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The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta is proud to announce its Official Outfitter, Mettlers American Mercantile, who will supply exquisitely made-in-America vests to the volunteer corps to wear during regatta weekend. As Philadelphia’s only ‘Made in America’ retail store, it seems fitting that Mettlers would become a sponsor to Philadelphia’s Fall Festival of Rowing.
When Mettlers opened in Philadelphia, Lou Mettler, founder and president, fell in love with the sport of rowing. And, the sport of rowing is bound to fall in love with Lou Mettler, who was determined to celebrate his store’s one-year anniversary by becoming a part of Philadelphia’s rowing community and outfitting the loyal volunteers who work year-round, behind the scenes, to produce Philadelphia’s largest and most inclusive regatta.
Located at 2129 Chestnut Street, Mettlers American Mercantile opened its 2,500 square foot retail space in November 2012. Under the direction of Mettler, their brand became synonymous with sophisticated clothing and sportswear, fine home furnishings and accessories in an elegant shopping, and beautifully merchandised, atmosphere. Mettlers exists to not only find great American manufacturers, but more importantly, to offer all of their products in one convenient location. They carry over seventy-five different vendors that manufacture goods in the US and stand by the fact that 10,000 new jobs would be created if each person in the United States spent just $3.33 per year on American made goods.
For over thirty-five years Lou Mettler has been considered by his peers as one of the most inventive minds in the retail industry. In 2012 Robert Chevalier, a longtime friend of Lou, became his partner when he decided to open a space in his historic church at 22nd and Chestnut Street in Philadelphia that was once known as the Parish House back in 1881. His vision of bringing Mettlers to the birthplace of America was the perfect fit for making this their flagship store where American manufacturers first started their adventure.
Mettlers explains, "I had an idea and figured it could be done. I've traveled all over and found that American made goods are still the finest in the world. We've all seen that clothing manufacturing has moved overseas, but the United States is still home to small factories that produce beautifully crafted goods with unparalleled quality. They all have a wonderful story to tell, and they're all about doing things the old school way: focusing on quality rather than quantity. The sport of rowing is similar, and the stories of Philadelphia rowing…and rowers, compelled me to want to become part of this important part of our new city. I love the stories, and the history and the legends." Mettlers American Mercantile proudly offers beautiful heirloom quality goods that each tells a unique story of proud American manufacturing tradition just as the Head of the Schuylkill tells a unique story of rowing in Philadelphia.
Mettlers association with the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta adds to its commitment to Philadelphia by becoming an important and visible part of a Philadelphia tradition.
The University Barge Club is the host of the annual Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, started in 1970 and one of the great Philadelphia sporting events of the year. Over the past four decades, the Regatta has benefitted from the involvement of many prominent women in the Philadelphia region, who dedicate vast talent and countless hours to make this complex event a reality. They chair committees, run logistics, drive golf carts, referee from launches, and compete with rowers from all over the nation. A few years ago, the women of University Barge achieved a long-held dream: a racing women's eight.
Below are profiles of three current regatta volunteers in their own words, each of whom came to rowing in her own way, and have careers that make a difference in the Philadelphia region.
Deborah Culhane is a coxswain for the University Barge Club, usually in command of the masters men's eight. This year, she will be the points trophy calculator for the Regatta.
Culhane began her coxswaining career while an undergraduate at Villanova University in the 1990s, and has "loved it since day one." While not on the water, Culhane works as an attorney for Women Against Abuse, which advocates for the rights of battered women in Philadelphia. She spends much of her time in court, obtaining protection orders against abusers, as well as custody and child support for mothers.
Competitive rowing, she said, is "similar to being a litigator, as you have to use all the same qualities in trial or in court. It's very technical. However, because I represent domestic violence victims, these are difficult, sad cases where it's not so much about winning or losing but making a difference for the client." Unlike other racquet or team sports, Culhane asserts that, "rowing is not adversarial as in no one is trying to take you out or interfere. The way that you win is by doing well in your own capacity."
Culhane is thrilled at the growth of women's rowing during her twenty years on the Schuylkill River.
"The role of women now is to make sure that the girls and women that are coming up behind us are fully integrated into the sport. I look forward to that." she says.
For Amy Kurland, the Inspector General of Philadelphia, rowing is more than exercise, but a spiritual experience. She started as a novice sweep rower in 2006, just before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she successfully conquered. Kurland maintains it was rowing that kept her grounded during the pain of chemotherapy. When the Rutgers alumni crew folded three years ago, she joined the University Barge Club.
This year, she will be racing in the over-50 women's quad and in the women's eight. She will also be running the Regatta's information booth.
"The women at UBC are a tightknit group," she says. "Everyone supports each other. I can't think of another sport where such a diverse group of women can be a team of eight. I'm in awe of my team mates."
Kurland, a Philadelphia native, served as a prosecutor for over two decades before being appointed Inspector General by Mayor Nutter, and was tasked with rooting out corruption and fraud in city government.
"My job is all about making the city a better place," she says. "To see my city in the morning as the sun is coming up gives me the chance to think about how I got where I am."
"There is nothing like the Schuylkill River!" she concludes. "I have a lot of pride in my city."
Jennifer Wesson sees rowing as an athletic complement to her work as a community planner in Delaware County. She feels inspired every time she is out on the river, even in the dark at 5:30am.
"My job is about connecting people to their environment," Wesson said. "I enjoy the whole idea of being on the water, being one with the river, and seeing how everything in the city connects: river, boathouses, streets, walkways, greenways. The people that are drawn to the sport are likeminded. How lucky we are to see the city from a different perspective."
Wesson started rowing as novice as an undergraduate at Rutgers in the 1990s. Entranced by the sport's tradition and beauty, as well its iconic status in the Philadelphia region, she co-founded the Moorestown Rowing Club in 2001 which opened rowing opportunities to five local high schools and popularized rowing on the Cooper River, and went on to coach the women's crew at Temple University. After joining University Barge, she spearheaded the creation of the club's first women's eight.
"It was something I set as a goal when I took membership at UBC," she says. "When I joined, there were very few women sweep rowing, but certainly there was interest; since then, UBC has gained a number of young women members who have graduated from local collegiate programs and helped to put sweep boats out on the water. The process of organizing an eight however has provided more benefits than its intended outcome: it has brought together a roster of women of all ages, experience, and personalities to sweep and scull on a daily basis. No matter what the goal of an individual rower, I believe our camaraderie is valued by all the women at UBC."
This year, Wesson will be rowing in a mixed quad and the UBC women's eight, and will be coordinating all parking operations along Kelly Drive.
>"There are amazing opportunities right now," Wesson states about the future of women's rowing in Philadelphia, "especially when it comes to scholarships available for female rowers." For her, rowing is not just a sport, but a lifelong commitment and lifestyle. "It's a holistic experience," Wesson says, "a sport that gives respite and relieves stress, provides structure, and continues to teach you something new about yourself every day."
Wesson is such a passionate advocate for the sport that many of the parents of students she's coached have taken up the sport themselves!