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  September 4, 2008 Issue                                       

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Local Life

Just opened, already packed every night
Tiffin currying favor with Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill

by LEN LEAR

Chef Rakesh Ramola prepares his fiery Indian dishes authentically with freshly ground spices from India

When Munish Narula began looking for a location for his Indian restaurant, Tiffin, in 2006, he gave no more thought to locating it in Northwest Philadelphia than to locating it in downtown Camden.

“I did not think of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy as a potential market,” said the tall, handsome 37-year-old Wharton School graduate who emigrated from New Delhi, India, to the U.S. 16 years ago. “If you had asked me about 100 places I had in mind to open a restaurant, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill would not have been on the list.”

But a funny thing happened after Narula opened Tiffin in December, 2006, at 710 West Girard Ave. on the northern border of Northern Liberties. “I began to get phone calls and emails from Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy,” he said. “In fact, I got so many calls and emails that we started sending drivers to Northwest Philly twice a week all the way from Northern Liberties to make food deliveries.”


10 years of professional theater at Ambler venue
by CLARK GROOME

Bud Martin, producing artistic director, and Harriet Power, associate artistic director, have high hopes to expand Act II’s audience in its second decade.

As Ambler’s Act II Playhouse opens its 10th anniversary season this week, it is entering a new chapter in its history — Act II’s second act, if you will.

Its first act began April 21, 1999, when the former karate studio on Butler Pike was renovated into the 130-seat theater that has been the company’s home since Steve Blumenthal and Alan Blumenthal (no relation) founded it and named it Act II because it was their second career, the second act of their lives.

It was an immediate hit. The only professional theater (that means having a contract with the actors union, Actors Equity) in Montgomery County, the Playhouse filled a void for many area theater lovers. The Blumenthal Brothers, as they affectionately were known, had made the decision that they were going to employ the best local theater artists they could find as directors, designers and performers. And that they did.


Still just $9 for a haircut at 50-year-old shop
For half-century Don Murphy has been a cut above

by JIM HARRIS

Part two

Don Murphy has been cutting hair in Mt. Airy for over 50 years at 7149 Germantown Ave. With so much experience, he is the master barber of the region and has groomed numerous consecutive generations of males from the same family, such as the Harting family. Seen here, from left, is Don Murphy with Morgan Harting, Alden Harting and Robert Harting. Don holds a photo of Charles Harting in his hand. Charles is the father of Robert, the grandfather of Morgan and the great-grandfather of Alden.

Don Murphy has cut the hair of five generations in one family, and four generations is not at all uncommon for him. He’s seen a lot of history march past his shop at 7149 Germantown Ave. — Christmas parades, Halloween parades, kids going to the Saturday matinees at the Sedgwick, even Revolutionary War reenactors. He cut the hair of the last member of the Chew family to live in the historic Cliveden mansion, and just a few months ago, he saw Caroline Kennedy speak next door at North By Northwest. “I’ve seen a lot of changes, but it’s always been a nice neighborhood,” he said.

Attesting to that fact, he says that in all of his years at the shop, he’s never been robbed, although in the ‘80s, someone did steal his barber pole. “When my friend Louie the barber in Manayunk put his pole inside his store to protect it, I called him a wuss,” said Don. “Then I come back from vacation and find that my pole is gone. Is that ironic? I think I know who did it, but if I told you his name, he’d shoot me. I’m not kidding.”


This fall: the perfect time to get Mike Todd’s goat
by MIKE TODD

During the long drive last week to join my family for vacation in Rangeley, Maine, deep in the woods where no interstate dares to venture, my wife Kara and I witnessed something very disconcerting: the leaves, quite without permission, were already starting to change.