Thursday, April 28, 2011

Local Business Spotlight: Home Consignment Market, Manayunk

Welcome to another Philly Urban Living edition of “Local Business Spotlight.” For this spotlight, I tried to focus on a new and exciting local business that was related to my profession: Real Estate. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Linda Westphal & Barbara Carocci, co-owners of Home Consignment Market; Manayunk’s newest, greenest, and most creative home store. HCM has been open since April 2011, and they want the world to know why their business rocks.

Timothy Garrity: “Are you both from the Manayunk/Roxborough area originally?”

Linda Westphal/Barbara Carocci: (Linda) “I am originally from Hollywood, FL, but I have lived in Manayunk for over 25 years and never looked back.” (Barbara) “I am from New York, and lived on Long Island. I then ventured down to Miami for a while, but I have been in Philadelphia for 44 years now. It’s a great place to be.”

TG: “Is this your first entrepreneurial stab at owning a retail establishment?”

LW/BC: (Linda) “I used to own Sports Works on Main St. The building is still an investment of mine, and I’m currently renting it out to Bryn Mawr Running Company. So to answer your question, I’ve done this before.” (Barbara) “I used to own Main Street Furniture Galleries here in Manayunk, and I’m still part owner of TransAmerican Office Furniture right down the street. You could say I know a thing or two about running a business.”

TG: “Why did you both decide that home consignment was the right business for you, and also for Manayunk?”

LW/BC: “We both have a huge passion for interior design, and professional experience to back it up. Consignment, in general, is a sign of the times. In this tough economy, everyone is looking to pay less for more. This is what we do! Who wouldn’t want a high quality household item, with better craftsmanship, for less? We consider our products to be ‘upscale consignment’; products that are ‘built to last.’ Our showroom is design oriented, so you can see how everything looks already set up. There is really nothing like it within 20 miles.”

TG: “What kinds of customers are you looking for? Who are you targeting?”

LW/BC: “Manayunk & Roxborough are very diverse, young neighborhoods. There are a few different types of clientele we are trying to target: 1) We are looking for that person/persons buying their first condo or house, 2) We are also looking for renters who want to furnish their homes with high quality products (they can then use those items to furnish their first home as well), and 3) Finally, we are looking for people who want to downsize and sell their quality furniture/household items; they are our customers as well.”

TG: “I would consider this a green/sustainable business. Would you both agree?”

LW/BC: “Absolutely! We are providing a product that’s built to last, we are getting it from those looking to keep it out of a landfill, and we are passing it on for another generation to enjoy. Who knows, it may get passed down again. All of our store bags are re-used. The wrap for delicate items is also re-used. We even used recycled material for our price tags.”

TG: “Since this blog focuses on real estate, I’m going to have to pose a relevant question. Have either of you seen the local real estate market improving?”

LW/BC: “Yes. From a Main Street perspective, things are picking up. Vacancies are filling up again and bringing new and exciting businesses to the shopping district. Engaged/married couples are staying in the neighborhood, and supporting it. We even get Center City newbies from time to time looking for interesting pieces for their homes. From a residential perspective, we are definitely seeing more sold signs in Philadelphia; that’s a good thing. Things are improving at a slow pace, but improving nonetheless.”

TG: “Okay. Give me an ‘on-the-spot’ advertisement for your business, so that the readers know why they should come and shop at Home Consignment Market.”

LW/BC: “You will know why you came the second you walk through the door. Home Consignment Market has home furnishings from varying generations (to suit all tastes), we have super-friendly customer service, and we also have an on-site designer to assist with all of your needs. We have added TLC to each and every item we have. Whether it’s refinishing existing wood, or cleaning up an item for a new owner to claim. Oh, and did I mention that our prices are incredible! You have to see it, to believe it. We’re also accepting new items for our store every day. Take a picture, email it to us; pick-up/delivery service is available to all customers, if needed. We look forward to seeing you soon.”

Please visit or contact Linda & Barbara at:
Home Consignment Market

Monday, April 25, 2011

PA's Metro Areas are Shifting

As the saying goes, "Different strokes for different folks."

Read on to learn more about why PA's other urban areas (aside from Philadelphia) are seeing similar shifts from Suburban to Urban living preferences.

Demographics are starting to change; it's a fact.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Philadelphia is a "Top 10 Clean-Tech City"

Now you might be asking yourself, "What the h*ll does clean-tech mean?", or "Who cares?"

Well, the answer is you should care. What exactly is clean-tech, or clean technology? It has been described by Clean Edge as "a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes."

In Layman's Terms, it means that Philadelphia is making a conscious effort to create more jobs in new technologies for both its residents and the surrounding suburban counties. Our city is being described as one that is focused on smarter, cleaner, and more sustainable ways of doing business; for our own metropolitan area, and also the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Updated 52nd Street?

The City of Philadelphia and local business owners are trying to breathe new life into this once thriving urban, commercial business district. They're immediate goals are to get everyone talking about the project (so it gains traction), and find a creative way to finance it.

More information and pictures can be found here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Schuylkill River Trail Expansion

The Falls Bridge - Ridge Ave corridor of the Schuylkill River Trail is an integral segment of this biking/running trail network as a whole. Work is going on as we speak, and it's set to be completed in June.

What is "Green 2015"?

To learn more about Philadelphia's Green2015 plan, check out this article here.

To learn more about one of their latest projects, Hawthorne Park, that article is here.

The Urban Split-Level

Did you know that split-levels could also go vertical?

Old Tastykake Factory to Become New Shopping Center

Now that Tastykake has moved their baking facility to the Navy Yard, their old factory site (located in the East Falls/Hunting Park West section of Philadelphia) will now become home to a brand new, 71,000 sq ft ShopRite.

ShopRite will be the anchor of a 220,000 sq ft shopping center which broke ground on 3/21. More details to come on the surrounding retail spots.

See the exact location of the new shopping center here.

Is Marathon's urban farm concept a model for other US cities?

After reading more about the Marathon Farm project, my immediate answer was yes. It fills in a vacant lot, creates jobs, provides fresh food to a lower income neighborhood, and it's a great way for a local business to give back to the community.

This article should also help shed some light on the "when," "where," and "why."

Bigger and Smarter

This is how the City of Philadelphia was recently described by Mayor Michael Nutter.

Our population has officially been increasing over the last few years (and also over the last decade, for the first time in half a century), our institutions of higher learning are expanding, and IBM has selected Philadelphia as a recipient of their "Smarter Cities" grant.

Good news all around.

Manayunk's Venice Island Project

The site plan shown above may get tweaked once bids are received, but you get the general idea. Venice Island has plans to become a modern, functional recreational area for all kids, teens, and adults.

More updates will come as I receive them.

Milkboy Expands to Center City

The slowly expanding Milkboy does it again. And this time, they're coming downtown.

Get all of the details here.

Vacancies Fill in Chestnut Hill

Hmm, that rhymes.

It's also great news for Germantown Ave in Chestnut Hill. Like most successful, well-grounded main streets Germantown Ave has experienced an increased number of vacancies ever since the great recession hit. The Melting Pot, Borders, etc.

The great news about this new spot is that it looks like it will fill a large vacancy on G-Town (I believe it's right where the old Express was located, but don't quote me on that). Iron Hill is a perfect fit for this neighborhood.

More to come...

Philadelphia Architecture Spotlight: Society Hill Contemporary

Society Hill, one of Philadelphia's oldest and most affluent neighborhoods, houses the largest concentration of original 18th and 19th century architecture in the entire US. This charming, historical neighborhood is known for its quaint village feel, cobblestone streets, and great restaurants.

Check out this edition of "Look Up!" from to see why contemporary architecture has been popping up in this awesome neighborhood since the 1960s.

Brewerytown Development

Why Do 'You' Love Philly?

The "Why I Love Philly" campaign launched in February at National Mechanics in Old City.

Feel free to watch the video to learn why people love Philly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Pocket Park?


A potential pocket park on Ridge Ave in Roxborough, temporarily titled the "Leverington Gathering Place," may become a reality in the near future.

This is an idea that is being kicked around all over Philadelphia. Replace vacant/unused lots and spaces with mini parks for the neighbors to enjoy. It's a great concept; let's see if it can happen.

North Broad Update

I had written about this project in the past, but this article gives greater detail into what this exciting new project will include.

For all of you foodies out there, it looks like Osteria will now have 2 more solid options for neighbors. On top of that, the new apartments should help bring more commercial investment to the immediate area.

School Reuse

The schools of old in Philadelphia, such as the Nathaniel Hawthorne School shown above, are architectural wonders. Hardwood floors, large windows, and detailed exteriors have allowed some of Philadelphia's past/present learning institutions to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fast forward 100 years to today...

The Philadelphia School District recently calculated that they now have 70,000 empty seats when looking at their entire collection of schools as a whole. Now that they know, what should they do? There are options, some of which are included in this article.

The real question is, what would you do if you were the one making the decision for the school district? Please feel free to share your ideas.

Massive Mural, Coming Soon...

This is going to be one impressive piece of public art for our City. For those of you who don't know, Philadelphia has the largest public art program in the entire US.

You can learn more about the project ("How Philly Moves") here.

High speed rail, in Philly?

This would definitely be an ideal travel option in the Northeastern US, among other areas. There are many major cities, they are closer to each other than most other parts of the US, and it would help alleviate air traffic/congestion/prices. Have you ever been to Europe? Train travel options in most of Western Europe are so convenient that most people opt for trains over planes/cars.

I'm sold. How about you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Should I Rent," or "Should I Buy"? Here's a real example...

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you've probably seen me discuss this subject before. The reason this subject is so popular today, is because there really is no clear cut answer to the question: "Should I rent, or should I buy?" It depends where you work, where you live, how much money you have, how much money you're willing to spend, and so on and so forth...

To make this a little more concrete, let me use a real world example. I currently have a listing in South Philly that's for sale; let's say this is where you want to live. The list price is $92,900 and the address is 2432 S Beulah St. It's a rehabbed property (floor to ceiling), it has 2 Beds/1 Bath, and is in a dense, urban neighborhood. You can walk to almost everything, and can use public transportation for the rest. This is the sort of lifestyle that most young, aspiring, urban-minded singles and couples strive for today.

The only problem is, you're not sure whether or not it makes more sense for you to rent or buy. What you do know is that you need a place to live and this is where you want to be. So, how do you make the right decision? Well, there is no right decision per se, but you can compare and contrast the two options. Option #1 would be to rent a place just like this (in the same neighborhood), and Option #2 would be to buy this home.

Let's look at a "Rent vs Buy" comparison for 2432 S Beulah St:

Option #1 - Rent
  • Average Rent: $750
  • Upfront Costs: $2,250 (First, Last, & Security)
  • Monthly Payment: $750 (Rent) and $25 (Renter's Insurance) = $775
  • Is this considered an investment? No
  • Are there any tax benefits? No
Option #2 - Buy
  • Sale Price: $92,900
  • Upfront Costs: $3,252 (Down Payment, FHA), $4,180 (Closing Costs, Estimate) = $7,432
  • Monthly Payment: $481 (Principal/Interest), $67 (Mortgage Insurance), $45 (Taxes), and $35 (Homeowner's Insurance) = $628
  • Is this considered an investment? Yes
  • Are there any tax benefits? Yes
Okay. Now I know there are more factors involved when looking at renting vs buying, but these are how they compare financially. Still not enough for you to make a decision? No problem.

Here are some Pros/Cons:

Option #1 - Rent
  • Pros: It has cheaper upfront costs, you are not responsible for repairs (unless you break it), and you can usually decide to leave after staying for about 1 year.
  • Cons: It's not your own home, you can't make changes/upgrades, you're subject to a landlord/landlady, your money is not invested in anything, your rent can increase, and you're not really interested in what happens to this property in the long run.
Option #2 - Buy
  • Pros: You are investing in a neighborhood/community, you own a tangible asset, you have the ability to hold/sell/rent, you can make changes/upgrades, you get tax benefits, and you could potentially gain appreciation.
  • Cons: You're not sure what price is fair, you cannot predict the future, and you may not want to stay.
So as you can see, there are differences from a financial perspective as well as pros/cons. Again, everything I have just written is not how everyone perceives "renting vs buying." It was meant to look at both sides of the coin so you can see why one way might be a better fit for you than the other. I work with both renters and buyers, so I get to see both on a daily basis. Some rent when it's clear they want to buy, and some buy when it's clear they want to rent.

There is no right or wrong answer. The only true answer is that everyone needs a place to live, so you will have to choose one of these options. Your best bet is to sit down and put pencil to paper; then compare and contrast. I hope this example helped.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to Philly Urban Living!

I have been blogging for over a year now, so I figured it was about time to have an official blog. Not a blog featured on Trulia or ActiveRain, and not a page featured on Twitter or Facebook.

A living, breathing blog...

More features will come. But for now, I will be sharing material from the neighboring websites mentioned above.