cafe american style

Long before malls dominated the American retail scene, urban downtowns were shopping destinations for folks of all classes, and here in Philly, John Wanamaker built at 13th and Market streets the kind-daddy of them all – a 5-story department store that set a standard for variety that stands today.

But except for a burst of fame as the setting for ‘80s hit Mannequin, interest in the landmark Wanamaker’s waned. The store was saved by Lord and Taylor but the five floors were scaled back to three, and the historic Crystal Tea Room – long the setting for elegant afternoon tea – was reserved for private parties and receptions.

But department store dining lives on (barely) in the form of the (awfully-named) Cafe American Style, Lord and Taylor’s third-floor restaurant overlooking the store’s expansive center courtyard and historic organ.

Truth be told, Café American Style won’t survive on its food alone. The menu offers up a wide-enough variety of salads, entrees and sandwiches, each surprisingly on level with Marathon Grill (the only local restaurant with a comparable, if larger, menu), but none is remarkable enough to bring crowds off the street and up three flights, especially considering few know the restaurant even exists.

Instead, old-timers who remember Wanamaker’s better days and a trickle of shoppers keep the place alive. Business picks up during the holiday season, when the cafe provides the store’s best views for the annual holiday light show. But judging from the crowd, it’s a wonder the restaurant has survived even this long.

Dining at Cafe American Style borders on the annoyingly ironic. But something about the place is so endearing that it’s worth at least one visit. Downtown department stores are on their last breaths, and their restaurants are farther gone. Get a taste of history while it’s still around.

experience: australia

I’d been waiting for this moment for months; well, my whole life really. And now that it was here, it was much more peculiar than I thought.

Here I was on my hands and knees in a tangling, prickly thicket of lantana, an invasive plant species from South America. I wasn’t sure how I made it into my little fort, but I definitely knew I wasn’t going anywhere soon. Bright orange clipper tools lay beside me, as I handed my partner the candy green poison. Looking around, the realization finally hit me: I was sitting in the middle of the Australian bush.

I had been able to come to Australia through a non-profit organization called International Student Volunteers (ISV). The program consists of two parts, both two weeks long. The first section is volunteer work, and the second is adventure travel. Projects are located in Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

ISV is open to any college student in the US, who is willing to pay a lot of money to travel. But the experience is completely worth it. ISV recruiters come to schools across the country during September and October. But any student can apply through the website,

Hiking through the woods looking for lantana and crawling through thickets couldn’t have been a better way to genuinely experience Australian wildlife. I wouldn’t have been able to truly understand what the Australian bush is without working in it. Just driving through, certainly is no equivalent.

There are an infinite number of ways to experience other cultures, whether you’re studying abroad, interning, or simply traveling. But volunteering abroad was one of the best things I could have signed up for. Not only did I feel good about volunteering in another country, but my perception of Australia was influenced by my volunteer work. I was much more appreciative of the heritage and natural beauty of Australia.

Sometimes the strangest moments make us think about exactly what it is we’re doing. Underneath my thicket of a fort, planning my next attack on the lantana, was when I experienced that moment.

The bush looked absolutely beautiful to me. And it wasn’t the uninspired beauty seen by a tourist driving under a canopy of magnificent gum trees. It is the honest, admiring beauty that can only be seen from the eyes of a hardworking student appreciating all that is given to her. The opportunity to come to Australia. The ability to help the Australian environment. The new perspective of an admiring young traveler realizing first hand how beautiful and perfect this natural world is.

the hidden river

By now, the sight of joggers, bikers, and bladers on the Schuylkill riverfront is so familiar that most of us can’t even remember what was there before. But the new trail, completed as far south as Locust Street, is a recent addition, less than a year old. However, it fits the cityscape so perfectly that those taking advantage of its recreation opportunities would never think that just a decade before, the idea of choosing to spend time on Philadelphia’s “other” river was a nonstarter.

Long in the shadow of its cousin, the mighty Delaware, the Schuylkill River had been damaged by the products of industry. On both sides, factories, warehouses, and railroads

coming soon

Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the brink of some legal thrashing. Let the cheers and fist-pumping begin.

The ruckus is all about skateboarding, the great debate, and the solve-all solution that is about to be built in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We’re talking about a skate park here people, and if you haven’t heard the buzz, then it’s time to fill you in.

Skateboarding is an icon in the City of Brotherly Love. It’s also, unfortunately, illegal on public property. To be sure, check municipal law 10-610, which reads, No Person shall use a skateboard in any of the following areas: (a) the area bounded by Arch Street, Fifteenth street, Broad street, and John F. Kennedy boulevard (the Municipal Services Building plaza and sidewalks); (b) on public property unless use of a skateboard is authorized by regulation, ordinance or statue, or is otherwise authorized

puppets for good

Puppets get a bad rap. Mention the art form and most people immediately think of sappy Lambchop or the androgynous Lady Elaine Fairchild. But here in Philly, puppets work for good, not evil, as part of a unique organization that’s pulling strings for change.

Spiral Q Puppet Theater uses the act of puppet making to give voice to the powerless in neglected neighborhoods. Community groups and organizations looking to use puppets as a form of demonstration contact the theater, which then helps members develop their projects and themes for neighborhood pageants and parades. It’s all part of Spiral Q’s goal of creating what it calls an “Urban Arts Democracy.”

On October 1, the group demonstrates the mission through Peoplehood

rising ideals

If you are a college student in the Philadelphia area looking for opportunities to get more involved with your community, here is your chance. On Saturday, September 24, 2005, the Campus Philly Kick Offwill feature’s second annual Involvement Fair on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The fair, sponsored by Action Without Borders/, will feature a variety of volunteer opportunities with a diverse array of Philadelphia area non-profit organizations, focusing on issues such as animal rights, voting, service to local youth, and media awareness through a variety of unique programs.

Participating organizations include: Activote, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia, Bright Campus Star, Caring People Alliance, Centro Nueva Creacion, City Year, Committee of Seventy, Hugs for Puppies, Human Rights Campaign, Islamic Circle of North America, Media Tank, National Student Partnerships, Spiral Q Puppet Theater, and more.

These organizations are looking for student volunteers/interns in the Philadelphia area who want to make a difference in their community, build leadership skills, and participate in active, hands-on learning. Organization representatives will be on hand to speak with interested students and distribute information. The fair will not only benefit Philadelphia locals; students new to the Philadelphia area will additionally benefit from learning more about their new home through this unique event. is a separate project run by Action Without Borders, which aims to connect people and organizations looking to contribute to the betterment of the local community. offers volunteer, internship, and event listings and access to thousands of organizations and volunteer opportunities not only in Philadelphia, but throughout the United States, as well as in other countries.

Come on out on September 24th, and learn what you can do to get involved in your community!

For more information regarding the fair, contact Kim Hsu by email at, or by phone at 215.382.1888.

$10mil to st joe's

James J. Maguire, founder and chairman of Philadelphia Insurance Cos., has donated $10 million to Saint Joseph’s University to help the school buy Episcopal Academy’s Merion campus.

The donation represents the largest gift made to the Philadelphia university by an alumnus. The money will make significant inroads toward St. Joe’s purchase of Episcopal’s 38-acre campus, which abuts the university’s grounds. University officials would not divulge the final negotiated sale price.

Episcopal and St. Joe’s finalized a sale agreement last month. However, the university doesn’t intend to pay for the land until Episcopal moves out, said the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, president of the university. Episcopal plans to relocate to a new campus in Newtown Square in 2008.

In the meantime, the university will use Maguire’s gift to motivate other alumni to donate toward the purchase of the property. It will use both donations and debt to finance the acquisition. How much it will borrow hasn’t been determined, Lannon said. In addition to buying the land, St. Joe’s plans to spend about $10 million to make various improvements to the infrastructure of the campus, as well as fitting out classroom and office space in existing buildings.

We’re walking into a great situation, Lannon said. For a university that has been landlocked, it’s a transformation for us.

Maguire has a long history with the university. St. Joe’s has been a very special place for me over the years, he said. In 1952, he began his college career there before being drafted for the Korean War. After two years in the military, Maguire returned to the school, graduating in 1958. When Maguire started Philadelphia Insurance in 1962, he called on his accounting teacher from St. Joe’s to help organize the accounting of the fledgling firm. Philadelphia Insurance is now a $2 billion company.

He served on the university’s board and had three children graduate from the school and has one grandchild who currently attends.

Maguire twice tapped St. Joe’s MBA students to conduct case studies for him regarding his company. The first was in 1992 to determine whether he should take his company public. The students recommended it, so he took the company public. In 1999, he asked another class whether he should step down and let his son be chief executive. Again, Maguire took the students’ recommendation — and subsequently stepped down as CEO.

The decision to make the $10 million gift, which has no strings attached, came easy to Maguire.

The university has a Jesuit philosophy and Jesuit culture that is very unique, Maguire said. It espouses academic excellence and leadership in your personal and professional life, and service to others. I guess I believe strongly in that.

There were also additional motivations. Maguire was involved, behind the scenes, in the negotiations between St. Joe’s and Episcopal. I did a little prodding to get the thing done, he said.

But, two years ago, when St. Joe’s and Episcopal were in early discussions, Lannon and Maguire had lunch to talk it over. I told him at that meeting I would make a gift of $10 million toward this purchase, Maguire recounted.

How did he determine the size of his largesse?

I wanted to make a gift that was the largest gift from any graduate from the university. I wanted to set the bar high enough that it set a standard and would send a message to the university at large that we can do this, he said.

I hope someone beats me. If they do, I’m coming right back at them.

colleges admit hurricane refugees

Area campuses might be a little more crowded than usual this fall.

More than 20 of the region’s colleges and universities have set up programs to accommodate students at schools shut down by Hurricane Katrina.

The programs vary from school to school, but generally allow students enrolled at colleges shut by the storm to take classes during the fall semester for free, if the students have paid tuition at their regular school.

Some schools also have launched fund-raising efforts to provide money to victims of Katrina. At least two also are allowing faculty and staff to take time off to provide volunteer services in the area hit by the hurricane.

Villanova University’s program is fairly typical. The school is taking in 30 students from Tulane University, which is in New Orleans, and Loyola University New Orleans. They will have to pay room and board, but not their tuition.

We want these students to really feel welcome, said Stephen R. Merritt, Villanova’s dean of enrollment management.

Villanova set up the program in response to calls from students at Tulane and Loyola who had also been accepted at Villanova and calls from ‘Nova students and alumni with relatives or friends at the schools.

It is housing the students on its campus and at Harcum College, which is about a mile-and-a-half away in Bryn Mawr.

Villanova also has set up a Villanova Hurricane Relief Fund to raise money to benefit Catholic Charities and other agencies providing relief to hurricane victims.

The University of Pennsylvania has offered to accept 100 students and was well on the way to getting that number, with the students coming from Tulane, Loyola and Xavier University of Louisiana. It is waiving tuition for the students, but it is unable to provide housing space for them.

Fifteen student groups at Penn have set up fund-raising activities or programs.

Penn also is granting faculty and staff interested in volunteering with the organizations providing hurricane relief up to three weeks paid time off.

Widener University has a similar leave program. The Chester school also is offering tuition-free admission to students displaced by the hurricane. Many of its student organizations are raising money for relief efforts.

Area community colleges are pitching in, too

Community College of Philadelphia is waiving tuition not covered by financial aid, grants or scholarships for students from shuttered schools who live in Philadelphia or have relatives that do.

online dating

In the past, when it came to dating, you would meet people through friends, in class, at work, or at parties, clubs, bars, or other social events. In today’s world of technological advances, however, meeting that potential Mr. or Ms. Right may actually be right in front of your eyes, staring back at you from your very own computer screen.

Yes, times are changing, and the traditional means of dating are being replaced by the virtual ones. As a graduate student at Temple University and a young female in my early 20s, I have even tried internet dating. I had to be persuaded to do it (by mom!), and I have had a variety of experiences – both wonderful and not so wonderful. It turns out that there are many others like me. In fact, there are millions of people utilizing online dating sites, such as, America’s Singles, and J-date, which is specifically targeted to Jewish singles; many participants are college students and young professionals.

In addition to the dating sites, online social networks, such as Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, provide online communities for making other types of social connections, as well as love connections. Just like the dating services, you just post a profile and picture, and you suddenly have the ability to communicate with your current friends or make new ones.

According to Dating Match, more people today are realizing the benefits of internet dating because members are able to search for, talk to, and have the potential to meet many more singles. In fact, over 80% of people who participate in online dating sites have been on a date in the past month compared to only 20% of those who do not utilize these services.

In fact, according to Jacklyn, a customer service representative for, one of the most frequented online dating services, millions of people join internet dating sites., for example, has over 12,000,000 members.

In Jacklyn’s view, “People just have to put themselves out there. There is someone for everyone. I met someone from the service, so I believe in what I do.”

Many young people these days are following her advice. From their experience, what are the benefits to utilizing online dating, and how does it compare to traditional dating?

“Internet dating gives you confidence in talking to someone since it’s not face to face at first,” Dave Weiss, a recent Temple University graduate who has tried J-Date and Yahoo Personals, says. He continues, “In person, on the bar scene, you have to build up the courage to talk to someone.”

Marnee Raisman, a Penn State-Abington graduate and Temple University graduate student who has been a member of J-Date, MySpace, and Friendster, agrees. “It’s more relaxed than traditional dating. You feel more at ease when you’re on the computer rather than getting all nervous in person, especially if you’re shy.”

Dave Rosenberg, a graduate of Bucks County Community College who has tried J-Date,, and America’s Singles, adds another benefit. “The advantage of internet dating is that you have a brief description of who you’re going to meet. At a bar, you don’t know anything about them.”

Although there are numerous benefits to online dating, there are also drawbacks.

Rosenberg mentions one particular drawback: competition from other site members. “When you’re responding to someone, it might take a week to get together with her because other guys have responded to her.”

Raisman agrees. “You could even be dating a guy your friend went out with without even knowing.”

Marnie Fleishman, a senior at Temple University-Ambler who has been a member of J-Date, feels, “When you meet someone in person, you get a sense of their emotion, but on the computer, you don’t.”

However, the most common complaint of online daters is this: “Just who is behind the screen?”

According to Weiss, “Online dating is the simple and easy way to meet somebody, even though it can sometimes be misleading. Some of the people behind the screen are not who they seem to be. You really don’t know who you’re talking to.”

Fleishman shares this experience: “This one guy looked so good in his pictures, but not in person. Also, there was just no conversation.”

It seems that most people who have tried online dating have had a variety of experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly. What tips would they offer to others considering it?

Raisman offers this piece of advice: “Just be upfront. Talk on the phone first, and then meet at a public place.”

Fleishman suggests, “You should meet in a group setting rather than alone.”

Weiss advises, “Don’t set your sites all on one person on the site. Experience all it has to offer. My best experience, though, was meeting my girlfriend!”

And, you may be wondering, how did my online dating experience turn out? Well, let’s just say that Weiss’s girlfriend is me!

So, what are you waiting for? True love may be just a click away!

To find out more about the services mentioned or to become a member, go to: (site featuring articles and information about online dating and other love and dating topics) (general dating service) (dating service aimed at Jewish singles) (service linking members through networks of friends) (service used to communicate with friends, family, and classmates, or to make new friends) (service connecting college students from various schools)

Other services you may want to try: (dating service aimed at Jewish singles) (dating service aimed at Christian singles) (dating service aimed at Christian singles) (dating service aimed at interracial daters)

lasalle plans retail center

LaSalle University wants to develop a retail center on land it owns adjacent to its main campus to help fill a void of grocery stores in the East Germantown neighborhood of North Philadelphia.

The center, in the range of 60,000 to 100,000 square feet, and up to $15 million, would serve not only students but also the community, which lacks a nearby grocery and other retail outlets.

If you drew a ring around us, basically you’d have to go out a mile and a half to find a supermarket, said Bill DeVito, director of community and economic development at the university. There just aren’t that many options for folks.

The plan is to have a supermarket anchor the center, and have smaller ancillary retailers, such as a dry cleaner, hair dresser, small restaurants, and the like fill the remainder of the space.

The effort to have more retail in urban settings is high on the priority list for state Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, who has made increasing the number of supermarkets and other grocery stores in underserved urban areas part of his agenda. Evans was instrumental in getting the state to create a provision in its economic stimulus package to help finance supermarkets in places where they are lacking.

Evans worked with Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller to open new stores in neighborhoods in the city as well as the LaSalle project.

My goal is to have 10 new supermarkets in Philadelphia in the next four years, Evans said. So far, he has helped to open three in the Philadelphia area and the one at LaSalle would be the fourth.

The addition of a store in the community surrounding LaSalle would generate jobs, give good solid employment, provide other quality retail in the area, and help revitalize the neighborhood, he said. The grocery would also help with the broader issue of health by giving residents a nearby store to buy fresh foods. The last time there was a supermarket on Chew was 40 years ago, Evans said.

The center would sit on half of an 8.2-acre site LaSalle owns along Chew Avenue between Wister Street and Church Lane. The property, referred to as the Good Shepherd site, has athletic fields on one portion and a surface parking lot on the other. Any development would take place on the land currently used as the parking lot.

The school issued a request for proposals from developers who submitted ideas Aug. 26. DeVito said about a handful of developers responded and that those plans are being vetted internally to determine who the school might want to consider. He declined to name the developers; one will be chosen next month.

Unlike Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, two other Philadelphia schools, LaSalle doesn’t plan to incorporate housing into the project.

Student housing isn’t a pressing need, DeVito said, pointing out that the university recently completed the construction of a $26 million residence hall and dining facility.