The stretch of Germantown Avenue that makes up Chestnut Hill’s main business district is home to many family owned and operated businesses. The Chestnut Hill Business Association represents more than 125 shops and restaurants in the neighborhood. Philadelphia Neighborhoods went out and talked to five business owners who have kept shop in the neighborhood over several decades and asked how they do it.
Owners: Anne and Meg McNally
Walking down Germantown Avenue on a weekday afternoon, it is easy to miss the nondescript green and white building that houses McNally’s Tavern. Through the wood door however, the inside is packed to the wall with customers on a recent Friday afternoon.
A staple in the Chestnut Hill community for almost a century, fourth-generation owner Anne McNally attributes the recent success of the business to what she says is a family friendly atmosphere.
“We have kids who have been coming here since they were babies,” McNally says as she proudly pulls out her iPhone and shows the photo of young man who she said first came in at 6 months old and recently celebrated his 21st birthday there.
Outside of Chestnut Hill, McNally’s is known as the home of the Schmitter – now available at Citizen’s Bank Park – a steak sandwich named after the beer of choice of the customer who devised the sandwich.
Owner: Sandy Robertson MacEachern
Another fourth-generation family-owned establishment, Robertson’s Flowers started in 1927 as a landscaping business down the road from its present location on the 8500 block of Germantown Avenue, where it moved in 1958.
The flower and garden shop sells plants from local growers as well as from growers around the world, and has expanded to locations in Bryn Mawr and Wyndmoor, Pa. Still, owner Sandy Robertson MacEachern says the original shop is the one customers most often associate with the business.
“We stay current too, a lot of brides will come in because we did their mother’s and grandmother’s weddings,” MacEachern said. Robertson’s daughter, Sarah MacEachern, a recent Temple grad, is one of the fifth generation of family members to help run the shop.
W.M Kilian Hardware
Owner Russ Goudy Jr.
The hardware store on the corner of Germantown and Highland avenue used to be a bar. When federal prohibition was enacted in 1920, the bar closed and Bill Kilian moved his wholesale hardware business there in 1923, converting it to a retail hardware store.
Today, Kilian’s nephew Russell Goudy Sr., his wife Rebecca and son Russ Jr., the store’s owner, are still there managing the store and working the counter.
While many of the country’s hardware stores has closed due to competion from mega-outlets such as the Home Depot and Lowe’s, Russell Goudy Sr. credits W.M. Kilian’s survival to their early entrepreneurship online in the 1990s.
The elder Russell recalls telling his son, a college math major, “What the people wanted and what wasn’t being supplied through the Internet was old hardware and restoring houses with old hardware.”
Owner: Fran O’Donnell
Fran O’Donnell is the owner of O’Doodles on Germantown Avenue, which specializes in classic children’s toys that do not require electricity, such as toy trains and more. Family owned and operated for more than 50 years, it began as a stationary store, but made the switch to specializing in toys.
“We wanted to sell toys that grandparents could buy their grandkids like the ones they used to play with,” O’Donnell said. “We sell toys and games that they can play with them.”
O’Donnell said the key to their success has been their ability to listen to the customers wishes and their ability to perform extra services to the community such as gift wrapping.
Owners: Don Cresswell and Christopher Lane
Patron’s to the Philadelphia Print Shop might recognize owners’s Don Cresswell and Christopher Lane from the traveling PBS series Antiques Roadshow, but the two have been anchored in their Chestnut Hill shop for more than three decades.
Selling everything from early 20th century print paintings to colonial-era maps of Philadelphia, the shop is one of few businesses in the region dedicated to selling antique printed works, with a special focus on items from the Delaware Valley region.
“Philadelphia is a kind of city that appreciates the history that we have, and we sell that,” Cresswell said.
In addition to sales, the Philadelphia Print Shop works to restore damaged works and provide appraisal consultation.
– Words and images by John Moritz and Brendan Menapace.