the emails and inquiry’s, it’s clear that you just want the deets, so let’s have at it!
The bad news is that I have a page of notes, but am limited to share only a few details at this point. Both partners and their chef (yes, I said, chef!) will be revealed at a future date, as they have a lot of work ahead of them at that is their focus at this time. It’s safe to say that Finn’s had a bad rap in town, so my first question was not about the beer, but about service, and then immediately followed by food. I was thrilled to hear that hiring top notch service staff with a focus on customer service is paramount to them. Their general manager and staff will be hand picked, well trained, and part of the On Tap Philly family. As for the food, they are still in menu development, but it will be a healthy, American menu with a farm to table feel. It was nice to hear one of the partners say that he would never serve anything that he’s not proud of and doesn’t want to eat himself. This individual is vegan, so he feels the pain of most menus having limited options, and that will not be the case at On Tap Philly. To the extent possible, they will source their food from natural sources and local farms. Knowing what is in your food and where it comes from was a point well stressed, AMEN to that! He did give me a few menu teases, to which I’m pretty excited about. What about the beer you ask? On Tap Philly will have a mere 72 beers on tap, featuring an in depth craft selection.
Their “gold” as I call it, is the patio, and if all goes according to plan, you should be able to enjoy a cold one out there sometime in mid April. We know how restaurant openings go in this town, so while I hope they can make that date, we shouldn’t hold our breath. Once open, they will serve lunch and dinner, seven days a week, and offer take out as well. They are currently hiring, so if you’ve got “the right stuff” get in touch with them, [email protected] Also, be sure to follow their updates on facebook!
To sum it up, I was told that they want to offer a really fun place that serves really good food. If they can pull it off, I’m sure this town will wholeheartedly support them!
Back in September many of you took the time to fill out a survey and sign a petition with regard to bringing a Farmers’ Market to Ambler, and I am thrilled to say that your voice was heard! The results of the petition and survey painted a very clear picture; not only are residents in favor of a market, but desperately desire access to local, farm fresh food.
This past August, a small committee within Ambler Main Street began working to bring a Farmers’ Market to Ambler; based on the overwhelming response from the community, the efforts kicked into overdrive. There has been a ton of behind the scenes work over the past several months, including writing a business plan that proved the Ambler community could support a market. There is still a lot of work to be done, but knowing that the market is a go is one of the most exciting things I’ve been a part of, ever. Although many hurtles have been crossed, we still need your support to help bring this market to fruition, please consider donating to the Ambler Farmers’ Market so that Ambler Main Street can bring you the best possible market!
Ambler Main Street will be working in concert with Farm to City, an organization whose goal is to unite communities, families, and farmers through good locally grown food. The market will open Saturdays, beginning in May and run through November, in the SEPTA parking lot adjacent to Trax Restaurant & Cafe. For now, please visit the facebook page and like the Ambler Farmers’ Market to keep up to date; there is a website and lots of information to come! Thank you for being a part of this!
Last month I eluded to another restaurant opening in town, but I didn’t want to spill the beans until I knew it was 100%. I just got it from the horses mouth, and I can’t wait to share the news with you! As is seen on the Ambler facebook page, we are a very opinionated bunch, so I’m sure there will be someone who is not thrilled, but I couldn’t be more excited! Welcome El Limon!
You may have visited their Conshohocken location, which opened just two years ago, and quickly grew in popularity. Two important things that make El Limon so popular are the food, of course, and the prices! You can easily have a quick snack or a great meal for $10 or less.
El Limon is pared down, affordable, authentic Mexican food; expect to see, tacos, quesadillas, sopes, tortas, fajitas and more. The ambiance, if you will, is not all that exciting, but everything is fresh and made to order. There will be table seating, and I imagine it will be somewhat limited as they are opening in the former Sherwin Williams space. El Limon is BYO, but they offer delicious free margaritas, all you have to do is bring the tequila!
El Limon will be open for lunch and dinner, along with some late night weekend hours (open till 3am on Friday and Saturday in Conshohocken!). Unlike Ambler, Conshohocken has a huge late night bar crowd which makes 2am a very busy time for them. Ambler is a bit sleepier so we’ll see how they adjust, either way, I’m looking forward to having a great spot open later than all the rest.
Construction is just now getting underway and they plan to open sometime in February, which in restaurant speak probably means at least March, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed! They don’t have a website, but check out their Yelp reviews for a taste of what’s to come. I’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way!
Most of you know that there was a previous, short lived, bakery run in the same location a few months ago. Homemade Delights had the best of intentions, but it just didn’t seem to offer what Ambler needs. Now under new ownership, with a new name, The Ambler Bake Shop will offer all that one comes to expect from a local bakery; you can quite effectively tickle your sweet tooth and satisfy your savory side as well. The Ambler Bake Shop will offer the standard fare such as cookies, cakes, cupcakes, tarts, sticky buns, an assortment of breads, rolls, and so much more. In addition to the usual suspects, they also do amazing specialty cakes including your standard sheet cake all the way up to tiered wedding cakes; you will have no problem finding the perfect cake for your special occasion. Another unique thing you’ll find at the Ambler Bake Shop is the Chew-Choo pack. Perfectly packaged and thoughtfully put together for those on the go in the morning, stop in and grab a $2 pack consisting of your choice of a cinnamon or sticky bun and a cup of coffee ready to go on the fly. There is plenty of parking at and around the Bake Shop, so you don’t need to worry about searching for a spot when you’re in a hurry.
Lori and Jeff are self proclaimed foodies, so you know they have high standards and will deliver a great product. They have two full time bakers on staff, as well as someone who comes in just to focus on the bread. Another thing that really excited me were their hours, open Tuesday – Friday, 7am – 7pm and Saturday and Sunday, 8am -6pm! Great for early birds, people who do their shopping during the day and best of all, for those who want to stop in after work. I’m already looking forward to my favorite cold weather soups and stews and am thrilled that I’ll be able to pop into the bakery after work and pick up some freshly baked bread as the perfect accompaniment!
I know, the big question is… when will they open? Well, you don’t have to wait long as they plan to open their doors this coming Tuesday, October 2nd! Also, Lori and Jeff are wasting no time in getting involved with the community (love that!!!) and as a result you can expect to see them in the kids zone on First Friday (Oct 5) for cupcake decorating and also out on Butler Ave at Oktoberfest (the following day, Oct 6). Be sure to visit them on facebook and like their page to receive bakery news and updates, and beginning October 2nd, be sure to visit them in person!facebook)
Sweet Briar Cafe took over Ambler’s beloved Coneheads this past May, and the name change was meet with some harsh criticism. I say name change because Coneheads actually had several different owners over the years, but no one seemed to notice as the name, and everything else, stayed the same. I’m going to be completely honest, I was initially one of the “outraged.” Coneheads was an Ambler mainstay, a tradition, and who would do such a thing?! After the nostalgic dramatics wore off, I learned quite a bit about the new owners and their vision, and I love it!
This unbelievably tasty treat to the right was my first taste of Sweet Briar, usually I’m a peanut butter vanilla on a waffle cone kinda gal, but owner, JT, talked me into trying this brand new to the menu, ice cream sandwich. Holy cow, this puppy was good; so good that I didn’t even long for my ushe. Cookies and cream ice cream between two freshly baked chocolate cookies from their neighbor next door, Homemade Delights (at the time). On my next trip, I went back to my ushe and was happy that nothing had changed (contrary to some facebook grumblings); it was the same ice cream and as delicious as ever. While there I noticed some new signs in the ice cream window for creative and interesting new treats, even themed treats for 4th of July.
It turns out that Stephanie, daughter of owner JT Talese and her husband Frank, was the one behind some of these creative new ideas. Sweet Briar truly is a family business, and you can feel that vibe when you’re there. They are so family oriented that one of the motivating reasons behind taking on this new adventure was to give neighborhood kids a place where they would feel welcome and invited. The Talese family has lived in Ambler for years and the girls grew up with Coneheads and the library across the street being a big part of their lives. It was a safe place to go with friends and JT wanted to make sure that continued for generations to come. This is evidenced in their After School Happy Hour, which runs Monday – Friday, 2 – 4:30pm, and features special pricing on kid friendly foods. The menu consists of items priced at $2, $3 and $4 and is a great bang for your buck! Kids can expect to find fresh, made to order quesadillas with homemade guacamole, fresh (not frozen) chicken nuggets (fried in canola oil), smoothies, of course ice cream treats as well as other great items.
Also great about Sweet Briar is that they are committed to using locally produced foods and ingredients, and supporting the local economy as much as possible.Their wheat flour (ground on site) comes from JT’s parents farm, SweetBriar, in Bucks County. Seasonal produce comes from local farms or their own organic garden. They support Nelson’s Ice Cream of Montgomery County, also Dietz & Watson, Herr’s, local bakeries, and more. Growing up on a farm has clearly had quite an impact on JT, as the farm to table concept is very important to her.
They have been taking things one step at a time and have just recently released their new breakfast and lunch menus and as of last week are now serving Sunday breakfast as well. The menus may take you by surprise if you think Sweet Briar is just an “ice cream joint.” Breakfast and lunch cater to everyone; you can get a burger or hoagie, but you can also get grilled chicken lettuce wraps or quinoa mac & cheese. Sure they’ve got eggs benedict and meat cakes (yes, I said meat cakes- any breakfast meat dipped in pancake batter and grilled), but you’ll also find fresh ground whole wheat pancakes and smoothies. Healthy options abound at Sweet Briar, including daily specials like Cheddar, Kale & Mushroom Quiche or Grilled Chicken Wrap with avocado, tomato, lettuce, and a side of homemade tortilla chips.
Dinner is on the horizon, possibly making a debut in October. Dinner will reflect the same family feel with entrees like pot roast, cooked all day, homemade soups and the like. JT said to expect meals similar to something that she would serve at her own dinner table at home, healthy comfort food.
I could go on, but I think I’ve gone on long enough, it’s time for you to check out Sweet Briar Cafe for yourself!Sweet Briar Cafe 11 Lindenwold Avenue 215.542.0272 facebook Hours: Mon – Fri: 7am – 2pm, Breakfast/Lunch, 2pm – 4:30pm, Kids After School Happy Hour, Open for ice cream until 9pm (10pm on Fri) Saturday: 8am – 2pm, Breakfast/Lunch, Open for ice cream until 10pm Sunday: 8am – 2pm, Breakfast Only, Open for ice cream until 9pm Breakfast Menu Lunch Menu
Holy cow, there is so much going on this weekend it’s approaching overwhelming, but what a great problem to have! Here’s the lowdown for the weekend of May 4th…
Friday May 4
First First Friday ~ No, I didn’t stutter, this Friday is Ambler’s first ever First Friday! Join your fellow neighbors and business owners to celebrate all that is Ambler. Downtown Ambler will be bustling from 6-9pm with live music, art, food, activities and an awesome kids zone! The kids zone will be on Race Street, from Main to Spring Garden, and feature inflatables, face painting, crafts, games and more! The merchants will be open late and several of them will be offering exciting specials. To RSVP and see some of the offerings, check out the facebook event page. See you there!
Ambler Skate Shop Grand Re-Opening ~ Rise and shine with the crew at the skate shop on Friday, they will open for business in their new location at 9am. Yeah, it’s a little early, but they are sweetening the deal by offering complimentary Ambler Donuts 🙂 Lunch will be pizza from their new neighbors, Candida’s, and come nightfall we’ll head across the street to Finn’s for a late night celebratory happy hour beginning at 9pm (unless today’s incident calls for a change in plans). Congrats to the skate shop on snagging one of the best spots in town (in my opinion)! 33 East Butler, old home to Fine Things.
Rock ‘N Roll on the Patio at Trax ~ Trax Cafe is hosting a super cool new concept this weekend; they will be transforming their fabulous patio into a sweet little music venue. Beginning at 8:30pm you can enjoy the music of Out of Order while snacking on bite sized taste sensations from Chef Steve Waxman. He has developed a special $5 snack menu for the event AND it’s still BYOB! You really can’t beat it, delicious, affordable food, live music and your own libations. I’m in!
Movie in the Park ~ Last year the movies in the park were such a success that they’re back! The movie this Friday is Mega Mind and begins at sundown at Knights Park. Be sure to bring your own blanket, chairs and snacks, but no need for your wallet, because it’s free!
Saturday, May 5
Philly Am ~ The Philly Am is a premier skate contest that has been around for many years, and this year the Ambler Skate Plaza at Knights Park is playing host. The timing is awesome as it coincides with the Ambler Skate Shop party weekend, they will of course be there, selling their wares but also hosting a tent to fix boards and do tuneups for the contestants throughout the day. You can expect to see 100’s of people in attendance, from young kids to seasoned pros. The different categories in the contest include, Grom (the young folk), intermediate, advanced and also a 30+ division. Three16 and several other well know sponsors (in the skate world) will be in attendance with give aways and prizes. In case you weren’t sure, this is absolutely a kid friendly event. Registration begins at 9am and the contest fires up at 10am. Expect the event to go until sundown, so if you can’t make it in the morning, swing by anytime, there’s sure to be a good show!
Now the big question is, how can I be in more than one place at one time…