Chestnut Hill jewelry shop owner looks back fondly on her days sharing a Bowman St. rowhome with college friends in the 90’s.

 

Ugh, college kids — AMIRIGHT?!

A pack of 20-somethings renting the house attached to yours is practically every East Falls homeowner’s worst nightmare, if you believe the hype at Community Council meetings.

Between Drexel Medicine, PhillyU, and PCOM we are a prime location for students passing through — with no supervision, no accountability. Constantly drunk. Attacking planters, pitching woo on porches, hogging up all the parking.

What becomes of these hooligans?! We recently tracked one down in Chestnut Hill… 

These days Cynthia Fillmore is a married mother of three with her own jewelry shop, but back in the late 90’s she was a fresh-outta-college waitress at Arena’s Sports Bar — where Franklin’s is now. She and two friends shared a 3-bedroom apartment at Bowman & Osmond.

They were aiming for Center City, but their minuscule budget led them to East Falls listings. “It was super-cheap back then, and I could work here too and there’s the train…” Cynthia told us from behind the counter at Windfall Gallery, “It turned out to be a really cool neighborhood. Very blended.”

Their neighbor, Mary, was an older widow. A young family lived across the street. A bachelor, Lewis, lived a few doors down. A fun couple with a hot tub lived up the street. “Such good people,” she recalled.

“Such block parties! So much fun, but then they’d end in a fist fight!” she laughed, “Everyone was still friends the next day, it was all good.” Neighbors loved and looked after each other. “We could just walk into our neighbor’s house and sit down to chat, eat, or drink — we didn’t even have to knock.”

People felt safe, but the area suffered tensions from “corner dudes” — in particular,  Cynthia remembered the guy at Conrad & Bowman was killed in an altercation: “Crazy! I think he was part of this group of Fallsers called the ‘EFP,’ the East Falls Posse.”

“We always hung out at Arena’s because I worked there and it was a college bar. Murphy’s always had amazing wings. Ooh! I loved the one-armed, three-fingered dude who ran the beer distributor on Conrad — we were there a lot, ha!”

Although Cynthia and her roommates were young and carefree during this time, they were not however stereotypically rowdy or destructive. In fact, they took good care of their tidy home and felt a welcome part of the community. After three years, the girls moved out and onto marriage and other new adventures.

Cynthia passes through East Falls with some regularity, and sees lots of change. When she thinks of her time here, she misses her neighbors who became like family. Any lessons from living here? “I learned I’m not a Fallser,” she deadpanned, then explained, “Fallsers are very proud of their neighborhood — and they should be.”

Every so often, she’ll find out a customer is from East Falls, and they’ll chat and reminisce about her days as a <gasp!> renter here almost 20 years ago. Cynthia feels lucky she and her roommates were welcomed so warmly, and hopes newcomers to the neighborhood get to experience the same sense of care and belonging.

FALLSER GIFT GUIDE: Since March can be a long dark month, we asked Cynthia to recommend some color and sparkle to brighten things up, get us looking forward to Spring.

Cynthia Answers: What can you recommend for…

  1. An older aunt or sister who doesn’t want you to “make fuss” with something expensive but still likes to stand out in her own colorful way.

I always recommend long necklaces for older women. This way they can toss it over their head & not have to worry about dealing w/a clasp. I also have beautiful “arthritis friendly” jewelry. Whether it’s a copper & magnetic bracelet or a necklace w/a toggle closure, there are always options!  

  1. Someone you want to impress with a thoughtful one-of-a-kind piece?

Any of the handmade, American Craft pieces or a nice freshwater pearl piece. Don’t forget St. Patrick’s Day — beautiful Celtic crosses, Claddagh rings, green socks and scarves, frames and art. 

  1. A school-aged daughter, grand-daughter, or niece that you want to feel special & grown-up (maybe something that won’t easily be broken or lost).

Plenty of pendants & necklaces that are sold separately & can be combined to fit any personality or style. I always suggest the lab opals. They’re all the rage.

Fairy portals are another cute idea —  btw, they also work great for leprechauns! 

  1. Someone who doesn’t wear jewelry but would appreciate some flair?

We have hand-blown glass balls to hang in a window or somewhere with light. Each piece has its own meaning for any occasion you can think of. One of our many handmade scarves would also do the trick; also wall art, sculpture, or a vase. Hand-milled soaps are another great option. 

  1. A guy! Something that’s special but not girlie — for birthdays, Father’s Day, etc.

We can’t keep our crush proof German Silver pocket cases in stock. They hold credit cards & cash perfectly. Struck from original German casts dating back to the 1920’s & 30’s they can also be engraved.

We also carry blown-glass feather pens that both men & women love. Very sturdy & refillable, they make a unique, thoughtful gift for that person who has everything. (Ed note: Steve loves his funky Windfall socks!)

WHAT’S UP WITH CHESTNUT HILL?

This adorable neighborhood  — Philadelphia’s “Garden District” — is only 10-15 minutes away from East Falls (see Cynthia’s Secret Squirrel Route below).  It’s got a whole different feel, though, thanks to its lively cobblestone Main Street with trolley tracks running down.

So walkable! Flowers and twinkle lights, cute little shops and great restaurants in historic buildings. Start your journey at the start of the hill — where you’ll find Windfall Gallery’s playful storefront (say hey to Cynthia!).

Great finds nextdoor at Statement Boutique Consignment, and for coolest grooming ever there’s Duke Barber Co.  HEADS UP:  Chestnut Hill does a great First Friday, with lots of stores offering cool stuff and generous discounts.

PARKING TIP: On Germantown Ave, south of Willow Grove Ave. there are no meters. You get free 2-hour parking. There are also plenty of paid parking lots throughout the town for convenient parking as well.

Windfall Gallery 
7944 Germantown Avenue
Unique gifts & jewelry right up the road in nearby Chestnut Hill (just ten minutes via Cynthia’s directions, below).
215-247-6303
Mon – Fri 11:00am – 5:30pm; Sat 10am – 5pm; Sun 12p – 4pm
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CYNTHIA’S SECRET SQUIRREL ROUTE (Back roads from EF to CH):
“Wissahickon Ave to Allens Lane. Left on McCallum (Allens Lane Art Center) right on Mermaid. Left on St. Martins. Right on Springfield Ave to Germantown. Left on Germantown. Windfall is on the left — we have a parking lot!”