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New Digs: Sharne & Jan swap Francisville for a new condo in Mount Airy

Sharne and Jan Algotsson loved the Francisville condo they bought in 2014. It was a modern, three-story Trinity condominium with a dynamite view of Philly’s skyline from its two-tier roof deck. But they eventually started to long for a home more suited to their empty-nester lifestyle. 

“New buildings had sprouted up on either side of us and our small street became densely packed. We realized we were the oldest residents in the area and our needs had changed,” said Sharne, a semi-retired interior designer who previously had a shop on Antique Row. Her husband Jan is a retired carpenter and contractor.

Their biggest complaint? “We were there for seven years with no parking. Some nights we had to park several blocks from our home,” said Sharne.

This was not the Algotssons first move. Far from it. “I grew up in Southwest Philly and met my Swedish husband when he was an exchange student here in the 1970s,” said Sharne.

“Besides Francisville, we’ve lived in East Oak Lane, Stockholm, Wash. DC, and Northern Liberties. We are city people and we were open to many different neighborhoods from South Philly to East Falls.”

Solo Real Estate agent, Alex Franqui, listed the Algotssons’ Francisville condo and helped them find a new home after it was under contract. “It was the second place Alex showed us,” said Sharne. “We had been prepared to rent a furnished apartment if we couldn’t find a place to buy in time, but as soon as we saw this new condo on a quiet little tree-lined street in Mt. Airy – we were sold,” she said. It all happened pretty quickly. They went to closing and settlement on the same day and moved in on that afternoon.

Their new home features an open plan living/dining room/kitchen on the first floor, three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a roof deck The deal was sealed by the floor-to-ceiling food pantry closet and a carport with hydraulic connections.

Besides being over 200sq. feet larger than their former abode, their new home feels more spacious and lighter due to the bright southern exposure, and open floor plan. “I can cook in the kitchen while looking through the floating plank stairs to the living room and dining area,” said Sharne who has already discovered Weavers Way Coop, a local food coop and coveted neighborhood organic food emporium.

What does she like best? “Because of the layout, each of us has our own bathroom on the second floor. It was Jan’s idea,” she said gleefully. 

Their home is just footsteps from Mt. Airy’s lively shopping, theater and restaurant district on Germantown Avenue and five minutes from the fine dining, upscale shops and farmers’ markets of Chestnut Hill. A historic neighborhood known for its cultural diversity, green spaces and street fairs, Mt. Airy has a small-town vibe with Big City cred. Proof? There’s a yoga studio on every block and former Four Season’s Chef David Jansen chose to open his acclaimed namesake eatery here in an 18th-century cottage.

Before their WiFi was connected, Sharne and Jan gravitated to an internet cafe just a block away. If they don’t feel like cooking, within that same block, they can choose from Italian, Mexican, American, or Vegetarian cuisine or grab a stool at McMenamin’s, a bar where “everybody knows your name” and the Angus burgers are as big as your face.

La piece de resistance? “Jan was a hiker and now he walks in Valley Green,” said Sharne referring to the nearby woodsy northwestern tip of Fairmount Park, a favorite with hikers, bikers, dog walkers, and equestrians, in addition to being a popular brunch spot.

“It’s still the City,” said Sharne, “But we wake up to the sound of birds.”

Ray’s Reusables Brings Sustainable Shopping to Northern Liberties

In March, Ray Daly opened her first brick and mortar store, Ray’s Reusables, at 935 N. 2nd St in Northern Liberties after running her business on the road as Philadelphia’s first mobile refill shop.

“In 2020, I turned a cargo van into a traveling eco-store, bringing reusable, low-waste products to farmers’ markets in East Falls and Fairmount,” said Daly. In her white van, decorated with Ginko leaves, Ray’s Reusables was well received.

“With the flexibility and mobility of the van, I was able to go into different neighborhoods around the city, making sustainable shopping easier for eco-conscious Philadelphians,” she said. 

“But there were neighborhoods I could not reach due to many farmers’ markets limiting vendors to producers and also the narrowness of streets in certain sections of the City,” she said. Meanwhile, residents of Northern Liberties and Fishtown sought her out via Instagram. 

Refill station at Ray’s Reusables in Northern Liberties

“As soon as I opened the shop in Northern Liberties, they came,” said Daly. “Among the most popular products are UNpaper towels made out of cotton flannel in fun patterns,” she said. “The other products that are in demand are refills: organic hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, and body wash.” Other products include a cast iron conditioner, beeswax wrap, rosewater face cream, bamboo cutlery and brushes, natural toothpaste, and an all-purpose cleaner.

Why sustainability?

“Plastic production has increased dramatically since it first came on the scene. Between 1950 and 2019, approximately, 8.3 billion pounds of plastic were created. Only 9% of that total has been recycled. 79% is in landfills and, worse yet, in our oceans and other ecosystems,” said Daly. “I believe that as consumers we have the power to effect change. By investing in quality reusable and refillable solutions we also invest in the health of the environment.”

How it all started

A self-described “Air Force brat” who grew up in Maryland, Daly has traveled all over the world but, before moving to Philly in 2018, she had never lived in a large American city. 

“I came here with my husband whose family lives across the bridge in Jersey,” she said. “I had been teaching high school English in Maryland and working at Whole Foods when I decided to go in another direction.“

“I started by turning the pockets from my old jeans into something useful and beautiful – cutlery holders! But as I watched the pandemic unfold and saw the waste that was being created as a result, I realized I wanted to do even more to support the sustainable community. That’s why I decided to open up Philadelphia’s first mobile refill shop.”

Daly seized the moment, realizing that during the pandemic people preferred to shop outdoors rather than entering a shop. Farmers’ markets created the perfect opportunity. “My mission was to make plastic-free options accessible and affordable to people regardless of where they live in the City.”

“Now that I have a storefront, it gives me a lot more flexibility in what I can carry. I just expanded to face care refills and curly hair gel,” said Daly. Besides basing her business in Northern Liberties, Daly is looking forward to becoming a neighborhood resident in the near future.

The new brick-and-mortar location shop allows Ray to stock a wider array of products, and reach a new audience but on Saturdays and First Fridays, Daly will continue to take the shop on the road. Her goal? To make sustainable options more accessible for all.

Stop by 935 N. 2nd St to support this sustainable small business during their store hours Mon, Wed, Fri: 11am – 7pm; Saturday: 3pm – 6pm; and Sunday: 10am – 4 pm, or check out their calendar to see where the van will pop up next.