Lora Pietrangelo is a booster, believer, beater of the drum for businesses in Swarthmore’s downtown Ville. She’s also a creative thinker and a clever marketer, an adventurous entrepreneur, and a local girl to boot. In short, she brings a fine complement of qualifications to her new role as Swarthmore’s Town Center Coordinator.
As of June 1, Lora takes over the position for the retiring Marty Spiegel, who did yeoman work for 10 years. “Marty has done a great job in bringing people and life to the Town Center,” Lora says. The two have worked together, with Lora recently organizing and convening a merchants’ group. “We have a cohesive group, all working toward the same ends. I am hoping we can bring in other organizations in town on the same basis.”
For instance, she says, “Swarthmore College, through the new Inn, has been eager to complement what we have in the Town Center. They are working on ways the Inn can be an asset in terms of promoting the town and bringing their guests to our businesses.”
Lora, a Media native and Villanova alumna, established HOM (Harvey Oak Mercantile) as a specialty retailer “inspired by life in Swarthmore.” The store offers high-quality and handmade new goods, along with reclaimed and repurposed classic furnishings, household objects and ephemera. It’s a unique product mix that reflects Lora’s aesthetic, and lessons learned from experience as a buyer for Anthropologie, Waterloo Gardens, and Terrain.
Swarthmore is a unique place, Lora says. “Since I set up a business here, I’ve found that the people are really loyal. Residents, like merchants, really do want a vibrant Town Center.” In the bigger picture, Lora says, growth depends on expanding the marketing reach. “I want people to think of Swarthmore as a destination, with a critical mass of dining, shopping, and services that persuades them to make the trip here.”
That takes unique experiences as well as a good mix of merchants, Lora says, and that resource is at hand. “Swarthmore has so much going on at the college, at Scott Arboretum, with the Farmers Market, events like the CAC Fine Arts and Crafts Festival and the Makers Markets, Central Park and the amphitheater, with its potential for performances and events … when we bring that all together, we can sell the town to visitors, and build foot traffic to attract new businesses.”
Immediate priorities for the Town Center will continue to include filling storefronts and sprucing up the streetscape, Lora says. “We need to proactively work to improve things now. Longer term, we need to strengthen relationships among all interested in building a better downtown — merchants, landlords, residents and community groups.’’
Lora’s aesthetic sense and marketing savvy — such an asset for HOM — will also be brought to bear on branding and communication for Town Center. She says “I’m working on updating the brochure and business directory. And part of what I want to develop is an updated website with community calendars, and a bigger presence online. Social media is a great communication tool for my store, and I think it can be for the Town Center, too.”