Q&A: James Mergiotti, President of Center City’s Peirce College

James J. Mergiotti, Pierce College president

Photos via Peirce College

During Villanova’s run to the national championship this year, there was much commotion about the team not being a “city school.” It’s true, of course: Villanova is in Radnor Township.

At some point, I tweeted about how I only root for Peirce College, the school located on the 1400 block of Pine Street in Center City Philadelphia. (“Go Fighting Misspellings!” I wrote.) Somehow, that led to me interviewing the president of Peirce College a few weeks later.

A little backstory: Peirce College was founded by Thomas May Peirce in 1865. He found there was no adequate business training facility for veterans returning from the Civil War. He started the Union Business College to help educate Civil War vets and get them started on business careers. He started with nine students on a Saturday morning at Eighth and Spring Garden, and had 550 enrolled by the end of the first year.

The school was eventually re-named Peirce, and moved to its location at 1420 Pine Street in 1915. A member of the Peirce family was president of the school until 1981, when Dr. Raymond C. Lewin became took the role. Current Peirce president James J. Mergiotti, a longtime veteran of the banking industry, is the third non-family member to be president of the college. The school still has a focus on educating people for the professional world, offering degrees in areas like business, IT and healthcare administration.

I sat down with Mergiotti to talk about Philadelphia’s tiny, little-known college, one that sits in the shadows of all the large institutions in the city. This interview has been condensed. Read more »

A Beer Garden in the Sky Coming to Center City

Rendering of the upcoming Skygarten at 3 Logan Square

Rendering of the upcoming Skygarten at 3 Logan Square

At a height taller than the even the observation deck of Berlin’s famed TV tower, Fernsehturm Berlin, Skygarten will be one of the highest places in the world to hoist a pint or boot of German beer. And that’s what you’ll be doing on the 51st floor of 3 Logan Square (1717 Arch Street). Top of the Tower is teaming up with Brauhaus Schmitz to launch what they’re calling the “World’s Most Celestial Beer Garden.”

The 3,000 square foot indoor and outdoor space will curated by Doug Hager and his team at Brauhaus Schmitz. Hager will have four draft lines plus multiple German beers by the can and select local craft beers. Jeremy Nolen is working with the Top of the Tower’s culinary team to create a menu of bar bites and snacks.

Read more »

SEPTA Starts Big Concourse Renovation Monday

SEPTA - concourse new renderings

Courtesy SEPTA

SEPTA is sprucing up part of the underground concourse. And, starting Monday, two sections near City Hall will be closed for renovations for about a year.

In February 2015, we told you about SEPTA’s big plans for the underground concourse. SEPTA took control of the Center City underground concourse from the city in July of 2014, and wants to make it more welcoming. Parts of the concourse have not really been updated since the 1950s.

SEPTA has already begun structural work on parts of the concourse, including a patch-up job on the South Broad Street concourse last year. And major structural work is in progress at several locations now, including replacement of the escalators off 15th Street. But the work on the concourses that connect South Broad with the 15th Street/Centre Square and Market Street concourses is the first major work of a multi-year plan that SEPTA hopes will re-invigorate the concourses. The stretches that connect to the north end of the South Broad concourse will be closed until April of next year. Read more »

Wawa Is Planning Even More Center City Expansion

Wawa - 19th and Market - rendering

Rendering courtesy Wawa

Reversing an old trend, Wawa is making a big push into Center City.

Today is Wawa Day, celebrating the anniversary of the first Wawa convenience store’s opening on April 16th, 1964, in Folsom. Free cups of coffee are given to patrons chain-wide. As such, a line of corporate heads — as well as Mayor Jim Kenney and sports media personality Howard Eskin — were on hand at the Wawa flagship store at Broad and Walnut to pour the ceremonial “first cup of free coffee” and make some major announcements. Read more »

Sources: New Wawa Is Coming to 19th and Market

19th and Market - new Wawa

1900 Market Street, rumored location of a new Wawa.

A new Wawa is coming to Center City.

On Monday, Wawa announced it would reveal the renderings and location of a new Center City Wawa on Thursday at the flagship store at Broad and Walnut streets (“the Robinson Luggage Wawa”). Two sources have confirmed to Philadelphia magazine that Wawa will be in a currently vacant location at 1900 Market Street. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported the same earlier this morning. Read more »

Hai Street Kitchen Is Expanding in Philly and Beyond


The Hai Street Kitchen line isn’t this long anymore, but it does still reach the sidewalk. (Photo from May, 2014)

Expect to see more from Hai Street Kitchen & Co. in the near future: this spring, they are opening their third location at The Shops at Liberty Place at 17th and Chestnut Street, just down the block from their original shop. Then in the summer, they’re opening at the King of Prussia Mall, alongside Nicolette Pizzeria, Melt Shop, Shake Shack and the Fat Ham.

Read more »

Today Is Villanova’s Championship Parade

Villanova basketball fans view a broadcast of the national championship between Villanova and North Carolina, Monday, April 4th, in Villanova, Pa.

Villanova basketball fans view a broadcast of the national championship between Villanova and North Carolina, Monday, April 4th, in Villanova, Pa.

Today is the championship parade for the Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team in Center City Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know:

As we’ve reported previously, the event starts at 1 p.m., and will run from 20th and Market streets to Dilworth Park in Center City. There will be a rally at Dilworth Park at the end of the parade. University President Rev. Peter Donohue, head coach Jay Wright, and members of team are expected to speak at the rally.

Starting at 11 a.m., Market Street between 15th and 23rd streets will be closed, as will 15th Street from JFK Boulevard to Chestnut Street. Cross traffic on Market Street, from 16th to 22nd streets, will be closed prior to the parade and will resume after the parade passes and streets are cleared. Parking along the parade route is prohibited, and drivers in the area should expect to take detours.  Read more »

Sour Beer and Cider Focused Bar Coming to Locust Street

Owner Teddy Sourias in what will become Cinder, a tart beer and cider bar on Locust Street.

Owner Teddy Sourias in what will become Cinder, a tart beer and cider bar on Locust Street.

Tart fans will have a new home base when Teddy Sourias’ (BRU Craft & Wurst, U-Bahn, Uptown Beer Garden) new bar, Cinder opens at 1500 Locust Street this summer. The bar will capitalize on the exploding popularity of sours, goses, wild ales and ciders. A wood-fired oven will turn out rustic pizzas in what Sourias is calling his most food-focused concept to date.

The 2,400 square foot bar takes over the space that formerly was home to Wolf Market, just up the street from Fado and across the street from Misconduct Tavern. If all goes well, the bar, complete with custom copper piped beer system and custom-built wood-fired oven will open in late June or early July. The bar will have capacity for 65-75 people with additional seating on Locust Street. The bar will be situated to the right of the entrance with high-top tables along the front windows. The dining area will be in the center of the room and the open kitchen will be to the left. The space will also have a smaller dining area available for a chef’s table or private dining.

More on Cinder »

New Spring Cocktails at Oyster House

Photo by Jason Varney

Photo by Jason Varney

On a recent unseasonably warm March afternoon, I stopped in to Sansom Street’s Oyster House to try out several of the restaurant’s new cocktails. Head bartender/bar manager Lindsey Krueger, a Franklin Mortgage and Village Whiskey vet has been at Oyster House for four years and has built up quite the selection of gins behind the bar, a collection that is put to good use in the latest Oyster House cocktail list.

Bartender Colin O’Neill, himself a Franklin Mortgage alum mixed up the cocktails as I sampled the day’s oysters, house-cured gravalax and decided to wear the delicious barbecue oysters.

Read more »

Blood and Gingham: Urban Farmer Reviewed


Photo by Arthur Etchells

By my own estimate, I consumed 13 billion calories at Urban Farmer the last time I was there. Maybe 13 and a half. I’m not very good at math, but I’m still pretty sure I’m right. And if I’m not, it surely felt that way. So much red meat. So much starch. So much cornbread, hot Parker rolls with melting butter, crumb-topped creamed spinach spooned from a cast iron bowl. So many sea creatures. And all of it—all of it—was so good.

There were problems, sure. The service varied between charmingly bumbling and infuriatingly incompetent. The bathrooms looked, from the outside, like you were entering through a giant shipping crate (which was at least in keeping with the faux-homespun style of the place) and, on the inside, like some kind of throwback to black marble Rat Pack Vegas, missing only the elderly man offering breath mints and Brylcreem (which was not at all). And the dissonance between the foie gras and the gingham—between the rustic Amish barn-raising decor at this third Urban Farmer steakhouse from Sage Restaurant Group and the ultimate price tag, which ran to more than a hundred dollars a head—was disturbing. It creates an all-hat-and-no-cattle kind of cowboy situation. Like some soft-handed politician throwing on a new-off-the-rack Carhartt jacket and a pair of stack-heel boots that have never touched mud and trying to prove his down-home bona fides by eating fried chicken with a fork and knife.

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