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Flo McIlwaine calls herself a professional Instagram stalker. She means this as a joke, but it’s at least partially true. Social media is how she found most of the the women who appear in the photos for her new business, she said, along with inviting folks she knew IRL, and even roping in her associate’s mom.

All the searching came to fruition in March, when McIlwaine and longtime friend Kate Sisk launched Hidden Intimates, a lingerie catalog that purposely features people of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages.

With a mission that focuses on telling stories instead of presenting a manufactured idea of beauty, Hidden Intimates channels the current thinking around undergarment fashion. Sales of push-up bras have plummeted in recent years, falling 50% in 2017 and continuing to flatline as wireless sports bras or bralettes have surged, according to market research firm Edited.

People are realizing “it’s ok just to have your boobs look like your boobs,” said McIlwaine, who grew up helping her mother run a line of clothing boutiques in her native Nigeria.

A free event at Positano Coast in Society Hill on Sunday will let people see and feel the pieces in person, as well as provide Kate and Flo, both 28, a chance to talk up their new company.

“The industry is changing,” said Sisk, who was raised in South Jersey and now lives in Philly’s Queen Village neighborhood. “Victoria’s Secret is closing stores. A lot of that is because of the marketing — those models are unrealistic. What we wanted to say to women and people wearing our items is that you’re beautiful the way you are.”

Tapping into the zeitgeist is a skill the partners honed during their time at Anthropologie, one of the chains owned by Philadelphia-based fashion giant URBN.

McIlwaine fell for the brand when she got a job there during college in Madison, Wisc. In the fitting room, she got a thrill helping customers build out their look with advice about styles and accessories — just like she watched her mom do as a kid. On graduation, her manager suggested she apply to work at company HQ. When she arrived in Philly in 2013 after being hired as a buyer, she was sent to learn from a mentor. That mentor? Kate Sisk.

“She decided to take me under her wing, let me shadow her,” McIlwaine said of Sisk. “After that we just got along, started hanging out.”

Turning the dream into reality

As fast friends, the duo had plenty of fun. Even after they both left Anthropologie for other jobs, Kate and Flo remained close. They laughed about Sisk’s turn on the reality show “Married at First Sight,” and took vacations together to places like Miami, Paris and Myrtle Beach.

Through it all, they also shared a secret passion: to one day own their own boutique.

Over the years, they would trade success stories and thoughts on best practices, and have long discussions about “a new era” of entrepreneurship. Then one night at dinner last year, they had a moment. Discussing a common acquaintance who had just launched her own business, they decided to take the plunge. Said McIlwaine: “It was the time to make our dream a reality.”

They spent about nine months doing competitive market analysis and other research, Sisk said. After looking at options for funding, the partners decided to start with a simple line of credit, which they flexed to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to get things off the ground.

Outside investments would have been great, and they’re still open to investors who want to help the business — “Put that in the article!” said McIlwaine, laughing — but they also hope others will be inspired by the knowledge that the project was bootstrapped.

It wasn’t about being cheap, they stressed. All of the found “models” in the photos on the HI site and the photographers who snapped them were paid for their time. The same philosophy about fair compensation informs what brands Hidden Intimates sells.

Along with decisions about lingerie color, texture and cut, “We consider who is making them,” Sisk explained. One of their favorite manufacturers is run by a woman who expressly hires other women at higher wages than standard for the garment industry in Vietnam, for example. A second is run by another Anthropologie alum — with whom Kate and Flo eventually hope to partner to create a custom line.

For now, they’re just working to gain traction in a crowded market. If you’ve ever explored buying underwear online, you know how quickly your Instagram feed fills up with bra and panty purveyors.

But things are going well. Since launching three months ago, Hidden Intimates has sold about 50 pieces to people from all over North America. One person ordered from Texas, and another from Canada. On trend, the most popular item is the “everyday lace bralette,” which has no wires and sells for $18 a pop. Each one gets shipped by hand from McIlwaine’s house in Atlanta, where she still works a day job as a buyer for Home Depot.

A few years back, Flo’s mother left Nigeria and immigrated to the U.S., where she watches the developing startup with obvious pride.

“She was very involved, a support system,” McIlwaine said. She recently overheard her mother talking on the phone. “I am not surprised,” said Flo’s mom about her daughter following in her fashion-oriented footsteps. “Not one bit.”

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The incoming heat wave had only started to tease Philadelphia on Thursday morning, but the 85-degree thermometer reading was already paired with an uncomfortable dose of humidity.

In Logan Square, Carrie Wagner and Owen Riordan were working their way around the park.

Not everyone accepted the icy bottles of water they offered, but some did. Fewer took them up on the suggestion to come back with them to a shelter, where air conditioning would provide a respite from the sweltering air.

With the mercury forecast to reach the high 90s, bringing “feels like” temps up to 113 degrees, the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for the region, and the city extended a heat health emergency through Monday evening.

For Philly’s homeless population, that means a Code Red is in effect — and outreach workers are scrambling to get them inside.

On regular weekends, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and the Office of Homeless Services typically deploy one or two groups of workers. But this weekend, they’re sending out four team, all-in-all quadrupling the number of people on the street.

Carrie Wagner gave out water bottles and lists of cooling centers on Thursday morning. Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

The effort is done strategically, with staff sent to specific city-identified “hot spots” where homeless Philadelphians are most often found. Billy Penn rode along with a team dispatched to the Ben Franklin Parkway to see the workers in action.

“Our main goal is that people don’t die on the street,” said Wagner, a multi-year veteran of the summertime effort. “We want to make sure they’re as safe as they can be.”

Basically the opposite of a Code Blue, a Code Red kicks in when the temperature surpasses 95 degrees for at least two days in a row.

At last count, there were more than 1,000 people experiencing homelessness on Philly’s streets. And for them, the excessive heat can be just as dangerous as the cold.

“Because the temperature is expected to be so high, we’re worried,” said Bridgette Tobler, manager of homeless outreach at DBHIDS. “The more hands, the better.”

The homeless outreach van was stocked with two cases of water on Thursday. Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Workers understand the pressure to get people inside — and fast — so they don’t suffer serious heat-related injury (think heat stroke or intense sunburns). They also understand you can’t force anyone to accept services, and if you try, you might do more harm than good.

“We’re encouraging folks to engage in safe behavior during the heat,” Wagner said. “We know a lot of our folks are pretty vulnerable, so we like to try to check in during the hot weather.”

It’s a time-consuming process. In the two hours that Riordan and Wagner were out on Thursday, they only got time to visit that one Logan Square hot spot. They spoke to about a dozen people staying there, and provided only one with shelter services.

That one person alone took almost 45 minutes to engage. Once the team realized she was willing to accept help, they called a different street outreach team that could handle intake. As they waited, the workers stayed with her to keep her comfortable.

The outreach team recommended folks remove layers and sit in the shade. Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Of course, Wagner would love if everyone accepted shelter in advance of the heat. But some people just won’t — maybe because they’ve had bad experiences with homeless shelters or crowds, or the building’s in a neighborhood far from their familiar surroundings.

“Success for homeless outreach can be defined in different ways,” Riordan said. “Obviously a bed placement, that’s a pretty big one. But also just knowing people are OK, seeing people dressed appropriately for the weather, sitting in the shade, those are kind of successes too.”

The duo handed out water and lists of cooling centers, and encouraged folks to sit in the shade and remove some layers of clothing. Meanwhile, they asked people’s names and where they’re sleeping — hoping to form lasting, trusting relationships for the future.

“It’s always worth it,” Riordan added. “Every single time it’s worth it. Even if you walk over 15 times and they tell you to go to hell, you still go over and try. Because you never know.”

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Originally published June 2018; updated July 2019

Over the past decade, the unassuming display of classic cars tucked into an industrial section of Southwest Philly has received plenty of accolades.

Established in 2008, the Simeone Foundation has won dozens of awards for its historic vehicles, and it has twice been called “International Automotive Museum of the Year.”

But the latest nods have surprised even the museum’s founder, Philadelphia neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Simeone. The board of the prestigious, Liechtenstein-based Classic Car Trust in 2018 ranked Simeone No. 2 on the list of the world’s 100 most significant collectors. This year, he’s all alone at the top — No. 1 in the world.

“That really was a big deal,” said Simeone. He considered the various names over whom he’s ranked, and chuckled.

“You have Ralph Lauren, Sam Walton from Walmart, Peter Sachs from Goldman Sachs, Tony Wang from Computer Associates — and me, from Kensington.”

Dr. Fred Simeone Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

While the other collectors on the list are billionaires who own their car collections outright, Simeone, who got his medical degree at Temple and worked at CHOP until his retirement, is different.

Each of his 70 historically notable racing sports cars weren’t necessarily worth much when he acquired them — especially since he purposely seeks out original vehicles that need a lot of work — but the collection he began amassing as a young man is now worth a tidy sum. However, it has been fully donated to the foundation.

“I have a funny attitude of transferring wealth to family,” Simeone explained. “I think there’s a point where it’s just too much — it has gone beyond what any one person should own.” His adult daughter agrees with him, he noted.

Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

What Simeone really craves, as a collector, is other people appreciating and learning about his collection.

Despite concerted outreach efforts, museum attendance has never been optimal. There were a few big splashes at the start, thanks to articles in the New York Times and elsewhere, but nowadays not many people come through the doors.

“The number of visitors has not grown over the years,” Simeone said. “It kind of plateau’d at a really low number.”

That means the impressive “spirit of competition” display that traces street racing history over the past century, and artfully weaves it into discourse about human evolution and the development of society, reaches far fewer eyes than it could — especially young eyes, the minds behind which Simeone believes can be inspired by the concept of striving to be the best.

Location is part of the issue. The museum is in a former warehouse in an industrial section of the city just north of the airport. Closest public transportation is a bus stop that’s a good 10 minutes away.

However, it’s necessary to provide space for one of the museum’s key components: live demonstration days.

1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

All of the Simeone Foundation cars have their original parts, but all are also still in working order. Every two weeks, members of the staff and 70-person volunteer team take several of them out for an actual spin — and the public is invited to watch. Usually around 150 people show up to watch, per operations supervisor Chris Webb.

Webb has been working at the foundation for around three years. His favorite part is how tightly focused the collection is. “You can go to other museums and see random cars,” he said, “but here we tell a story.”

Getting that story to a broader audience is Dr. Simeone’s next undertaking.

Part of the reason the Classic Car Trust ranked him so highly on its global list, he believes, is because the foundation does already have an established educational side, complete with a large on-site library. Simeone is eager for this part of the project to grow.

Last summer, the museum hosted its first-ever summer camp for area youths. Cosmetic work is planned for the outside of warehouse, so that the building is an attractive destination that kids end up begging their parents to see.

“We want this to be a friendly place for youngsters,” Simeone explained. “We’d love this to be a stop on every kids’ day trip — and a home for STEAM learning in Philadelphia.”

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $8-$12.

1909 AMERICAN UNDERSLUNG TRAVELER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1912 NATIONAL MODEL 40 SEMI-RACING ROADSTER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1913 MERCER RACEABOUT Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1926 KISSEL 8-75 SPEEDSTER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1927 MERCEDES BENZ S-TYPE SPORTWAGEN Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1927 BENTLEY 3 LITRE SPEED MODEL Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1928 STUTZ BB BLACK HAWK SPEEDSTER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1929 DUPONT LE MANS SPEEDSTER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1931 BENTLEY 4.5 LITRE SUPERCHARGED TOURER BY VANDEN PLAS Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1933 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2300 MILLE MIGLIA SPYDER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1936/48 DELAHAYE 135S/175S Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1937 SUPERCHARGED CORD 812 Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1937 BMW 328 Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1937 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2900A Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1938 FORD COUPE LOUISE SMITH REPLICA Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1953 HUDSON HORNET TWIN H-POWER Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
1963 CHEVROLET CORVETTE GRAND SPORT Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
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If you walk into a Starbucks bathroom in Philadelphia, there’s a chance you could find yourself bathed in blue light. Don’t look around for the lava lamps. It’s not a 1970s throwback — it’s an effort to discourage customers from injecting drugs there.

At least, that’s the apparent reason the coffee giant would swap out standard yellow bulbs for those with a cobalt hue.

Blue lights have been deployed for years to deter people from using intravenous drugs. The glow masks the blue-tinted lines of veins beneath skin, making it much harder to find one and inject. In 2018, the bulbs gained popularity in retail locations around the country.

A Billy Penn survey of six Center City Starbucks locations turned up two bathrooms bathed in blue light: one at 10th and Chestnut, and one at Broad and Pine. Folks on Facebook have reported another at the Broad and Snyder outpost.

This development comes just over a year after Starbucks changed company policy to open its restrooms to everyone, including people who haven’t bought anything.

Starbucks spokesperson Bailey Adkins wouldn’t confirm much about the blue lights — not when, where, how or why they’ve been installed.

“There’s the expectation that everyone behaves in a way that respects that community,” she said in answer to repeated queries about the lights. “We at Starbucks are committed to creating that environment where everybody feels welcome and valued and respected.”

Addiction recovery advocates say blue bulbs do the opposite for people who inject.

“It’s not, ‘We want to welcome them,'” said Devin Reaves, executive director of the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition. “It’s, ‘We want to push them into the shadows.'”

Starbucks appears to recognize how people may be using the bathrooms. It has installed syringe drop boxes in many of them at Philly stores — giving people who inject a place to dispose of their used equipment.

Allison Herens, Philadelphia’s harm reduction coordinator, told KYW Newsradio last year that this is a clear response to the opioid epidemic. All six of the surveyed Center City stores had a syringe drop box installed.

A syringe dropbox in a Center City Starbucks Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn Are the blue lights effective? Unclear

The cafe chain isn’t the first to try the blue light strategy to cope with Philly’s addiction epidemic. City government handed out bulbs to Kensington residents starting in January of 2018, meant to be installed outside their homes to shoo away people who use drugs.

“This is not to get them to stop using drugs,” city spokesperson Alicia Taylor told Billy Penn at the time. “This is in response to neighbors who were upset about people using on their front steps.”

Philly’s addiction crisis is among the worst in the nation. Though overdose deaths dipped slightly in the city from two years ago, the 2018 total was still enormous: 1,116 people died due to accidental overdoses. A local nonprofit is working to combat the problem by opening an overdose prevention site in the city, despite backlash from U.S. Attorney William McSwain.

When it comes to blue lights as an effective deterrent, experts aren’t really on board.

A Harm Reduction Journal report from 2013 says the lights are unlikely to deter people from using intravenous drugs. People will likely still use as they originally planned — but the reduced visibility can cause injury, like “abscess and damage to veins.”

The research also shows that light bulbs further stigmatize drug use and manifest as “symbolic violence” against people with addiction.

Even if the bulbs succeed in pushing out people who want to inject, recovery expert Reaves said that’s a dangerous strategy.

“I would rather see somebody use drugs in a Starbucks where if they did, God forbid, experience an overdose, that somebody could get to them, Narcan them and save their lives,” he said. “As opposed to someone shooting up in a back alley or an abandoned house.”

Philadelphia’s Health Department is still giving out blue light bulbs to neighbors who ask for them, according to spokesperson Jim Garrow, but only until the supply runs out. After that, the city will reevaluate the strategy’s effectiveness, he said.

“The opioid epidemic is unprecedented,” Garrow said, “and the city is willing to try a variety of tactics to help support those with opioid use disorder.”

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Billy Penn is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow at @BrokeInPhilly.

Running a small business is never easy. Even after 11 years, Allegra Derengowski can’t count the number of financial challenges she faces.

As the founder of Birchtree Catering, which runs out of a shared space in Frankford, Derengowski said she’s constantly trying to scrape together enough cash to cover things like paying off her startup debt or hiring experienced staff.

“That’s kind of a trap that a small business can fall into,” she said. “We didn’t start with any capital, we just built it up. So we’re just trying to make it work.”

Derengowski knows others are in the same boat. Embedded in Philly’s community of entrepreneurs, she’s on the board of the Sustainable Business Network, a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and an alum of various courses at the Enterprise Center in West Philly.

Through all of this, she’s noticed a phenomenon that she finds problematic:

There seems to be a lot of funding available for small business “growth,” but what about those who have struggled to learn the business and need financial help to keep surviving?

Derengowski submitted that question to Billy Penn via Broke is Listening, our series asking people what they wonder about economic mobility in the city.

In advance of the Broke in Philly reporting collaborative’s free event called Funding the Hustle, set for Thursday, July 18, at the University City Science Center’s Venture Cafe, we explored Derengowski’s question.

Here are some answers, and a list of ways for established biz owners to access capital they need.

If it’s not ‘new and exciting,’ financial help is hard

Do startups have access to more independent funds than already-existing businesses?

Judy Wicks, founder of the Sustainable Business Network, told Billy Penn she hasn’t personally noticed this phenomenon — but she wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

“It probably is the case, that they don’t get the attention because it’s not new and exciting,” said Wicks, who launched the original White Dog Cafe and cofounded Urban Outfitters, back when the fashion behemoth was itself a small business. “It’s the sickness of the brand of capitalism.”

Wicks goes out of her way to support Philly’s stock of established shops. She runs the Circle of Aunts & Uncles, which offers low-interest loans and social capital to entrepreneurs that have been open for at least six months, no less.

Her program gives priority to women and people of color — sorely needed in Philly, which ranks ninth out of the 10 biggest cities for minority ownership.

“We try to support local entrepreneurs already building our economy,” Wicks said. “Those are the kinds of businesses I value.”

Another Philly program has a similar focus. The Merchant’s Fund offers “stabilization grants” from $500 to $10,000, only open for entrepreneurs that have been in the game for at least three years.

As one of few easy-to-find funding sources for toddler-aged businesses, the application process is admittedly crowded.

“There is no guarantee of an award,” the website reads. “We recommend that merchants explore other funding sources simultaneously to the grant application process.”

Are there any city funds available?

So the private grant game is competitive. What’s the city got to give?

Per Department of Commerce spokesperson Kevin Lessard, there aren’t really any public grants — for new or existing businesses. But there are other opportunities that might help:

And if you’re looking for something from the city that’s not on that list, you could try contacting a business services manager, who’s assigned to help businesses navigate city services. (They’re also bilingual, BTW.)

All that’s well and good, said catering company owner Derengowski, but she still wishes there were more general cash advances available for long-term businesses — instead of funding programs allotted for specific uses.

Still, she said, it’s progress.

“I will say I think the city has changed a lot in the last 10 years, in terms of having available resources,” Derengowski said. “Things are getting much much better than when I started out.”

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Updated 9:40 p.m.

After nearly two centuries in the news business, The Philadelphia Inquirer has just five years left — unless it makes major changes to turn things around.

That’s the official view from the top of Philly’s paper of record, laid out in a strategic memo last month that references the state of the American newspaper industry. Collectively, revenue has plummeted more than 70% since peaking in 2005. Since then, more than 1,800 U.S. local and metro outlets have shut down completely, while others are limping along with decimated staff.

So the “five years” assessment, while harsh, is not necessarily unrealistic. How the turnaround should be effected is a separate issue, one that has led to tumult and unrest in the Delaware Valley’s largest newsroom.

Over the past few weeks, the Inquirer has undergone a restructuring that saw it shed nearly 40 employees out of a total of around 1,000. While a couple of those departures were voluntary, the majority were buyouts, and another handful were outright layoffs. A few other staffers have been moved to new positions within the company.

In a letter to staff on Monday, Inquirer management acknowledged the difficulty of the process, while putting an optimistic spin on the organization’s future.

“The good news is that a lot of work has been done already and we’ll be able to move relatively quickly,” said the letter. “We think the changes ahead will make our journalism even stronger, and better position us to dramatically expand our audience and our subscriber base.”

The union that represents Inquirer workers pushed back hard against the recent tactics.

NewsGuild leaders wrote earlier this month that “this process of cutting employees … undermines morale in a workplace that needs all the fight it can muster to survive in this brutally competitive environment.”

Thirty of the jobs eliminated were via buyouts. Framed as “voluntary separation packages,” the offers provided 24 weeks of pay, plus transitional medical coverage, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. While fewer than 30 people opted in at first, management was able to convince additional staffers last week, achieving what they insisted was an unflinching target.

One of the highest-profile buyout adopters was controversial columnist Stu Bykofsky, who penned his final column last week. He left after 47 years, most of them at the Inquirer’s former sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News.

Another six people in non-union positions were laid off directly when their jobs were eliminated because of restructuring, said Inquirer Director of Editorial Marketing Evan Benn.

That restructuring, as part of a strategy that puts the focus on growing digital revenue, also led to a handful of reassignments. Approximately five or fewer employees accepted a move to a different position in order to keep their jobs, according to Benn.

Keeping people quiet

Even if those who were reassigned or bought out are angry or frustrated about the hand they were dealt, you’re unlikely to hear much griping.

Though management would not confirm, citing legal restrictions around contracts, there’s reportedly strict non-disparagement language in the separation agreements. According to one person affected, if people want to keep their buyout benefits, they not only must refrain from complaining, but must also go back and scrub their social media accounts of statements framing the Inquirer in a negative light.

The 300-plus-member NewsGuild that represents all non-management newsroom staff plus employees in other departments has been loud, however. Union representatives have not responded to Billy Penn’s requests for comment.

In mid-June, union members marched through the newsroom and physically handed management a petition decrying the job reduction plan. Later that month, hundreds of NewsGuild members attended a public picketing rally outside the Inquirer office at 8th and Market streets.

One of the union’s main points of contention relates to the salaries of top brass, both at the Inquirer itself and the nonprofit that runs it under the unique ownership structure set up by philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest before his death last year.

According to the nonprofit’s 2017 IRS filings, a host of officers, consultants, and upper management continue to be paid big bucks. At least half a dozen pulled in more than $250,000, per a report from Big Trial — even as the company sounded a dire alarm and pushed back against the union’s pleas for fewer staff cuts.

A strategy built around reader engagement

The cuts were more about strategic focus than specific monetary amounts, if one reads into the Inquirer’s carefully worded public statements on the matter.

“Listening to our readers and understanding what they respond to means that we have to make continuous adjustments to what we cover, while also confronting the economic realities facing our industry,” Benn, the Inquirer spokesperson, told Billy Penn.

Benn has pointed out that there have also been several dozen hires over the past year. That’s all part of the company’s rejiggering to focus on growing digital revenue and strengthening its online position — which was also the thinking behind the rebranding of Philly.com to Inquirer.com earlier this year.

The newsroom restructuring is happening in conjunction with newsroom editors, he said, who have been “collaborating on ways to best match our outstanding journalism with the audiences we serve.”

In determining which coverage and stories best serve those audiences, management looks at several engagement factors, including:

  • The number of people who subscribe directly after reading a story
  • How much time readers spend on a post
  • How often readers click through to other parts of the site
  • Also considered: social shares, search results, and other undisclosed metrics

Some older journalists, speaking on background, expressed skepticism that online engagement could lead to financial stability. But building a business around digital subscriptions has been working for several other news outlets, including The New York Times and The Boston Globe.

In its strategy memo last month, the Inquirer targeted a “North Star” figure of $95 million in digital revenue, which it said would make up the majority of its income.

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As Philadelphia police leadership deals with fallout over the Facebook scandal, the department has made an unprecedented release of disciplinary records linked to hundreds of officers whose social media posts have come under fire.

The newly released records detail civilian complaint histories for 309 of the 323 active-duty Philadelphia officers who also appeared in a database of racist or otherwise offensive Facebook posts.

The database, published last month, spurred nationwide outrage and led to dozens of officers being taken off street duty. District Attorney Larry Krasner warned that an unknown number of police could end up being barred from testifying at criminal trials.

Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, spokesman for the PPD, said the latest release of disciplinary records is the largest such disclosure in departmental history.

“As best as I can determine, we have not released this volume of [civilian complaint] numbers pursuant to a singular request,” Kinebrew said.

The records were obtained through an information request filed by WHYY and Billy Penn. They show that 153 of the officers who appeared in the Facebook database, compiled by a group called the Plain View Project, accrued at least one civilian complaint since 2015. Some of the officers have been previously identified for their extensive complaint histories.

In total, civilians lodged 338 complaints against this group of officers in the past five years. They alleged misconduct ranging from minor departmental violations to purportedly criminal acts.

However, 160 other officers named in the Facebook database had not received any civilian complaints at all. The department did not release records for 14 other officers, asserting that they could not be located.

Of those cited in the latest release, 12th District Officer Marc B. Marchetti tops the list. The patrolman has been named in 16 different civilian complaints since 2015 — about one complaint every three to four months. In that same period, the vast majority of PPD officers received zero or one complaint, according to a WHYY analysis of complaint data.

Grievances aimed at Marchetti include multiple physical abuse and harassment allegations, including several involving juveniles. Internal Affairs ordered training and counseling for Marchetti in three cases for violating lesser departmental guidelines.

Marchetti appears in the Facebook database for a 2015 comment he made on a post about a woman reportedly fending off home invaders with a firearm.

“Would have been better to see at least one guy shot in the head,” Marchetti wrote.

Police officials have condemned many of the more vitriolic posts cited in the database, while downplaying the severity of others. The head of the police union defended much of the content as merely “cops being cops and venting.” However, Commissioner Richard Ross has placed 72 officers on desk duty while their social media histories are under investigation.

Ross also promised that some of those benched officers, who remain unnamed, would be fired in an attempt to restore public trust in the scandal-rocked department. Spokesman Kinebrew declined to say if police brass are reviewing each officer’s disciplinary history in conjunction with their social media posts.

Despite swift backlash from departmental leadership, it is unclear if officers’ social media accounts were ever monitored for red flags. But the department does profess to monitor civilian complaints for warning signs of officers who may be unfit for street duty. It has also drawn criticism in the past for the failures of its internal disciplinary system, which rarely results in serious consequences, even in the few instances in which Internal Affairs sustains a civilian’s complaint.

Complaints and Facebook posts could impact criminal cases

There is no clear correlation between the volume of offensive Facebook posts an officer made and the volume of complaints they received.

Top complaint-getter Marchetti, for example, was flagged for just one comment by the Plain View Project, while some of his colleagues with no civilian complaints were among the most aggressive online posters.

Overall, police whose social media habits are now under intense scrutiny were more likely to be accused of misconduct. Of the officers that appeared in the Plain View Project database, 48% received one or more civilian complaint in five years, compared to 38% for the department as a whole.

Attorneys say the combination of these disciplinary records and social media posts will have a major impact on future criminal proceedings in which these officers are key witnesses.

“All of those officers are now vulnerable in court, they’re vulnerable in the DA’s office, they’re vulnerable with every criminal investigation they’re involved with,” said criminal defense lawyer Troy Wilson.

Officer Justin Donohue of the 35th District was one of the officers cited in the Facebook database. Working on the streets of North Philadelphia, he has been named in nine complaints lodged by civilians since 2015. That total makes him a significant outlier in a department where fewer than 2% of all officers receive as many complaints, according to a WHYY/Billy Penn analysis.

The department found Donahue guilty of verbally abusing a civilian in one case, as well as breaking unspecified departmental policy in three others. He was assigned training and counseling. Internal investigators dismissed four other complaints against him involving physical abuse and harassment.

The details of these allegations were recently scrubbed from the city’s public records. However, they won’t be hidden for long if Donahue ends up on the witness stand.

The North Philly district Donohue patrols is home to numerous mosques and a large Muslim community. In his Facebook posts, the patrolman urged a ban on face coverings for Muslim women. In 2012, he shared an article about protests in Iraq after a former U.S. Marine struck a lenient plea deal over his involvement in the 2005 Haditha massacre of Iraqi civilians.

“Who gives a flying F*** if the iraqi’s [sic] are pissed. F*** them and their country,” Donohue wrote. “They should take all the iraqi’s that were at the court hearing and piss on them outside the court room and broadcast it nationaly and tell the rest of the world who is mad to also go F*** them selves.”

To Wilson, the defense lawyer, these Facebook posts alone could have an impact on Donohue’s testimony in any criminal case in which the defendant is Arab or Muslim.

Add the pile of disciplinary priors to the mix, and the officer becomes a liability for the prosecution, Wilson said. Defense attorneys like himself will subpoena the grisly details of an officer’s complaints and introduce them as evidence alongside the Facebook posts.

“If my client is Muslim, I’m going to subpoena that officer’s disciplinary file with the City of Philadelphia, and I’m going to get the Facebook information, and I’m going to cross-examine that officer about his feelings about Muslims,” Wilson said. “If you’re the DA, good luck with winning that case against me.”

Kinebrew, the police spokesman, declined to make officers available for interviews.

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A financial planner and a biochemical engineer walk into a bar. What happens next? In the case of one of Northern Liberties’ longest-running taverns, the established professionals take a good look around, recall the camaraderie of their youth, and decide to buy it.

Gina and Sean Butler-Galliera will be the new owners of The 700 Club, which went up for sale last fall after 21 years at the corner of 2nd and Fairmount.

It’s a homecoming for the husband and wife duo, who’ve spent the past two decades in Los Angeles. Before decamping for California, they were part of the crew that helped lead Philly’s early gastropub boom — Sean as a bartender at the Khyber and Trocadero, and Gina as his trusty sidekick who always kept the party going.

“As a couple, they share a great capacity for ridiculousness and fun,” said Tracy Stanton, who cofounded The 700 with partner Kurt Wunder in 1997. “When they would come in the bar, I knew a great time was coming.”

Sean (center) and Gina (back right) at the Khyber in the 1990s Courtesy Sean and Gina Butler-Galliera

The Butler-Gallieras made a point of stopping through every time they were in town, which was at least once a year to visit family in the area, they said. Gina had already been considering moving away from the pharma industry when they heard The 700 was for sale.

“Oh my gosh everything’s coming together,” she recalled thinking, explaining that the move out west was always supposed to be temporary. “How can we say no to this opportunity?”

A visit over the Christmas holiday solidified the couple’s intentions.

Details on their bid were not disclosed, but the asking price was $1.35 million for the business and land, which carries an assessed value of $256,600 and was originally purchased for just $35,000, according to city records.

The Butler-Gallieras’ offer was one of the earliest Stanton received, he said, though he didn’t really think it would come to fruition, both because they lived so far away and because they had successful careers outside the bar game.

“In my mind, they had grown past their young adults lives and have become professionals — the goal of anyone looking to get out of the service industry,” Stanton said. “I couldn’t fathom why they wanted my and Kurt’s little corner bar. The conclusion that I came to is that Philadelphia is home to them and that they are people that value real connections.”

A pic from the archives featuring 700 cofounder Kurt Wunder (right) Courtesy Sean and Gina Butler-Galliera

Indeed, Sean and Gina said they intend to make running the bar their full-time job. They also plan few changes, at least at the start.

“It’s not the kind of thing where we’re going to buy and flip it,” Sean said, adding that the 22-year-old pub “could definitely use an injection of energy” while confirming that all current staff will be invited to stay on. The 700 Club name will also stand.

They described the neighborhood as on an upswing, noting that after a turn-of-the-millennium boom it experienced a flattening thanks to retail misfires at projects like the Piazza.

“It’s cyclical,” said Gina, who lived with Sean in a Fishtown loft in the 1990s before they got married on a boat on the Delaware. “I don’t think it’s peaked yet.”

For Stanton, the sale is bittersweet. He’s happy it will provide some financial security for Wunder and family — Wunder’s year-and-a-half battle with cancer is one of the reasons the cofounders are turning things over — but he wishes they were leaving choice and not by medical necessity.

“It is impossible to think of our 700 without [Wunder] at its helm and I don’t want to,” Stanton said. Yet he’s happy for the opportunity to build a bigger house in NoLibs for his cramped family, and he won’t be completely cut off yet as he provides consulting for the new owners, of whom he’s a big fan.

“They are wonderful people and we are all lucky that they are coming back to us,” he said. “Sean is more subdued and Gina is a firecracker. Her laugh is loud and lovely and they both have smiles the size of Texas.”

The Butler-Gallieras will celebrate with a big party at the bar when the transaction is finalized, they said. Still pending is the liquor license transfer, per LCB records, as well as the exact sale figure.

Whatever amount the two sides’ lawyers negotiate, Sean said, there will be one sure thing about the final selling price: it will end in “700.”

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L.A.-based political organizer Taz Ahmed was hanging out in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood with a group of other Muslim activists in town for the Netroots Nation conference when they spotted someone wandering around playing the flute.

Only it wasn’t just any street musician — it was Andre 3000.

The former OutKast rapper, born Andre Benjamin, has been on a wood instrument tear lately. He released new songs last year that feature his stylings on bass clarinet, and he’s been spotted all over the country doing the freestyle flute thing.

Mr. 3 Stacks caused a big stir Pied-Pipering his way around LAX for at least an hour in June, delighting random travelers with melodic tunes.

On Wednesday of last week, he ran into a fan at a random crafts store (possibly in Philadelphia), where he graciously posed for a viral selfie before continuing his tooting travels.

Ahmed and her group ran into Dre after getting ice cream at Franklin Fountain on Thursday night. She dubbed the photo he posed for with them “Bombs over Baghdad” — the title of a groundbreaking OutKast hip-hop anthem from 19 years ago.

Others places in Philadelphia the rapper’s been seen, according to social media, include Mom’s Organic Market, the sidewalk on Market Street in Center City, and PHL Airport.

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Roman Blazic was an excellent lifeguard. Almost all the time.

Back in his day, he protected kids at the now-closed Shissler Rec pool from broken glass and neighborhood gangs, he said. He taught them how to swim — even leading one Fishtown cherub to a gold medal for freestyle at the city finals.

Blazic was also known for letting kids jump into the pool from the roof of the rec center. But only sometimes.

The summer of 1970 conjures up fond memories for the Fishtown lifer. It was Blazic’s third year keeping watch over the former Front Street watering hole. In the last few days before the pool closed for the season, he brought out his camera and snapped some timeless images of Philadelphia summer fun.

The following year, the pool known as Newt’s would close up for good — leaving just a sprayground behind and sending neighborhood swimmers about half a mile away to the Lederer pool instead.

But Blazic preserved Newt’s memories in pictures.

Courtesy Roman Blazic

There are photos of Fishtown kids goofing off near the girls’ bathroom, and tossing their friends into the water. There’s a snapshot of civic duty — folks sweeping and wheel-barrowing trash from the street outside the playspace.

Also, a few pics of a youngster doing a front flip into the water.

“My god, this kid was incredible,” Blazic recalled. “I let him go up and do his thing, and I took a picture. I thought, ‘Who’s gonna believe this?'”

Blazic, a lifelong photographer, stumbled upon the pictures recently among his collection. He posted them online — and like glue they brought him back together with his childhood neighbors. Blazic found himself reconnecting over the memories shared at Newt’s.

“This went over big with a lot of people,” he said. “It just brought back a lot of memories.

“I had a lot of fun,” Blazic added. “You’re with your neighbors day in and day out. They were very supportive, and really a good bunch of folks to have around.”

The photos likely had a greater impact due to current circumstances. Fishtown’s only remaining public swim spot — the Lederer pool, aka Swimmo — has been closed for years waiting on repairs.

Courtesy Roman Blazic

The Swimmo is now finally getting a tune up. But that doesn’t erase the three consecutive summers that the neighborhood went without a place to hang out by the water. It’s a community staple, as far as Blazic is concerned.

“Of course it stinks,” he said. “My kids grew up using that pool. It was a good thing. Kids learned how to swim.”

The Lederer pool will likely open back up to the neighborhood next year — and Blazic is glad. His nearly 50-year-old photos are evidence, he said, that a public pool can bring an entire community together.

“There are so many different crowds, different neighborhoods, different streets, different playgrounds,” Blazic said. “This is a common ground. There is no trouble there.”

Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic
Courtesy Roman Blazic

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