The WC Press - Spring 2024

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Letter Editor from the

Kate Chadwick shares some personal insight into this month’s theme

I’ve often expounded here about what a fan I am of the changing seasons—variety being the spice of life and all that. The arrival of spring prompts most of us to embrace the uptick in temperatures, the incrementally longer hours of daylight, the return of greenery and flowers and baseball. One of my favorite elements of spring by far is open windows. There’s a feeling I can only describe as liberating on the first day that it’s not so cold that the heat needs to be kept in, or so hot that it needs to be kept out, and I can just open every window for the fresh air to get in and move around my house.

My dad had a thing about windows, too; maybe I got it from him. Every morning, he’d go around the house and fling open the curtains or pull up the blinds, and in the evening, as twilight fell, he’d reverse the process. He alone controlled the heat and air-conditioning—but he was a benevolent overlord, and I don’t remember complaining about being too hot or too cold too often.

I’ve been peeking through the windows of align.Space since they first got underway. To this day, I can’t walk by the place without doing a movie-worthy double take, my eye distracted by whatever event is underway in there, or simply the magnificence of the space. We got inside for a tour of the inner workings, and we take you along in this issue. When we say every spot in this place is Instagrammable, look no further than my editor photo here, taken late last summer.

Speaking of inner workings, I’d love it if the DeBaptiste family would give a TED Talk—I’d be first in line to see it. You don’t need us to tell you how pivotal Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste was in the revitalization of West Chester during his tenure as mayor. His daughter, Lillian DeBaptiste, has taken the reins in that very role. Now two years into her term, she sat down with our Contributing Editor Jesse Piersol for a frank conversation about what it’s like to steer the borough, her father’s influence in her life, and how she manages running a business and running the local government.

In the spirit of regrowth that comes with spring, we are introducing two new columns with this issue: On the Shelf, with staff picks from our friends at the West Chester Public Library, and History Happened Here, curated and contributed by the Chester County History Center. We reintroduce Local Talent, which puts a spotlight on a West Chester artist or musician, and we continue our recurring feature, New in Town. This issue, we check out Bookstore Bakery on Gay Street. Stop in to snag your new favorite read and try the lemonade. Trust me.

Welcome to spring in West Chester, and thank you for reading The WC Press

The Press


Dan Mathers


Kate Chadwick


Nick Vecchio


Jesse Piersol

The WC Press is a monthly magazine mailed to more than 3,000 homes throughout West Chester, as well as being dropped off to about 100 locations in and around the borough.


Erik Weber @westchesterviews


Becca Boyd

Andrea Mason

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Kate Chadwick

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Our no-nonsense table of contents


Tag our instagram account with your favorite WC photos


Bookstore Bakery is exactly what it sounds like MARKET FORECAST

Your planetary predictions with a particularly local twist


Meet Nancy Salamon of Clay Born Pottery and Textiles


A list of staff picks from the new books at the WCPL


A Conversation with West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste


Andrea Mason helps you upgrade your space


Diving into the important happenings in West Chester’s past


Becca Boyd shares tips on life and cooking


How align.Space became a community hub


We spotlight citizens for doing something swell


Spot the five differences and earn a Saloon 151 gift card


Songs that will take over the radio stations

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With all West Chester has to offer, there’s been a notable void: nowhere to buy new books without leaving town. Used books, yes—Baldwin’s Book Barn and Second Reading bookstores have got us covered there. And the library of course is always a great source for your reading needs. But besides the random drugstore paperback, there’s been a void where buying new books should be. Jonathan and Jessica at the newly opened Bookstore Bakery on Gay Street have not only filled that void, but also kicked it up quite a notch by incorporating a bakery. For some of us, there’s no greater combo.


Bookstore Bakery

145 West Gay Street

The shop had a soft opening back in January, but tentative plans for a grand opening were scuttled when business was brisk right from the jump. “We have not had one and to be honest we don’t think we will,” Jonathan told us. “We consider ourselves open.”

A visit in early February confirmed that the pair had struck a nerve. There were several customers browsing books in the cozy space, and on the bakery side, they were sold out of everything except for two Portuguese Egg Tarts— and we nabbed them. At around 2pm, it was a bit late for coffee—they have cold brew, and word on the street is that their in-house, from-scratch chai is next level. So, we opted for the Vanilla Lemonade, with its black flecks of grated vanilla bean floating in the perfectly sweet/tart concoction. What a great idea THAT turned out to be a great idea.

Jonathan, who has a retail background, moved to West Chester about

12 years ago to take a job in the Exton Mall. “Shortly after moving here, my car broke down, and I wasn’t able to repair or replace it,” he said. “This turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I learned to love this town and the community because I had to rely on it, and West Chester was always there for me. When I left to go to Brooklyn College in 2018, I promised myself I would return.”

That’s when Jessica entered the picture. “While studying in New York, I met Jessica and I told her about this great town, with access to public transportation, beautiful parks, and a great sense of community,” he continued. “When we began dating, it wasn’t difficult to convince her to come back with me.”

With Jonathan’s English major background and retail knowledge and Jessica’s restaurant and bakery training and experience, the concept for the Bookstore Bakery seemed destined. “The idea came during a conversation about the interesting stories behind the different food and dishes we eat every day,” Jon-

athan told us. “They are often a story of convenience and limitations—people working with what they have. We were moved by the inspiring stories of people making the best of their situations and decided to promote the idea of storytelling and persevering through the limitations that life imposes on us. We could think of no better way to do this than to open a bookstore; to both supply stories to the community and to be a symbol of perseverance by taking the little we know and our tiny space and making it great.”

The duo is settling into their own niches in the business, with Jonathan catering to the readers and Jessica feeding them. “While I do think our menu will be smaller than most, it is still growing,” Jonathan said. “Yesterday we gave out samples of a savory cheese and onion scone and cranberry oatmeal cookies to gather feedback. Jessica is always theorizing and crafting new treats. Right now, we have Portuguese Egg Tarts, Vegan Banana Muffins, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Ginger Snap Cookies. Soon we'll be adding Chocolate Cake, Miso Carrot Cake, and both sweet and savory scones.”


As for the bookstore part, Jonathan is in his element. “I am definitely the bigger reader,” he said. “My favorite books are Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and The Dispossessed by Ursela K. Le Guin.”

He has found managing the inventory his biggest challenge of business ownership. “Keeping up with demand and finding the right books for our shelves has been a lot tougher than I thought. It is, however, a great problem to have.”

Maybe that’s because those books are flying off the shelves. There is, after all, nothing like a new book. “We are still surprised by how well the books are selling. We feel lucky to have the opportunity to give back to our community by providing what seems to be a muchneeded service.

Right now, we have about 500-600 different titles in stock at any given time and should be able to fit about 800-900 in the future. Our inventory is constantly rotating so that our guests always have a new book to explore.”

The couple do not have children, but it’s on the agenda. In the meantime, there’s Coffee. No, not just that coffee. “We do not have any kids, but we look forward to starting a family,” Jonathan said. “Our dog, Coffee, is half German Shepard and half Australian Cattle Dog. She is incredibly smart and energetic, her favorite food is chicken, and she loves giving high fives.”

Even in their downtime, they are still a busy pair. “I love to ride my bike and walk around town, play video games with my long-distance friends, and of course reading! I read mostly science fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I love learning about technology and I’m currently working on developing a video game,” Jonathan says.

Jessica also loves walking around town (especially on summer nights), going out to dinner with her girlfriends, taking Coffee to the park, K-dramas, and exploring new foods and recipes. We are lucky to reap the benefits of that last part.

Despite its challenges and schedule, the Bookstore Bakery is worth it for the couple. If not for their hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit, Jonathan said, “Like most people our age [he is 33, she is 26], we would probably be stuck working for someone else and saving to buy a home. We want to thank the community for the great reception, but Jessica and I are very proud people; we don’t want people to feel the need to support us; we’d like to earn your support by providing the best food and service that we can.”

And the fringe benefits are the very best part. “The biggest joy by far is seeing strangers become friends,” Jonathan told us. “I’ve seen a guest join another’s book club moments after meeting, strangers chatting about their favorite parts of a book, and old friends reconnecting. I hope that our bookstore continues to be a force against the isolation that many of us feel today.”



Market Forecast

Resident astrologer Kate Chadwick provides your planetary predictions with a particularly local twist

Aries (3/21-4/19): You’re bursting with creativity this spring, ram friends. And since you run at full throttle, you’ll want to harness that spark so you don’t zoom right past it. Get yourself a journal at Pine & Quill, and jot those bright ideas down.

Taurus (4/20-5/20): Ever the homebody, you want to stay close to the crib while everyone else is out frolicking. The universe supports you in your happy place. Brighten your surroundings with a piece of art from Visual Expansion Gallery.

Gemini (5/21-6/20) The moon is in your house of communication this spring, twin stars. Yes, you’re already chatty, but right now your ideas are absolute gold. Get a day pass at align.Space and brainstorm your head off with personal or professional besties.

Cancer (6/21-7/22) You’re a softy under that crabby exterior, Cancer, and tend to put people above all. But the universe wants you to focus on your finances. Dust off your resume and remember: even that Kildare’s happy hour stranger is a potential connection.

Leo (7/23-8/22)IThe moon is in your sign during the spring equinox, making you feel just a bit more…Leo. “Don’t hold back” is the vibe, but sometimes you’re your own worst enemy. Hit Bookstore Bakery for a personal development book (and coffee, for a treat).

Virgo (8/23-9/22) You are one of the true workhorses of the zodiac, but the universe wants you to do something you’re not used to now: relax. Even your dreams will be sending this message. Kickstart it with a spa day at Remedi.

Libra (9/23-10/22) You put so much emphasis on romantic relationships, lovelies, that you can neglect your friends. Rectify that with a group night out. Plan an excursion with your buds to check out the divine 9 Prime.

Scorpio (10/23-11/22) This spring equinox is about striking a balance between work and play. No, wait – work and rest. You’re in the zone with your career now, but you need your zzzz’s too. Stop by Prana House for some herbal assistance.

Sagittarius (11/23-12/21) Travel is in your stars, and given that you’re the gypsy of the zodiac, that suits you down to the ground. The universe is also suggesting family time, so plan a summer vacation with Whirlaway Travel.

Capricorn (12/22-1/19) How about a break from the grind? Okay, that’s hilarious—you’re all about getting sh*t done. But your body needs a break. Stretch and stretch some more, and maybe new kicks from Bryn Mawr Running Company.

Aquarius (1/20-2/18) You’re among the most elusive and difficult-to-understand signs, but the aspects of this equinox are asking you to let others see your softer side. Plan a couple of lunch dates – a deux or in a group – at Mae’s and let your guard down.

Pisces (2/19-3/20) Two words, fish friends: spring cleaning. Yes, you’re all about love and nurturing, so make sure your space is one people want to flock to. Declutter, reorganize, then donate whatever no longer serves you at Woman’s Exchange.




Meet Nancy Salamon of Clay

Born Pottery and Textiles.

Her Art: Nancy creates stoneware, hand-painted with natural designs. In her 50 years of working in clays, she’s been creating unique pottery, including platters, vases, bowls, and more, painting designs from nature. She takes custom orders, with lead time, for oneof-a-kind pieces if you’re looking for a personalized gift.

As of seven years ago, her designs appear on textiles: table runners, blankets, pillows, tea towels, as ideas flow from this West Chester local. Her textiles can now be found in over 40 stores nationwide, as well as in her Etsy shop (etsy/shop/clayborntextiles).

Her Learning Process: For Salamon, it started at Antioch College in Ohio. “I liked Antioch’s work study program, an experiential approach to learning.”

Nancy took an elective sculpture class and designed a chess set, which led her to the pottery studio and the moment she found her passion. “I knew I had to do this.”

Her apprenticeship in Saint Lucia had Nancy doing the grunt work of pounding, lugging, and sieving through, removing stones and leaves from natural clay. The woman for whom she worked warned her it wasn’t easy, but Nancy wasn’t deterred. Reality set in after college. Nancy learned it was all about trial and error—emphasis on error. “It’s okay to fail, but don’t let failure stop you. Learn from it. You cannot quit.”

Biggest Influences: Nancy was fortunate to grow up in a home that valued creativity and self-employment. “My mom started a theater company, and I watched her overcome obstacles, make connections, and always find a way to figure things out. I learned from the master.” She also credits her many friends with brilliant ideas, such as branching out into textiles. Nancy cites being a member of the Wallingford Potters Guild for over three decades as a major influence as well.

When She Went Public: Nancy started working in West Chester in 1980, in the

basement of her home in the borough. There were the occasional craft shows, but finally it was time to get out of the basement. She and her brother, Alfred Rasch, rented a space in town for their respective businesses. His was a custom t-shirt operation, Horsin’ Around.

Latest Project: Nancy is excited to introduce her new garden sculptures at the 2024 Chester County Studio Tour on May 18-19.

Advice For New Artists: “Connect with other artists, there is so much we can teach each other about choosing a life that offers no real safety net. I like to say that I have a PhD in Trial and Error. But I don’t give up.” Learn as much as you can about business and marketing. “Nobody

“I have picked up, moved, shaped, and lightened myself of many tons of clay, and those tons lifted, moved, and shaped me…”

-excerpt from the artist’s favorite poem, Containment, by Jack Troy

taught me how to sell my work.” Times have changed, and Nancy eventually embraced technology with help from friends.

Where To Find Her Art: Nancy’s studio: 349 West Barnard Street; call or text for appointment. 484-643-3208. Her website is where you can sign up for her mailing list, or you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.


On the Shelf

What are you reading, West Chester? Here’s a list of staff picks from the new books at the West Chester Public Library.

415 N Church Street, 610-696-1721,


Curated by Clara Kelly, Youth Services Librarian

Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans

by Isi Hendrix

“After starting an apprenticeship in the kitchens of the Academy of Shamans, Adia Kelbara is labeled as an ogbanje, or cursed child, because unfortunate events seem to follow her. While trying to find help to rid herself of the label, she starts to realize that not all is as it seems at the Academy and she must embark on a quest with her friend and a warrior goddess to save the Academy and her homeland. Inspired by West African culture and mythology.” (Ages 8-12)

A Very Cranky Book

“Blue book is feeling cranky, even when its other book friends try to cheer them up with a storytime! As its mood starts to improve, the very cranky blue book learns a lesson in regulating emotions and appreciating friends. A fun read aloud for ages 4 to 8!”


Curated by Meghan Dougherty, Teen Program Coordinator

Most Ardently

This queer retelling of Pride & Prejudice follows a closeted trans boy named Oliver Bennet who forms an unlikely bond with an irritable boy named Darcy. Oliver struggles with the choice between a life of security and a life of freedom (and, perhaps, even love.)

Wander in the Dark

A Black teenager in New Orleans is framed for the murder of the most popular girl in school and uncovers dark secrets in his search for the real killer in this fast-paced thriller.

A Drop of Venom

This Medusa retelling is infused with Indian folklore and is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.


Curated by Victoria Dow, Director

Mobility by Lydia Kiesling

“Bunny Glenn believes in climate change. But she also likes to get paid.” Follow Bunny from her teenage years in oil rich Azerbaijan to adulthood in oil rich Texas. The novel explores “American forms of complicity and inertia, moving between the local and the global, the personal and the political.” (A Best Book of 2023)


Steering the Course

story Jesse Piersol photos Erik Weber

A Conversation with West Chester Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste

On an unseasonably spring-like Friday afternoon in February, Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste strides through the front doors of West Chester Borough Hall at 401 East Gay Street. Today has been a busy day for her already, and tomorrow will likely prove even busier. Starting at 6:30am, she will be overseeing the first of four separate life celebration services managed by the DeBaptiste family and their funeral business.

But for now, DeBaptiste, her assistant Theresa Eadie, and I make our way to the mayor’s office, a sun-drenched space tucked on the first floor overlooking Gay Street that she has occupied since January 2022. The mayor is impeccably dressed, and we bond over our love of turquoise after I have to remove my large bangle bracelet so that I can type on my laptop. On most days in the summer, turquoise is the color she’ll be wearing.

As we settle in around her conference table, DeBaptiste is quick to point out that she rarely sits at all. “I never sit at the desk,” she emphasizes.

Theresa Eadie concurs, “Yep. Even when you’re in the building, you are always on the move.”

The borough hall building looks different today than it did a decade ago. In 2018 it was remodeled to make room for the expanding police force, which now occupies the entire lower floor. The addition of five female officers required the installation of separate locker rooms. On the first floor, gone are the prominent center stairway and the triple-wide doors, replaced by two offices and a glass-walled conference room. The Parking Authority is also on the first floor, just inside the main entrance.

The reallocation of these physical spaces in the building serves as a poignant metaphor for Mayor DeBaptiste’s vision of West Chester itself.

Being Mayor is a Family Thing. Sort of.

The DeBaptiste family has an impressive lineage in this role: Her father, Clifford, served as the 56th mayor of West Chester from 1994 to 2002. Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste has a 100th birthday on the

horizon in May. Lillian and her siblings make sure one of them is always around to give him a hand and just to enjoy his company. At this point in life, she does not take for granted how fortunate she is to still have him around.

Chester County had a long history of Republican leadership, although that is changing. Indeed, when Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste founded his funeral home in September of 1954, the political cli-

mate was such that businesses in the borough built their network through the Republican party. And Clifford wanted to make a difference in the community, to build his business, and so he built his connections in the party.

In 1994, he ran for mayor against Democrat Wayne Burton, who at the time was an associate professor at West Chester University. Clifford won by a small margin—perhaps 500 votes—and



Generations of The Family Business

(L to R)

L. Elizabeth DeBaptiste

Christopher DeBaptiste

Dr. Clifford E. DeBaptiste

Lillian L. DeBaptiste

became the borough’s first Black mayor. Now, Lillian has made history for the DeBaptiste family once again, as West Chester’s first Black woman mayor.

Lillian notes that the idea of publicity meant something very different during Clifford’s campaign than it does now. Social media didn’t exist, and publicity teams were totally different. She shares that when Clifford required emergency surgery during his campaign, she found herself speaking on his behalf at meet and greets. “Don’t ask me how I ended up being the person doing that,” she laughs. She maintains that her father was always the face of the business, while she preferred to be the background person.

Like her father, Lillian was a registered Republican. Until 2008, that is. When Obama ran for president, Lillian felt ready to make a change. “I said, ‘Dad, I want to vote for Barack Obama in the primary,’” she recalls. “And he said, ‘me too.’” And so together, father and daughter made their way over to the voter services office on Westtown Road. “We went in and registered together,” she says. “For me, it was a freeing moment.”

The Inspiration

Disturbed by the increasing amount of police brutality directed toward Black men and women, Lillian was feeling helpless to do anything about it. “I realized I couldn’t do much on the national level, but I could make sure our town has the right type of force,” she states. “We had—and continue to have—a good force, under Chief Morehead, who worked on getting certification and hiring good people.”

“Particularly in today’s day and age, people are hesitant to get involved, but you learn so much about yourself— what you can do, and what you can’t do.”

Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste

She has already had some of that impact she imagined. For example, she helped select the next police chief, something she didn’t expect to do when she took office, but then Chief Morehead announced his intention to retire in January of this year.

“I am pleased and honored to select Lt. Joshua Lee for our next Chief of Police. His education, qualifications, and experience are all exemplary,” DeBaptiste told staff writer Bill Rettew in a December 20, 2023, article in the Daily Local News. “I look forward to his leadership. Although we are all sorry to see Chief Morehead retire, I am certain that the progress and initiatives made by him will remain on course under Lt. Lee’s direction.”

“We are working to make the force more diverse. We’ve hired a bilingual officer,” Lillian says. “And a Black woman officer. We now have five women on the police force. We are also working to keep the culture of policing such that officers always see the humanity of whoever they are dealing with—to have that compassion,” she continues. West Chester officers remain very engaged in the community, participating in events such as community days and serving on school resource teams.

“Seeing humanity is a two-way street, though,” she adds. “People sometimes don’t see the police as human either. So, seeing them out in the community, in turn, humanizes them, too.”

The new police chief espouses a similar sentiment. “Most people see us at

Lillian and her mother, Inez E. DeBaptiste

tragic times in their lives and we have the opportunity to make a positive impact,” Chief Joshua Lee reflected in the Daily Local News article. “Building community relationships defines us as officers.”

DeBaptiste recognizes the power of the moment. “Would I have run for mayor without the systemic police brutality going on?” she says. “Probably not. But it all came together, like divine intervention.”

The Campaign

“You know, Dad? I’ve really been thinking about running for mayor,” Lil-

lian said to Clifford when she knew she wanted to go for it back in 2021. “And he was like ‘What? Really?!’” she remembers. “His excitement. He was thrilled, and I didn’t think he would be. He always thought I had too much work to do to take on anything like this.”

She built her campaign around what she calls her “A-B-C-D Platform.” According to DeBaptiste’s official campaign website, the “D” is for diversity, inspired by her passion to impact policing in West Chester. She also dedicates herself to the arts (the “A”) by support-

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

Seven years ago or so, we published a story in our January 2017 issue called A Beacon in Bronze, about the sculpture of Frederick Douglass on West Chester University’s campus. The first mention of former Mayor Clifford DeBaptiste appeared in the second sentence, as the statue is the focal point of DeBaptiste Plaza on the academic quad.

When the idea for the statue came about and internationally known sculptor Richard Blake was enlisted to create it, the next issue was one of funding, according to Dr. James Trotman, co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University. In a quote from that article: With the help of “a truly splendid faculty fundraiser, Mr. Mit Joyner,” said Trotman, “we reached out to the community, and specifically, to Dr. Clifford DeBaptiste. We wanted not just his endorsement of the project, but for him to lead a team of people to raise the $250,000 we needed to make the project happen. Within


ing cultural celebrations, music, poetry, spoken word, great food, and fellowship in the borough. The “B” stands for balance, capitalizing on DeBaptiste’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and success as an entrepreneur. And “C” is for “clean and green,” aimed at maintaining the environmental initiatives of previous mayors to keep the town both clean and green and continuing to invest in and implement increasingly sustainable ways of living.

A Lifetime of Preparation

DeBaptiste feels confident in her preparedness for the role of mayor. “Unbeknownst to me,” she says, “I’ve been training my whole life for this job.” She identifies three areas that have proven especially beneficial throughout her career and that serve her well as mayor. “In the funeral business, you’re going to have to be on call at all times. Still, I’m available as mayor, too.” The second area she identifies is her work ethic. “You have to be used to working hard, getting out there, and putting yourself out there.

As mayor of West Chester, DeBaptiste is charged with oversight of the police department, and she was responsible for appointing the new police chief, Chief Joshua Lee.

I am the public face of West Chester, and I must represent it the best way I can.” Lastly, she believes that interpersonal skills are essential. “You have to be used to getting along with people, with navigating instances of disagreement. You can have discord, but you don’t have to be disagreeable about it.”

She elaborates, “When you are dealing with families, there are layers upon layers upon layers of feelings. This job feels easy compared to being a funeral director for 50 years.”

One of her favorite aspects of the job is bringing people to the table to collaborate. “Knowing a lot of different people, and how you can help,” she remarks. “Most people want to help, but they need the direction to get started.”

20 minutes, he donated the first $50,000 we needed for the statue. It was not only because of the money, but his reputation for service and integrity in West Chester, that we were able to go on and raise the rest of the money with the university’s support, along with numerous individuals.”

Service and integrity are words that seem to follow Dr. DeBaptiste around. His Chester County roots run deep, and he is now a living West Chester legend. A veteran, a decades-long business owner, and an engaged and active citizen who has sat on the boards of countless institutions, he of course served as mayor during one of the most booming eras in the borough’s recent history, from 1994 to 2002.

Those are some big shoes to fill, but Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste is poised and ready to carry the torch her father ignited.


Getting Involved

“I’m not a meeting kind of girl,” DeBaptiste says. “But listening to people’s perspectives, I’ve learned so much about my town. I get to meet so many different people.” Just in the past week, she and her husband attended a fundraising gala with the LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County. “We had fun,” she says. “I got to see what they were doing. And would I have been invited if I wasn’t mayor? I probably wouldn’t have even known about it.” She also had the opportunity to welcome the new rabbi at the Kesher Israel Congregation and the new pastor at the Baptist Church of West Chester. “All these different experiences broaden and shape your view of how you move in the world,” she says.

For anyone considering getting involved in local politics, or in their community on a deeper level, DeBaptiste offers some simple advice. “Get involved at the grassroots level,” she encourages. “Don’t worry that you think someone is more qualified or smarter or more tal-

ented or can do the job better than you. Just go in and give it your best.”

“Particularly in today’s day and age, people are hesitant to get involved,” she continues. “But you learn so much about yourself—what you can do, and what you can’t do. Before you know it, people see what you’re doing and how hard you work, and they tap you for another role. And then another role.”

“Would I have run for mayor without the systemic police brutality going on? Probably not. But it all came together, like divine intervention.”

She suggests that people get involved at a level at which they are comfortable,

too. “You give yourself the opportunity to expand yourself, and to broaden your experiences in the world. Sometimes, we have such small visions of who we think we are.”

What’s Next

In March of 2025, West Chester will be celebrating a major anniversary: the borough was incorporated in 1799, 225 years ago. The mayor is already working on plans to celebrate. “This year, we want to have a parade honoring that event on April 21 at 1:00 in the afternoon,” she says. “A family parade for everyone to be a part of.” She is looking for businesses and nonprofits to get involved with this effort and directs them to sign up through the borough’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“The more people we are involved with, the more we understand people from all walks of life,” Mayor DeBaptiste says. “And that’s what getting involved can teach us.”


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Designs Times

Andrea Mason of Andrea Mason Design is a professional interior designer who wants to help you upgrade your space of the

2024 has a lot of fresh takes as well as some favorites making a return. Here are a few statement makers and a few tried-and-true elements to implement this year.

New To The Scene

Peach Color Tones: Pantone’s Color of The Year is Peach Fuzz, a soft and warm tone that suggests a peaceful spring day. The last few years we have seen an abundance of warmer colors. Peach is another terrific option when introducing a cheerful layer to a space.

Marble: Such a timeless material! What’s great is that it’s versatile enough to be used in both contemporary and traditional spaces.

Marble may be a soft material but its wear and tear through the years will only add character to your piece.

Fluted Details: This architectural detail dates back to Greek architecture. We’ve seen it time and again, and now it’s showing up in furniture, fireplace mantels, columns, and accessories like lamps.

Continuing Trends

Wood Cabinetry: We will continue seeing more wood millwork and cabinetry, especially the rich, darker tones. It’s a fantastic way to add warmth to a space and to bring nature indoors. This detail is classically charming and will work with many styles.

Mixing Furniture Styles: This look creates interiors that are unique and tell a story. It’s a style unto itself, making your home look like it has been collected over time, by taking your favorite pieces from different historical eras and blending them together.

Bespoke: Customized furniture and accessories will continue to be a favorite in design, tailoring a look to create one-of-a-kind pieces for you alone. This can help to solve a problem in a particular spot in a room that needs an exact dimension, or it can be a creative look that you want to make a reality. The options are endless and truly special.

Say Farewell

Greys: With all these warmer colors on the scene, we are seeing less and less of the greys that we adored. It’s time to replace them with shades of beige and brown. Even a greige, which is a mix of grey and beige, will enhance and warm up your space.

Fast Furniture: People are saying goodbye to furniture that will break easily and have quick turnarounds, opting for furniture that can be used for generations. This doesn’t have to break the bank. Thrift and antique shopping can provide some of the most classic and well-made furniture for a fraction of the price.

Minimalism: People are ditching their bare lodgings and opting for cozy interiors, with layers that include rugs, drapery, various lighting, and decorative accessories. The minimalist look works harder to portray the person who lives there. With embellished interiors we can create an environment that can be yours alone. If you need help creating your interior, I offer customized design services. Say hello at —


History Happened Here

Diving into the important and exciting happenings in West Chester's past with Jennifer Green, Director of Education at Chester County History Center

This Month: Chester County’s Dr. Ann Preston Blazed a Trail

On December 1851, in a crowd of up to 2,000 spectators, eight women sat in nervous excitement because they were about to become trailblazers: the first doctors in the world to graduate from a chartered medical school founded especially for the education of women. On the stage, a physician from Bucks County named Joseph Longshore spoke to the graduates in the valedictory address, according to Pauline Poole Foster’s Ann Preston, M.D. (1813-1872): A Biography. The Struggle to Obtain Training and Acceptance for Women Physicians in Mid-Nineteenth Century America. He reminded them “You are justly entitled to full fees as are your brethren in the profession. You will render equal services, and justice will award you an equal compensation…. You must not expect the public to place a higher estimate upon you than you place upon yourselves.”

One of those first eight women to graduate from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania was Ann Preston. Born in West Grove, Chester County, and raised in a strong and supportive Quaker family, Ann rebelled early against the common conception that a woman must always be financially dependent on a man. She decided in her 30s to embark upon a medical career, but there were few options for women to achieve a medical degree.

In January 1850, Joseph Longshore gathered enough support to open the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and Ann Preston jumped at the chance to learn medicine. On December 30, 1851, she received her M.D.

Six months after graduation, Dr. Preston spoke at the first Pennsylvania Woman’s Rights Convention, in West Chester at

the Horticultural Hall. During her speech, according to a report of the convention, she bemoaned the fact that for women, “their pursuits are to be determined, not by their inclination, judgment, and ability, as are those of man, but by the popular estimate of what is proper and becoming…. Even for the same services woman generally receives less than man. The whole tendency of our customs, habits and teaching, is to make her dependent—dependent in outward circumstance, dependent in spirit.”

She and the attendees of the Woman’s Rights Convention demanded rights for which society still struggles today: equal pay for equal work; equal treatment before the law; equal access to education, especially the sciences; and equal access to professional careers.

In 1853 the Medical College offered Dr. Preston a professorship in physiology. She became the first female professor in a regular medical college in the United States. In 1865, Dr. Preston was elected Dean of the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the first woman of that position in the United States.

Dr. Ann Preston (above), a Chester County Native and a member of the world's first graduating class of women from a chartered medical school. She was also a speaker at the first Pennsylvania Woman's Rights Convention, hosted at Horticultural Hall (below), now home to Chester County History Center

Ann Preston was a pathfinder— she made it possible for thousands of women to follow her example and ignite change. There are many words that could be applied to Ann Preston and the women that followed her: ambassadors, flag-bearers, pioneers, but ultimately there was one word of which they were the most proud: doctor.


Becca Boyd shares tips on life and cooking on her blog at

Beccanomics Home

The vibe in early spring is a seesaw blend of exuberant joy, desperation, and disappointment. Watery sunlight brings you outside until bitter wind forces you back inside. The recipe I’m sharing today should help with that; shrimp and pineapple hint at the balmier times to come, but everything’s made in your oven—which is in your enclosed, warm kitchen. It’s also great for all diets, as I believe the wrap is the new milk: you’ll find one that works for every restriction under the sun. –

Pineapple Shrimp Tacos serves 4


1 1/2 lb. large/extra-large raw, peeled, tail-off shrimp

2 c. 1/2-inch pineapple


2 Tbsp. Olive oil

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1 tsp. Chili powder

1/2 tsp. Garlic powder


3/4 c. Packed cilantro leaves

1 large, ripe avocado

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. Salt

1/2 c. Water, or more for desired consistency

To serve

Tortillas of choice

1 bunch scallions, light green and green parts only, thinly sliced


Jalapeños, thinly sliced

Pickled red onions

2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spread shrimp on one side, pineapple on the other.

3. Drizzle olive oil over shrimp and pineapple and spread with hands to coat.

4. Sprinkle salt over shrimp and a bit over pineapple as well.

5. Sprinkle chili powder and garlic powder over shrimp and spread with hands to coat.

6. Bake for about 5-8 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through. Remove pan and remove shrimp to bowl, leaving pineapple on pan.

7. Set oven rack to the highest place and place pineapple back into the oven. Turn to broil and cook for several minutes, checking frequently until golden/dark marks appear on pineapple. Remove.

8. Meanwhile, make sauce. Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Add more water, if necessary, though sauce should be spreadable.

9. Toast tortillas on both sides using a gas burner; lay flat, spreading desired amount of sauce down the center. Top sauce with shrimp and pineapple, then garnish with scallions, cilantro, jalapeños, and red onions, as desired.

10. Roll and enjoy.


time &space

align.Space filled a coworking venue need and morphed into a community hub by Kate


To walk into align.Space is to feel both inspired and relaxed at once—no small feat—and that’s got nothing to do with the fact that it’s in one of the most stunning and iconic buildings in town. Okay, maybe that has a little something to do with it.

Known as “the West Chester skyscraper,” the six-story limestone and yellow brick building is a stunner in the Classic Revival style. As most people in West Chester know, the space is now a thoroughly reimagined yet beautifully up-tothe-moment incarnation of the former Farmers and Mechanics Building on the corner of High and Market Streets. Shortly before COVID, it was reborn as align. Space, a coworking and event space. And what a space it is.

The venue offers memberships for single, double, and premium offices, as well as shared “find your own desk” space. It’s a bright and vibrant environment, with an underlying buzz of the collective energy that comes from many engaged brains under one magnificent roof. The offerings run the gamut from conference room to snug cubicles-for-one to cozy reading nook, from shuffleboard to sweeping views of the borough.

Please note that align.Space is not your average coworking spot, though—it has evolved into a community collective. Networking activities, private events, live music, and more quickly mushroomed, turning this “get out of the house and get some work done” environment into a more cohesive consortium.

The team at align.Space is a small but mighty one—Member Coordinator Nikki DiGiorgio and General Manager Chuck Golder. We met with Nikki DiGiorgio for a tour (Do it. Go. Now.) and for a rundown of how align.Space began, where it is now, and where it’s going.

“The real vision came from entrepreneur John Ratliffe, who is the CEO of align. Space, and who got his start with a call center out of his apartment, fresh out of college,” Nikki said. “One of his chief complaints with the entrepreneurial lifestyle was that he didn’t have any resources, or anyone to connect with who understood where he was coming from and what he was going through. He could talk with his fellow twenty-something friends, of course, but they couldn’t identify with or

understand the complexity of his problems and the challenges of just showing up every day and making something that’s not a thing yet work—which is what an entrepreneur pretty much does.”

These days, John is a serial entrepreneur. “But align.Space was imagined by him to be specifically geared towards the entrepreneur, to give them both the resources and the community that he knew they needed,” Nikki told us. “So, community was always a part of the vision, which he attested to at one of our breakfast clubs. As he said then, align.Space turned out to be a bit different from his original vision, ‘but I’m not upset about it.’”

There are just so many different ways that people now use this space, according

to Nikki. “The idea was a place for people without a traditional office job to have a different place to go. It is now an event space as well, which was a bit of a pivot because of COVID,” she said. “We hold all sorts of business networking events here as well, whether they’re internally programmed or via different organizations like chambers of commerce. The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, the Exton Chamber of Commerce—they come here all the time. We have hosted fundraisers here, where the works and the food and drink are donated. It simply involves us just opening the doors and allowing the space to be used for this positive purpose.” Nikki was specifically referencing a late-summer fundraiser for local artist Landon Peacock of Gingko Arts, who had been diagnosed


with a rare form of leukemia. With donated works by local artists and beverages provided by Turks Head Café and Beermill, the fundraiser brought in $30,000.

Of course, align.Space could have charged the organizers to rent the space, but they donated it instead. It’s the kind of top-down attitude that John has instilled in his team—of prioritizing community involvement and engagement. “He does not micromanage us, but instead trusts us to make decisions that align with his values,” Nikki said.

As a further “sidebar” testimony to John’s generosity, Nikki told us that in addition to being the member coordinator here, she’s also an independent artist, who throws a music and arts festival which

aims to provide a platform for underrepresented artists. “When I told John about it, he started letting me hold my board meetings here—he’s fully in support of anything that has anything to do with raising the consciousness of our community, even if he has no direct ties to it. ‘Are you helping people?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Okay, absolutely.’ That was the conversation, and that’s cool. He’s not in here day-to-day, but he very much cares about what’s going on here.”

Chuck concurs. “We (our members) are proud to have recently donated a bunch of goodies to the WCU pantry,” he told us. +We think this is an often-overlooked community service that the university facilitates and that deserves some recognition. They go out of their way to make sure that students with food insecurity—or any

The first floor of align.Space — in the Farmers and Mechanics Trust Building at 2 W Gay St — is an openplan, multi-purpose common area.

other need, really—at the university feel supported, and that they have a safe space to “shop” at no cost to them.”

About that space: Capacity for offices is eight on each floor, and there are offices on the second, third, and the recently acquired fourth floor. “There is shared workspace for about half of each floor, and the other half has glass cubicles,” Nikki said. “There are premium office spaces which host whole teams, and then we have single and double offices.” The offices are leased monthly, so can become available at any given time.


“The fourth floor was something we had our eye on for a while,” Chuck said. “There are two great offices up there—one of which is currently available—with killer views of downtown and a big open space for flex use. We were happy to have the opportunity to put our stamp on it, and all seem to enjoy the extra space. We do rent it out as a whole for team meetings and trainings, and it’s a great space for groups that are too large for our Turk’s Head boardroom.”

If you’re just seeking a “get out of this house today” scenario, but still have work to do, align.Space offers a day pass in addition to their membership packages. “For $35, you get access to this space [we were on the ground floor seated on one of the spectacular orange couches at this time], all-access during business hours—the doors lock at 6pm—hot breakfast from Market Street Grill every morning, access to the coffee, water, even White Claws if that’s your thing,” Nikki said.

Not enough for you? Get a membership and check out these amenities: complimentary coffee, tea, snacks, beer and wine; 24/7 member access, a gaming and

recreation lounge; member-only events and workshops, and all of this in a setting that looks like it came right out of a design magazine.

“We encourage members to not only network with us, but amongst themselves—that’s one of the perks of membership,” Nikki said. “We want people to feel comfortable bringing in their own friends or team members. We want people to know ‘this is your space now—this is your office.’”

I tell people “It’s haunted if you want it to be haunted.”
– general manager chuck golder

That attitude clearly resonates with members, as borne out by their attrition rate, according to Chuck. “We find that once people get a feel for what we’re really about, they tend not to leave,” he told us. “Most members who move on do so for happy reasons, like the team outgrew the physical office, or they relocated for a pro-

In terms of offices in the borough, it's hard to imagine one with a better view (right). And it's not just co-working — the property doubles as an event space (above).

motion. Join us for a day pass or a community membership and then try to tell me this place isn’t the perfect space to be productive, meet new people, become part of a like minded community—and drink tons of coffee.”

Nikki herself is a perfect example of the power of the networking possibilities here. She found her spot at align.Space via an open mic night. “I came in for that and met Diane Miller, the previous GM, and she was always saying how she needed someone like me in here,” Nikki said. “So I said ‘sign me up!’ When she moved on from the company, I saw a post for a breakfast attendant, 10 hours a week. Once I got that, I knew it would lead to more—once I told people just how great this place is—I just knew it.” And she was right.

Nikki gestures to where the Market Street Grill breakfast spread is set up each morning. “We’ll have fruit, granola, awe-


some breakfast sandwiches—unless it’s sausage day—people lose their minds over that.” There technically is a community board listing what’s being served, but Nikki said what really got people in the door was when she started taking photos of the food and posting them to the venue’s Instagram story. “That’s really the unofficial calendar,” she continued. “Seeing pictures of what was being served started becoming the deciding factor in whether people would come in earlier on a given day.”

While we’re on the topic of Instagram, there’s a photo op at every turn in this

space. The huge windows allow tons of natural light— “It’s golden hour, all day long” as Nikki puts it. The original vault for the former bank is often utilized as a space to stash gifts for baby and bridal showers or birthday parties; the whiteboard on the interior wall pressed into service as an impromptu message board for the event. Several brides have walked down the stunning staircase to their intended, a show-stopping descent. “I’ve seen this place completely cleared out and a photo booth brought in for a sweet 16 party—it’s an amazing and versatile venue for any

event,” she added. The bright, modern furniture offers a pop of contrast to the stately surroundings of a 116-year-old building, with many of its original fixtures still intact.

Who would have thought an old bank would be repurposed for such joyous occasions? “The Chester County History Center held a lunch-and-learn event here one day and were talking about the building’s history—and I was just floored,” Nikki said. “Apparently they had the foresight back in 1908 when it was built—they didn’t know if the building would be run by gas or electricity in the distant future, so they built it


with both, which was cutting edge in the time period.”

It's hard not to wonder whether such an old building is haunted. “I tell people ‘It’s haunted if you want it to be haunted,’” Chuck said. “The Chester County History Center has some interesting stories about it.”

At least no potential ghosts are getting in the way of a day’s work. As for what that might entail, “The day to day involves wearing many hats,” Chuck told us. “These

hats have names like concierge, IT professional, barista, event coordinator, handyman, psychologist, accountant, and more. But all that makes it sound like it is only work. The truth is, our time here is a lot of fun and the interactions with members, guests, the community at large, and even our own team is what makes the culture here such a joy to be a part of.”

Whether you’re a part of the COVIDdriven work-from-home population who needs a day out of the house, an entrepre-

With conference rooms like these, you have to admit Zoom seems a whole lot less appealing

neur who doesn’t want to invest in a permanent brick-and-mortar office space, are looking for like-minded professional connections and workshops, or just want an incredibly cool spot to throw a party, align. Space is the vibe.

“I love working here—it’s so inspiring,” Nikki said. “It’s new every day.”


Tell Me

Something Good

Anne Walsh spotlights citizens for doing something swell. This month, meet Sandy Riper

What she does: The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County (DVCCC) holds a fundraising event every year, and they depend on the generosity of donors for their silent auction. Among her other philanthropic donations, Sandy Riper steps up to help with the donation of jewelry from her business, Sunset Hill Jewelers & Fine Arts Gallery. This year, Sandy is helping the DVCCC with yet another event: the 8th Annual High School Student Art Contest & Exhibition

Why she’s on this page: When the DVCCC found themselves unexpectedly looking for a new space to hold the annual event, they reached out to Sandy. In the time it took to dial a phone number and ask the question, the DVCCC had their new location secured. “Sandy Riper never fails to lend support to the DVCCC whenever we’ve asked,” said Amelia Rayburn Pizzica of DVCCC. “We are honored that she is welcoming us to come into her fine art gallery for this awareness event. It’s invaluable!”

Location, location, location! The iconic building provides an ideal space. Sunset Hill Jewelers & Fine Arts Gallery is located at 23 North High Street in the borough. A well-established gallery, Sunset Hill exhibits fine art from regional artists on a rotating monthly basis, but for one week from Saturday, March 30 through Saturday, April 6 (including West Chester’s celebrated First Friday on April 5th), it will be reserved for this special exhibition.

Student artists’ submissions inspire hope, unity, and positive change, and can serve as a message of support and a call to action for those affected by domestic violence. All area students are invited to pre-register for the competition by Friday, March 15.

What we admire about her: Sandy asked that we mainly focus this spotlight column on the event rather than her, in hopes of using this platform for inspiring young artists and bringing awareness to an important cause. She explained, “We are very honored to be able to help the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County. We hope this event will inspire young artists to pursue their talents further and to continue getting involved in their local communities for important causes such as this.”

The DVCCC recognizes that art can be a force for change. High school artists are encouraged to register and learn more online at, and view the impressive judges list. The exhibition and contest features awards sponsored by the National Arts Program, including a People’s Choice award, voted on by the public. Mark your calendar, visit the gallery, view powerful art, and vote! What she likes about West Chester: “One of the things I love about this town is that West Chester is a city in a town's body,” Sandy told us. “Our town continues to grow but it does not forget to take care of the people that are the heart of its existence.”

Moral of the story: Creativity can bring awareness—and donations—to a worthy cause. The use of a creative space is a perfect setting to bring a much needed focus to the issue of domestic violence. –


Spot the five differences hidden within this idyllic vision of spring, then email your answers to, and you’ve got a chance to win a Saloon 151 Gift Card.


Spring Hits List

DJ Romeo curates a list of the tracks you’ll be singing all season long

The following is a list of songs that will take over the radio stations in the next few months. You’ll soon know them by heart and play them ‘til they’re tired. And, you can now stream the list in its entirey at:

@DJRomeo24 |

Benson Boone – Beautiful Things

Vintage Culture, Maverick Sabre, Tom Breu – Weak

Kygo, Ava Max – Whatever

Ariana Grande – yes, and?

Good Neighbours – Home

Ella Henderson, Rudimental – Alibi

Gotye, FISHER, Chris Lake, Kimbra, Sante Sansone – Somebody (2024)

Teddy Swims – Lose Control

Jason Derula, Michael Buble – Spicy Margarita

Zac Brown Band, Avicii – Beautiful Drug (remix)

Bob Marley & The Wailer, FISHER – Jamming (remix)

Beyonce - Texas Hold 'Em

Justin Timberlake – Selfish

Calvin Harris, Rag’n’Bone Man – Lovers In A Past Life

Loud Luxury, charlieonnafriday – Young & Foolish

USHER – Kissing Strangers

Sia, Kylie Minogue – Dance Alone

Cheat Codes, Two Friends – The Way It Is

Kungs, David Guetta, Izzy Bizu – All Night Long

Dua Lipa – Training Season

Alok, Bebe Rexha – Deep In Your Love

Matt Johnson – Green Green Grass (acoustic)

Kenya Grace – Strangers

Lost Frequencies, Bastille – Head Down

Tiësto, Rudimental, Absolutely – Waterslides

Zara Larsson, David Guetta – On My Love

Selena Gomez – Love On SZA – Saturn

Jennifer Lopez – Can't Get Enough

David Guetta, Mason, Princess Superstar – Perfect (Exceeder)

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