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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