Solo Tenant Launches Zero Waste Start-Up

When Solo Real Estate tenant Leslie Davidson first saw her apartment in the historic Rittenhouse area in 2018, she was struck by the quality of light. “It was one of five apartments Solo had shown me and I knew it was the one,” she said. “It was in a brownstone with large bay windows, hardwood floors, and a great layout,” she said.  Her cats also approved.

The year before, Leslie had received a breast cancer diagnosis and gone through a romantic breakup that left her yearning for a living space that would support her personal and professional goals.

“I grew up in Ambler and returned to Philadelphia after studying fashion design and merchandising in LA. Although I had been a stylist for Michael Kors on the West Coast, I was open to a career change,” she said. Leslie took several jobs, including working as an office manager for a gardening company and teaching dance to children. 

She was gearing up for another career move when the pandemic hit and the job market dried up. As a cancer survivor, Leslie had to shelter-in-place and return to what she knew best. Using her design skills, she launched Made by Lad, an accessories company, from her dining room. Even though her apartment is considered a one-bedroom, the inclusion of a dining room provided ample space to set up her sewing machine.  Her first product was facemasks for adults and children. 

Leslie Davidson from Made by LAD works on sewing a face mask in her dining room.

What distinguishes Made by LAD facemasks from all contenders is their fuller cut and elastic under the chin which allows the wearer to talk without the mask falling or moving. Unlike most facemasks which loop around the ears, Leslie’s loop around the head, so there is none of that uncomfortable tugging on the ears.

“I came up with the design after a lot of experimentation,” she said. “My grandfather was having a lot of trouble wearing his facemask, so I designed one that would be easier to wear.” Her face masks are two-ply with a filter for extra safety. They come in solid colors, two-tone and tie-dyed. (Kids love the tie-dye option.) Adjustable elastic toggles are sold separately.

A couple wears Made by LAD face masks in a park.

Made By LAD became official in May 2020 after Leslie received an overwhelmingly positive response to the masks she was making for friends and family who said they “fit perfectly” and “made them feel safe.” She initially started the business as a way to bring in extra income to pay off her medical bills acquired from her breast cancer diagnosis, but as orders kept rolling in with no end to the pandemic in sight, she was encouraged to pursue the venture full time, so she took a leap of faith and decided to self-fund her new business.

Leslie Davidson from Made by LAD works from her dining room table while her cat oversees.

Leslie’s products not only look good, they do good. Using locally sourced, 100% natural fibers that produce zero waste, Leslie tie-dyes them in her kitchen and sews them on her dining room table. With her background in business management and a passion for sustainability and helping others, she has developed a brand that aims to not only give back to the community but encourages customers to consider the environment by using almost all biodegradable materials, from the merchandise down to the packaging.

A child looks up while wearing a Made by LAD facemask.

“The face masks are made from undyed muslin which I buy at Fleishman’s on South Fourth Street,” she said. Her facemask motto? “Masks that don’t move when you talk!” She also offers customized facemasks with monograms and embroidered messages, including, “Black Lives Matter” and “6Ft Please.”

Relying solely on her Instagram account and Made by LAD website, Leslie expanded her product line to include hair and winter accessories: oversized scrunchies, men’s and women’s hats, headbands, ear-warmers, and scarves. Hats, scarves, headbands, and ear-warmers are made from soft, thick, reversible, dead-stock cotton knit. Her most timely accessory? An embroidered “Vaccinated” status badge, perfect to sew onto a denim jacket or the back pocket of jeans.

Leslie Davidson wears her "Vaccinated" badge.

Leslie hopes to continue to grow her business long after masks are needed. Her goal is to create a sustainable athleisure brand that is able to give back to the community by continuing to purchase materials from small, local businesses and donate proceeds to communities in need whenever possible. 

For a limited time, Leslie is offering a discount code on her website for Solo friends and family. Visit Madebylad.com and use code SOLO215 for 15% off your purchase!

Featured Tenant: Doggie Style

Caring for animals is second nature to Howard Nelson, co-owner of Doggie Style Pets, the popular chain of pet stores around Philadelphia. “Growing up we always had cats and dogs, and even a few wild animals”, Howard says. His sister rescued raccoons and other wildlife, and that nurturing environment influenced the future direction of Howard’s life.

After studying business in college and receiving an MBA in Finance from Temple University, Howard started a career in mortgage finance at Fannie Mae. But about ten years ago, the founding owners of Doggie Style asked this animal-loving businessman to manage their company. Before long, Howard and his business partner, Ken Karlan, purchased the business and began expanding and improving the beloved stores.

The first Doggie Style Pets location, at 1635 Spruce Street, owned and managed by Solo Real Estate, underwent a store redesign under Howard’s leadership. Doggie Style Pets acquired space on the second floor in order to meet rising customer demand for more products and grooming services.

Pet Store Manager
Rittenhouse Square Doggie Style Manager Kevin VanRenterghem

Kevin VanRenterghem, the manager of the Spruce Street location, says “It’s wonderful being here. The customers are great and we’re busy around the clock.” The store stocks a vast supply of products for dogs, cats as well as more niche products for smaller animals. In addition to the retail and grooming services, all locations offer store-to-door delivery of their products. Quite a draw in a neighborhood like Rittenhouse, where hauling a 30lb bag of dog food up to a 4th-floor apartment can present quite a challenge.

Corner Pet Store, Doggie Style

However, Howard sought to offer the community more than just supplies and grooming services. In 2014, Howard and Ken acquired their first animal hospital, the Pet Mechanic. The veterinary center offers an impressive array of fairly-priced high-quality medical care.  The Pet Mechanic gives back to the community by providing care for homeless animals in need of adoption at Saved Me Animal Rescue. In 2015, they added a second location at 920 South Street and are now serving both the  Midtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods.

In addition to operating nine Doggie Style Pets locations and two animal hospitals, Howard also devotes time towards animals in need of rescue. Doggie Style Pets is a principal supporter and partner for Saved Me, a Philadelphia-based animal shelter and adoption center. Each Doggie Style Pets location features an adoptable pet, helping to connect nearly 1,200 animals to loving homes every year. We’re so thrilled to have such a compassionate and inventive business owner operating our space at 1635 Spruce Street and hope them much continued success in the years to come.

Pet Store Window, Doggie Style, Philadelphia

Featured Tenant: Thrive Pilates

In 2009 when Philly Power Yoga studio owner Steve Gold reached out to Hally Bayer about joining forces with a combined yoga and pilates studio, something in her said to just go for it. While at the time she had only met Gold briefly through a friend, she had been running her pilates studio out of her apartment since moving to Philadelphia from Atlanta in 2007, and the prospect of a full studio space was too exciting to turn town. Bayer quickly found a home away from home at Solo Realty’s 2016 Walnut Street space just off Rittenhouse Square, and the unbeatable combo of Philly Power Yoga & Thrive Pilates was born.


One of the biggest issues confronting city fitness facilities is space. There’s almost never enough of it. Despite the constraints that might come with locating in such a dense and busy hub, Bayer has managed to build a comprehensive pilates and fitness program. In addition to pilates she coordinates classes in meditation, barre, and cardio with around twenty teachers. The combination of all these different class options along with Gold’s yoga practice is one of the huge draws of Thrive Pilates.



Neighborhood residents, office workers and commuters on their lunch break, and people from all around the city flock to the beautiful and well equipped Rittenhouse studio to get their mind and body wellness fix.


Despite having grown so quickly and expanding to offer a wide range of classes, Bayer remains committed to maintaining small class sizes. She knows everyone’s name and, beyond that, truly takes an interest in the lives of her fellow teachers and students. This is evident as she walks me through the space, showing me around, introducing me to everyone we encounter, and breaking off on countless tangents inquiring about recent vacations, life developments, and more. Bayer embodies the very warmth that she also seeks to establish in her studio space.



This connectivity and community underlies Bayer’s vision for the studio. As a home away from home, the space exists as a community in and of itself, and a kind, friendly place of nurturing. The goal is for everyone to feel welcome and to thrive at Thrive Pilates.


Not only does Bayer epitomize this welcoming, nurturing nature and instill this in her teachers and students, the space at 2016 Walnut plays an important role in establishing this tone as well. The old building is full of quirkiness and character. The coziness that comes from old spaces with wood floors creates an immediate sense of warmth and comfort. The huge windows are also a major asset, allowing plenty of natural light to flow into the space.



In order to have a fulfilling practice for both mind and body, it is imperative that all people feel comfortable in the space. It is obvious why Philly Power Yoga & Thrive Pilates is one of the most popular studios in the area – beyond the amazing repertoire of classes, this is a place you truly want to spend time in. It’s a space full of positivity of all kinds that encourages each individual to thrive in their own way.


We at Solo Realty love having such amazing tenants in our Rittenhouse building at 2016 Walnut Street. Bayer and the rest of the team at Thrive Pilates are such a boon to the Rittenhouse neighborhood and the Philadelphia community as a whole. Check out their website for information on classes designed for students of all shapes, sizes, and levels of experience.  


Featured Tenant: Kei Sushi

The co-owners of Kei Sushi put the concept of family into everything they do. That is why they’ve built a small, close knit staff at their newly opened Japanese restaurant in Philadelphia’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood. This is also why the duo were drawn to this neighborhood in the first place, because everyone was so friendly and really made them feel welcome. The importance of family is why co-owners Yenyta Winata and Hartadi Tjahja were attracted to Solo Realty, a family-owned and run real estate company. Finally, that is why, when you walk through the doors of Kei Sushi at 1711 South Street, you, too, will be welcomed as if you were family.


Co-owners Yenyta Winata (left) and Hartadi Tjahja (right) pose in front of their custom Kei sign

After over fourteen years in the restaurant business, jumping back and forth from Philadelphia to New York City, Yenyta quit her job and made a decisive move back to Philadelphia in the form of a business plan to open Kei Sushi with her close friend, Hartadi, a long time South Philadelphia resident. Hartadi moved to Philadelphia from Jakarta, Indonesia when he was around eighteen and has resided in the city ever since.


Both co-owners love Philadelphia for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Compared to the crowded and fast paced cities of New York City and Jakarta, Philadelphia is a breath of fresh air. The two were drawn to Graduate Hospital in particular because of how welcoming everyone is and the high volume of young people eager to dine-out in the burgeoning BYOB restaurant scene in the area.


Before settling on Southwest Center City, Yenyta and Hartadi looked with their agent Daniel from Berkshire Hathaway for a suitable commercial space for almost two years. They looked all around the city too, ranging from Germantown, University City, and Fishtown.


When they finally came across 1711 South Street the owners were not immediately convinced. The space was only a barebones office at that point, with an unfinished basement and no kitchen. Yet, charmed by the surrounding community, Yenyta and Hartadi decided to take the plunge.  


Now came the hard part – renovating the space and customizing it to achieve the warm and welcoming atmosphere the owners were after. The pair dreamed up most of the design work on their own, and executed the job with the help of a contractor. The custom sign and woodwork shelving in the walls is exquisite, and with just 24 seats, plus 4 at the sushi bar, an intimate atmosphere is established. In some ways being at Kei Sushi feels like you are in your own living room, in other ways it’s like being in a sleek, innovative new restaurant. “We just want people to come in and feel comfortable,” remarks Hartadi.


Working with Solo agents Alex Franqui and Sean Rapp made the process a lot easier for the pair. They both agree that the two agents could not have been more patient and resourceful in helping them fit out this commercial space to achieve their aesthetic vision, not to mention all of the technical requirements for a restaurant. Alex and Sean remained supportive through the entire undertaking until, ultimately, Kei Sushi was ready to open.



Run to perfection by a small staff, Kei Sushi puts out some of the most delicately crafted and uniquely flavored sushi in Philadelphia. Blending traditional Japanese preparations with modern influence, the menu offers a wide array of options that are sure to please and excite any Japanese cuisine enthusiast.


After we finished talking no one would let me leave until I took my spot at the sushi counter and indulged in a full spread, prepared by sushi chef Robin, and Yenyta, who in addition to being a co-owner is also an accomplished chef. There is no denying the quality of the sushi at Kei, and that quality is only deepened by the friendly and unique atmosphere in the restaurant, created by both the space and the staff who really do seem more like family than mere co-workers.


We are certainly excited to have Kei Sushi as one of our tenants at Solo Realty. The restaurant and the team behind it are an excellent addition to the Graduate Hospital neighborhood and Philadelphia as a whole.