KENNETT SQUARE—Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2020 awards for Shoppe Marché, TEXTILE, and the Brandywine River Museum of Art help to put Kennett Square on the map and are cause for celebration in this time of recovery.
“Lots of people have worked hard together to make Kennett Square what it is,” saod Shoppe Marché owner Deanna Johnson. “Between Longwood and other attractions and many small shops and restaurants, we have a lot to offer. And we want people to come here and feel comfortable.”
Best of Philly selected Shoppe Marché as the “best shop for transforming your vibe,” and Johnson couldn’t be more delighted. “She filled the place with a bunch of random things she likes—original oil paintings, linen tunics, handcrafted cocktail bitters, leather throw pillows . . . It’s all slightly French, slightly bohemian, slightly eccentric, and slightly familiar,” says the Best of Philly write-up. “That’s totally me and my store,” Johnson says with a smile. “I’m super-sensitive to my customers and to listening to their needs, I don’t follow the rules, and in my small space I try to have a lot of different things at different price points to appeal to a wide audience.”
This time has been like a thorny rose, she says, with its pain as well as its beauty. Like that of many other entrepreneurs, Johnson’s creativity has flourished in the face of new challenges and constraints. She’s invested in revamping her website and developing her online presence to diversify and reach a whole new demographic.
“I’m rethinking merchandise and looking at expanding my apothecary line, for example, so that we can be deemed essential in the event of a second shutdown,” Johnson says. Miraculously, she also managed to pull off the interior design of an entire house—new construction, no less—during the pandemic.
Johnson has noticed that people are still spending but doing so more thoughtfully. As they’ve sheltered at home and inhabited their personal spaces in different ways, they’ve been able to refocus on what’s most important to them. “People want to carve out spaces where they can function professionally, and to create peaceful places away from the chaos,” she says. “Before all of this, many of us were so busy that home was the last place we really spent time.”
This goes beyond the four walls, too, as many people are also re-envisioning their outdoor spaces as places to spend time with family over a barbecue or picnic. “Your home is your refuge and sanctuary, and that’s something people feel and appreciate in an entirely new way now,” says Johnson, whose intuitive sense for classic, comfortable, and timeless beauty caters to both body and soul.
The impeccable and thoughtful curation of TEXTILE’s collection earned its “best vintage shop for minimalists” accolade in Best of Philly’s 2020 list. “I love that designation,” says owner Victoria Inverso. “It sticks with me because that’s exactly my vibe and what I want customers to feel. I love that people can come and buy something now that they’ll wear forever. It’s not trendy and will never go out of style.”
The Cannery Row shop has become a destination for those who are seeking to express their style with pieces that are unique and one of a kind. TEXTILE features beautiful vintage pieces as well as clothes, jewelry, and accessories from new and exciting women designers, many of them based in Philadelphia. “We’ve brought in so many new lines this year—many of them from smaller, up and coming designers,” Inverso says. “It’s important to me to support other small businesses as well.”
Fly by Night, for example, is the label of a New York-based designer originally from the UK who creates beautiful one-of-a-kind dresses and blouses from fabrics she sources and repurposes from around the world, from vintage pieces, and even from movie sets. Fly by Night’s “blouse crowns”—which Inverso describes as being like floral crowns made with remnants of ruffled blouse fabrics—are a fun product of this designer’s “no waste” aesthetic and a popular accessory to mix and match with the blouses.
“One of the things that makes TEXTILE stand out is its location here in Kennett Square, almost an hour from all of the amazing vintage stores in Philly. We’re bringing that vibe here, and I’m loving every minute of it,” Inverso says.
Brandywine River Museum of Art
While Philadelphia Magazine recognized the Brandywine River Museum of Art for their audio guide, which can be used in the galleries or virtually, this “best cultural experience on your phone” is just one small segment of the engaging experiences, both in-person and online, the museum now offers. “Literally the day we knew we would be closing, we went around with the curator and filmed two-minute interviews about pieces in our current exhibition, Votes for Women,” says Andrew Stewart, Director of Marketing and Communications at award-winning museum in Chadds Ford.
This crisis-born instinct to preserve what’s most valuable speaks volumes about the quality and significance of Votes for Women: A Visual History, which celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. Through illustrations and artifacts, the exhibition visualizes the complex political messages conveyed by suffragists and presents an inclusive historical narrative which also recognizes the often overlooked efforts of women of color in the struggle for voting rights.
The great news now is that the museum has instituted thoughtful measures to reopen safely and has extended this exhibition through September 27. While any virtual experience should only be a teaser for those of us who are fortunate enough to live so close by that we can visit in person, the museum also created a microsite for this exhibition which seems even more timely now than when it first opened back in March.
“We’ve always had a robust website,” Stewart says, “but because we want people to come and visit the museum, we haven’t always had the time or space to create as much virtual content. We wanted to continue to inspire and connect with our constituents, and this time spent working from home has allowed our curators and educators to be even more creative.” The breadth and depth of the museum’s “Brandywine at Home” content showcases that creativity—from “staff picks” videos to virtual “Museum Explorers” events, arts activities and coloring sheets for rainy day (or any day) at-home inspiration, and more,. It might be a case of necessity being the mother of invention, Stewart says, because they’d like to be able to continue creating this kind of content in addition to offering an unparalleled experience to those who visit the museum in its breathtaking bucolic setting.
Stewart was surprised by the response to a short video of the Brandywine River posted on social media and so decided to do a series from various spots on Brandywine Conservancy preserves. Providing such moments of respite from the horrifying news cycle, he says, is another way to connect and inspire people during this unprecedented time.
In addition to the accolades they bestow every other year, Philadelphia Magazine added a new category to Best of Philly 2020: Best Risk-Takers. And the winner is . . . every single small-business owner. Vision, drive, fortitude, and independence are prerequisites for owning a restaurant, a barber shop, a retail shop, a yoga studio. And these fiercely talented entrepreneurs “have to clean toilets, process invoices, and take photos for Instagram,” writes Ashley Primis.
“They’re operations managers and creative directors. And yet these owners are somehow able to store all that pressure and stress in a back closet when a customer walks through the door. Sharing what they know or what they’re passionate about is the oxygen they breathe.”