Restored, revived and burnished with new businesses opening every year, Historic Kennett Square heads into spring dressed up and ready to glow. Exactly one square mile in size, the “smallest town boasting its own symphony orchestra” (the aptly named Kennett Symphony) mixes hometown ambiance and superlative dining, shopping and entertainment, now with a new, intimate performance venue (The Flash, more on that later).
Think Big Apple Meets Our Town
“I believe this terrific mix of unique shops, excellent restaurants and seasonal events in a beautiful downtown atmosphere is what makes us different,” explains Mary Hutchins, Executive Director of Historic Kennett Square, the nonprofit group that promotes the town’s remarkable revival.
More enticing than strolling the mall while shopping, visitors here may pause on the State Street corner near where British General Howe mustered 1,200 troops to face Washington at the infamous Battle of Brandywine, and then enjoy a pleasant walking tour of exquisitely restored Victorian homes.
While celebrating the surge of this upscale mini-metropolis, Kennett Square has not forgotten the fascinating fungi that helped put them on the map. Two centuries ago, it’s unlikely florist William Swayne imagined that planting a few myceliums under the raised beds in his greenhouse would lead to Kennett’s designation as “mushroom capital of the world”!
Part of the pleasure of Kennett shopping is the mix of old and new shops. Before scoping out the newest editions, here’s a sample of a few of our favorites.
The significant impact of Kennett’s mighty mycelium is well recognized at The Mushroom Cap, 114 W. State St., an intriguing shop/museum in the heart of downtown and a great place to start shopping. Offering this favorite fungi as choice edibles, unique gifts, local art and home accessories, owner Kathi Lafferty welcomes browsers to a delightful collection of artifacts, celebrating the tasty treat synonymous with Kennett.
A great town needs great art, and Kennett has plenty. With 28 years of experience and over 50 regional artists working in every style, Longwood Art Gallery, 200 E. State St., offers original artwork to satisfy every individual palette. A full-service gallery, there’s fine art photography, framing services and many gifts to catch your eye.
Everything unique — everything handmade is what they say at Cenzia, 121 W. State St., another favorite, where they specialize in "functional art" and feature over 250 craft artists. Browse exquisite handmade jewelry, blown glass, ceramics and personal accessories. Owner Doreen Uhl’s 20+ years on Wall Street (smart lady to get out early) explains why the corporate gift program is one of the best.
Back toward the center of town you’ll find The Paper Market, 103 W. State St., an eco-boutique, which has much more than paper goods, or “tools for social expression” (they’re the spot for the Martha Stewart line). A must see — the new Toms Shoes program gives brand new shoes to a worthy kid when you purchase a pair for yourself. Now that’s a great reason to shop!
Also deep in the heart of historic Kennett is where you’ll find some new shopping treats. Try Chantilly Blue, 120 W. State St., and all things “high-end denim” to refine body types from size 0 to 14. Add a belt, jewelry and cowboy boots before you head off to round up the doggies or dance the night away.
Fledgling fashion plates next dash across the street to Beetle Creek Kids, 117 W. State St., a boutique for hip small fry showcasing Groovy Girls, Mud Pie and Bink Link (ask your offspring for translations). Owner Charlene DeFrees suggests young fashionistas who yearn to sport Bitty Block jewelry are welcome to create their own statement piece from a selection of “green friendly” recycled pendants and Scrabble game pieces.
Fun and fashion also play well together at Pink- lily Boutique, 109 W. State St., with eclectic clothing in a variety of styles and prices for every taste and budget. Drop in to discover “the look” from stylish dresses to premium jeans and all that is chic in-between. Browsing contemporary clothing is truly a pleasure in this friendly, welcoming shop.
Underscoring downtown’s departure from similitude, serendipity encircles shoppers at the other end of State Street at V Galleria, 100 E. State St., in search of that distinctive statement for their home, office and garden. Pulsing in the heart of Kennett, this classical/contemporary/colonial shop frames the exotic, displaying ceramics, blown glass and pewter from South America, Mexico, Thailand, Italy, Indonesia and the U.S. to personalize your special place. On the first Thursday of the month, Maryann Giunta offers free design consulting classes for neophytes.
Step lively a bit south of State Street to Holly Peters Oriental Rugs & Home, 109 S. Broad St., for the finest Orientals underfoot, superbly woven by artists from the cottage industries of Nepal, India and Turkey to the exquisite contemporary tribal art of the Gabbeh, woven one knot at a time by nomadic shepherds in Europe and Asia. Stunning furniture with Old World charm completes this trove of treasures created to last for generations.
On another street off State, you’ll discover everything old is new (and hip) again at He and She, 109 S. Union St., luring vintage clothes buffs to their choice selections. Choices include once-upon-a-time-hot pants, classic Calvin Klein, retro mini and maxis, “Risky Business” Raybans and more to delight arbiters of old time fashion that still rocks.
Bibliophile heaven reigns along “book house row” where cozy RLD Books, 111 S. Union St., draws browsers and buyers to peruse 4,500 used and rare tomes, some first editions included. Ceramics, relief sculpture and watercolors balance the booty of this grand shop.
A short hop down the avenue, Thomas Macaluso Books, 130 S. Union St., tempts collectors with a bounty of 25,000 scarce books and 3,500 lithographed or engraved maps, priced from $15 and up (way up!). Binding and repairs for your treasured tomes and appraisals for others are also available. A must see for all book lovers.
Treasure hunters tracking the unusual will find it worthwhile to seek out Pack Rats Place, Brick Garage at 501 Penn. Ave., and discover a bonanza of unique interior and exterior décor for those who think they’ve seen everything. Enjoy a cup of tea and a scrumptious scone while wandering rooms chock full of tantalizing treasures. “I don’t throw anything out,” jokes owner Jan Geddes. Browsers have been known to stay until hunger drives them back downtown.
Dining Around Kennett Square
Proving devotees of supreme cuisine would flock to the hinterlands, Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora sold renown Philly eatery, D’Jango and headed for Kennett to create culinary magic at Talula’s Table, 102 W. State St. Was it a hit? Smack out of the ballpark, according to top of the food chain critic, Craig LeBan, who pronounced Talula’s “One of the best meals I’ve eaten all year . . . a must stop destination.” Now the 12-seat farm table is booked a year in advance. Doubling the delicious, Talula’s market offers dozens of gourmet products for any meal, from house-made sausage to crème brûlée.
Find yourself craving a slice of yak and a sip of Chilean wine at a rooftop table? Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon, 108 W. State St., offers a savory experience for daring diners yearning for exotic fare, including buffalo/bison burgers (locally raised) topped off with a tankard of Belgian beer. Diners craving tamer fare off the hoof opt for crab nachos, while vegetarians and grazers are equally accommodated with scrumptious salads. Indoor/outdoor rooftop dining heightens the experience.
For a taste treat try Portabello’s, 115 W. State St., Kennett’s newest authentic Italian restaurant, where pasta reigns and Caesar salad rules. A varied menu delights families at this warm, family-run eatery (mom’s in the kitchen). It’s BYO, with wine available across the street at Flickerwood.
A stop at Flickerwood Wine Cellar’s Tasting Room, 116 W. State St., helps with your BYO and sipping pleasure. An expansion of the family-owned vineyard in Kane, PA, the Tasting Room debuted in November to meet the demand of downtown visitors who enjoy the winery’s offerings, quickly becoming THE hot spot in town for a mix of great entertainment and wine.
Savory sensations abound at Sweet Christine’s, 132 W. State St., where gluten is the only thing missing from trays of tempting treats created by owner, Christine Ruggio. Founded after she was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, Ruggio’s downtown bakery nixes “artificial anything” to create unbelievably scrumptious cookies, brownies, pizelles and biscotti.
For full carb loading, don’t leave town without a loaf or three from Great Harvest Bread Co., 110 S. Union St. Simply put, “It’s the best bread you’ve ever tasted,” insists owner Glenn Whitehair. Following the company’s mantra to “keep it simple,” their truly extraordinary wheat bread is whipped up using just five simple, ALL FRESH ingredients (preservatives and artificial additives…forget about it). The secret, shares Whitehair, is in the wheat kernels, grown only on family farms on the high plains of Montana. That’s a great harvest.
But stick around. The night is young and entertainment awaits at the Kennett Flash, 102 Sycamore Alley. Showcasing national and regional recording artists with tunes for every taste from bluegrass to Beethoven, the Flash also entices local talent to strut their stuff on Sunday’s weekly Open Mic nights. Guests can sup light fare and over 21s may BYOB. A special in April showcases Catherine Marie Charlton, world renowned for blending her photo art and piano expertise. For full schedule and ticket prices, check kennettflash.org.
Interspersed with live entertainment, The Flash hosts Back Alley Theater presentations, offering movie buffs an eclectic selection of independent films. (April features “I Am David,” the story of 12-year-old boy’s escape from a Communist concentration camp to carry a letter to Copenhagen, traveling with just a compass, sealed letter and loaf of bread.)
First Friday events, March through December, add a double dip of Main Street hospitality, 6 to 9 p.m., celebrating the good life with music, munchies and storewide sales. Artisans, exhibits and demonstrations add panache to the evening celebrations. Come early for the Farmers Market, 2 to 6 p.m., every Friday, mid-May to October.
And a highlight this season, mark your calendar for the May 15-17 Main Streets of the Brandywine Valley Festival (800-566-0109; BrandywineValley.com) when Kennett Square, Phoenixville and West Chester celebrate the good life in small towns with food and fun for all ages.
“There’s something nice happening here every single day,” said Peggy Baumgartner, assembling lunch to go at Talula’s. “I don’t even live here, but every time I drive down State Street I feel like I’m coming home.”
Upcoming Events in Kennett Square
A new concert venue, where all genres of music, comedy, poetry, movies and family shows take place, Thurs-Sun. Sun, Open Mic Nights, Thurs, Blue Grass Jams. 102 Sycamore Alley, behind Newton’s on State Street. For information, 484-732-8295; kennettflash.org.
Longwood Gardens Special Events
Through September 19
Ongoing, Nature’s Castles, Longwood’s over-the-top treehouses; May 2, Wine &Jazz Festival; May 24-Sept. 19, Festival of Fountains — the Gardens come alive with the sounds of music Thurs-Sat evenings. Fireworks & Fountains shows, May 25, July 4, Aug. 8, Sept. 6, 19, feature Family Fireworks Barbeques this year. Rt. 1, Kennett Square. $14 ($10 on Tues). 610-388-1000; longwoodgardens.org.
A 106-acre natural setting with two ponds, streams, woodlands including a beech grove with specimen plantings dating back over 250 years, and three miles of walking trails. They have many events including concerts, dance performances, plays and nature programs. N. Walnut St. For a complete schedule phone 610-444-1416, or visit ansonbnixonpark.org.
April 3, May 1, June 5, July 3, Aug. 7, Sept. 4
The Hadley Memorial Fund Concerts
Apr. 19, Kennett Trio, Kennett Friends Meetinghouse, 125 W. Sickle St., 3 pm. May 1, Chester County Youth Orchestra, Unionville High School, 750 Unionville Rd., 7:30 pm. July 17, Big G and the Cool Cats, Anson B. Nixon Park, N. Walnut St., 7:30 pm. Free. 610-444-1855; hadleyfund.org.
The Back Alley Theater Presents . . .
Movies each month. Apr. 15, 19, “I Am David;” May 20, 24, “The Visitor;” June 17, 21, “Rabbit-Proof Fence;” July 15, 19, “Outsourced;” Aug. 19, 23, “You Can Count on Me;” Sept. 16, 20, “Bella.” 102 Sycamore Alley, behind Newton’s on State Street. Wed, 7:30; Sun, 2. $5. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
Shed the winter blues and stop by the park for gardening supply vendors, plant societies, garden clubs, up-coming farmers market information. Anson B. Nixon Park, N. Walnut St. 10 to 3. 610-444-1416.
The Delaware Center for Horticulture’s 29th Annual Rare Plant Auction at Longwood
See listing in “Of Special Note.”
Annuals, hanging baskets, herbs for sale and planting demonstrations in downtown Kennett Square. 8 to noon. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
Celebration of Mexican culture including food, music, entertainment and children’s activities. Noon to 5. Downtown Kennett.
The Willowdale Steeplechase
Gala Ball and Auction on the Friday before the Willowdale Steeplechase, featuring cocktails, silent auction, dinner and music. On the Steeplechase Race Course grounds, Rts. 926 & 82. 6 pm. $150. 610-444-1582; willowdale.org.
A full day of activities including Jack Russell Terrier Races, Pony Races, tailgate competition, carriage parade and the Steeplechase, which begins at 1:30 pm. Willowdale Steeplechase, Rt. 926 and Rt. 82, Kennett Square. Gates open at 10. $20 in adv., $25 at the gate. Reserved Rail Side or Hill Side Parking available. 610-444-1582; willowdale.org.
Main Street Festival
Come and spend the weekend — fun for the entire family with live entertainment, store specials and restaurants offering “A Taste of Kennett Square.” May 15, Farmers Market opens with live music, Spring Stroll and downtown Open House. Jeffrey Gaines at Kennett Flash. May 16, Kennett Run, outdoor street festival from 9 to 5. May 17, family shows with Steve Pullara, students from the School of Rock and outdoor street festival, 11 to 4. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
The 20th Annual Kennett Run
Events for all age groups including a 1-Mile Fun Walk, 1-Mile Kids Run, 5K Race Walk, 10K and 5K Runs and a PowerRun. Race at 9, begins in the borough, courses through the township and finishes lakeside at Anson B. Nixon Park, N. Walnut St. Benefits local charities. 610-388-1556; kennettrun.net.
May 15 through October, Fridays
Fresh fruits, vegetables, artisan breads and home-baked goodies sold downtown. 2 to 6. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
Annual parade begins at 10 downtown and includes bag pipers, fife and drums, high school bands, antique military vehicles and Civil and Revolutionary War reenactors. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
Spectators are invited to picnic and tailgate at the grounds. Toughkenamon Exit of Rt. 1 south, turn left (Newark Rd.) 1/4 mi. to right on Polo Rd., the field is 2 blocks up on left. $10. Gates open 1:30; match, at 3, but can be cancelled due to rain or extreme heat, phone, 610-268-8692. 610-444-1582; brandywinepoloclub.com.
Kennett Symphony of Chester County
Hits from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Casablanca,” “Star Wars,” favorite westerns and the Magical World of Disney will be performed. Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre, Rt. 1, Kennett Square. 7:30 pm. Tickets $10-$35, includes gardens admission. 610-444-6363; symphony.kennett.net.
July 23-25 and July 30-August 1
The Brandywiners, Ltd. perform the Lerner and Loewe classic. Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre, Rt. 1, Kennett Square. $25 include garden admission; fountain display following the show, which begins at 8:30. 302-478-3355; 800-338-6965; brandywiners.org.
Murder Mystery Art Stroll
The Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society (KATS Inc.) presents a murder mystery where visitors will participate to solve the whodunnit. Families invited. 6 to 9. 610-444-8188; historickennettsquare.com.
Kennett Symphony of Chester County
“Pictures at an Exhibition”
All-Russian season finale featuring the music of Tchaikovsky (1812 Overture and excerpts from Eugene Onegin) and Mussorgsky/Ravel (Pictures at an Exhibition). Longwood Gardens Open Air Theatre, Rt. 1, Kennett Square. 7:30. $10-$35, includes gardens admission. 610-444-6363; symphony.kennett.net.
Kennett Square Mushroom Festival
This 24th annual event attracts many visitors to the region with mushroom-related events, most of which are free and all of which are fun for the whole family. Downtown Kennett. For a complete schedule of this year’s events phone 888-440-9920; 610-793-3909; mushroomfest.com.
12th Annual Kennett Square Brewfest
Over 40 microbrewers from across the region gather at 600 S. Broad St. to serve their best. Food from local restaurants and jazz/fusion music is part of the fun from 2 to 6 pm. Tickets required; no one under 21 admitted. 610-444-8188; kennettbrewfest.com. -CL-