Thursday, September 3, 2015

POSTED: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 4:46 PM
Five Below. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

The biggest-ever Five Below discount store is prepped for its official opening Sept. 10, 9:30 a.m. It's a two-story location at 1529 Chestnut Street, in the old Arcadia Theater.

The Philadelphia-based, 25-state, 400-store chain pitches "extreme value merchandise" to junior-high and elementary-school kids. Shares have traded in the mid-$30s lately, double their 2012 IPO value but off 30% from the 2013 high, on lower-than-expected profit growth. Shares fell in after-hours trading today after another unexciting earnings report.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 11:12 AM
The view of the city from the fifth floor balcony off of the entertainment area, in one of Donovan Clarke's townhouses. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )

Developer Donovan Clarke has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for Clarke Real Estate Development LLC, which had been constructing up to 22 large homes at Parke Place in the 1300 block of Bainbridge Street and offering them for sale at more than $1 million each, complete with elevators. 

UPDATE: The bankruptcy follows mortgage forclosure actions by Clarke's original financial partner, the Dietz & Watson Defined Benefit Pension Fund for workers at the Northeast Philadelphia lunchmeat company, that resulted in listing several of the Parke Place properties for sheriff's sale.

"This is a reorganization. It's still a project we are 100 percent committed to at this point. We are just restructuring to get the project back on track," Clarke told me. He said he is looking for new partners to finance the last 14 units. Clarke said he expects the pension fund "will ultimately be paid, and there will be new funding." He added that he has identified potential new financing, but "I won't say too much until it's a done deal."

POSTED: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 9:51 AM
The 45-seat (SAXBYS)

Saxbys Coffee, the Philadelphia-based chain which in its current incarnation operates breakfast-lunch 30 cafes in the Philadelphia and Washington DC areas, says it needs "to hire 100 new team members across the Greater Philadelphia region" following its headquarters move to Center City and the opening of its new stores -- at Drexel, 11th and Locust, and (soon) Ambler and Penn.

Saxbys says it wants workers who are "O.D.D. -- Outgoing, Detail-oriented and Disciplined."  Founder Nick Bayer had that phrase trademarked. Says he's hiring for that attitude, not for prior latte skills: "No experience in coffee is necessary." The training program, which has also moved to Philly from the firm's former operations in Conshohocken, urges workers to "Make Life Better," and includes exposure to a Drexel entrepreneurship program. 

Bayer has guided Saxbys through a string of investors and a late 2000s national expansion attempt. The company no longer operates its former Conshy bean roastery, and now sources through a Seattle outfit. 

POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2015, 12:51 PM

Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which owns Philadelphia's Peco Energy, and Washington-based Pepco (Potomac Electric Co.) Holdings, which owns Atlantic Electric in South Jersey and Delmarva Power & Light in Newark, Del.,  said today they still think their planned marriage is a good idea, even after the District of Colombia's Public Service commission moved to block their union last week on grounds it won't help consumers.

The utilities say they will challenge the Commission's order: "We remain convinced the decision fails to recognize the substantial immediate and long-term benefits of our merger proposal to citizens, businesses and communities" in D.C., the utilities said in this joint statement.

"We will continue working to complete the merger," previously blessed by the other Pepco states of Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland, which Exelon and Pepco insist will shower "hundreds of millions of dollars in direct financial benefits, improved reliability and storm response, renewable energy projects," community grants and business promotion, even as the merged company cuts costs.

POSTED: Saturday, August 29, 2015, 5:45 PM

My long-ago teacher Ted Hershberg, a scholar of urban growth and decay, liked to point out the that what sealed the fates of old industrial cities like Philadelphia -- did they decline like Detroit, or move ahead like Boston? -- wasn't how many factories and offices shut down, but how many new employers opened and expanded to replace the departed industries.

How's Philadelphia doing, on the eve of Mayor Kenney?

- We've been losing corporate headquarters: When a colleague asked me recently to name publicly-traded companies that had lately moved their main offices to Philadelphia, I pointed to two -- Hill International, the construction project manager, which moved over from Marlton; and Axalta, the DuPont Co. spin-off brought here by investor Carlyle Group in its recent Pennsylvania period.

POSTED: Saturday, August 29, 2015, 4:34 PM

UPDATE SEPT. 1: William C. Bradford, author of a 180-page law review article identifying U.S. and foreign legal scholars who challenge U.S. drone killings, torture and other anti-terrorist tactics as traitors who can be legally killed, has resigned from his new appointment as a U.S. Military Academy at West Point instructor, reports the Guardian, which also says Bradford's credentials have been under review. AUG. 29: Has the fight against Islamist terror come to this: law professors critical of U.S. tactics, accused of treason, can face firing, arrest, prosecution, even drone strikes on their offices as they talk to reporters?

The new editors of the National Security Law Journal, published by the law school down at George Mason University in Virginia, say their predecessors "made a mistake in publishing a controversial article" last month by William C. Bradford, now a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. According to Bradford's richly-footnoted, 180-page piece, dozens of professors who challenge U.S. policy in fighting Islamic militants constitute a disloyal "fifth column" who are committing treason and can legally be punished or killed, for example in their law offices or while at TV studios. The Journal doesn't address Bradford's arguments; it apologizes for the "egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits.... We cannot “unpublish” it," but rather "acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication." See 180-page article here. Highlights:  

Bradford argues that government officials, journalists and lawyers who challenge U.S. policy and practices in our conflicts with violent Islamist groups are furthering the "psychological operations" (PsyOps) agenda of Islamist forces who "know no limits" in their attacks on humanity to gain power. Bradford calls their work "treasonous" because it results in the withdrawal of Western forces from Islamic countries, granting victory to Islamists.

POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2015, 4:58 PM

Raeann Hofkin knows what it takes to meet a payroll.
She wishes Pennsylvania did, too.

Hofkin has worked as payroll manager at a string of Pennsylvania employlers ((currently Mobilex USA)). She's been honored by the American Payroll Assocation and co-wrote two books on how to match worker pay and benefits to spending and legal requirements.

No wonder John Gehman, president of the Upper Perkiomen school board, agreed to let Hofkin, vice president of the unpaid, nine-member board, lay out the history of why local taxpayers are having to pay so much more each year to fund the state Public School Employees' Retirement System, and suggest what to do about it, at a meeting last week in its Pennsburg, Montgomery County hall, between a beanfield and a townhouse development.

POSTED: Friday, August 28, 2015, 12:59 PM

Richest American Warren Buffett and Brazilian billionaire Bernardo Hees agree: There are even more food workers to be laid off, plants to be closed, production lines to be consolidated, suppliers and shippers to be squeezed, at Kraft Heinz Co. and other big, old U.S. supermarket brands.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Hees' 3G each own about one-quarter of Kraft Heinz, which is implementing 3G's "zero-based budgeting" concepts to cut unneeded costs and presumably boost profits. Investors are buying it, so far: Kraft Heinz has been trading at a fat 21 times earnings, nearly 15 times cash flow (enterprise value/EBITDA).

But there's a big problem: "Fewer people are eating their food," warns veteran food analyst Jonathan P. Feeney, now at Athlos Research's Berwyn outpost. Feeney worries the billionaire squeezers and other "strategic investors" who hope to drain more billions from America's fast-consolidating food factories won't be able to find enough additional stuff to cut, to justify today's inflated share prices.

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

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