Martin Luther King Day of Service Opportunities in Philadelphia

This upcoming Monday, January 17th is Martin Luther King Day of Service. This holiday is celebrated on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and serves to commemorate his life and legacy. As a national day of service, it encourages all to volunteer in ways that will build upon his work and continue to help improve our communities.

The theme of 2022’s MLK Day of Service is “Combating Racism and Building Community,” with a focus on five specific issues: health justice, voting rights, gun violence, early literacy, and living-wage jobs. Below is your guide to in-person and virtual activities, as well as educational and cultural events in the Philly region. 

Crafting for MLK Day – Sat Jan 15, 10-2pm

Volunteers will join Sisters Interacting Through Stitches to crochet and knit items such as bonding squares, hats, blankets, and shawls/wraps, which will be donated to local Hospitals. This event will be held virtually and participants will discuss the day of service theme “Combating Racism and Building Community”.

Ya Fav Trashman MLK Day Clean Up – Jan 17, 9:45 a.m.

Join Terrill Haigler, Ya Fave Trashman, and Grant Blvd for a neighborhood clean-up at 3rd and Sumervile Ave. in the Onley section of the city. For more information follow Terrill’s Instagram.

Day of Service at Bartram’s Garden – Jan 17, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Help beautify one of the city’s historic landmarks with a two-hour service activity. Volunteers collect trash and debris from around the garden and sanitize pots in the greenhouse in preparation for spring planting at 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard.

Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – Jan 17 9:30-1:30pm or 1pm-5pm

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia is asking for volunteers to help assemble furniture at their ReStore on Washington Ave. They encourage volunteers to invite friends and family (16 years of age or older) for a half or full-day shift alongside some of our future and current Habitat homeowners. Volunteers will learn more about Habitat for Humanity while offering essential assistance toward our discount home improvement store, which allows more building and repair work in Philadelphia. In the middle of the day, they will also be inviting a special guest come to talk with volunteers about their experience with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. For more information on volunteering, visit Habitat for Humanity’s website or email volunteer@habitatphiladelphia.com.

Philadelphia Orchestra Annual MLK Day Free Concert – Jan 17, 1pm

Attend this tribute to Black composers performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Conductor at the Kimmel Center. The event is free but reservations are necessary. The concert will also be broadcast live on WRTI FM. 

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Image: Will Figg/The Philadelphia Orchestra

Day of Service in the Awbury Arboretum – Jan 17,  9-12

Help the historic park’s landscape crew keep some of the exotic invasive plant species in check. Register online and meet at Cope House. Water and a light snack will be provided. Please bring work gloves, hand pruners, or loppers, if you have them.

Poll Worker Info Session – Jan 17, 10am-11am

Join the Committee of Seventy and the League of Women Voters of Philadelphia to learn about what exactly poll workers do and how anyone age 17+ can serve on Election Day. Philadelphia always needs poll workers to serve in this important role and help your community make their voice heard. Sign up to learn more and get your questions answered.

MLK Day Events at Philly Museums – Jan 14-17

The Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street, presents a historical reenactment of abolitionist James Forten, a free Black Philadelphian and Revolutionary War veteran.

The African American Museum will host exciting events the entire weekend, starting on Friday, Jan. 14th. On Jan. 17th, they will have a day-long voter registration drive and memorial concert.

Visit the National Constitution Center — for free! — and enjoy readings of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, a family-friendly concert, storytelling, and arts and crafts. Guests can also perform an act of service and donate pens, pencils, crayons, copy paper, hand sanitizer, folders, and age-appropriate books to the museum’s school-supplies drive supporting the School District of Philadelphia. 

Whatever you choose to do, whether it is attending a virtual event from your home or volunteering in person, we hope you are inspired by Dr. King’s message of working towards a more equitable city and nation.

Philadelphia’s Community Gardens

This is the time of year when neighbors are harvesting organically grown vegetables in over 400 community gardens throughout the city. They are feasting on sun-ripened strawberries, juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and fresh-picked herbs. If you are already involved in your local community garden, great! If not, we would like to introduce you to a few of the many community gardens in our city’s diverse neighborhoods.

Liberty Lands

This two-acre park in Northern Liberties has a special significance for Deborah Solo, owner of Solo Real Estate. Deborah helped establish Liberty Lands park, the only large public greenspace Northern Liberties. Currently, Liberty Lands has an entry arbor, 37 designated plots, benches, a Native American herb garden, a butterfly garden, 183 trees, a children’s playground, composting area, sculptures by neighborhood artists, and a colorful mural. 

Liberty Lands is one of a series of community gardens formed from reclaimed urban land in a former industrial area. Previously, it was the site of the American Street Tannery. When plans to convert the vacant factory to loft housing did not materialize, the developer donated it to the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association in 1995.

In addition to educational workshops, the park hosts community events, including Halloween Hayrides, Welcome America Neighborhood Festival, Annual Garden Tour, Birdhouse Silent Auction, and summer outdoor movie series.

Crease St. Garden

Originally, fourteen houses stood in the area now occupied by the Crease Street Garden in Fishtown. In the mid-seventies the City demolished the houses, leaving the land vacant. For approximately 40 years, the lots were completely overgrown with bushes, weeds, and vines, and served as a dumping ground for household trash and abandoned vehicles. 

Crease Street Garden

In 2009 – through 2010, residents organized to clean up the lots and obtained a garden lease agreement with the City. Railroad ties from SEPTA were converted into benches and 250 feet of flower beds and raised vegetable beds turned the former eyesore into a source of communal pride. This year the Crease Street Garden has joined in partnership with the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, a recognized leader in Urban Land Preservation, to secure grants and fundraise to purchase the land the garden is on. NGT will be supporting us in securing government grants for the bulk of the purchase price, but the group needs to raise $100,000 by the end of 2021 to buy and permanently secure the future of the garden. Visit their website to learn more and donate.

Emerald Street Community Farm

Located in Kensington the Emerald Street Community Farm is a communal farming project on the corner of Emerald St and Dauphin St. Started by a group of neighbors in the Spring of 2008, they grow organic vegetables which they share with neighbors. They also have weekly kids activities: Cooking Classes, Kids Gardening and Craftivity Hour. 

Emerald Street Community Farm

Emerald Street Wildflower Garden

Across the street from the Emerald Street Community Farm, you’ll also find the Emerald Wildflower Garden, a garden focused on the ecologic repair of habitat for plants, ants, birds, bees, butterflies, and the humans who are their guests. Jeff Carpineta, Realtor at Solo Real Estate has played a key role in protecting and redesigning the garden, with coaching from his mentors at Mt. Cuba Center where he studies ecological gardening. 

Home to the largest concentration of trees and bird habitat in the neighborhood, the garden features over 50 species of native plants, a mural by legacy Muralist Ras Malik, a gnome house by Ed Guion, and the salvaged stoop from the beloved Rocket Cat Cafe’. Volunteers receive free training in ecological gardening as well as tools, books, plants, passes to horticulture workshops, lectures, and regional botanic gardens. The garden is available for special events upon request. Contact emeraldwildflowergarden@gmail.com for more info.

Las Parcelas   

Located a 2248 Palethorp Street in Kensington, Las Parcelas community garden began with murals that recall the landscape of Puerto Rico, honor community leaders, and commemorate the passing of traditions on to a younger generation. Las Parcelas is a collection of garden spaces, founded by women in a dedicated neighborhood organization, Grupo Motivos, in collaboration with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia LandCare program. 

Las Parcelas. Image: Norris Square Neighborhood Project

Las Parcelas tells a story of Puerto Rican heritage as a part of American history. Economic decline and urban policies created a landscape seemingly devoid of nature and culture, and rife with racial tensions. Through gardening, Las Parcelas attempts to make a positive story of heritage and identity tangible, by displaying culture in a landscape where it was all too frequently made invisible.

A small structure known as “La Casita” (the little house) contains objects donated by older residents that are used as educational tools. There are areas for gatherings, cookouts, dancing, and crafts. It is also a place to invent new traditions for the future. 

In addition to Las Parcelas, the Norris Square Neighborhood project maintains half an acre of community gardens in the area, including The Butterfly Garden, El Batey, Jardin de Paz, Raices, and Villa Africána Colobó.

East Passyunk Community Garden

East Passyunk Crossing Community Garden is a mixed-use community garden located on the campus of Neumann-Goretti High School on 10th Street between Mifflin and Morris. One of the garden’s missions is to foster partnerships with refugees who live in the neighborhood. 

East Passyunk Community Garden members gather in the garden.

The community garden brings together people of different experiences and skills to contribute towards a common purpose. It promotes better physical and mental health through physical exercise and the satisfaction of work, dedication, and perseverance; and contributes to the health and well-being of local wildlife and insects.

Get Involved

Solo Real Estate proudly sponsors the efforts of numerous like-minded community gardens and public spaces including McMichael Playspace, Emerald Wildflower Garden, and Hancock Park. We believe Philadelphia’s urban gardens are an important resource for the community. They increase access to fresh produce, promote biodiversity, and provide recreational areas that help strengthen social connections between neighbors. To find a community garden near you, click on the community garden map compiled by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

PHS Plant Swaps are Back!

Do you have a plant that isn’t sparking joy? Bring it to Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s (PHS) monthly Plant Swaps at the PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street. This free family-friendly event is a monthly Happy Hour for plants that could use a new life and an opportunity to meet fellow gardeners that can use a $5 margarita.

Sponsored by Solo Real Estate for the 4th consecutive year, the PHS Pop Up Garden on South Street is resuming its popular in-person plant swap programming this month after a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The PHS Plant Swaps offer attendees a chance to swap their unwanted plants and clippings for a new plant to bring home while meeting other plant enthusiasts. PHS will also have Master Gardeners from various horticultural organizations in attendance who will help identify plants and provide tips to keep them healthy. Register to attend the first plant swap on July 20, 2021 by clicking here.

Fellow plant enthusiasts meet up for a monthly Plant Swap at the PHS Pop Up Garden courtesy of Solo Real Estate. Participants bring plants from home and exchange them for plants and cuttings while socializing at the popup garden. Photo: Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer
Fellow plant enthusiasts meet up for a monthly Plant Swap at the PHS Pop Up Garden courtesy of Solo Real Estate. Participants bring plants from home and exchange them for plants and cuttings while socializing at the popup garden. Photo: Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer

How does it work?

Arrive early if you wish to be among the first to pick out whatever you want from the swapping table. Don’t bring dead or sick plants, just ones that are no longer perky or that you no longer want. If you bring cuttings, put them in a small bag. For larger cuttings, wrap the roots in a damp paper towel. Label them with the name of the plant and care instructions.

Once the event starts participants will put plants on the table and everyone will walk around browsing and choosing what plants to swap. If you prefer, you can hold onto your plants and try to make specific trades.
Remember, plant lovers expect an equal trade. They are not going to swap their rare orchid for a spider plant clipping. If you want something exotic, bring something of equal value. Only take as many plants as you bring. If there are leftovers and you stay around to the end, you may take more. Those who don’t have any plants to share should wait until the end before choosing a plant. PHS also brings in plants to give away during these events to make sure there’s plenty to go around. If you take home a plant and it doesn’t work out, bring it back to the next Plant Swap.

Plant Swap Schedule

Tues July 20 – Rain Date Mon July 26
Tues Aug 3 – Rain Date Mon Aug 9
Tues Sept 7 – Rain Date Mon Sept 13
Tues Oct 5 – Rain Date Mon Oct 11
*The Plant Swaps will be held monthly from 6 to 8 pm. Come by to swap a plant, meet the Solo team and enjoy beer, cocktails & food until the garden closes at 10pm!

Become a Master Gardener

Do you live in Philly and love gardening? You can become a Master Gardener. The Penn State Master Gardener Program is a volunteer program that educates on best practices in sustainable horticulture and environmental stewardship. The next training class starts in October 2021. 

No prior experience is required. All volunteers go through 40-60 hours of Basic Training in horticultural science. Trainees must then complete 50 hours of volunteer service within their first year to achieve their official Master Gardener certification. Master Gardeners maintain their certification by completing 20 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education each year. Want to learn more? Attend an info session and see if this is for you.

Whether you’re a new plant parent or a seasoned master gardener, ultimately Plant Swaps are about community. To see what the excitement is all about, join us for an upcoming plant swap or check out the Philly Plant Exchange group on Facebook where fellow local gardening enthusiasts regularly swap plants, cuttings and share success stories.

Pets That Rescue Us

During the pandemic, many of us found substitutes for our normal routines. Instead of meeting up with friends, we Zoomed. Instead of dining out, we learned how to make bread from scratch. And instead of going to concerts, theater or sporting events, we spent more time with our furry friends. In retrospect, you have to wonder. Did we rescue them? Or did they rescue us?

“Oscar, our tuxedo cat lives in the office,” said Solo Real Estate president Deborah Solo. “He wandered into my backyard when I lived in Northern Liberties and found his forever home.” Deborah has three more cats living in her apartment above the office. “They are all named after detectives: Morse, Hercule Poirot, and Falco named after a Roman detective series.”

Two of Deborah’s cats came from a neighbor who rescues animals and two from sheer chance. They wandered into her yard. She contributes to Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) the City’s largest rescue partner and low-cost wellness clinic that is leading Philly to become a no-kill city. The pandemic is helping PAWS reach that goal. “For the first time ever, PAWS has more people interested in adopting and fostering dogs than it has actual dogs,” said Melissa Levy, executive director of PAWS.

Pet adoption is on-trend. According to Rover.com, 49% of Americans adopted a new dog during the Covid-19 pandemic. 93% said that their pet improved their mental and/or physical wellbeing and made working from home more enjoyable. This recent increase in pet ownership has had an impact on the real estate market. “Not all rental properties are pet friendly,” cautioned Deborah. “Whether or not tenants can have a pet is determined by the individual owner whose properties we manage. Some of them don’t allow pets.” 

Fortunately for the Solo Real Estate team, their office is pet-friendly. Bookkeeper, Denise Piechoski, used to bring her “doodle” Hobey to the office just one day a week. “Now, since Covid, he comes each time I go there,” she said. “He is very curious about Oscar and wants to be friends but he is afraid. His favorite thing to do is look for squirrels in Rittenhouse Square.”

If every Solo team member were to bring their pets to work all the time, they would need to hire a zookeeper. Julian Chiti Makarechi, Solo Office Coordinator, adopted two kittens – Basil and Tarragon – ten months ago, just as the pandemic was starting. Solo Property Manager, Cameron Johnson, has a dog named Django.

Alejandro Franqui and Becca have a frisky pup named Hansi and a cat named Spicy, who was rescued by Deborah Solo from the lot they later built Kensington Yards on. Spicy was found with four kitten siblings, who were also rescued and placed in loving homes.

Adoption Centers

Philadelphia has many animal shelters, including the city owned Animal Care and Control (ACCT Philly) Shelter, but we want to give a shout out to some of our favorites. 

First up is PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society), the city’s largest rescue partner. They have three no-kill shelters and provide affordable basic veterinary care for pet owners and rescue organizations that cannot otherwise access it. Check out the adorable pups and kitties seeking foster care and adoption, as well as opportunities to volunteer, at the PAWS Adoption site. 

Morris Animal Refuge is America’s oldest Animal rescue. Created when founder Elizabeth Morris began housing and caring for animals in Philadelphia in 1858 and the rescue was founded in 1874. They are the only privately funded open admission shelter in Philadelphia (one of the few remaining in the country), and maintain a 97% save rate. You can look at the pets available for adoption, and learn more about their programs on Morris Animal Rescue’s website

Brenda’s Cat Rescue is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the rescue of stray and abandoned cats. You may view their adorable kitties online and see them in person at the PetSmart in Plymouth Meeting.

Coffee, tea or meow? Make a date to meet the kitty of your dreams at Le Cat Café in Brewerytown. Operated by Green Street Rescue, a no-kill shelter, Le Cat Café is like speed dating, but instead of conversing for ten minutes, you can get down on all fours and get to know the personalities of a dozen lovable cats. If you find one you like, you can fill out an application for adoption or foster care. FYI – Le Cat Café is not a shelter, but a meet-and-greet for adoptable cats. While you are there, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, along with a feline snuggle. Reservations strongly recommended.

Dog Parks

Philly’s dog parks are not just places to let your pup get some exercise. They are true community centers that add value to our neighborhoods. In many cases, they are membership organizations where enhancements are made for the wellbeing of dogs and their owners. Here are three standouts.

Seger Dog Park at 11th and Rodman started a clean-up initiative to keep litter off the streets and out of the waterways. They partner with small businesses and local musicians to offer services and entertainment to park members. Seger Dog Park hosts community events and encourages neighbors – and their pets – to get to know each other.

Schuylkill River Park Dog Run at 25th and Spruce is the fanciest of all Philly’s dog parks with stunning river views. It is equipped with a nice drinking fountain and separate sections for big and little dogs. The synthetic grass courtyard keeps puppy paws clean.

Dog Park at Bok in South Philly is a small gravel lot but on Sundays, you can take Fido up the elevator to Bok Bar for food, drink and sky-high views of the City.

Solo Real Estate understands the attachment you have with your pets and will help you find a rental or forever home where you and your menagerie will thrive. Whether your priority is a big yard for your dog or a place where your cats can lounge, we’d love to help! Contact us at info@solorealty.com to get in touch with an agent. 

Ken Schapira: Fabricating quality, one project at a time

Ken Schapira, owner of North Standard Fabrication and Construction, LLC, specializes in solving creative structural problems. “When artist Jeff Carpenter wanted to flood an entire art gallery in the Crane Arts Building with eight inches of water, I collaborated with a structural engineer to waterproof the entire floor,” said Schapira. “People were given boots to view the installation. That was fun!” 

However, most of Schapira’s clients these days are in the restaurant and hospitality business for whom he provides higher-end wood and metal fabrication services. “I’m currently creating 3-D signage and building a bar out of copper and brass for the renovation of a Fishtown restaurant. One of the perks? “I got to taste everything on their new menu,” he said. Schapira is also adding his unique touch to a new Spring Garden District eatery. “I’m using a lot of steel, wood, and glass in the interior and exterior,” he said.

Schapira is originally from Staten Island, and purchased his first house in Philadelphia in 2006 in East Kensington from Solo Real Estate. This original connection soon turned into a long-term working relationship. “I started working as a general contractor with Solo’s property management services, doing kitchens and bathrooms,” he said.

His largest project for Solo Real Estate was through his former partnership with Anthony Giacobbe under the name Red Oak Development, building Kensington Yards, Solo’s fourteen-unit residential development. The project was developed by Alejandro Franqui, along with the architects at Bright Common and landscape designers at Apiary Studio, Kensington Yards combined historic preservation with new construction. Schapira’s used reclaimed wood throughout the property and built contemporary metal staircases and half-moon window frames.

Ken Schapira worked on building Kensington Yards, Solo's most recent development project.
Ken Schapira worked on building Kensington Yards, Solo’s most recent development project.

“I’ve never met a contractor more committed to delivering a high quality finished product,” said Franqui. “Not only does Ken do excellent work, he has a style and sensibility that I think is lacking in many, if not most, new construction and renovation projects. Ken’s work is anything but cookie-cutter.” 

Deborah Solo, owner of Solo Real Estate, said, “Working with Ken on Kensington Yards was an incredible learning experience. He helped us make something we could all be very proud of.  In every instance, he enabled us to get something extra special with the finished product.”

It is one of Schapira’s more unique projects that landed him in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I used a computer-generated plasma-cutting machine to create a metal gate in Kensington featuring intricate scrollwork and Danny DeVito’s face,” he said. Why DeVito?  Schapira wanted to give people something to smile about during the pandemic. 

Custom alley gate in Kensington featuring Danny DeVito's face.
Custom alley gate in Kensington featuring Danny DeVito’s face.

CNC plasma cutting involves cutting through electrically conductive materials by utilizing an accelerated jet of hot plasma that is directed right at the material being cut. Steel, aluminum, brass, and copper are only a handful of the types of materials that are often cut with this method.“ The technology has been around for twenty years, but it used to be ridiculously expensive, out of reach for the average fabrication company. I have only owned one machine for years,” he said.

A custom table designed and built by North Standard Fabrication and Construction
A custom table designed and built by North Standard Fabrication and Construction.

Schapira’s versatility is impressive, including furniture and custom light fixtures. “We have a full fabrication studio with the resources for woodworking, welding, CNC plasma cutting projects, and more. Ken Schapira’s company, North Standard Fabrication and Construction is located at 2321 Emerald Street Philadelphia, PA 12129. For project inquiries, you can reach out to North Standard on the contact us form on their website: https://www.northstandardphl.com/contact

Ken Schapira: Fabricating Quality, one project at a time
Ken Schapira from North Standard Fabrication and Construction. Photo by Jordan Baumgarten.

Meet Jeff Carpineta

Jeff Carpineta has been part of the Solo Real Estate family for the last fifteen years helping buyers, sellers, investors, and renters find their place and community in the city we call home. Jeff is a Kensington resident, real estate agent, an artist with a background in photography/music, and is very involved with his local community in the East Kensington section of Philadelphia, adjacent to Fishtown. He served as President of the East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA), has worked with NKCDC to offer housing counseling, partnered with the Kensington Kinetic Derby & Arts Fest, and co-founded the Kensington Community Food Coop, where he’s still a board member.

We sat down with him at a wildflower garden to talk about how he got started in real estate, his favorite places, and some of his interests outside of work:

How did you get started at Solo Real Estate?

Years ago, on a sweltering August heatwave day, I walked into the Solo Real Estate office looking for an apartment. Stanley Solo, in his 80’s, greeted me. I mean – Stanley Solo who started the company in 1951 –  a guy that had already made it, a big name in Center City for half a century. He actually walked me across town to 10th and South to show me places. I was a restaurant waiter part-time and a sheet rocker/photographer/noisy musician person he’d never seen before but he treated me like a grandson. I was blown away and was so moved from that experience that 3 years later I wrote a letter to Deborah Solo, Stanley’s daughter, recounting that experience. I told Deborah about my background in art, my knowledge about Philadelphia neighborhoods, and that my grandfather was a factory worker – ironically in a building that got turned into a condo in Tacony (U.S. Rubber- Gilmer Plant). I also told her I was looking to own my first place and was looking to learn about real estate. ‘Maybe I can photograph some places or file things for you…?’  She wrote back “Sounds like you love many of the same things I love, come in, let’s talk”. I went in for an interview, she said ‘You’re great but I don’t have anything for you to do right now.’ But a few weeks later she called: “My assistant wants to spend some more time with her family. Would you like to be my assistant a couple of days a week?” It was a dream. I did postcards – thousands of postcards per week, walking these bins of postcards over to the post office on Chestnut. Deborah called me into her office one day. “Jeff, the cards, we need to slow down on the cards!”. 22 cents apiece had climbed into 5 figures quickly. 

More important – the greatest gift: I made a little station for myself and all those cards right on the other side of Deborah’s door. All day I got to listen to Deborah Solo negotiating, solving crises, making things happen for people with an incredible focus. She’s one of Philadelphia’s most badass women in the business community. Watching her do what she does – was the best education any one could ever have in real estate and to some degree, in life. 

Within the year I got my license to start showing houses on my own, and started to take care of everyone I knew in music and art who were scraping but dreaming of having their own place. 

Do you work with just buyers or sellers and investors too?

All of the above. Buyer’s frequently are looking to be a part of the community so that holds a special place in my heart, though sellers can come with powerful stories too. On both sides, there’s usually some chapter opening or closing – family expansion, business dream starting, marriage, a new town, or a new job. So many stories. Buildings are the stages where life unfolds, so there’s a lot of meaning, plus it’s often the biggest financial decision of a lifetime. Deborah and Angel, her husband – they both deeply appreciate the stories behind the work. So did Stanley. That care is the heartbeat of the company. 

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on? 

Too many! Fireball printing, Pizza Brain, Threshold Wellness, and the studios for Craftwork Design are some of the commercial things that made a difference to many people. On the residential side, there have been hundreds of amazing stories. People transform their rowhouses into these heart-songs. Have you seen Ken Schapira’s (North Standard Company) house? Breathtaking. 

What’s your favorite place in philly?

For Music: How can you top live opera arias over deliciousness at the Victor Cafe?

For Nature: Anywhere there’s a river or creek. Pennypack is special. 

For Food: Thang Long – best Pho’ in the City, and the Philadelphia Inquirer agrees!

What are your interests outside of real estate?

Horticulture. I’m in the gardening program at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, studying local ecosystems, native plants, and ecological gardening. Philly, if you’ve never been to Mt. Cuba, get there! It’s filled with magic woodlands and wildflower meadows.  

Coffee or Tea?

Tea. Earl Grey in summer, Ginger through the winter. 

Are you a maximalist or a minimalist? 

I like lots of old things, so there’s some museum vibe, but emptiness is important too. At Mt. Cuba they always say “right plant, right place,” and in jazz: “less is often more” but it’s challenging – especially with books! 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Plant native plants! Make homes for butterflies, birds, and bees! And, of course, If you think you’d like to own your own place or sell one, let’s make it happen!

Contact Jeff Carpineta at 215.833.6720 or email him at jeffcarpineta@gmail.com

Setting Up the 2020 PHS Flower Show “Riviera Holiday”

This Saturday is the opening day of the 2020 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show, “Riviera Holiday.” For nine days, visitors to the Flower Show will be immersed in the sights and scents of the Mediterranean Riviera through garden displays, floral arrangements, design concepts, and more.

Set-up Begins in the Philadelphia Convention Center

We visited the site of the Flower Show on Tuesday of this week and found the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center buzzing with forklifts and people. Piles of mulch surrounded soaring olive trees – shipped all the way from Southern California – and countless pots of lavender and roses huddled around displays. Garden beds were being built quite literally from the ground up, brick by brick and tile by colorful tile, as weeklong temporary homes for fig trees and succulents. 

Quaint mediterranean homes and front gardens being constructed from the ground up the week of February 24, 2020.

Some plants, including the olive trees, were shipped into Philadelphia from California, the United States’ most “Mediterranean” climate. Others, such as the lemon trees, were grown in Florida and shipped to Philadelphia. Lavender and rosemary plants were forced (which means to grow plants out of their season) in the greenhouses of PHS’s Meadowbrook Farm in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. 

The Oldest Horticultural Event In The Nation

As the oldest horticultural event in the nation, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is no stranger to the preparation it takes to create the extravagant displays that have garnered the fame of the show. Dating back to 1829, the Flower Show is one of the longest-running events in Philadelphia. This year, more than 250,000 visitors are expected to attend. Since the official start of set-up on February 19, hundreds of people (and thousands of hands) have worked around the clock to put the enormous event together. To get an idea of the scale of the gardens being built, the equivalent of 30 tractor trailers of mulch were used in the halls of the Convention Center to create “Riviera Holiday.”

On Thursday, we returned to the Flower Show to see the progress of set-up. The halls of the Convention Center looked a world of difference from Tuesday. A French-style plaza and a 25-foot olive tree welcomes visitors at the entrance of the show, with scents of sweet citrus wafting from the thousands of flowers and lemons hanging tantalizingly on garden arbors. Most of the mulch had been bedded neatly around a variety of landscape and floral exhibits: in a matter of steps, we were taken from dreamy Mediterranean fountain patio to Cinque Terre to a dark pool overlooking the French Riviera. 

Floral designers imitate the colorful homes in the steep hills of Cinque Terre, Italy.

Lemons hanging over a walkway encircling the main French plaza at the entrance of the “Riviera Holiday.”

What To See At The Flower Show This Year

New exhibits this year include an educational station on the benefits of medicinal plants, including cannabis, and a home gardening hub, where interactive seminars will take place every day, including family-friendly DIY crafts and games. The Flower Show Marketplace features over 200 vendors!

For a comprehensive overview, click here. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance! We look forward to seeing the gardens of the European Mediterranean in full bloom this coming week. 

Painstakingly constructed flower arbors at the 2020 PHS Philadelphia Flower Show.

Solo Real Estate is proud to support the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society by sponsoring the PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street, open from late April to October.