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Behind the Scenes at Gil’s Upholstery: Settee Edition

We at the CDC learn new things all the time as we work with businesses all along the Avenue. We have some very skilled business owners that call Frankford Avenue home, and over the years we’ve had the pleasure of learning the tricks of a whole variety of different trades.

One of those trades is upholstery. We sat down with Gil Pons of Gilbert’s Upholstery again last week to talk about another project he’s currently completing – a settee that dates back to the late 1800s. Gil’s client received the piece from her grandmother in Ohio, but the loveseat was originally constructed in Chicago. The piece is a unique one for Gil because of its age, and the number of times its been reconstructed before ending up right here in Frankford.

Gil and his brother Rick had to completely strip the settee down yet again, and used hog hair – commonly used by those in the trade on older pieces to fill in the cavities – to re-stuff the chair. This particular customer wanted a softer feel to her seat, so foam was added to the mix. When we spoke with Gil about the piece, he was in the midst of a second round of work on the chair: this repeat customer had wanted the back to have more curviture, so Gil was busy ensuring his client got exactly what she wanted.

As we’ve said before, every piece of furniture has a story, and those histories are being written and rewritten right on the 4500 block of Frankford Avenue. Who knows where this settee will end up in twenty years – maybe right back on Frankford Ave getting another makeover!


Getting the job done on Frankford Ave:

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Behind the Scenes at Gil’s Upholstery with the Frankford CDC

Gil Pons has been skillfully repurposing pieces of furniture on Frankford Avenue for decades. He’s mastered the tricks of the trade and knows how every piece of furniture is different. But, more importantly, he knows how to meet the unique needs of each of his many clients.

This past week, the Frankford CDC stopped by Gil’s shop to observe him in action. He was hard at work restoring a couch that he believes was originally produced in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The process Gil must undertake may seem simple, though proves to be anything but straightforward, as the CDC’s visit demonstrates. First, the couch has to be stripped down to its wooden frame, and then stuffed with new padding. Once Gil makes the new seat cushions, and before the back of the couch has been reassembled, the client will make a trip to the shop to test out her new sofa and determine just how far forward she wants the back to extend. Gil will also replace the coils in the base of the couch with springs, to fulfill the customer’s desire for a firmer seat.

This forty year old piece has a lot of history wrapped up in it, specifically when it comes to the technique and materials used to manufacture and repurpose furniture. The couch was originally stuffed with coconut fiber, which has since gone out of fashion in the industry. However, trends are cyclical, and Gil noted that coconut fiber is making a comeback in part due to its eco-friendly nature and will be used for this particular project. So, not surprisingly, this piece will have a bit of the future woven in to its fibers, too.

Gil believes this piece was not mass produced, but rather built to meet the desires of its original owner. That dovetails perfectly with the ethos of Gil’s shop: a specialty store intended to deliver a customized product. Gil manages about six projects a month, and the CDC intends to keep you updated on the story of this particular couch. So stay tuned, enjoy the pictures below, and go visit Gil at 4529 Frankford Avenue (or give him a call at 215-744-5385) with more questions about how exactly he does what he does.




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Safety Ambassadors Return to Frankford Avenue

Safety Ambassadors and their supervisor

The Frankford Special Services District today announced the return of the Safety Ambassador Program to the Frankford Business Corridor, starting June 24, 2010.

The Safety Ambassador Program, which was a part of Frankford in the late 1990s, will consist of uniformed personnel patrolling Frankford Avenue with the goal of increasing commerce on the Corridor.
Ambassadors will help shoppers with concerns such as directions, bus schedules and escorting. In addition, they will visit every business on the Corridor weekly to check-in and see if the business owner has anything to report. Along their routes, Ambassadors will report quality of life concerns such as graffiti and potholes, and will reinforce the safety of Frankford Avenue by documenting and reporting all suspicious activity. “It will be great for shoppers and business owners to have an extra set of eyes on the Corridor,” said Gilbert Pons, owner of Gilbert’s Upholstery.
This program has been tried and tested in many business corridors across the country, including Frankford Avenue, and has been effective in reducing crime and making shoppers feel safer and more welcome.  The Frankford Special Services District (FSSD) has been focusing on this project since it surveyed the businesses at the beginning of the year and received an overwhelming support for safety initiatives.
The FSSD is proudly reinvesting in the community it serves by hiring for these newly created jobs from the local EARN Center, and purchasing its uniforms from Cramer’s Uniforms, both of which are located on Frankford Avenue.  The Ambassadors will patrol Frankford Avenue from the Frankford Terminal to Womrath Park. They will be on duty five days a week from 10-6pm.
Shoppers and business owners are welcome to approach Ambassadors with their concerns or call 267-777-SAFE to speak with them over the phone. Any questions about the program can be directed to Tim Wisniewski, the Executive Director of the Frankford Special Services District, at 215-535-2637.
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Temple Journalism Student Profiles Frankford’s Main Street

Temple student Morgan Zalot stopped by to highlight Frankford Mainstreet’s Storefront Improvement Program.  She also put some video up on youtube:

Then she threw some suplimental stuff up on NEast Philly.  I’m impressed.  Thorough work.  She made it into Mark My Flesh, a tattoo parlor at Frankford and Orthodox.  She also talked with the owners of Gilbert’s Upholstery.  We’ve been quite heartily scooped.  I am really getting a grasp of how serious Temple takes its journalism.