Virtual Happenings: The New Normal on Main Street
By Meghan Sack
Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
and JPG Photo & Video (jpgphotography.com)
Our businesses on Main Street have been adapting to the new world, which heavily relies on virtual connection. Every industry in Manayunk formulated an innovative way of connecting to customers in an effort to remain in business during this turbulent time. Our district has taken the virtuality in its stride and given the “new normal” Manayunk’s signature stamp of approval. Virtual Manayunk served food around the clock, instructed daily workouts, and provided lots of activities to boot. We asked our businesses to give a resounding report on how the virtual world is treating them.
Staying true to itself, Never Give Up Training moved to an online platform in the early spring to keep their clients motivated. The personal training and small group fitness studio offers private and semi-private sessions, nutrition counseling, sport specific training for college and high school students, and training plans for races, marathons, and triathlons.
“At NGU, we have both virtual classes through Zoom and also have an on demand platform for a low monthly cost (first one free) called ‘NGU and YOU,’” said Ali Cook-Jackson, owner and operator of Never Give Up Training. “This can be found directly on our website!”
As the city shut down in early March, Ali and her team went virtual within 12 hours. Rocking through these hard times is a challenge Ali has risen to each day throughout these past eight months. The NGU team has pivoted not only the class schedule but the class format and programming to make it successful. They have cherished their local clients as well as gained new clients throughout the United States, incorporating the virtual platform to the business model. Ali encourages people who are picking up new fitness practices and goals to go after it and enjoy yourself. One misconception is online fitness is not as competitive or enjoyable as in person. To that effect, Ali has a plan.
“What motivates you?” she asked. “It is not always the same for everyone. You need to find out what makes your client’s tick. If we are unable to form that type of relationship with them (class members or a member that does not come as often), we always bring the energy — bring our own motivation — and the vibe of our workouts at NGU speak for themselves. There won’t be one workout you’re not leaving without feeling empowered.”
There is always the possibility to pick up a new habit, and NGU’s online format is well-suited to help you achieve your goals. In November, fun events and specials will be able to be found on their social media and website pages.
One of Philadelphia’s oldest yoga studios, Yoga On Main, has transitioned during its 28th year of operating to virtual yoga classes. Though they are currently online, the studio will be reopening in the future for in-person classes. Back in March, it became clear in order to keep the “inner fire” of their clientele, the Zoom platform would be the safest and greatest option for their instructors to host classes.
“It is a challenge,” said Jessica Golden, owner and instructor at Yoga on Main “We have always believed in the safety of our students. We do verbal check-ins during class and ask if anyone needs an alternative to the postures we go through.”
Jessica reported it’s been an overall exciting and successful transition and she looks forward to seeing her clients in person again. Although you may have seen the “for sale” sign in the window of their building, have no fear — Yoga on Main isn’t going anywhere.
“We are not moving,” Jessica reiterated. “We rent the building. The building as a whole is changing ownership but we are here to stay.”
Yoga on Main offers Inner Fire Flow, Kundalini, and Ashtanga classes among others. In addition, they are continuing to offer teacher training online.
Similar to their peers, RowZone Manayunk, the indoor rowing and fitness studio on Main Street, took on many adaptations during the pandemic.
“It was a completely new way of life for us,” said Eric Shoyer, co-owner of RowZone Manayunk. “We moved completely to a virtual platform when it started and stopped our memberships to become donation based. Now that we’ve opened our doors again, we have our memberships reinstated.”
Throughout the spring, RowZone offered virtual body weight classes incorporating free weights and dumbbells. For their members who did not have equipment at home, instructors encouraged participants to use laundry detergent and shampoo bottles for free weights in addition to renting out their equipment. To stay engaged with classes via online, the RowZone team had ab challenges, wallsit challenges, and an ‘Eric is Insane’ challenge, referencing the owner’s exuberance. For those who couldn’t make the virtual class times, RowZone offered At- Home packets, which presented a new workout for each day of the week..
“One of the reasons we sent home workouts is because the internet is flooded with fitness information, so the members didn’t have to research things themselves,” Eric said.
They began offering outdoor classes three days a week in June at the Padelphia courts on Venice Island, a great location that was large enough to provide six feet of space, fresh air, and in-person training.
RowZone always offers class package discounts for the winter season, including holiday-themed workouts, which can be found on their website. They look forward to offering more classes soon.
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Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex’s book club has been in existence for five years and became increasingly popular during quarantine when it switched to an online platform. Owner, JD Korejko, offers all types of awesome meeting clubs from Book Club, Dungeons and Dragons, to Drink and Draw, and Board Game Night. Book Club happens every other Tuesday at 8 p.m. with Movie Club on the alternating weeks.
“It’s about hanging out with friends,” said JD of his virtual gatherings. “People wanted to increase the amount of times we meet during the pandemic and after a while, they started coming to me with book recommendations.”
The club chooses the books via an online poll each month. In order to ensure everyone has access to the book club reads, JD’s Hero Complex offers the books for sale and delivers them if needed. In addition, the shop carries a comic for everyone’s interests. If there is a genre you enjoy, there’s a comic book for you: horror, romance, Queer stories, crossover — our escapism needs are met here at JD’s.
As a form of self-care, many of us sought retail therapy during the stay-at-home order. Our need for fashion has not dwindled, however, our fashionable needs have certainly transformed. Luckily, Mary Dougherty and Jillian Dunn, owners of Nicole Miller – Manayunk, saw the need to adapt to the changing times when their customers reached out for support.“People are dressing more casual now,” said Mary. “It’s about feeling good and meeting our customers where they’re at.”
Nicole Miller – Manayunk’s online sales skyrocketed in late March after fashion designer, Nicole Miller, began creating and producing masks. One dollar of each sale went to three charities that Nicole Miller – Manayunk has personal ties with: Fuel the Fight, Susan G. Komen, and Homefront. As a result, Manayunk customers raised $1,000 in donations for each group.
Since June 5, Nicole Miller – Manayunk has been open to customers for personal shopping experiences, but for those who aren’t comfortable shopping in person, they’ve found success with virtual styling as well. Located under the “Services” tab of their website, book a Closet Curation, Wardrobe Workshop, or a personal shopping appointment.
Nicole Miller – Manayunk recognizes all the diversified needs of their clients and offers closet cleanouts via Zoom. Nicole Miller – Manayunk can assist you from clearing out the old to bringing in local fashion to improve your wardrobe overall and never miss a beat.
But it’s not just about your everyday shopping. Nicole Miller – Manayunk also offered last minute assistance to brides who had to pivot their wedding plans and may not have had the dress to match their new venue and guest list.
Thanks to their impromptu virtual stylings, Nicole Miller – Manayunk has the racks ready for everyone from the spontaneous nuptials to deserving essential workers to their fellow Manayunk store owners!
Speaking of brides, one industry to take on the mountainous challenge of the pandemic was the love industry. Lauren Pilgermayer was in the right place at the right time to help clients find a love connection and chase their dreams. The Dream Seen has been holding group life-coach meetings for people who need and want the support from a community seeking similar goals to give you tools to feel more empowered and confident. The most exciting new service is speed dating, offered for specific age groups and interests.
“Love connecting has evolved to socially distanced ‘slow’ speed dating events,” said Lauren, owner of The Dream Seen. “Singles fill out a brief online application regarding their dating preferences, schedule a complimentary call with me, and then they can sign up for a dating event, 1:1 personalized matchmaking, or coaching!”
At a time when it may seem like your dreams are farther away, The Dream Seen arrives to give you personalized advice and opportunity to seize the day.
Greg’s Kitchen was up for the challenge of serving early risers while making sure they were safe in the execution by wearing masks, keeping their lines socially distant, and ensuring their customers feel comfortable.
“We’ve seen new sets of eyes, a whole new group of kids has moved in and they come back week after week,” commented owner and chef, Greg Gillin, on his customer’s reliability and use of masks.
Missing their loyal customer base is just one of the heartaches of the dining scene. Since Greg’s Kitchen is a cozy spot, the socially-distant setup has been workable but the staff reported they’d like to open up and see people eat warm food and “clap for tots” as they are delivered to the table for a satisfied customer.
“Thanks to everyone who reached out and bought gift cards, helping us get through the rough patch,” Greg said. “They are an amazing way to show support and we really appreciate the love. Keep spreading it around town!”
In that spirit, we can all take advantage of the “Greg-ular” mugs for holiday gifts!
Another staple in the Manayunk restaurant scene is Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar, and fortunately for us, they were with us at home. The stay-at-home order was swift and although it weighed heavily on the restaurant, Jake’s and Cooper’s rose to the occasion with strength and attention to detail.
“We are signed up with GrubHub and Caviar and we are actually able to have an ordering feature on our website,” said manager, Maureen Zimmerman. “It’s very convenient this way because there are less fees on our direct website.”
The best feature of taking home Jake’s and Cooper’s was their family meal kits, which offered fine dining in the comforts of home. They will be offering kits for the holidays in the upcoming colder months. Soup de jour and a bottle of wine from their amazingly approachable wine program will be this winter’s Friday night go-to. Of course, the famous crab cakes and delicious flatbread pizzas are still a local favorite that are available for dining in, takeout, or delivery. All the changes in menu and efforts of safety have been the biggest challenge for the long-time Manayunk hotspot.
“We have made sure we are doing things the right way,” Maureen explained. “We have been here for 33 years. It’s important our customers know they can be safe here. We have so much space in the restaurant, you can always socially distance here.”
In addition to our frequent feasting, we never thirst on Main Street thanks to Bald Birds Brewing Co. Conveniently, they offer an easy online platform to order ahead and schedule your beer pick-up time.
Abby Feerrar, co-owner said, “We started canning a much greater quantity and variety of beer than we had been before. We implemented a new web platform for ordering and pickup that enabled us to keep serving our customers even when they weren’t able to visit the taproom.”
Looking forward to the colder months, Bald Birds will be offering one to two seasonal beers on tap that are darker and richer while promoting them throughout the holiday season.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve seen from our community since things shut down in March,” Abby added. “We are so excited to see friendly faces in the taproom again and we look forward to spending time with more customers very soon.”