by Pete Mazzaccaro
This month, Bruce Darryl Hoffman was elected the president of the Chestnut Hill Business Association. The Philadelphia native and Tyler art school grad who took over as director of Gravers Lane Gallery at 8405 Germantown Ave. three years ago, ran a gallery in Old City for 24 years and founded Fiber Philadelphia, an independent citywide event promoting textile art.
Hoffman said he’s excited to be in Chestnut Hill, having been hired by Gravers Lane Gallery Owner Ken Goldenberg.
“I love it,” Hoffman said of Chestnut Hill. “Ken hired me to make this place something great for the community. We do social outreach. We’re not just about being a for – profit gallery.”
Hoffman said he started working with the business association as soon as he arrived. He was recruited by McNally’s Tavern owner Anne McNally and Artisans on the Avenue co-owner, Lisa Howe. He is eager, he says, to continue the work of promoting the Avenues businesses both in the region and beyond.
“One of my main goals is to bring people to the street,” Hoffman said. “The restaurants are now doing well. It’s known as a restaurant street. Now we have to promote the specialty shops we have here.
“In my eyes, some people want to concentrate on the region – that we’re the Chestnut Hill community and that we cater to the area. But I think we need to be on the national level as well. We’ve hit six national directories in recent years as best place to live, to eat.”
As important as that national recognition is, Hoffman said that he believes cooperating with other local organizations is key.
“It’s an imperative that we enhance our relationship with the community association,” he said. “[CHCA president] Will Detweiler is great. He’s right on board with making the community part of the business community. We’re meeting on events. There’s a really great dialogue happening.”
Part of that dialogue is collaborating on events. Hoffman said the planning for holiday events in November and December is already quite far along. The traditional “Stag and Doe” shopping nights in December will have themes, and special lighting is being planned for the middle of Germanton Avenue.
“One of the issues we discussed at the holiday meeting this morning is we realize the Jenks block is a real hole and discourages people from connecting between the upper part and lower part of the Avenue,” he said. “We’re planning on doing something about this with special lights and making that block a fantasy land.”
Other challenges Hoffman said he is working to address include parking and dealing with vacancies. He credited CHBA retail recruiter Kathy Meadows for working hard to fill those vacancies, but acknowledged that vacant shops are not always easy to fill.
“It’s an expensive square footage up here,” he said. “That’s not an easy thing to deal with: getting businesses and restaurants in that aren’t chains, are the image we want and that can afford that square footage. It’s something we’re trying desperately to work on to get.”
All in all, though, Hoffman is very upbeat about the Avenue and its current crop of businesses, both old and new.
“Look at the boutiques we have – it’s extraordinary,” he said. “The antique stores. What the Woodmere is doing is extraordinary. What Morris Arboretum is doing now is extraordinary. We have Chestnut Hill College. We have a great theater in Stagecrafters. We have award-winning bakers in The Night Kitchen and Brendenbeck’s. What Ron Pete has done to the hotel is key. … We have the goods. We have it now. We need to make that known.”