One positive to come out of 2020 is the new Maplewood Mall in Gtown, featuring an artist collective!
The renovations to the beloved pedestrian mall, first announced back in 2013, finally got underway in November 2019. The familiar old trees and bricks were suddenly gone. Businesses remained open while the road got worked on until COVID-19 hit in March. Construction shut down for a while, but picked up again and the project was completed this fall.
Now that it’s done, the $3.3 million city project has beautified the street, filled it with new trees (species that don’t have wide-spreading roots systems, like the old willows did) and opened it up to cars, although it’s been pedestrian-only every weekend since renovations completed. The city says in spring 2021 it will look into possibly extending no-cars-on-weekends closures.
One local businesswoman who’s delighted with the renovations is Erica Johnson, owner of Collective Artistry. Erica spoke to the Local about her take on the new Mall and its future as a community hub for Germantown.
The Local: What exactly is Collective Artistry?
Erica: We’re a group of artists working together. We create with our hands. The people within our group including myself are very talented and we want to share those talents with our community. Collective Artistry was started in 2019. With the assistance of my family, an awesome business expert, Keah Johns, and One Better Community LLC, I was able to bring something beautiful to Maplewood Mall.
I have been taught since a young age about all types of art. Some may call it a hobby. My mother had introduced me and my siblings to making things with our hands from mud pies to hand crafted jewelry, drawing/painting, sewing, plants (all types) and I wanted to share my art and talents. I also want to help my community and other communities. I also would like to help other artists who make handcrafted products. So that’s how it started.
How long have you been in the location on the Mall?
I’ve lived here on the Mall since 2014. I had my massage business here since 2015. When COVID arrived, I had to shut down my business immediately and it was my only source of income.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Nicetown until I was 16 years old. Then my mother moved me and my siblings to Germantown on Rittenhouse St.
What do you think of the Mall’s renovations?
I think the renovations are absolutely beautiful, JPC which I believe is the company that handled the renovations, did a wonderful job!
Although the old way was quiet and quaint and I deeply enjoyed the privacy, I was sad to see it go. When the willow tree was taken down it broke my heart.
How have things gone since the project finished?
Things have gone well but slow, which is to be expected due to COVID.
I feel that people are coming out to shop and show support. I do my best to keep my customers safe by asking them to use a mask (if they don’t have one, I’ll provide one for them), having them come in one or two at a time and asking them to stay socially distant from each other. I also have a hand sanitizer station at the front door for them as well.
What are your hopes for the Mall?
I hope it will:
- Be recognized again as a family-oriented respected shopping area, as it once was in the 70’s and 80’s.
- Continue to be a great staple in Germantown.
- Have more small businesses open up here.
Do you think the mall will start to attract more crowds, customers and community now that it’s been renovated?
I absolutely do think it will, once COVID has settled. Most people in Germantown have known about Maplewood Mall for a long time and now that it’s been redone, enthusiasm will keep building. Not only is the space more beautiful, but with businesses like Germantown Espresso, Concept Beauty, Bistro on the Mall and Collective Artistry it’s gotten more lively and fun.
Come meet Erica, check out the renovations and patronize the businesses on the beautiful new Maplewood Mall anytime. It’s located between Greene Street and Germantown Ave and Chelten Ave. and Armat Street (map)