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

Solo Property Houses Indego Bike Share HQ

Philadelphia’s new bike share program, Indego, is launching this week! The program found the perfect home for its headquarters in a South Kensington property rented from a family partnership of Deborah Solo, Angel and Alex Franqui of Solo Real Estate.


Learn about the unique warehouse/office space hybrid they’ve created in the building to accommodate Indego’s diverse needs.


Peter Hoban, COO at Bicycle Transit Systems and General Manager of Indego, was struggling to find the perfect building to house the headquarters for Indego.


The building had to be inside the station map area: Tasker Street to Temple, Delaware River to 45th Street. In addition to office space for some 20 staff, it needed to be big enough to house 5-10% of the initial 600-bike fleet, with room to grow.



The room that will be used for bike maintenance (left) features one of the many skylights Solo installed in the building. A large storage/warehouse space (right) comprises the rear half of the building

Then, on Craigslist, Hoban found it: a small warehouse in South Kensington owned by Deborah Solo, Angel and Alex Franqui. The family worked with Hoban and Indego every step of the way from obtaining a use variance for light industrial and commercial use, to retrofitting the space to create the ideal hybrid of warehouse and industrial-chic office space.

Open-concept office space (left) currently being built-out, and the kitchen-in-progress (right) featuring yet another skylight

The arrangement is a win-win-win, the third win being for the neighborhood. South Kensington gains 20 new jobs from the Indego headquarters, which will also result in 20 new patrons for local businesses.
The neighborhood will also benefit from the activation of a building that has been unoccupied since 1983, including more lighting at night and the addition of security cameras.
No wonder the project received overwhelming support from the local Registered Community Organizations (RCOs), South Kensington Community Partners and Olde Kensington Neighbors Association.

Solo is extremely excited for the launch of Philadelphia’s bike share, and honored to have the opportunity to help implement the program!

Indego officially launches this Thursday (April 23rd). Attend the launch party and ride-off at Eakins Oval at 11:30am that day.