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Summer/Fall 2019

Kennett Square Life


PHOTO ESSAY: Pop up boxes of literacy and hope - Page 56

Inside: • Kennett Square’s woman of mystery • Wrapped up in words • St. Patrick Church celebrates 150 years

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Summer/ Fall 2019

Kennett Square Life Table of Contents



A woman of mystery


Wrapped up in words


Women-owned businesses


St. Patrick Church celebrates 150 years


Photo essay: Pop up boxes of literacy and hope


New arts center in Kennett Square

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com



64 56

Kennett Square Life Summer 2019 Letter from the Editor:


In this issue of Kennett Square Life, you’ll find stories about everything from a local resident who collects typewriters and a Kennett Square church that is celebrating an important milestone to a local woman of mystery and the new arts center in town. Eileen Law has enjoyed a distinguished, 35-year career as a private investigator. Kennett Square Life sat down with Law to talk about the many missing persons cases, cold cases, and other investigations that she has handled from her Kennett Square office. We take a look at the plans that St. Patrick’s Church has as it celebrates the 150th anniversary this year. In “Wrapped up in Words,” writer John Chambless introduces readers to Shanyn Fiske, a professor, author, and photographer who has embraced typewriters as messengers of the past. Writer Richard Gaw takes a look at some of the women-owned businesses in the Kennett Square area. This issue also includes a story about the new arts center in Kennett Square. Local photographer Rusty Nelson is spearheading an effort to revive the American Legion Building as an arts center and a rental facility. The photo essay features pop up boxes of literacy and hope. We hope that you enjoy the stories and photos in this issue of Kennett Square Life, and we are already hard at work preparing the next issue, which will arrive in the fall. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for stories that we might work on in the future.

Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher randyl@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor


editor@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553, ext. 13 Cover design: Tricia Hoadley www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


In the Spotlight|

A woman of mystery By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


here is a one dollar bill on Eileen Law’s desk. Each morning, when the private investigator arrives at her Kennett Square office, she sees the dollar bill and she thinks about Toni Lee Sharpless, the nurse and mother who disappeared without a trace on Aug. 23, 2009. That’s not to suggest that Eileen needs a reminder to think about Sharpless, of course. This case, like so many others before it, has become much more than a work assignment for the private investigator whose illustrious, 35-year career has included so many missing persons cases, investigations of kidnapped children, and searches for biological families. Ask her about what she likes most about her work, and Eileen doesn’t hesitate—it is being able to help others when they need it. She likes being able to set things right, no matter how much of a challenge that is. “People who prey on the innocent,” she pauses. “I will not stand for that. “I believe in justice. I always go after justice.” Eileen is motivated to try to find Sharpless because there is a daughter who has now grown up missing her mother. Sharpless’ mother is missing her daughter and wants and deserves answers. For Eileen, the business of private investigating has always been about helping someone else. If she can play a role in solving the mystery of the Toni Sharpless disappearance, just as she has solved so many others, she will return that dollar on her desk to the Sharpless family. Solving this mystery, indeed her entire career, has been built not on money, but on trying to give people peace of mind. Mystery writer Sue Grafton could have written an entire A to Z mystery series based on the cases that Eileen has worked as the president of CIA, Inc. of Kennett Square. The “CIA” stands for Confidential Investigation Agency, and for


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

the most part much of Eileen’s work has been accomplished very quietly. She is respected by her peers, and anyone who meets her leaves amazed by her stories and her dazzling personality. How she became such an accomplished woman of mystery is quite a story. *** When Eileen was growing up outside West Chester, she was one of 10 children in a very strict Catholic family. “I’m very thankful for the upbringing that I had,” she said, explaining that she had a lot of discipline in her life. During her childhood, Eileen was friends with “Theresa,” a girl from school who was herself a woman of mystery. “Theresa” didn’t know who her biological parents were, and through the friendship Law realized what a huge difference that could make in a person’s life. It was something she would always keep in her mind later on in life when her private investigation work involved helping someone find a biological parent. Gaining an understanding about the importance of being able to help someone in that situation also may have nudged Eileen in the direction of her career choice. On the day after her high school graduation, Eileen’s father took her to the Chester County Courthouse to test for a job. She was hired as the secretary in the office of the Continued on Page 10

Photo by Steven Hoffman

Eileen Law’s illustrious, 35-year career as a private investigator has included many missing persons cases, investigations of kidnapped children, and searches for biological families. www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Eileen Law Continued from Page 8

District Attorney that same day. On her lunch breaks at the job, she would sometimes pick up law books and read them. “I just fell in love with the law,” she explained. “My father wanted me to be an attorney in the worst way.” While working in the office of the Chester County District Attorney, Eileen was reminded of a notorious crime that had occurred not far from where she had grown up in Chester County. Eileen said that she was haunted by the case because of its proximity to her own home, and the fact that the victim was just a few years older than she was. Mary Constance “Connie” Evans left her home on Phoenixville Pike in West Goshen on Saturday, Oct. 24. It was her 15th birthday. She was on her way to meet her boyfriend, who was going to accompany her into West Chester so that she could do a little shopping for a birthday present. Connie never made it to see her boyfriend that day. She disappeared, and a little later in the afternoon her boyfriend showed up at the Evans’ home asking about her. Connie’s mother contacted the West Goshen Police Department right away. Local law enforcement assembled a search team, and the authorities and two hundred volunteers were soon combing the area for clues about the missing girl. Eileen recalled that during the days and weeks after the girl’s disappearance, everyone in the area was on edge. Eileen’s own mother wouldn’t let her ride her bike for a two-mile trek into town because of the fear that had gripped the normally peaceful community. More than a month after her disappearance, Connie Evans’ body was found not far from the Devon Horse Show grounds. She had been raped and strangled. Eileen never forgot the horrible nature of the crime, which remained unsolved for years. She explained, “Connie lived a couple of miles away from where I grew up. Though I never met Connie, her school picture was in the newspaper, and she had the smile of a sweet girl. It haunted me.” While she was working in the Office of the Chester County District Attorney, Eileen got to know some of the detectives and police officers who worked on the initial investigation of the disappearance. When Eileen became a paralegal, she was able to review some of the police reports that had been issued regarding Connie’s disappearance. She started compiling a folder of information about the Connie Evans case. Eileen vowed to herself that she would find Connie’s killer. 10

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

And she started taking steps to put herself in a position to do just that. Eileen enrolled in the Philadelphia Police Academy and after her graduation she was offered a job with the West Chester Police Department and with the Chester County Sheriff’s Department. She chose the position with the Sheriff’s Department, and her law enforcement career was underway. In 1985, she petitioned the Chester

Photo by Steven Hoffman

When Law is working a case, she is totally dedicated—as this display that includes Toni Lee Sharpless and James Kelly indicates.

County Court of Common Pleas for a license to become a private investigator. “Then,” she explained, “I was Detective Eileen.” *** Detective Eileen has a big personality. She’s the rare person who is equally comfortable singing, performing on the stage, or pounding on the door of a drug den in a dangerous neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey because that’s where a clue in the Toni Lee Sharpless case has taken her. That big personality is one reason why she can shine in almost any situation. She has appeared in television commercials for Ultra Brite Toothpaste, 7-Eleven Convenience Stores, and several commercials for the Heartland Corp. She worked on the television show “Disappeared” on the Investigation Discovery Channel. She has also been contacted by three producers who, at various times, wanted to base a series on her life and career. She also had a small part in the 2015 movie, “A Rising Tide.” Eileen started singing and acting in theaters in the tri-state area when she was just seven years old. She has 10 years

of acting training at West Chester University, the Hedgerow Theatre, and Three Little Bakers Theatre, and she took 12 years of vocal training with West Chester University professor Alan Wagner. On the stage, she has portrayed everyone from Miss Harrigan in “Annie” to Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” to Mother Superior in “Nunsense.” She loves working with the Milburn Stone Theatre. She is the founder and lead singer of a band called Class Act. She plays concert harp, guitar, saxophone and plays hand bells in three area church’s handbell choirs. She was a three-time finalist in the PA American Idol competition and has performed in the Kennett CommUnity Chorus. She is also the former music director of the Bethany Presbyterian Church. While there are aspects of her professional life that she has enjoyed immensely, Detective Eileen insists that it’s music, not private investigation work, where you can really see her true personality come out. “Music is what makes me tick,” she explained. “I’m a musician. I just love music.” While she enjoys every opportunity to sing and act, these Continued on Page 12


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Eileen Law Continued from Page 11

pursuits have never stopped her from being a dedicated investigator. Private investigators aren’t always portrayed as being diligent and hard working in movies and television shows, but the reality is that a private investigator couldn’t sustain a career without putting in the work. Eileen has continually worked at expanding her knowledge about how to do her job properly. She attended the Supreme Court of PA Minor Judiciary College, the Dickinson Law School’s Deputy Sheriff’s Academy, and has also taken part in conferences all around the world. And, as it turns out, Eileen can utilize her talents as a singer and actor when she’s conducting investigations. Once, she pretended to be delivering a singing telegram to a man who was being investigated for leading a separate life with a woman who was not his wife. After delivering the singing telegram—Eileen was more than equal to the task after years of vocal training—she was able to do some detective work and confirm that the man was, in fact, planning to marry another woman in just a few days. She crashed the wedding, confiscated a program and took lots of pictures of the bride and groom.


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Eileen also regularly incorporated her acting skills into her work— posing, for example, as a potential homebuyer in the neighborhood when she’s looking for a person. Just as she utilizes her Courtesy photo singing and acting skills in her work, Eileen also Eileen Law is pictured with the mother of Connie Evans. The private investigator relies on the life lessons formed a lasting friendship with Connie she has picked up on her Evans’ mother through the years. journey to help her when she’s doing her detective work. The empathy that she feels for those she is trying to help is heightened by her own personal experiences. She still feels the love for her first husband, David Law—as well as the pain and the loss from when he died of cancer at the age of 32. Continued on Page 14

Eileen Law Continued from Page 12

In the final months of his life, Eileen had extensive renovations made to their bedroom so that it wouldn’t feel like a room occupied by a person who was sick. She wanted him to be as comfortable as possible. One day, during those final months of David’s life, he had a problem with his port. A visiting nurse who was there that day asked Eileen to move for a minute. She sat down in a new chair that had recently been added to the room. It was soft and cream colored. The way the chair was positioned allowed her to see the setting sun. “That was the first time that I sat in that chair,” she explained, “and everything looked different. David looked different. He didn’t look sick all of a sudden.” She learned a valuable lesson in that moment. “Sometimes,” she explained, “it’s important to just get up and move to a different chair to get a different perspective on things.” *** Detective Eileen Law’s laws for being a good detective are simple. It comes down to what she calls “the three P’s”: prayer, patience, and persistence. Through the years, she has worked, and worked tirelessly


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

on hundreds of cases, each one with its own set of unique challenges. The job is never easy. “I say my prayers every night, asking for wisdom, discernment and guidance,” Eileen explained. “God is the one who guides me.” Someone who spends their professional life searching for kidnapped children and missing persons certainly needs the guidance. She’s also had loaded guns held to her head a number of times and has had more than a couple of death threats. Continued on Page 16

Eileen Law Continued from Page 14

Eileen has worked on dozens of cases where children have been kidnapped, and when a case like that comes up, all other work is temporarily set aside because of the urgency of the situation. While Kennett Square has served as her base of operations, Eileen has traveled far and wide to work on cases. An unavoidable part of the job is tracking down leads that might not lead anywhere—that’s why patience and persistence is so important for private investigators. On one case that Eileen worked on, she was retained by a woman who did not know her biological parents. She wanted Eileen to track down her mother, and all she had was a name, a date of birth, and a picture of her parents together on their wedding day. Eileen’s initial attempts at locating the woman didn’t produce results. She kept hitting brick walls. But then her instincts kicked in and, in a flash of inspiration, knew that the person she was looking for was near the town of Pomona. She did a search of all the states that had cities named Pomona, but sensed this particular town was in California. As fate would have it, she was working on another case at the time and she had planned a trip to California to work


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

on that case. She called local law enforcement in Pomona, California, and she also conducted a records search, utilizing what little information she had about the woman. This was before the computer age. Once she was in California and had taken care of the other business, Eileen reached the conclusion that there was one particular neighborhood where she thought the woman she was looking for might be living. Continued on Page 18

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Eileen Law Continued from Page 16

She has learned more than a few investigative tricks through the years, and in situations like this one they can be useful. She explained, “In virtually every neighborhood, there is a house for sale. So what I will do is search the court records to see who has lived there the longest and then go knock on a door and tell the person that I’m looking at a house in the neighborhood and I want to know what they think about the school system and living there in general. People are usually very receptive to talking about that.” Eileen had an old picture of the person she was looking for. After she engaged one woman in a conversation, she took out the picture and showed it to her. Eileen covered the face, which had certainly changed a lot through the years, except for the eyes and the nose, which were distinguishing features. Sure enough, the woman was able to direct Eileen to the house where the woman lived. Connecting the woman with a daughter that she hadn’t seen in many years was the next step—and it’s always difficult. In this particular case, Eileen knew that the best she could do was deliver a delicate message to the mother who


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

initially denied that she had a daughter. “I told her that I traveled 3,000 miles to find her and that her daughter had lived every day of life thinking that she had done something wrong. No matter what your reasons for abandoning her, you owe it to her to not carry that burden for the rest of her life,” she explained. In another instance, a client asked Eileen to find his wife’s biological family, which she was able to do fairly quickly. It turned out that the client owned a publishing company, and after seeing the results that Eileen could produce, he convinced her to write a how-to book on how to find biological parents. The book is titled “Somewhere Out There.” *** How does getting a different perspective factor into the detective work? In late December of 1998, several of Eileen’s friends in law enforcement stopped by her Kennett Square office. They noticed a file on her desk titled “Connie Evans.” The conversation turned to that unsolved murder investigation which had occurred more than 34 years earlier. It was time to take a different perspective on the cold case. Continued on Page 77

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Kennett Square People|

Shanyn Fiske is a professor, author and photographer who has embraced typewriters as messengers of the past By John Chambless Staff Writer


hen Shanyn Fiske arrived in America in 1980 in the aftermath of China’s Cultural Revolution, she didn’t know a word of English. She has made up for that since, spending decades surrounded by words in her own writing, in her teaching and, for the past two years, in the dozens of typewriters she has collected as mementoes of the past. “My mom got a scholarship after the Cultural Revolution to study at Wellesley College. I came here when I was 6,” Fiske said. “I joined her two years after she started at Wellesley. I’m actually writing a book about my family’s history, because there’s an interesting relationship between my family and Western intellectual history and its relationship to China, before, during and after the Cultural Revolution. Continued on Page 22

Photos by Jie Deng 20

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 20

“Before the Cultural Revolution, there was quite a bit of an open door between West and East in terms of literary dialogue. And then during the Mao years, everything shut down. Then the open door policy of the ‘80s allowed that to open up again. One of the things I’m working on for the book is the story of how my young mother joined renegade literary folk directly after the end of the Cultural Revolution and tried to revitalize the translation of Western literature in post-Mao China. “My grandfather was educated at Harvard, and for a while after he returned to China, he was head of the Beijing Education Bureau. He and my grandmother were put under house arrest, and all of my aunts and my mother were sent off to the countryside for Mao’s whole reeducation program,” Fiske said. “Because of my family’s connections with the United States, he managed to help get my mother a scholarship to Wellesley to study English literature. I joined her and lived in the dorms with her for about four years.” Raised in a family that loved literature, Fiske said her mother admired the works of the Bronte sisters, as well as a range of 19th-century British literature. “It’s probably no surprise that I’m a Victorianist in my field of study,” she said. With her limited grasp of English and her precocious love of words, Fiske said she spent a lot of time alone when she was young, lost in a world of great books.

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From Boston, Fiske wound up in Philadelphia in 1997 as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. “I got my Ph.D. in English and landed a tenure track job at Rutgers Camden,” she said. She currently teaches two classes per semester at Rutgers University (Camden) as Associate Professor of English, and on July 1, she will take the helm of the Master’s in Literature program. She is the author of the book Heretical Hellenism: Women Writers, Ancient Greece, and the Victorian Popular Imagination (2008). Her articles, book chapters, reviews, and fiction have been published in a variety of academic and literary journals. Continued on Page 24


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Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 23

“I wanted to be a fiction writer as a kid,” she said, “but my mother wanted something more practical for me and pushed me toward academia. I did end up majoring in comparative literature and classics. Academia has evolved in the past two decades that I’ve been doing it. I believe in academia as a place to foster ideas. But in the past seven years, and more urgently in the past two years, I see the necessity of a very porous boundary between what constitutes academia and what constitutes the real world. “My larger agenda for the Master’s degree program is to steer it more toward social justice issues, more toward civic engagement issues, so that I can recruit people to go out into the job world and work for nonprofits and work for NGOs and work for organizations that need those critical thinking skills. I really see academia as a place to develop the ideas that you will use to change the world. I know that sounds grandiose, but I believe in it.” Fiske’s life took a turn in the fall of 2016, with a relationship breakup that left her in turmoil. She and her young son were living in Kennett Square, where they still live, when Fiske saw an ad for an electric Smith-Corona typewriter on Facebook Continued on Page 26


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Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 24

Marketplace. It was $15. Something drew her to it. “At the time, I had stopped being able to write,” she said. “I went and picked up this typewriter, sat down and immediately, something unblocked. It was an epiphany. I guess I posted a picture of this typewriter on social media and my friend Cathy saw my post and said, ‘If you want typewriters, I’ve been trying to get rid of these three that I have.’ I got her typewriter from college, and she gave me her husband’s typewriter, and a giant Underwood from the late 1930s that had been sitting in her attic. She said, ‘Here. Just take these.’ Suddenly I had a collection.” The Underwood antique one was frozen, and Fiske wondered if she could learn how to make it work again. “So I joined a Facebook group dedicated to collecting and repairing typewriters. It was an amazing group. There were people on there that know every single cog and screw and spring in every possible make and model. “I had zero ability to fix these when I started,” she said, laughing. “I mean zero. But when I got the 1938 machine working, it was almost like fixing these machines was about fixing myself.”


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Fiske was fascinated by the mechanical nature of the old machines, and the tactile quality of creating words on paper. Each key hit the paper with a satisfying clack, and nothing was accidentally deleted by an errant keystroke. “That laptop over there,” Fiske said, pointing to a stack near her, “I got 11 years ago and it won’t work. It’s considered ancient. The 1938 Underwood still works beautifully. When you’re using one of these, you’re touching an object that was made to last. We’re Continued on Page 28



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Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 27

living in an era now of planned obsolescence.” The typewriters are lined up on stacks of books and other flat surfaces throughout Fiske’s living room, dining room and kitchen, with more upstairs. “Maybe I think about this too much,” she said, laughing, “But I really believe that using these physical objects allows us to revisit a time when the work ethic and the idea of creating things to last was commonplace. It’s a value system I’m nostalgic for. These things deserve to end up in better places than junk piles and recycling.” As the election of 2016 altered the national political and social landscape, Fiske said she was busily bringing typewriters back to life, either seeking them out at tag sales and online, or accepting donations from people who couldn’t bear to throw out the old machines. “I was part of this online typewriter group, more than half of whom were the complete polar opposite of me politically,” she said. “But through all the political chaos, the group was just helping me fix typewriters. Politics didn’t come up. They would write long paragraphs about their stories and their introduction to typewriters, and they came from every angle of the political spectrum.


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“So it’s about much more than a machine. It’s about what it enables. If we can all find a narrative, find a space where we can share each other’s stories, it can be so healing.” Fiske sells a repaired typewriter occasionally, but only after she has restored it to proper working order. Surveying the size of her collection, she said, “I’m maxed out, actually. I will fix one occasionally now, but it has to call to me. They ground me still, and it’s nice to have them around. They seem like part of the family,” she added, laughing. Fiske’s 12-year-old son and others his age enjoy the physical nature of the old machines, and typewriters are making something of a comeback, not just as antiques for display, but working machines that connect the writer to the physical page. Fiske said she can’t think creatively when using a computer. “My mind goes completely blank,” she said. Her articles and book have been written on manual typewriters, or longhand, and are then retyped into a computer, she said. “For me, typewriters are good for drafting, because you can’t delete and start over again. Continued on Page 30

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 29

They encourage me to make mistakes and get from beginning to end.” Aside from her creative pursuits, Fiske has been an equestrian for the past decade, riding and competing regionally, and owning several horses. She now owns two. “I rode as a kid, and worked at a farm in exchange for lessons. I had to give it up during graduate school because I was poor and didn’t have money or time,” she said. “After my son was born, I started riding again. After my divorce in 2011, I moved closer to where my horses were, in the Kennett and West Grove area. I was competing, riding all the time. It was very necessary for me. I’ve never been a person who was able to do yoga, but my riding was my way to ground myself.” Her teaching job works into her riding schedule, Fiske said. “I need to be busy all the time,” she said, smiling. “I just backpacked around the Isle of Wight, and my pack was 32 pounds. I brought my entire home office along with me. And while I was there, I landed a freelance article that I’m writing about the Isle of Wight coast.” Continued on Page 32


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Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 30

Fiske is also “deep into photography,” she said. “I do a lot of editorial photography, fashion, portraiture. It gives my mind a break.” And there’s an ongoing commitment to working with people who have suffered trauma. “I run a reading group at the Coatesville VA for veterans in an in-patient PTSD unit, and it’s one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’m starting to do a lot of work with imprisoned populations, helping with education in New Jersey prisons. I picked up the photography because it allows me to get away from the trauma and just look at the things that are beautiful. “I have a personal history of trauma,” she said. “I went through a whole bunch of stuff when I was younger. So I’ve always been drawn to trauma studies. I just started working with veterans in the last year. I’ve been reading Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ with them. I run a classics reading group at the Kennett Library, and we started with ‘The Odyssey.’ I thought some of the insights were really cool. Working with the veterans has been an incredible experience.” With a daily schedule that would swamp most people, Fiske smiled and said, “People do say I’m busy, but this is just life. Continued on Page 34


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Shanyn Fiske Continued from Page 32

This is how I give my life meaning.” On a broader scale, Fiske said, “I think with the way the world is today, we’re missing the ability to share our stories. It’s not coincidental that support for the humanities has diminished in the last decade, at the same time the country has been divided and we’re not able to hear each other. “All I’m doing,” she said, “is finding channels to help us listen to each other’s stories again.” To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Kennett Square Business|

Women-owned businesses join Kennett Square’s vibrant downtown By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


or several years, Marcy Mackey was applying her talents as a wellness practitioner in her home, at client’s homes, at a local spa and at a nearby fitness center, while also managing to teach yoga at several studios in Delaware and Chester County – all while raising her three children. Mackey’s business slogan may have well read, “Have a massage table and yoga mat, will travel.” While she enjoyed the career that has become her life’s inspiration, Mackey was doing it in too many places, so this past April, she opened The Bungalow on East Cypress Street, and what were once the wishes of a road warrior brought everything under one roof. “The idea for this studio had been marinating in my heart for a long time, but it recently hit my brain,” Mackey said from her cozy studio in the heart of Kennett Square. “It said, ‘You can do this. Why are you waiting? If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never get there.’” Mackey is part of a growing group of women


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

entrepreneurs who have chosen Kennett Square for its trendy vibe, small-town charm, and unique array of independent shops, galleries, and restaurants, but the rise in women-owned businesses in Kennett Square is a microcosm of what’s been happening around the country. The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report stated that women started an average of 1,821 new businesses per day in the U.S. between 2017 and 2018. This level of new business formation by women, the report said, is greater than the daily average during the pre-recession period from 2002 to 2007, the recession and recovery period between 2007 and 2012, and the post-recession period between 2012 and 2017. Since the report began detailing such numbers in 1972 – the first time the U.S. Census Bureau provided data on minority-owned and womenowned businesses – the number of businesses run by women has increased 31 times during that 48-year period, from 402,000 in 1972 to 12.3 million in 2018. Meanwhile, employment at these businesses have grown 40-fold, from 230,000 in 1972 to 9.2 million today, and revenues have risen from $8.1 billion to $1.8 trillion.

The Bungalow

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Marcy Mackey of The Bungalow is just one of several new women-owned businesses in downtown Kennett Square.

The company name, Mackey said, comes from the affection she and her family had for their weekend home in Maryland, which she said served as a place to unwind and let the stresses of the outside world vanish. Looking at the services offered at The Bungalow, it’s easy to see that it’s aptly named. From a lengthy choice of individual massages, craniosacral therapy and bodywork to small-group yoga sessions held once a week, The Bungalow has already established itself as a Kennett Square welcoming space for ease of body and mind. Mackey and her staff of Danielle Linder and Shauna Miller – all certified in yoga instruction and in the healing arts – provide the individual with relief from stress, pain and

restored sense of movement. Mackey said that she also intends to add group meditation, women’s circles and healing circles into The Bungalow’s regular calendar. “Every little step I took to get here was preparation for this divine layout,” Mackey said. “Everything that has fed me in my life – massage, body work, yoga and meditation – has allowed me to feed others that which has fed me, and the best part is that I get to tap into this growing, sprouting community.” (The Bungalow is located at 111 E. Cypress Street. To learn more about The Bungalow, visit www. thebungalowks.com.) Continued on Page 38

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Women-owned businesses Continued from Page 37


MILOU: Parisian style with a California mindset, 125 E. State Street, www.shopmilou.com MILOU, named after a beach in St. Bart’s in the Caribbean called Point Milou, has allowed owner Nicole Carey to connect her clientele with beautiful, ecologically sustainable clothing and accessories. Now in its sixth month, MILOU features a mix of new and vintage jewelry, clothing and clean beauty products, and showcases the work of emerging local artists and offers a variety of workshops exploring arts, culture, and wellness. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Carey returned to the East Coast from San Francisco last year, and finds that MILOU’s inventory, style and design Photo by Richard L. Gaw has already become a perfect fit for Kennett Nicole Carey of MILOU. Square. MILOU slow fashion in a world of fast fashion, she said, and it’s perfectly positioned in a town that embraces small-town variety. “I offer a lot of variety of goods – home, skin care and clothing – that will always be sustainable for the environment and good for the planet,” Carey said. “All of the skin care products are organic and natural, and all of the clothing is new and sustainable or pre-owned.”

Maura Grace Boutique Maura Grace Boutique: Accessible fashion curated for you and your home, 101 W. State Street, @ mauragraceboutique. Shoppers will find an array of colors, trends, and styles at Katie Holsten’s bright new boutique at the corner of State Street and North Union Street, the former home of Houppette. The store’s eclectic, constantly-changing inventory focuses on clothing, jewelry, and accessories, offered at accessible price points. Maura Grace Boutique also carries greeting cards and novel gift items, including some locally-branded Kennett Square products. Continued on Page 40 38

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Courtesy of Historic Kennett Square

Katie Holsten of Maura Grace Boutique.

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Women-owned businesses Continued from Page 38

Clean Slate Goods Clean Slate Goods: By hand-for good, 108 N. Union Street, www.cleanslategoods.com. If one half of Clean Slate Goods is about the craftsmanship seen in handbags, jewelry, pillows blankets, kitchen wares, children’s toys and more, then its other half is about the mission of helping to alleviate poverty, empower women and restore their dignity. When Kari Matthews began Clean Slate Designs in 2014, the work she was doing to make home décor from reclaimed wood gave her an appreciation for the work that goes into every piece she made. The more the company grew, the more Matthews began to learn about companies around the world who were training and employing women on the margins of society – victims of addiction, sex trafficking and extreme poverty – to create handmade goods, while providing them with sustainable employment. Gradually, Matthews began partnering with these companies, and now, many of them are featured in the inventory at Clean Slate Goods. Matthews chose to open Clean Slate Goods in Kennett Square because “I think there is a strong sense of

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Kari Mathews of Clean Slate Goods.

community and a strong sense of the appreciation for local vendors, and a strong sense of giving back,” she said. “When I began to conceive of the shop, I knew it needed to be in a walkable community, not in some strip mall. I soon found out that not only is Kennett Square walkable, I was overwhelmed by its friendliness.”


Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Courtney Harrison and Victoria Inverso of TEXTILE. 40

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TEXTILE: Vintage and contemporary women’s clothing boutique, 210 S. Mill Road, Suite 103, www.shop-textile.com. Open since November, TEXTILE is one of the flagship businesses in the Cannery Row development off of Cypress Street. It’s the culmination of the dream of co-owners Victoria Inverso and Courtney Harrison to create an enclave of originality, where vintage and contemporary clothing lines blend together to create an ever-changing inventory, that gives women the opportunity to feel comfortable and the confidence to step into a new style. “Our mission is to get women to start dressing a little out of their comfort zone, to break away from the same styles that we see all over the Main Line and Chester County,” Harrison said. “We’ve always appreciated vintage clothing, and it’s something that we wish to share with others. We want to bring a modern feel to clothes that have a story, that are well made and beautiful.” To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com. Tara Smith and Claire Murray of Historic Kennett Square contributed to this article.






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Kennett Square History|

St. Patrick Church: I The beating heart of a small town

By Chris Barber Correspondent

t’s more than mere coincidence that St. Patrick Church in Kennett Square bears the name that is so closely associated with Ireland, as well as the holiday that honors that country. This church was founded largely by Irish immigrants, and the congregation still celebrates those Celtic roots. In honor of the 150th anniversary of its founding and the first Mass on Dec. 25, 1869, the congregation has planned a series of festive events throughout 2019. This anniversary is piggybacked somewhat on a previous celebration. St. Patrick’s Father Chris Rogers said that when he came to Kennett Square in 2015, he was aware that they had marked the 125th anniversary in 1994, and that the 150th -- the Jubilee Year – was upon them shortly. With that in mind, he appointed a committee of two – Bert Bertrando and Horace Scherer – to put together events and leaders for the coming year of activities. “They really put it out there, and the parishioners were able to get on board,” Rogers said. The festivities began last December 2018 with a concert by an Irish tenor. After that, the new year came, and the events proceeded in earnest. In January, the kickoff Mass included a visit by Bishop McIntyre. In March, there was a St. Patrick’s Mass plus parish pep rally. April came with a pilgrimage to Ireland taken by 25 members. That was followed in May by T-shirts for the Kennett Run, and a picnic/school reunion in Anson B. Nixon Park. The trip to Ireland was especially memorable, Rogers said. “It was a social/pilgrimage experience. There was an excitement going into it. The parishioners in Ireland and our parishioners were able to pray our parish prayer together … and, of course, there was the Irish food and the pubs.” Continued on Page 48

Courtesy of St. Patrick Church

Fathers Sharrett and Rogers in the garden that is dedicated to the former pastor. 46

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Courtesy photo

The first altar in the original church.

Courtesy photo

The original building on South Street. The structure is still there and has been turned into housing.

Photo by Chris Barber

The church sits as the centerpiece on Meredith Street in Kennett Square. www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


St. Patrick Church Continued from Page 46

The May picnic in the park and school reunion also brought out high spirits that were highly visible to the organizers Terry Forte, Jo Beth Thompson, Phyllis Smith and Anne Williams. It attracted about 500 people and featured a barbecue and Mass on the green. “The volunteerism was outstanding,” Williams said. “People just kept coming and offering to help. All this would not have been possible without the volunteers.” Now, the church has more events in the wings. There will be a baseball day at the Phillies in June. In July, there will be a family movie night outside. In August, the Kennett YMCA will open its doors free to all St. Pat’s members. In September, they will have a presence at the Mushroom Festival as well. In October, Rogers and the committee members have high hopes for the Oktoberfest on the green behind the church. In the past few years, they have done a variety of things in that month, including pumpkin sales and an autumn picnic. This year, the summer picnic committee women tossed around ideas for the autumn fest, including initiating pumpkin carving. Given that the church lawn is in the middle of town and within easy walking distance of many people, the women thought that a carving event would be popular. Rogers and the church members are also especially excited about hosting the Kennett Square pre-Thanksgiving ecumenical service. Members


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Photo by Chris Barber

Chris Rogers bids his flock to line up for the barbecue at the May picnic.

of all the churches in town are invited to join and give thanks, regardless of their faith, on Nov. 24. This annual service is rotated among with local churches every year, and St. Patrick hosted it last year. But in view of their Jubilee Year, they have been given the

Photo by Chris Barber

Parishoners line up for barbecue at the recent picnic in the park.

honor of hosting it this year as well. St. Pat’s will wind up the 150-year festivities with a big memorial Mass and banquet at the Mendenhall Inn during December. Rogers said that St. Patrick Church is a constant partner

Photo by Chris Barber

Members of the picnic Committee were overwhelmed by the amount of help they received. From left: Terry Forte, Jo Beth Thompson. Anne Williams and Phyllis Smith.

Continued on Page 50

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


St. Patrick Church Continued from Page 49

Photo by Chris Barber

Father Rogers consecrates the elements in the park for Mass.


with other borough churches, including service to the food cupboard and Family Promise. “In a small town, the spirit of the Lord can start as caring for the poor, Thanksgiving Day together or a parade,” he said. “[Religious] distinctions don’t define who we are.” St. Patrick was originally founded by Irish Catholics who came to America to work in DuPont’s Hagley plant. In time, more people from Ireland moved to Kennett Square to work at the S&M Pennock Company that made farm and industrial machinery. In search of housing, many of them settled on the south side of Kennett Square and started having services in people’s houses. They were served by clergy from St. Agnes Church in West Chester, who came on horseback to provide mission Masses, according to Williams, whose ancestor, a Mr. DeWire, was one of the founders. Through the years arrived workers from Italy, who came to mine the stone in Avondale, then farmers who grew mushrooms and the labor force that came from Puerto Rico and Mexico to pick them. A large number of these workers brought with them a Catholic heritage. In 1868, the original settlers set out to build a church on land where the current S-curve of South Street bends at Lafayette. Although the building wasn’t completed, they celebrated their first Mass on Christmas of 1869, and thus began what has become the second largest Catholic congregation in Chester County 150 years later, with a mix of Continued on Page 52

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St. Patrick Church Continued from Page 50

congregants from many backgrounds. Joseph Lordi, author of the historical postcard book, Greetings from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, said the original structure of that first church still stands at the location and has been turned into houses. In 1874, Father James Kelly was the pastor in Kennett, Oxford and West Grove. In 1879, Father John O’Donel became the first resident pastor, at which time St. Patrick parish was organized. He was resident pastor until 1910, according to Greetings from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. On Aug. 9, 1908, a newly built church on the southwest corner of Lafayette and Cypress streets was dedicated. The new church facility was made of Avondale limestone in the Gothic style and its stained glass windows were made in Munich, Germany. It was built by Thomas Grady, with Corcoran Brothers of West Chester in charge of the stonework. The rectory was also completed in 1908. The school was opened in 1922, the book reports. As the years have gone by, weather and time have taken a toll on the church. “It was renovated 25 years ago. We realized it was in need of painting, among other things. So in our discussions of painting we took it even further. We planned a total renovation of the church. Which is now going on,” Rogers said. Continued on Page 54


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Photo by Chris Barber

A painter continues the renovations of the church building in the balcony.

Photo by Chris Barber

The church building is currently empty of pews, but occupied by construction equipment.


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St. Patrick Church Continued from Page 52

He added that when the church reopens, the congregation will see newly painted walls, new lighting, a new floor and a restored altar. “The building itself is really in very good condition otherwise,” he said. Currently, the church has been holding its Sunday services in Kennett High School. Williams said school officials have been gracious hosts for the church, allowing them to store equipment and accessories for the services at the school during the week. Reflecting on the present and coming activities of the Jubilee Year, Rogers said, “The church is loaded with heroes. That’s what we’re celebrating this year -- the presence of God with us.”


Photo by Chris Barber

Shortly after the retirement of Father Victor Sharett, the church constructed a garden on the site of the old convent and dedicated it to him.

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Kennett Square Arts| In collaboration with a local agency and local artists, the Kennett Library has created an inventive method of getting books into the hands of children and families. The lending libraries are beautiful to look at, but what’s inside them is even more spectacular

Pop up boxes of literacy and hope By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


aura Florence of the Kennett Library calls it Serendipity. Jan Michener of Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. calls it a beautiful example of what happens when a community galvanizes around arts and literacy. Whatever words and definitions one wishes to apply to it, 17 tiny libraries have been placed firmly into the soil in Kennett Square – from as far east as the Greenwood Elementary School to as far west as Herb Pennock Field – and books are getting into the hands of children. The Kennett Library and Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. (AHHAH) have partnered together with donors, volunteers and local artists to create the P.U.L.L. (Pop Up Lending Libraries) Campaign, a grassroots effort to place free lending libraries throughout Chester County communities, in areas where children gather. Continued on Page 58


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Photos by Jie Deng

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

The Kennett Library and Arts Holding Hands and Hearts, Inc. (AHHAH) have partnered together with donors, volunteers and local artists to create the P.U.L.L. (Pop Up Lending Libraries) Campaign, a grassroots effort that has placed small lending libraries throughout the Kennett Borough. Pictured are Laura Florence, left, Kennett Library’s Collections Development Coordinator and AHHAH founder Jan Michener.

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Pop Up Lending Libraries Continued from Page 56

While the Kennett Library has helped to spearhead the campaign locally, the roots of P.U.L.L. began in the city of Coatesville a few years ago, when Michener approached city leaders with the idea to create as many as 100 pop-up libraries throughout the city. The mission was perfectly in step with AHHAH, which Michener founded in 2013 as a non-profit organization to provide Chester County’s most vulnerable youth with the tools they need to improve literacy, break the cycle of poverty and expose children to the arts, music, yoga and mindfulness programs. Currently, AHHAH reaches more than 400 children in Chester County Head Start programs in Coatesville, Kennett Square, West Chester and Downingtown. “Everyone I seemed to speak with at the beginning thought it was impossible to do,” Michener said of her first meetings with Coatesville leaders. “But the truth was out there. Children in impoverished households are exposed to 30 million fewer words by the time they are five than the child from a middle-class or affluent household, so I told them the first thing we need to do is get books into the hands of every child. “Coatesville has six elementary schools and three middle schools, and often in the summer several children don’t have immediate access to a library, so my goal was to place a small lending library at every one of these schools,” Michener added. “Many told me, ‘This is Coatesville. They will steal these books.’ I told them, ‘That’s the whole point. They can’t steal the books. We’re giving them away.’” A few city leaders suggested that Michener just place one lending library in the city. “I told them that it would be one band-aid in a city of band-aids. To create a true impact, you have to put them everywhere.” Not willing to surrender her goal, Michener locked arms in partnership with the Coatesville Library and Bob Beggs of Good Works, who drew the plans for what would become the prototype for the lending libraries. From the start, small armies of volunteers came forward and took on the role of stewards for the project. Students at a local vo-tech school built a few dozen boxes as part of their school project. A community building workshop invited scouts and other volunteers to build several more. Michener reached out to art teachers at Coatesville schools to design and paint a box that represents their school spirit. Today, 27 outdoor lending libraries – and 40 indoor locations – dot the Coatesville landscape. Last summer, Michener spoke to members of the Longwood Rotary Club about the success of the P.U.L.L. Campaign in Coatesville. “Several members told me that they would like to see the same lending library program established in Kennett Square, and handed me a check that would serve as seed funding to get it all started,” Michener said. One day later, serendipity intervened for the first time. Michener Continued on Page 60 58

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There are 17 outdoor lending libraries in the Kennett Square community.

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Pop Up Lending Libraries Continued from Page 58

received an email from Florence, Kennett Library’s Collections Development Coordinator, asking Michener if AHHAH would like to collaborate on a lending library project in Kennett Square. “One morning, I was walking to work when I noticed that someone had set up a lending library at the corner of Broad and Mulberry streets,” Florence said. “I immediately thought that this would be such an opportunity for the library to create this entire network all through the borough – to meet people where they live, and tell them, ‘We’re here for you, and here are some books to read.’” Florence then shared her idea with Filomena Elliott, the library’s Adult Literacy Program Director. “I kept thinking of it in terms of creating an entire web, where suddenly one box connects to another and then another,” Florence said. Within a few hours, Michener connected with Florence and told her that she already had the funds to create ten lending libraries. Soon, she shared the news of expanding the P.U.L.L. Campaign into Kennett Square during a speaking engagement at Kendal Crosslands. “There was a sweet man sitting in the front row, listening to me speak,” Michener said. “When I finished, he walked up to me, handed me a check, and told me, ‘Now you can double the amount of libraries you want to build.’” It was then that serendipity accelerated into overdrive. Jim Hazzard of the woodworking group at Kendal built four boxes, and the woodworking group at Crosslands built three more boxes that were paid for in part by Julie Noonan, a Crosslands resident. Students from the Octorara School District built three more, followed by two boxes built by students at Unionville High School. As part of his Eagle Scout project, Ben Friedman, a freshman at Unionville High School, built four more boxes, under the guidance of the IDEA program at Upland Country Day School. Jessica Hall, a Girl Scout and freshman at Unionville High School painted several boxes, as did students at the Garage Youth and Community Center, the After the Bell Program, Kennett Middle School and several other student groups. “Suddenly, Jan had all of these boxes ready to be placed strategically throughout the borough, when I thought that because we have such a wealth of artistic talent in Kennett Square, wouldn’t it be cool to give an artist his or her own box to paint and design?” Florence said. Within a day, several local artists told Florence that they were on board: Dan Chow, Stephanie Cogliano, Heather Davuluc, Suzanne and Ian Gaadt, Robert Jackson, Carol Lesher, Roberta Little, Torrey Kist and Peter Willard, among them. Most of the books have come from the Kennett Library, as well as from anonymous donations, and from the annual book sale held this spring at Unionville High School, where AHHAH had a booth that allowed visitors to donate books, and make a small financial contribution to the P.U.L.L. Campaign. Continued on Page 62


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Pop Up Lending Libraries Continued from Page 60

“From the book fair, we collected 408 donated books and raised over $400, which allowed us to purchase 41 bags of books,” Michener said. “We also received assistance from the Kennett Senior Center’s book resale shop, and a recent book drive by the Finance Cares department staff at Chester County Hospital collected an additional 1,000 books.” “As we went through this process and asked members of organizations if we could place a box at their location, or if their group would be interested in either painting a box or planting one, there was an immediate understanding of their role in the entire program,” Florence said. “People have helped us find books. They have helped us position the boxes. They came, and they’re continuing to come. “People come up to us after planting a box and thank us. Artists tell us how much it meant for them to help. As I was filling up one box, kids thanked us, and their parents thanked us.” The magic of serendipity is that it’s contagious. As the P.U.L. L. Campaign continues to expand – it’s also at 20 indoor locations – the Kennett Library is already laying the groundwork for expansion into each of the eight municipalities it serves in southern Chester County. “It’s the library’s goal to find the relevant places for one or more boxes in each municipality,” Florence said. “It will be about continuing to connect people to books, and mostly to those who don’t have immediate access to them, or who haven’t been reached by our presence in their community. Each lending library in each location will have its very own nuance.” For Michener, making Kennett Square the second stop on AHHAH’s P.U.L.L. Campaign dovetails with the mission of the agency, one that has led to requests from schools and organizations throughout Chester County to bring the lending libraries there. “The theme of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance this year is ‘Making Art Relevant: Art Of The People, By The People and For The People.’ Kennett Square has entirely embraced this effort, by letting every child know that it cares for every child in Kennett Square, and beyond.” “When you see a kid run up to a box with their friends, open and hold up a book like it’s the biggest prize of their lives – there’s a connection being made that is the whole purpose of this campaign, to see a child hold a book that’s now his or hers, with no strings attached,” Florence said. “We at the Kennett Library love to tell them, ‘Take this book. It’s yours.’” To learn more about the P.U.L.L. Campaign in Kennett Square, or to make a donation to build more library boxes, visit www. AHHAH.org. To learn more about the Kennett Library, visit www.kennettlibrary.org. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email rgaw@chestercounty.com. 62

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Kennett Square Arts|

New life for a h The American Legion Building in Kennett Square is becoming a new center for the arts By John Chambless Staff Writer


or the thousands of people who drive past every day, and the thousands more who live and work in Kennett Square, the American Legion building on State Street has been essentially invisible. Continued on Page 66

Photos by Rusty Nelson 64

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historic hall

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American Legion Building Continued from Page 64

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The store fronts now occupied by the Square Pear Fine Art Gallery, and the artist studios of Robert Jackson, April Heather and Peter Willard face the street, but the huge building behind them is unknown territory to most people. For photographer Rusty Nelson, that untapped potential has been the driving force behind the building’s rebirth as the American Legion Arts Center. The ultimate goal, he said, was to revitalize the membership in the American Legion by repurposing the building as more than a place for veterans to meet. Nelson, who is renovating a former lawyer’s office in one corner of the building as his own studio, has gotten to know the Legion building inside and out – from its formerly dull brown paneling to its maze of wiring and plumbing, some of it dating back to the 1920s. The building’s cornerstone is from 1925, a time when World War I veterans were plentiful. The hall has a vast, open central area where basketball games were once held, and hundreds of people attended dances, car shows and

other events. The lower level spans the entire block, and holds a warren of closets, storage spaces and a huge, open room that once held several bowling alleys. The building was underused, expensive to keep up, and with a dwindling base of members. “Three or four years ago, I decided to get out of L.A. I was in the entertainment business. Before that I had been an Air Force pilot, had my own corporation. In my 40s, I directed a show for Fox and did a couple of bad horror movies I don’t want you to see,” he said, laughing. “But I wanted to find a small town where I could make a difference. In L.A., you’re just a small fish in a pond. Here, you can do something. I have cousins and an uncle living in the area, and I thought Kennett Square had everything. I would go to borough council meetings to meet people and find out what was going on. It’s an artsy town, but there didn’t seem to be a centralization of people to talk to.” Continued on Page 68

Rusty Nelson with the historical photos installed outside one entrance to the new American Legion Arts Center. www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


American Legion Building Continued from Page 67

Nelson’s dazzling, razor-sharp photos are immediately striking, and he was casually looking for a space to exhibit when Stephen McKinney, owner of the KSI Crafts wine store, told him he was looking for some kind of art for the shop’s walls. Nelson also ran into Robert Jackson, a nationally-known painter whose studio is in the American Legion building. “He said, ‘You’re that photographer from L.A., aren’t you?’” Nelson recalled, laughing. “He recommended I talk to Steve too. So everything was telling me to go talk to him.” Nelson moved his work into the shop in May 2018, then went on his annual trip as a photography guide and stormchaser in

The main hall can be rented for parties or events, with or without live entertainment on the stage.

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the Midwest. Returning to Kennett Square in late July, he found out about the American Legion building. When an attorney moved out of the corner storefront space, Nelson started knocking down interior walls and renovating the space, which he hopes to open soon as a combination of studio and “man cave,� he said, smiling. But when he walked through the cavernous hall at the center of the building, he found depressing, chocolate-brown paneling and not much else. The space is used by the Kennett Area Theatrical Society to rehearse for their annual shows (and as storage for their sets and costumes), and the hall was available for rent, but the small parties that booked the place were not bringing in enough money. Continued on Page 70

The new sign is installed at the Arts Center.

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


American Legion Building Continued from Page 69

“I would tell people about the American Legion building, and they’d say, ‘Where?’ And these were people who lived in town,” Nelson said during a tour last month. Local businesses were solicited, and donated paint and other supplies at reduced cost. The result – even in this early stage – are impressive. The main room has bright white walls, visually opening up the space. There’s a fully-stocked bar at one end of the room, and a fully functional stage at the other end, with a red velvet curtain purchased second-hand from a church in Virginia. There are dozens of round tables that could seat 300 people for a concert, party, wedding reception or meeting. Downstairs, storage rooms hold the American Legion’s tableware from parties of decades past, and there is a Continued on Page 72

The photos displayed outside the hall focus on the history of Kennett and the Legion.


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American Legion Building Continued from Page 70

revitalized club space for the remaining members, with a pool table, shuffleboard and darts. But there is much that is not being utilized, especially a vast, open room that is full of old furniture and costumes and other castoffs – including the original bingo boards used decades ago. “There was a plan at one time to turn this space into artist studios,� Nelson said. “I’m working on a way to get that going again. People told me this used to hold bowling alleys that were very popular and used by the community, but I can’t find a single photo of it.� Estimating the cost to renovate the downstairs at something around $150,000, Nelson realizes he faces an uphill battle, but Historic Kennett Square and the downtown business community are rallying behind him, and town officials are fully in support of turning the largely vacant building into a thriving rental facility, exhibition space and place for artists to combine their efforts. The building has been well maintained, but a new boiler and air-conditioning improvements have cost an estimated $10,000 recently, and Nelson can only shrug at the tangled wires from various eras running across the basement ceiling. The building’s entrance on South Broad Street has a foyer space that Nelson is outfitting with historical photos of downtown Kennett, as well as a history of the Legion building itself. There’s a new name over the door on State Street, but he realizes more work is needed to get the word out. “I started a Meetup page to be a catch-all information center for the arts in Kennett Square, and Historic Kennett Square is sponsoring it. We’re booked on weekends through August,� he said. “But those are all people who don’t even know the building’s been renovated, so it will be a surprise.� Nelson has found plenty of people willing to help his efforts, and he credits building supervisor Les Brown and Arnold Reeves, commander of Kennett Square Post 491, with invaluable help in the project. But on a personal level, he pointed to a photo of American Legion members at an event in 1940 that now hangs beside the upstairs bar. “When I was downstairs here, talking about starting this, this photo was hanging in an office,� Nelson said. “Some of the members here are in their 70s, 80s. What happens five or 10 years from now? I kept looking at this photo and thought, ‘These guys are looking at me. They’re saying I know how to fix this.’� Nelson said. “I

walked out of that meeting and for two or three days, it stuck with me. I just thought, ‘I do know how to do this. I’ve owned my own company.’ It took a while to convince people that I wasn’t totally nuts. “My girlfriend tells me I’m obsessed with this project, but all I want to do is market this place so the building comes alive again. We are all so open to ideas,” he added. “I want to be able to display the history of Kennett in this place and make it a thriving community resource again.” For more information, visit www. RustyNelson.com. Meetup page for Arts Center: www.meetup.com/Arts-Kennett-Square-Brandywine/. American Legion information: www.facebook.com/AmericanLegionKennettSquare/ or call 610- 444-3004 for hall booking information. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

Rusty Nelson says he was inspired to help when he saw this photo of a long-ago event at the American Legion hall.

www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Calendar of Events Each Wednesday through Aug. 7 Anson B. Nixon Park Summer Concert Series

The Anson B. Nixon Park free Summer Concert Series takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each Wednesday through Aug. 7. The series kicks off on June 19 with Western Centuries from Seattle, Washington performing original country music. Kennett Brewing Company will offer dinner on June 19. On June 26, the series continues with All Good People—A tribute to Yes. This Philadelphia-based Yes tribute band has been wowing audiences over the past two years in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and beyond. El Rinconsito will offer dinner on June 26. Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber will be performing the music of David Bowie and Prince, as well as original works, on July 3. Burnt Sugar hail from New York City, and their style of music includes jazz and rock and orchestrated improvisations. M&M Barbecue will offer dinner on July 3. On July 10, the 30-piece Chesapeake Brass Band performs marches, orchestra transcriptions, jazz, blues, show tunes and contemporary concert and brass band pieces. Kennett Brewing Company will offer dinner on July 10.

Courtesy photo

The Anson B. Nixon free Summer Concert Series kicks off with a performance by Western Centuries on June 19. 74

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Courtesy photo

Kennett Square’s Third on Thursday events take place this summer on June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, and Sept. 19.

The Lowdown Brass Band from Chicago Illinois will perform at the park on July 17. This special event is being staged in conjunction with Hadley, the charitable arts organization. The Lowdown Brass Band deftly synthesizes the gritty sounds of Chicago with the high energy second-line street beat of the Crescent City—it’s hip hop meets jazz. On the Roll Food Truck and Catering will offer dinner on July 17. On July 24, the series welcomes Mighty Joe Castro & The Gravamen. Based out of Philadelphia, Mighty Joe Castro and the Gravamen is the latest musical project from accomplished collage artist and musician Joe Castro. Heavily influenced by the sound of rockabilly as well as ‘50s rockn-roll and doo-wop, the band takes that vintage rock and roll sound but updates it with a modern lyrical approach and a healthy dose of post-modern guitar effects. Mary Pat’s Provisions will offer dinner on July 24. Andrew Lipke performs on July 31. Lipke is a Philadelphiabased multi-instrumentalist and composer who marries alternative, singer-songwriter, folk and classical styles. Expect a full rock band augmented by some strings. Verbena BYOB will offer dinner on July 31. The summer concert series closes on Aug. 7 with a Kennett Flash Encore performance of sorts when The Sin City Band celebrate 45 Years of music one more time in Kennett Square with a special performance of Americana, folk, rock and roll and more! Porabellos will offer dinner on August 7.

June 20 Third Thursday on State Street

An exciting summer event series in Downtown Kennett Square! On the third Thursday from May to September, State Street will be closed from Broad to Center Streets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so visitors can enjoy outdoor dining, extended shopping hours, live music and children’s activities. Parking is free in all areas of the parking garage after 5 p.m. for each event. The Rolling Thunder Blues Review will be performing on June 20.

June 22 Block party

The 4th anniversary Kennett Brewing Company Block Party will take place on Saturday, June 22 from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Join Kennett Brewing Company as it celebrates the fourth anniversary in Kennett Square. This year, the block party will be bigger and better than ever, and as always, this event is kid-friendly. There will be games, sidewalk chalk, face painting, and ice cream for kids. The evening will also include plenty of live music.

July 18 Third Thursday on State Street

An exciting summer event series in Downtown Kennett Square! On the third Thursday from May to September, State Street will be closed from Broad to Center Streets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so visitors can enjoy outdoor dining, extended shopping hours, live music and children’s activities. Parking is free in all areas of the parking garage after 5 p.m. for each event. The Sin City Band will be performing on July 18.

Kennett Flash Shows that were just announced

The Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square) hosts regional and national artists. Tickets are available in advance at www. kennettflash.org, or at the door. Snacks and beverages are sold, or guests can BYOB. The schedule of shows that were just announced include the following: July 25 Albert Castiglia (blues rock) July 26 Hot Club of Cowtown (gypsy jazz) Aug. 2 Montreal Guitar Trio (guitar craft/acoustic guitar) Aug. 9 Beth Nielsen Chapman with Dan Navarro (legendary singer-songwriter) Sept. 13 Jon Pousette-Dart Duo (country rock)

Courtesy photo

The popular Murder Mystery Art Stroll returns to Kennett Square on Friday, Aug. 2.

Aug. 2 Murder Mystery Art Stroll

The area’s favorite ‘whodunit’ returns with a brand new mystery to be solved. Meet the detective at the scene of the crime in Sycamore Alley (between La Verona and the Franklin Center) to gather clues, question murder suspects in participating downtown locations, and attempt to identify the murderer and solve the mystery. Prizes will be awarded to random winners.

Aug. 15 Third Thursday on State Street

An exciting summer event series in Downtown Kennett Square! On the third Thursday from May to September, State Street will be closed from Broad to Center streets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so visitors can enjoy outdoor dining, extended shopping hours, live music and children’s activities. Parking is free in all areas of the parking garage after 5 p.m. for each event. The Groove Merchants will be performing on Aug. 15.

Now to Aug. 28 Bike & Hike & Brews

Visitors are invited to stroll or roll into Hagley Museum (200 Hagley Creek Rd., Wilmington, Del.) this summer for the 21st annual Bike & Hike & Brews series beginning on June 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. Every Wednesday evening from June through August, participants can bike, hike, jog, or walk a three-mile path and finish the evening with the purchase of one of Dogfish Head’s three craft beer offerings (two favorites and a new addition). Woodside Farm Creamery sweet treats are also sold during every Bike & Hike & Brews. Participants are invited to explore parts of the 235-acre property not usually open to visitors on a path from Hagley’s Visitor Center to the first du Pont home and back. Visitors can bring a picnic meal or purchase food from Hagley’s Belin House Cafe. The last Wednesday of the month will be Dog Days of Summer. Bring your leashed canine companion on June 26, July 31, and Aug. 28. Admission to all Bike & Hikes & Brews is $3 (Hagley members and children under 5 free). Visit www. hagley.org/bike for more information. Continued on Page 76 www.chestercounty.com | Summer/Fall 2019 | Kennett Square Life


Calendar of Events Continued from Page 75

Sept. 7 and 8 34th annual Mushroom Festival

The 2019 Mushroom Festival events will be held Sept. 6 to 8 in Kennett Square. The festival kicks off on Friday with the Community Parade, live music and carnival. Events on Saturday and Sunday include a street fair with more than 250 vendors, a car show, culinary demonstrations by renowned chefs, displays by local mushroom growers, live music and children’s entertainment, and plenty of mushroom specialties. Visit www.mushroomfestival.org for complete information.

Sept. 19 Third Thursday on State Street

An exciting summer event series in Downtown Kennett Square! On the third Thursday from May to September, State Street will be closed from Broad to Center streets from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so visitors can enjoy outdoor dining, extended shopping hours, live music and children’s activities. Parking is free in all areas of the parking garage after 5 p.m. for each event. Wheelhouse will be performing on Sept. 19.

Through Sept. 29 Festival of Fountains

The Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square) Festival of Fountains runs through Sept. 29. The three fountain gardens perform daily. The Main Fountain Garden includes new five-minute shows at 6:15 and 8:15 p.m. from May through August. Evening illuminated fountain performances in the Main Fountain Garden feature new shows Thursday through Saturday evenings at 9:15 p.m. (May through August) and at 8:15 p.m. in September. The Italian Water Garden and Open Air Theatre fountains have shows daily as well. For families, Longwood has interactive indoor and outdoor gardens, three treehouses to explore, and ample opportunity to roam. Families can also enjoy new Festive Friday evenings, designed with themed family-friendly activities. Longwood is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday from May through August; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 5 to 29. Admission is by timed admission ticket only. To purchase tickets, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.

Fridays throughout the summer Kennett Square Farmers Market

The Kennett Square Farmers Market is celebrating its 20th season. The weekly farmers market is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Friday during the summer. There is a fantastic lineup of vendors this year.

The Mushroom Festival, Kennett Square’s largest annual event, celebrates its 34th year on Sept. 7 and 8. The festivities get underway with a community parade and carnival on Sept. 6. 76

Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

Eileen Law Continued from Page 18

Eileen reviewed all the files and read the police reports that had been filed. At the time of the initial investigation, local law enforcement identified a prime suspect—a West Chester man who had spent time in prison for raping a minor and was known by police to be violent toward his own wife. Shortly after Connie Evans’ disappearance, the police actually had the man in custody, but they couldn’t charge him with the crime because of a lack of indisputable evidence. “A good attorney was able to get him off,” Eileen explained. After a good conversation with some of her law enforcement friends, Eileen began interviewing more people with connections to the case. She estimates that she probably talked to more than 200 people. “What I did,” Eileen explained, “was connect the dots.” She learned, for example, that the prime suspect had been released from Eastern State Penitentiary not long before the crime, and that the man’s wife had filed for divorce. Eileen went back and pulled the divorce documents from 34 years earlier.


“When I pulled the divorce papers,” she explained, “one thing that I found was that his address where he was actually served was less than 300 feet from where the body was found.” That was a huge connection of dots. Eileen uncovered another connection when she learned that the man’s previous address in West Chester was not far from where Connie Evans lived before her parents got divorced. “It turns out that Connie knew the man,” Eileen explained. “He was the father of kids that she had played with.” And just like that, a lot less uncertainty surrounded the biggest cold case in Chester County. Eileen shared her findings with Connie Evans’ mother. Sharing difficult information is a part of the job for private investigators. To this day, Eileen stays in contact with Connie Evans’ mother, who is now in her 90s and spends holidays and birthdays with her. She’s like a mother, best friend and sister all wrapped up in one. Eileen’s work to give her peace of mind understandably left a lasting impression, and the private investigator is proud of that. Mrs. Evans recently presented Eileen with a little wooden stool that Connie’s aunt made Continued on Page 78



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Eileen Law Continued from Page 77

for her. It now has a prominent place in her living room and is now one of her prized possessions – but also serves as a reminder of how life can turn in a minute. It’s still painful to see the impact that the crime had on Mrs. Evans’ life. Eileen explained, “Connie’s mom has these blue eyes that you just can’t forget. They are so blue. But there is still pain in those eyes, and that’s the thing that hurts me.” *** When the Pennsylvania Association of Licensed Investigators was set to select its first Professional Investigator of the Year, there was no shortage of quality candidates— there are 3,000 private detectives and investigators in the state, and many of them have been effective detectives for decades. But, among all the potential candidates, Eileen stood out, receiving nominations from different parts of the state. She was selected as the first recipient of what is formally named the Jim Carino, PALI Private Investigator of the Year Award. The presentation took place at the annual convention in Hershey, Pa. in 2018. Another highlight of her career is becoming a member of Intelenet, the world’s most elite private detective organization. It requires an invitation to join Intelenet. Eileen said


Kennett Square Life | Summer/Fall 2019 | www.chestercounty.com

that she was honored to be recognized by her peers, but ultimately what she has taken the most satisfaction from is being able to provide peace of mind or justice for people. She is reaching a point in her career where she is starting to think about retirement. But there are still a few cases that she wants to see through to completion. The Toni Lee Sharpless case is one. Another is the case of James Kelly, who was arrested for a murder in 1995. Eileen has many friends in law enforcement, and has a great deal of respect for the police, prosecutors, and investigators. But she believes they made a mistake in arresting Kelly for the crime. “James Kelly was a boy scout, an eagle scout. He was a good, good man,” she said, explaining why she has been working to prove his innocence and free him after so many years in prison. “James is now family to me,” she said. Kelly’s case is in front of the conviction review board. Eileen said that she would like to see Kelly released and she would like to have a resolution to the Sharpless case before she retires from her work. Cases like that serve as reminders of the fragility of life. The painful experience of losing her beloved husband to Continued on Page 80

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Eileen Law Continued from Page 78

cancer also reminded Eileen of one of her favorite sayings: “You can’t change the winds, but you can adjust the sails.” Eileen herself was able to do that in the years after she lost her husband to cancer. She naturally gravitated toward one of her favorite hobbies, which is boating. She is a Licensed Captain and was three-time Commodore of the Maryland Cruising Yacht Club. She shared a nautical wedding with Stephen Stewart, whom she met and very unexpectedly fell in love with during a time when she didn’t date, and didn’t want to marry anyone again. Stephen Stewart also has a law enforcement background, so he understands how driven she is to help those in need of justice. Eileen is starting to look forward to the time when she will dedicate more time to hobbies and spending time with Stephen than she does on cases. Even as she transitions to a new phase, anyone who knows her will attest that she’s not going to slow down. “From a Different Chair” is the title of a book that she is almost finished with. She’s wanted to write it ever since she learned some life lessons while sharing the final months of David Law’s life and many cases she’s investigated. She

admits that throughout her career, the work has kept her up many nights. Even when she’s not actively working a case, her mind doesn’t stop mulling over possibilities. “I don’t sleep very well through the night at all,” she said. Sometimes, when she wakes up at four o’clock in the morning, she wonders if maybe she shouldn’t have become a veterinarian instead of a private investigator. But those are nothing more than passing thoughts in the dead of the night. “I sometimes do think of that,” she said. After a pause, she added quickly, “But would I change it? No. I’ve been able to give peace of mind to thousands of people, and I feel good about that.” Eileen would like to be able to sleep more at night, but first James Kelly must be freed and Toni Lee Sharpless must be found. Who knows what other case is right around the corner for Eileen to lend her talents to? When she does free up some time, she has plenty of activities planned. “I intend to make more music,” she said. “I’m going to boat more. I may get into marine investigations.” Marine investigations? That’s Eileen Law. Always a woman of mystery. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@ chestercounty.com.

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Kennett Square Life Summer/Fall 2019  

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