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Reflections Upon Waterloo

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If you grew up on the Main Line, chances are Waterloo Gardens was the setting for a fond memory or two. For me, it involved wandering among the Devon location’s ornate
statuary and perennials with my grandparents as a young boy. Years later, we’d take my daughter to witness Santa’s annual arrival on the fire truck, as my parents sang Christmas carols with the Chester County Choral Society nearby. We still have an Advent calendar and some ornaments we treasure from those holiday visits.

Waterloo’s inventory wasn’t cheap, but the place really was special. Even near the end, when you could spot trouble in the empty shelves and dwindling staff, smiles and warm welcomes were the rule rather than the exception. 

Sifting through the rubble of a family torn apart by the implosion of a beloved local institution was certainly no picnic for senior writer J.F. Pirro. But “Dead Flowers” unfolds with a lingering sense of hope. “There really is a positive vibe to much of the story,” says Pirro, “about the opportunities for the future, about the power of letting go, and about the chance of the LeBoutilliers becoming a family again, now that the business is behind them.”

Pirro was struck by the family’s passion for the business, even when it was in its death throes. “It’s a true feeling with Susan, Bobby and his wife, Lucy,” he says. “It’s not manufactured. It’s a confident, can-do spirit influenced by the examples set by their parents and grandparents, and by the tremendous tradition and success story that Waterloo Gardens was—despite its quick, friction-filled demise.”

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: What’s happening to our neighborhoods?

It’s a complicated question—one that Media native Leigh Gallagher tackles with some success in her recent book, The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving. Among the most significant changes is an increasing demand for walkable, vibrant downtowns like those that dot the Main Line. Gallagher refers to them as “urban burbs.” 

“Throughout the country, developers are trying to replicate the live-and-play communities we have here, but they don’t have the same authentic feel,” says senior editor Tara Behan, author of “Town Home”, this month’s real estate feature. “The Main Line is fortunate to have builders and developers like Chip Vaughan and Cas Holloway, who’ve responded to the need for nontraditional housing for empty nesters, singles, and couples without kids. City folks who never knew they’d love the suburbs are now totally at home on the Main Line.”

Enjoy your spring. You’ve earned it.

Hobart Rowland Tara Behan