‘Love, Chestnut Hill’ delivers a local Valentine

by Francesca Chapman
Posted 2/8/24

Hoping to receive a valentine? This year, Chestnut Hill would like to send you one.

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‘Love, Chestnut Hill’ delivers a local Valentine


Every Valentine’s Day, it’s nice to think maybe you’ll receive a valentine from your partner, or your child, or your bestie. This year, there’s more: Chestnut Hill would like to send you a valentine.

The love will come in the form of a new event sponsored by the community’s business district, to be held along Germantown Avenue this Saturday, Feb. 10.

“Love, Chestnut Hill” is planned to celebrate the area’s small businesses and the people who love them.

“The goal of our winter event is to energize the Avenue and bring people together during the midst of winter,” said Georgia Forjohn, marketing and events coordinator for the Chestnut Hill Business District, organizer of “Love, Chestnut Hill.” 

The special Saturday will largely replace the “Chestnut Hill on Ice” events held one winter weekend every year since 2015. High costs, diminished returns and a profusion of similar ice-sculpture displays in nearby communities inspired the search for something new, Forjohn said. 

(Some nice ice may still be spotted Saturday – at last report, Adelina’s Restaurant & Bar, at 8235 Germantown Ave., was planning an ice sculpture and the Chestnut Hill Brewing Co., in the Market at the Fareway, an ice bar.)

The new event will draw some familiar elements from Chestnut Hill’s many successful community traditions. Like November’s Small-Business Saturday, “Love, Chestnut Hill” will emphasize the charm and economic benefits of shopping at locally owned and independent businesses. Like December’s Stag & Doe nights, those businesses might treat shoppers to a drink or snack. Like the spring and fall Clover Markets, vendors will transform a parking lot into an outdoor marketplace with unique items for sale.

And it will be “very organic, very community-driven,” Forjohn said. “Our local businesses and restaurants appreciate that there will be no external vendors – it is really, really community-focused.”

A “Winter Garden” set up in the Green Lot, off East Highland Avenue, will offer items for sale from local businesses. Some will be from shops or galleries “down the Hill, who want to come up the Hill,” Forjohn said. Others, like the Artist & Craftsman Supply shop, will be there to introduce itself to shoppers who might never have noticed its off-street storefront at 7926A Germantown Ave. Artisans who are based in or near Chestnut Hill but lack a brick-and-mortar presence – perhaps selling their works primarily online – will also set up in the Winter Garden.

Shopping and dining will be made more tempting by merchants offering special deals or discounts for the day. At the Windfall Gallery at 8419 Germantown Ave., owner Cynthia Fillmore will invite shoppers to “take a shot at a discount” and – surprise! – discover the amount of discount offered by draining a small shot of liqueur and seeing the lucky number on the bottom of their glass.

“I always think of giving people an experience” when they shop, Fillmore explained. “Love, Chestnut Hill” will “highlight the businesses, and highlight the community – the people who support the businesses. It’s a great way to bring people together.

“Hopefully, people will come out and enjoy themselves on Saturday,” she added. 

Fillmore’s neighbor, Beth Milley, runs the Villavillekula children’s boutique at 8419 Germantown. She, too, wanted to offer shoppers an experience (one suitable for small children). For Saturday, she’ll set up a Valentine-creation station in a back room, where kids can craft cards to give. “I do that every year anyway. People love coming out and being together” to break up the long slog of midwinter, Milley said. 

One more enticement to come out and enjoy the day includes a raffle for what Forjohn described as a “mega-basket” of local goodies: Chestnut Hill-branded apparel and gift cards for area restaurants, services and classes. Shoppers will receive a ticket for each purchase of $25 or more at participating businesses.

Does all this give you a warm and loving feeling? “Love, Chestnut Hill” requests that you reply with a valentine of your own. Visitors to Saturday’s event are asked to bring, or create on the spot, their own love letter to Chestnut Hill. Jot down a cherished neighborhood memory, Forjohn suggested, or a favorite thing to do in Chestnut Hill, and drop it in one of the boxes provided at participating stores. Organizers plan to use the notes later this year to create a special display in a Germantown Avenue storefront. 

Of course, a big part of what makes Chestnut Hill so worth loving is the Chestnut Hill West regional rail line, which ends at the top of Germantown Avenue and offers locals a direct and pleasant ride to Center City. A massive SEPTA funding crisis has put that line under threat of closure – so organizers are also using the event to encourage people to use it more often. 

“We have two problems we need to address if we’re going to save that line,” said Anne McNiff, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. “One is the funding gap, which we hope Gov. Shapiro and the state legislators will solve. But the other is low ridership. According to SEPTA, the Chestnut Hill West line has the second-lowest ridership numbers in the entire system. If we don’t use it, we will lose it.” 

Saturday’s “Love, Chestnut Hill” festival will run all day, rain or shine, with the Green Lot Winter Garden operating from noon to 5 p.m. Participating businesses and love-letter drop boxes will be identified on an event map distributed along Germantown Avenue. For more information, visit the business district’s website at chestnuthillpa.com or Instagram @ChestnutHill_PA.