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   March 27, 2008 Issue                                       

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Chestnut Hill Local
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Local Life

Hoping to recapture formula for success
Despite closing of Avenue, Yu Hsiang Garden reopens


The assorted Pu Pu platter for two ($13.95) is practically a meal in itself, consisting of barbecued spare ribs, shrimp toasts, spring rolls and more.

When Yu Hsiang Garden at 7630 Germantown Ave. became Chestnut Hill’s first Chinese restaurant in September of 1989, it was a case of baptism under fire. Several residents close to the restaurant had done everything in their power short of poisoning the area’s water supply to prevent Yu Hsiang Garden from opening. They had the usual litany of fears — crowds, parking, noise, smells, etc. While the protesters did not ultimately get their way, they did in fact delay the opening for many months.

All of the publicity about the protesters’ efforts actually backfired on them. The publicity gave the embattled restaurant a recognition bonanza, which contributed to standing-room-only crowds every night. When we first visited the restaurant at 7 p.m. on a Thursday in mid-September, 1989, we had to wait more than 30 minutes for a table, and a few weeks later we actually waited an hour for a table on a weekend night.

Once-dangerous ‘Big Shot’ has been pathetically domesticated

Jim Harris as “Bigshot” (1981), with all fingers intact.

Recently, I was lying in bed on a Saturday night, watching an “Osmond Family Reunion” fund-raising special on PBS. As if that weren’t pathetic enough, I was thinking, “Boy, these guys are good!” And when they projected old video from their 1970s’ TV show, I thought I detected a tiny tear of nostalgia trying to make its way out of my left eye.

Suddenly a thought struck me like a thunderclap. Is this what my life has come down to: watching dancing Mormons in fringed vests on TV? Am I the same rogue who used to arrive home as the neighbors were leaving for church on Sunday mornings? Is this the same guy who once woke up at high noon in a tuxedo on the beach at Atlantic City, amidst a crowd of little kids staring in wide-eyed wonder? “Mary, Johnny, stay away from that man,” their mother cried, “He’s dangerous.”

That was me: dangerous. Whether lying there on the beach like an unexploded torpedo, or jousting for the last crouton at a salad bar, I was a force to be reckoned with. Not someone you’d want to cross, baby.

Just one example of my once-formidable powers of retribution: In 1981, when I was the Philadelphia 76ers mascot, “Big Shot,” I got wind that the team’s new director of operations, Lou Sinefeld, was planning to fire me. Apparently he blamed the mascot’s “crude” antics for the team’s low attendance. I heard that he was going to make a big show of announcing my firing to the press, so I hatched a plot of my own.


After nine months, the ‘new’ Apothecary Garden is born

The rows of large herb-filled jars and bottles thrilled one customer, a former pharmacist , because it reminded him of the days when he actually mixed prescriptions from scratch  for customers in his own drug store.

Apothecary Garden is a longish name for an innovative shop that had its beginnings in what seemed  an impossibly small space. Maia Toll opened the door to her plant-and-nature-based shop at 8640-a Rex Ave. in June, 2006, just a few steps from the top of the Hill, and at the time I wondered how long she could survive in that tiny room.

Maia has survived very well, indeed. After what could be described as a natural gestation period of approximately nine months there, she made a move in February 2007 to the present spot at 7721 Germantown Ave.

Maia is extremely happy to be in the new place, which is one-half of a small twin house across from Staples.The building is owned by long-time Chestnut Hillers George and Lou Filippi, whose company has produced, for many years, commercial and decorative iron works in their company on Winston Road, just to the rear of Apothecary Garden. Maia learned about the  spot from a customer who alerted her that the space was available.She tells me enthusiastically, “Lou is a fabulous landlord. He’s really a wonderful person who helps his tenants and truly supports the fabric of Chestnut Hill. He approved our idea of planting an herb garden in a small space in front of the shop, and the Chestnut Hill  Business Association donated a hawthorne tree.” She explained that the hawthorne “regulates the heart.”


Kids’ April Fool’s holiday ruined by common cents
by Janet Gilmore

Mark “Rags” Raginsky wasn’t a bad kid. His big sister thought he was a pest, but his parents loved him. He mostly did his chores when reminded, and got good grades in school. His friends, though, knew what he was capable of in the right circumstances.