Alphabet Academy goes green

Roe Gallo, center, and her two daughters Amanda Fischer, left, and Jamie Gallo, right, who run the Alphabet Academy, work with children at the East Passyunk location in Philadelphia on April 10, 2014. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

ROE GALLO, 50, of South Philadelphia, owns Alphabet Academy, which operates four day-care centers on East Passyunk Avenue. The Treehouse, near 11th Street, is green, eco-friendly and also teaches about civic engagement. A second green day care for toddlers is slated to open in September.

Q: What was the genesis of the Treehouse?

A: Alphabet Academy started in 1998. As we grew, [Treehouse initially] became our pre-K. We bought and renovated this building [near Dickinson Street], but in 2010 we decided to redo it. That's when we came up with the green concept. The demographics of the neighborhood had changed, and we made it a green day care.

Q: Green day care?

A: The floors are made from recycled materials, the lighting is LED, and a water-filtration and cooling system purifies the air and dehumidifies the room. We have all-organic snacks, milk and juices. We teach them about recycling and have a working garden. Last year they grew tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries.

Q: The value proposition?

A: The Treehouse is much smaller than our other day-care centers. It has a focus, teaching children from a young age to appreciate the Earth and what it provides and to understand how to sustain it and make a small impact on the world.

Q: How many children go to the Treehouse?

A: We have 25 there.

Q: What does it cost to send a child to the Treehouse?

A: We do part-time here, but not at other locations. For full-time, we only take 2-to-3-year-olds, at $285 a week. For a 3-to-5-year-old, it's $265.

Q: What's it cost to go to the other centers?

A: It's $80 less. For an infant it's $205 a week, and the 4-year-old is $185. When we open the new green space, it will probably be about $90 more per child.

Q: How many children attend the other locations?

A: Alphabet Garden has 26. Alphabet Aquarium is our biggest day care, with 80 children. Alphabet Station has infants and young toddlers, and has 66.

Q: Your customers?

A: They live mainly in the East Passyunk neighborhoods. Treehouse parents are mostly working professionals, architects, doctors and lawyers, late 20s to mid-30s, two-parent households, and a few commute.

Q: The other locations?

A: It runs the gamut because we also have children who are subsidized. Mostly local parents, some are single, some don't work but want their children in a group setting, like a preschool.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: We have more than 190 children and about 40 employees, 25 of whom are full-time.


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