“It chose me”: Vinny and Gangster Vegan Organics to move into old Cafe Renata location

November 5, 2015


Vinny Vegan aka Gangster Vegan.

In the early spring, a neighborhood café, Café Renata caught fire and was forced to relocate from the corner of 43rd and Locust. The space remained vacant for some months, but Vincent DePaul (Vinny Vegan aka Gangster Vegan, or Vinny Blanco to his childhood friends) of Gangster Vegan Organics has plans on changing that.

“I didn’t choose the location, it chose me. God sent me over there,” he said.

He named the business Gangster Vegan Organics because those were all terms that defined him. “Growing up, I was obsessed with that lifestyle. I wanted to redefine gangster, helping people reverse diseases like diabetes. That’s gangster. For me, gangster used to be going out to the club every night, spending money. But that’s not gangster.”


Photo from Gangster Vegan Organics Facebook page.

Currently DePaul has one Gangster Vegan Organics location in Norristown, which offers gluten-free, vegan and organic grab ‘n go food options. After considering plans to expand and scouting some potential locations for another store in Phoenixville and West Chester, he decided to go back to a familiar block in West Philadelphia. “I burst into tears when I first came around the building, you know exactly when it’s meant to be… I lived in West Philly when I was 19; I worked at Koch’s Deli for a year.”

He recounted his life events that led up to opening his first location in Norristown, right before he moved back from Los Angeles after becoming 12 years removed from his hometown. When the economy hit, his nine year old t-shirt business went bankrupt and he became homeless. He recalled a moment when he was hungry and had “hit rock bottom” and was given a cup of fresh pressed organic juice, which inspired him to go vegan and lead a healthier lifestyle.

According to DePaul, the new Gangster Vegan Organics will be opening in March. DePaul is interested in hiring a full staff (10-25 employees) for the location, preferably local to the neighborhood and with an interest or knowledge about the organic vegan lifestyle. The West Philly location will be a full-service restaurant with cooked and raw organic gluten-free offerings, seating up to 100 people.

Rana Fayez

Check out this video of Vinny making watermelon juice:

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‘We’re here to bring people together’: Check out new album by West Philadelphia conscious acoustic duo

November 4, 2015


Sterling Duns (right) and Caselli Jordan. Photo courtesy of City Love.

West Philly-based duo City Love, comprised of Mantua and Belmont resident musicians Sterling Duns and Caselli Jordan, writes songs to spread the love, make people move, laugh, and foster dialogue about social issues. Their music is a meeting point between the city and the suburbs; between black and white; heavy and light. They say they are here to bring people together and get everyone shining their lights.

So, City Love wanted you to know that they have just released their new album, Come True. The guys had a release concert at Gojjo on October 15th with over 100 people of all ages and walks of life crammed inside. They have also just been selected as one of five finalists in the City Council’s PHL Live competition for Pop music on November 10th at Underground Arts! Here is a link to a video of the title track from their new album filmed in front of Caselli’s new house on Mantua Ave. (He says he still has a LOT of work to do before it becomes livable!)  Continue Reading

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‘We looked out for each other as sisters’: A very special South 54th Street reunion

November 4, 2015


A very special reunion was held at Lynda Thomas Solomon’s home on Sunday, November 1. This was a reunion of seven successful and happy women who grew up on South 54th St during the 1950’s. Here’s a story and photos by one of them, Cynthia Brown:

“This was a reunion of  seven ladies who grew up on South 54th St during the 1950’s from childhood through high school during a time when neighbors knew each other. We were in and out each other homes and were loved and disciplined by our friend’s parents. We ate together, played together and vacationed together. We played all day safely, boys and girls together. At night we sat on the front steps and talked as we got older.  Continue Reading

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UPDATE: 13-year-old Hanniya Mitchell, who went missing on Monday morning, found safe

October 20, 2015


Hanniya Mitchell (photo from Philly Police Blog).

UPDATE (10/21/2015, 8:35 a.m.): 13-year-old Hanniya Mitchell, who had been missing since Monday morning, was found safe, according to police.

Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating a 13-year-old West Philadelphia resident, Hanniya Mitchell. Hanniya was last seen around 6:30 a.m. on Monday, leaving her residence on the 400 block of S. 62nd Street. She attends the Bryant Elementary School, located at 6001 Cedar Ave., however she hasn’t attended school since she was reported missing.

Hanniya is 4 feet, 6 inches tall, weighs 115lbs, with brown eyes, medium build, dark brown complexion, and black wavy shoulder length hair. She was last seen wearing a blue Polo shirt, khaki pants, gold jacket with fur, and red sneakers.

Anyone with information on Hanniya’s whereabouts, please contact Southwest Detective Division at 215-686-3183 / 3184 or call 911.


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Life on the block: Two exhibitions show us the best of city life

October 13, 2015


Well-known West Philly based photographer Lori Waselchuk has spent the last couple of years hanging out with block captains, attending block parties and photographing the people that hold streets and neighborhoods together.

You can get an intimate look at the results of that work at two exhibitions that open this Friday. Block Party is an exhibition of Waselchuk’s newest work connected with her multimedia project Them That Do.

Lisa Barkley, Haddington Homes, 5500 Vine Street

West Philly block captain Lisa Barkley (Photo by Lori Waselchuk).

For Windowishes, Waselchuk teamed up with six block captains for an installation in the storefront display windows on the west side of South 40th Street between Chestnut and Ludlow. Waselchuk and her collaborators – block leaders and captains Lisa Barkely, Mary Campbell, Carol Dubie, Freda Egnal, Elizabeth Waring, and Renée McBride-Williams – installed “a small environment in each of the bay windows inspired by their community stewardship and neighborhood histories,” according to Waselchuk.

The result is seven stand-alone exhibits that invite us into the life of a single block. For example, the children of Dubie’s block on South 46th Street made flags for her display, “Legends of the Block.” Teens from Waring’s block of Powelton Avenue helped design and construct a four-foot tree for her display, “Our Trees.”

A whole bunch of community organizations came together for this one. Local cabinet maker and carpenter Gordon Richardson of Oberholtzer Custom Cabinetry donated labor, materials and expertise. Community organizations such as the University City Arts League and the Spruce Hill Community Association also supported the project.

So come have a look and celebrate the launch of both exhibits on Friday, Oct. 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the AIRSpace Gallery (4007 Chestnut St.).

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“Don’t I look like a nice lady? Well I’m not.”: Jessica is sick of your off-the-leash dog at The Woodlands

September 30, 2015


Jessica at ease at The Woodlands. She doesn’t like your dog as much as you do. Photo by Lori Waselchuk.

The tension between those who walk their dogs off-leash at The Woodlands and those who wish they wouldn’t is kind of the west-of-the-Schuylkill version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Biggie and Tupac. That may be overstating it slightly, but it’s kind of a big deal to many who frequent the cemetery/park.

Jessica, a West Philly yoga instructor and blogger, has had it. In “An Open Letter to People Who Let Their Dogs Off-Leash at Woodlands Cemetery,” she draws a line in the dirt. “I was once a vicious 13-year old girl,” she writes. “And given the right situation, she can return.”

Jessica originally posted this on her site, but has graciously allowed us to repost it here:  Continue Reading

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