Leaving Wilmington, Delaware I headed northeast to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the United States with about 1.6 million people. The city and surrounding suburbs are also home to eighteen of the companies on my list, making it one of my bigger stops.
SmithKline Beckman, a health care company, leases seven floors in a white, 24-story downtown office building, which was built in 1980. The lobby area is manned by a security guard/receptionist who directed me to a SmithKline Beckman receptionist near the lobby elevator. I was impressed by the "No Smoking Anywhere" signs in the lobby but, I was disappointed when changing from my shorts into long pants in the bathroom in that I didn't spot any toilet seat covers which I thought odd for a health care company. I met with Jane Engates, Manager, Public Policy Research, who came down to the lobby area and concluded our chat in five minutes. About 500 employees work in the building with senior officers getting reserved parking spaces. The art collection I'm told, consists of a mixture of oriental and medical art. There is a cafeteria but, no executive dining rooms. I was told it wasn't possible for me to see the CEO's office or the boardroom. The company has one corporate aircraft. Engates scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Cigna, a holding company (over $16 billion in revenues), primarily involved in insurance and financial services, leases eight floors in a 30-story structure built in 1982. The building directory said the main receptionist was on the 17th floor so, I go up there and it's a kind of demeaning situation because as you come off the elevator there's a woman behind a glass partition (similar to when you go to a movie theatre), and you have to stoop down to speak through the hole. For some reason, I just couldn't picture big shots from major companies coming here for a visit and having to stoop down to announce themselves to the receptionists. I was sent to another building down the street to talk to Gloria McNutt, Director, Public Relations. As I left the building, I took a look again at the building directory and noticed quite a few other insurance companies with offices also located in the building and they weren't subsidiaries of Cigna. To get up to see McNutt in her building, I had to pass through turnstiles and security guards before reaching the elevators. It reminded me of similar security measures when I was being taken to a different part of the building during my visit to GEICO in Washington, D.C. McNutt told me the total square footage of the building housing corporate offices was 574,594 square feet of which 365 Cigna employees work on eight floors. There is a cafeteria and formal dining rooms. Smoking in the offices is optional and the company has one helicopter. I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office or boardroom. The building in which I talked to McNutt had an interesting museum on the first floor which, besides having an interesting collection of firemarks, had quite an extensive collection of paintings relating to marine (ships) and firefighting. McNutt scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Bell Atlantic, one of Ma Bell's former babies, leases the 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st floors in a 39-story building a couple of years old. I wasn't expecting much when I entered the building because I usually wasn't too well received at phone companies (see Pacific Telesis, Southwestern Bell, BellSouth, Ameritech). I was surprised NOT to see the company's name atop the building because the phone companies usually like to have a high-profile building. I got a nice reception from Thomas Healey, Assistant Director, Corporate Media Relations. About 195 employees work in the offices which are more functional than fancy but, the maroon and pink color scheme reminded me of the offices of Ameritech in Chicago. I did get to see the boardroom and the CEO's office which is a corner office with a view of downtown Philadelphia. The company's art collection is mostly colonial with primarily local artists. There are restrictions on smoking, the CEO doesn't smoke, there is no cafeteria but, quite a few vending machines which dispense Coke, Pepsi and 7-Up. There is a formal dining room and the company owns three corporate aircraft and leases two. In downtown Philadelphia you can catch the train to the airport (about a twenty-minute ride). Healey scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
ARA Holding Company is a privately held company with revenues of almost $4 billion. What do they do? Plenty. Here's a sample: ARA is the country's largest distributor of periodicals, paperback books and other reading materials. ARA manages 290 long-term care centers called, "Living Centers." Correctional Medical Systems, Inc., a subsidiary, provides comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services to 39 correctional facilities in nine states. ARA operates 160 child care centers called, "Daybridge Learning Centers." ARA is the world's largest garment rental company. ARA Smith's is one of the largest trucking companies in the country in the hauling of less-than-truckload shipments weighing under 10,000 pounds. ARA provides on-site dining services for almost 500 corporate, commercial and government locations and, quite a few of the corporations I've visited on my trek are serviced by ARA. The food service operations at over 250 colleges around the country are run by ARA. ARA prepares lunches for over 180 school districts in 22 states (650,000 students). ARA has over 6000 vending machine accounts across the country and manages many of the food concessions in airports, national parks, resorts and sporting events. Had enough? Me too. ARA is BIG in the food service industry. ARA leases 13 floors in the 32-story building, including the 31st and 32nd floors. ARA moved into the building in 1986 which was already several years old according to John Gribbin, Public Relations Specialist. It's a good-looking building, connected to an enclosed shopping mall called, The Gallery. The company's name is atop the building and from what I was told, it is lit up at night. The main reception area is on the 31st floor and it's a beaut with lots of wood paneling, plants and large windows-allowing for great views of New Jersey. Smoking is allowed anywhere which might be because the CEO smokes cigars. I was not allowed to see the CEO's office or boardroom. The 990 employees eat in a cafeteria-oops, I was told at ARA they call them restaurants NOT cafeterias. There are also vending machines and an executive dining room. The soda pop machines sell Coke AND Pepsi. The corporate art collection consists of a lot of "people scenes." The company has one Lear jet. There is a company fitness center in the building which has Nautilus equipment, rowing, etc. but, I wasn't able to see it. During my visit, I kept my eye out for mobsters because according to articles I've read over the years, ARA is supposedly in cahoots with the Mob. Nope, everything was on the up and up. I was disappointed in not getting to see the CEO's office because I bet he's got a terrific view. Gribbin scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
Fidelcor, a bank holding company who's primary subsidiary is Fidelity Bank, is headquartered in the main branch of First Fidelity Bank. Built in 1927, First Fidelity leases the first twelve floors of the 30-story building. The building is a designated Historical Landmark. The magnificent cathedral-like bank lobby is well-known to locals because scenes from the movie, "Trading Places", with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd were filmed here. I met with John McKelvie, Assistant Vice President and Director of Communications. I did get to see the CEO's office and the boardroom. The boardroom had nothing on the walls such as past chairmen, paintings, etc. but, the ceiling must have been thirty feet high, about the same size as the one I saw at DuPont. As far as parking is concerned, everyone is on their own. About 1200 employees work in the building. There's a cafeteria, vending machines and formal dining rooms. McKelvie scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I never received the annual report I had requested he send me.
The original address I had for IU International, a company whose three main businesses are distribution, transportation and environmental services, was in Wilmington, Delaware. After I sent my postcard to the CEO about a week before my anticipated arrival in Wilmington, I received a message from IU International telling me the corporate offices were in Philadelphia. The company leases four floors in an old 22-story building in downtown Philadelphia. I met with Donna Schorr, Travel Coordinator. The offices are pretty functional, with 160 employees on the 10th, 17th, 18th and 19th floors. I got to meet with CEO John Gilray Christy for about ten minutes and I found out Christy used to live in La Jolla, California, my hometown. Christy's office is a corner office with a view of the downtown area. Boardroom was pretty typical. The company leases one aircraft and there's no cafeteria but, vending machines. Christy scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale and I didn't grade Schorr because Christy answered most of the questions.
The corporate offices of Scott Paper are located about fifteen miles southwest of downtown next to Philadelphia International Airport. To get to their headquarters I had to cross over the Schuykill River on the George E. Platt Memorial Bridge that's definitely one of the scariest bridges I've ridden over. The bridge is high, long and you share the roadway with big tractor-trailer trucks who seem to be oblivious to anyone else on the road. I arrived at Scott Plaza, as the complex is called, and went to the main reception area located in the first building which is known as "Plaza 1." The two other buildings in the complex are known as "Plaza 2" and "Plaza 3." Michael Kilpatric, Manager, Public Information, came to the lobby area and chatted with me for several minutes. Before he came to the lobby, I used the rest room to change from my shorts into long pants and guess what? The toilet seat covers, paper towels AND soap in the bathroom are their own brands. The six-story, Plaza 1 building we were in was built in 1961 and atop the building in big letters is the name, "Scott." About 1400 people work in the buildings which sit on a 48-acre site. Parking is no problem with 1800 parking spots. The company has two corporate aircraft and I counted 18 flags of various countries flying outside the main entrance. There are two cafeterias and a formal dining room. I was not allowed to see the CEO's office or boardroom, matter of fact, I never got past the lobby. Kilpatric said the CEO's office overlooks an airport runway. There is a fitness center in the complex which has an indoor/outdoor running track and Nautilus equipment. To get past the lobby area, the receptionist has to push a button to open the doors. Why is Scott Paper located next to the airport? According to Kilpatric, it's because the company does business in eighteen countries. In case you're wondering, Scott Paper was founded in 1879 by two brothers, Irvin and Clarence Scott. Kilpatric scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
I headed back to downtown Philadelphia and yes, I found another way back to town without having to go over that stupid bridge.
The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company
The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company is headquartered right across the street from Independence Square in two company-owned buildings, one of which is eighteen stories and was built around the 1920's and the other building is twenty stories and looked to be about ten years old. I'm guesstimating the age of the buildings because Judith Eckies, Manager, Corporate Information, didn't know. Taking the elevator in the older building is a treat because the walls of the insides of the elevator have tiles with colonial scenes. Eckies didn't know how many worked in the two buildings but, over 1400 Penn Mutual employees work in the city. Corporate headquarters might have some skeletons under their buildings because it was the site of the first prison in Philadelphia. It is also the site of the first air voyage; a man went up in a hot air balloon. I was told there's an outdoor running track atop one of the buildings and there's a fitness center with Nautilus equipment. Eckies wasn't sure if they had a corporate art collection but, knew they had at least one Wyeth painting. There is a cafeteria, vending machines and formal dining rooms. Company has no corporate aircraft. I got to see the CEO's office and the boardroom and I gotta tell ya', the boardroom is unbelievable! A few days ago DuPont had the tallest one I've seen, then Fidelcor had a huge one and now this! The ceiling must be forty feet high! It's got wall to wall wood paneling, with very traditional furniture and you really get a sense of a lot of history when you enter the room. The hallway leading into the boardroom is lined with portraits of past presidents. The CEO does not smoke which might have something to do with smoking not being allowed in the buildings. Eckies scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Eckies did send me an annual report but, failed to give me the answers to questions she wasn't able to answer then, such as square footage of buildings, when built, corporate art collection and parking.
Rohm and Haas Company
About a block away from Penn Mutual and overlooking Independence Mall, are the corporate offices of Rohm and Haas Company, a chemical and plastics company. Independence Mall is a real historical and touristy area because, amongst other things, the Liberty Bell is on display. My entrance into the 9-story headquarters building was met by a less-than-enthusiastic receptionist. When I gave her my name and handed her one of my postcards, she said in a snarly voice, "Don't have time to read it, what do you want?" Geez, what an unfriendly, unprofessional receptionist. The lady acted like she has worked there for a while and maybe that's her problem. I'd mention her name but, there was no nameplate on her desk. I called up Phillip Stefanini, Director of Corporate Affairs, from the lobby phone and he told me he was very busy and would come down to the lobby for a few minutes. We met in the lobby area and he was very indifferent and insincere. His answers to my questions were short and his facial expressions and body language made it clear I was taking up his time. Over 1300 employees work in the building which was built in 1966. A sign above the entrance to the building says, "Rohm & Haas Building." There is a cafeteria which is open to the public and the company has no corporate aircraft. Consumers might have heard of one of the company's more famous products; Plexiglas. I was really surprised when I asked him if I could see the CEO's office and boardroom and he agreed to take me up to see the boardroom which was pretty typical. Stefanini scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
Meritor Financial Group
Meritor Financial Group, a bank holding company, leases space in an old, 33-story building which has an Art Deco look to it. Using the building directory and asking people, I eventually met with Shirley Preston, Manager, Community Affairs. She knew the answers to almost none of my questions and I never got to see anything other than her office. Smoking is not restricted, senior officers get reserved parking, the company has no corporate aircraft and the cafeteria is semi-public. I was disappointed in not getting a tour because I love Art Deco buildings. Ms. Preston scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Preston never followed through on sending me literature on the company or answers to questions she didn't know at the time of my visit.
Philadelphia Electric has its offices in a company-owned, 26-story building built in 1971. J. William Jones, Assistant Manager, Public Information Division, says the company is located downtown but, it is about ten block from the core of downtown so, I say it's on the fringe of downtown. It's a big, black ominous-looking structure which isn't exactly in the best part of town. I was very leery about leaving my bike outside but, I got the security guard in the lobby to keep an eye on it for me. As in my visit to Baltimore Gas & Electric, the lobby area was filled with appliances for sale except for this time, there was a more extensive selection: washers, dryers, heaters, refrigerators, stereos, phones, typewriters, dishwashers and vacuums. Jones didn't know the square footage of office space but, about 2900 people work in the building which is furnished in the typical style I expected by a public utility; functional and no frills. Officers on up, get reserved parking, there's a cafeteria and no executive dining rooms. The company does have a collection of water colors and smoking is allowed anywhere. The company has a helicopter which makes sense because there's a helipad atop the building. I did get to see the boardroom but, not the CEO's office. Jones scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
Core States Financial
Core States Financial, a bank holding company, is headquartered in the building housing the main office branch of its subsidiary, Philadelphia National Bank. I was told the man I was supposed to talk to was out of town and the other fellow in the office was "new." I was told to come back later in the week. Well, it was Wednesday and the rest of the week I would be visiting companies in the suburbs so I left knowing I wouldn't be back.
Coming back form my visit to Scott Paper earlier in the day, I went by RFK Stadium and saw players from the Philadelphia Eagles walking the picket lines. The stupid football player's strike cost me a chance to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel because of all the places in the United States to hold the talks between players and owners, where do you think they were held? Yep, at the Four Seasons and I had gone there several times about getting a complimentary room and was told it hinged on a settlement. I had yet to stay at a Four Seasons Hotel for two good reasons: 1) I hadn't been able to get a complimentary room; and 2) they're so darned expensive (usually starting at $175.00). I went across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel to check out the competition, the Palace Hotel, supposedly one of the nicer places to stay in town and found wallpaper coming off the walls, carpets which were old and out of style, the place has seen better days and that was just from walking around the lobby area. I also went through the Italian section of town and had an excellent Philadelphia-style cheesesteak sandwich. Philadelphia is filled with dozens and dozens of historical areas, mostly concerning colonial times. I rode around the campus of the University of Pennsylvania and in particular, the Wharton Business School. I saw Steinberg Hall, which is named after Saul Steinberg whose company, Reliance Group Holdings, I'll be visiting in New York City. Campus is about a mile and a half west of downtown. Across the street from the University of Pennsylvania campus is Drexel University. North of downtown a few miles is Temple University which isn't in the best of areas and doesn't have much of a campus but, over 30,000 students go there.
Crown Cork & Seal
When my trek is over and done with, there's no doubt in my mind that Crown Cork & Seal is definitely going to rank right up near the top in having the most functional, spartan, no-frills corporate headquarters I've visited. Crown Cork & Seal manufactures and sells metal cans, crowns, and closures and, the building of filling, packaging and handling machinery. What kind of metal cans? Beer and beverage cans, paint cans, pet food cans, aerosol cans and motor oil cans just to name a few. Headquarters is in a company-owned, 2-story building built in 1956 located about fifteen miles north of Philadelphia in a low-rent residential area. Right across the street is a big apartment complex. The corporate offices, located on the second floor, share the building with one of the company's manufacturing plants which is located downstairs. After entering the building, you can look through windows and see the workers and machinery working away in the plant part and then, I walked up some steps to a small drab area where a lady is sitting behind a desk answering the phone and after taking a wild guess that she was the receptionist, I checked in with her. After waiting a few minutes Francis Dalton, Treasurer, comes out and takes me to his office or, a better description would be a glass cubicle. It's more than anyone else has because there's this big open room with about 100 people behind desks lined up in rows and it kind of reminds me of a newsroom, where all the reporters sit in the one room, while the editor has a glass enclosed office to the side (remember the television show, "Lou Grant" starring Ed Asner?). It seems to me a bright new coat of paint would do wonders to liven things up for the 125 employees. The floors and furnishings look like what you'd expect something to look like after being used for over 30 years. Dalton told me when Japanese visitors visit, many of them comment about how much the place reminds them of one of their plants at home. There are no restrictions on smoking which adds to the distinct smell of the place and, as you might expect there is no corporate art collection. There is a cafeteria but, to no surprise, there isn't an executive dining room. When I asked if they served Coke, Pepsi, both or neither in the cafeteria, he told me they have every conceivable brand because being in the beverage can manufacturing business, they don't want to offend anyone. I got to see the CEO's office which is a glass enclosed corner office with very spartan furnishings but, what impressed me was when Dalton told me Mr. Connelly, the CEO, is 82 years old. Evidently, Connelly owns a lot of stock in the company or else he's a damn good boss. The boardroom is a glass enclosed room connected to Mr. Connelly's office and it is nothing more than a conference room. I was surprised to find out the company has two corporate aircraft. Mr. Dalton scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I wasn't surprised at all when I received the company's 16-page annual report in the mail. No pictures in it, no small talk-just the facts.
From Crown Cork & Seal, I went to Valley Forge, an area about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia and home to CertainTeed Corporation, a manufacturer of building materials. Valley Forge is a booming area with new corporate office parks being built all over the place. CertainTeed's headquarters sits on a company-owned, 20-acre site comprised of six, 3-story buildings. A very small sign near the street says, "CertainTeed." Built in 1968, the off-white colored buildings are situated on the property in a sort of U-shaped fashion. I don't know if the buildings are off-white on purpose or if the buildings are due for a new paint job. I met with Catherine Ferrante, Corporate Facilities Services Manager, in the reception/atrium area. There really isn't any corporate art unless you consider their collection of old company advertising ads art. About 470 people work in the buildings which have a combined total square footage of 177,350. There's no set policy on smoking, assistant vice presidents on up, get reserved parking spots and there's a cafeteria and a formal dining room. The company is about 45 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport and has one corporate aircraft and a helipad on their property. I did get to see the CEO's office but, the boardroom was in use. Ms. Ferrante scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Alco Standard and Alco Health Services
A couple miles from CertainTeed, are the headquarters of Alco Standard and Alco Health Services. Out near the street is a sign which says, "Alco Standard Corporation, The Corporate Partnership." I met with Carl Agoglia, Building Services, who tried to explain to me how Alco Standard Corporation and Alco Health Services share the same headquarters but, are separate companies. Evidently, Alco Health Services, primarily a pharmaceutical distributor, is a spin-off and is partly owned by Alco Standard, a company with over $3 billion in sales primarily distributing paper, office products and manufacturing food service equipment. Corporate headquarters is a company-owned, light brown, 3-story, 110,000-square foot building situated on a nicely landscaped 35-acre site. Built in 1979, about 180-200 employees work in the building. The company has no art collection but, there are displays of the company's products. Smoking is allowed anywhere, there are no recreational facilities although, walking around the grounds at lunch is pretty popular. Eating in the cafeteria, employees have the option of sitting outside on the patio which gives them a great view of the 2800-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park in the valley. I did get to see the CEO's office, which has a great view of the Valley Forge Park and, I got to see the boardroom. The company has no corporate aircraft and it's about a half hour drive to Philadelphia. The receptionists are worth mentioning because they were very friendly and hospitable. I didn't notice any security at Alco Standard which reminds me, it was ditto at CertainTeed. Agoglia scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I never received any literature from the company.
Friday morning, September 25, 1987, I showed up at the headquarters of Sun Company in the quiet suburb of Radnor, which is about fifteen miles from downtown Philadelphia. Sun Company is located in the Radnor Corporate Center, a complex of buildings situated in a park-like setting. Built in 1976, Sun Company owns the whole complex. Sun Company takes up four of the buildings on the 20-acre site with about 300 of the corporate staff taking up 200,000 square feet of space. The tallest of the concrete buildings with red railings is five stories. I met with a couple of real nice people; Tilly Hujsak, Corporate Communications, and Robert Simons, Special Projects Manager. I was given an extensive tour and was impressed with the people I met, including getting to talk to CEO Robert McClements, Jr., for a few minutes. The buildings surround a park-like area, complete with a small lake with a fountain, several benches and a giant sculpture by Harold Kimmelman called, "Helios Flame." The company has quite an extensive corporate art collection which seems to be a mish-mash of sculptures, tapestries, lithographs and oil paintings, done mostly by Pennsylvania artists. There is a well-equipped fitness center with nicely landscaped grounds with plenty of sidewalks for noontime walks. Senior vice-presidents on up, get reserved parking. I was taken to lunch in the cafeteria by the editor of the company's in-house publication who, I'm sorry to say, I didn't write down his name but is a real nice guy. The cafeteria has good food which includes great cheesesteak sandwiches. The company has one Lear jet in Radnor along with a helicopter. When I asked why the company was located in Radnor, I was told it was because the refineries were close by. Simons and Hujsak scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
During conversation over lunch at Sun Company, I found out Triangle Publications, the next company on my list to visit, is located in the same corporate center only several buildings away. As I hopped on my bike to ride over to Triangle, I realized I had a flat tire and, as usual, it's the back one. The back tire is always much harder to change because I have to unload all my gear off the back. My tire pump wasn't working so, I pushed my bike to Triangle Publications. On a wall outside the entrance to the building is a big sign which says, "TV Guide" and below it, "Triangle Publications." I waited in the lobby area about half an hour before Ms. Margaret Beard, Personnel Administrator, came out to the lobby and took me to her office. Triangle Publications is a privately-held company which publishes; TV Guide", the Racing Form and Seventeen Magazine. The head honcho of the Company is the well-known Chairman, Walter Annenberg. According to my information, the company has about $600 million in revenues which doesn't meet my criteria of privately-held companies having at least a billion in sales but, I was curious as to what the headquarters would look like. Annenberg, according to Forbes Magazine, is one of the 400 richest people in America worth over a billion dollars. I also read about him having a huge estate in this area (I've rode my bike around his Palm Springs estate which includes his OWN 9-hole golf course). I had written a letter to Annenberg about sponsoring my trek and received a reply from the M.L. Annenberg Foundation saying my request had been reviewed and "due to the Internal Revenue Service regulations under which the Foundation must operate, it is not possible to make grants to individuals." Well heck, why couldn't Annenberg take out the old checkbook and write me a personal check? Anyway, I spent about five minutes in Beard's office and, as I found out from her and from the receptionist, Mr. Annenberg is called, "The Ambassador" by the employees. Evidently, he was at one time U.S. Ambassador to, I think, England. About 900 people work in the building and they've been located here since 1980 and since I knew Sun Company owned the complex, I knew they leased space. Smoking is allowed anywhere. I did see several closed-circuit security cameras. I was told I couldn't see Annenberg's office even though he wasn't in. Beard told me it's quite an impressive office. Triangle executives get reserved parking spots and there's a company cafeteria. There is no corporate art collection but, there is a collection of die transfers of TV Guide's schedules. In the lobby area as I was waiting, I noticed several copies of TV Guide, the Racing Form and Seventeen Magazine on coffee tables but, only on the copies of Seventeen Magazine did I find the handwritten notes, "Do Not Remove." Evidently, according to the receptionist, employees and visitors like to walk off with Seventeen. The company has two corporate aircraft. Ms. Beard scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Triangle Publications, I walked my bike about a mile to a gas station near Villanova University and repaired the flat tire. Villanova has a nice little campus, with graystone buildings having the Gothic-look, which definitely lets you know it's a church school. This area of suburban Philadelphia, known as the Main Line, has lots of well-to-do communities with large homes in estate-type settings. It's called the Main Line because many of the municipalities are along the former Pennsylvania Railroad's "main line", which runs parallel to Lancaster Avenue (Route 30).
I was surprised to find out none of the communities around the Main Line area are listed as being one of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the country. I checked out the grass courts at the prestigious Merion Cricket Club, rode around the campuses of Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College and found a great pastry shop in Lower Merion called, The Viking Pastry Shop, which has excellent creme donuts, sticky buns and cherry-filled goodies. I tried nine different items.
I spent Friday night at the Stouffer Valley Forge Hotel, which is not located in Valley Forge (population 900) but, in nearby King of Prussia (population 18,000). Friday night was spent changing my trip's itinerary because I kept reading stories in newspapers about the East coast having an early winter. I would stick to my plan of riding through New Jersey but, instead of continuing on to New York City (by far my biggest stop) I would bypass the Big Apple and fly to Boston to catch the Northeast before winter set in. Saturday, I checked out the King of Prussia Plaza Mall and, The Court, which are next to each other and combined; form one of the largest shopping malls in the United States.
Not too far from the shopping center is a Wawa convenience store, which is along the same lines as Circle K and 7/11 stores. The store was hopping and the parking lot was hopping. The parking lot must hold 35 cars and I counted 10 cars WAITING to get in the jam-packed parking lot. One of the fellows working in the store told me it was the busiest convenience store in the state of Pennsylvania. Why? Besides having location, location, location, the store had fast service, a large selection of newspapers, a deli department which made fast AND good sandwiches and, excellent bakery goods. I've been to hundreds of convenience stores but, this one was special.
I passed through downtown Philadelphia one last time, heading across the Delaware River into New Jersey. Until the recent building of the spectacular One Liberty Place skyscraper, there was an unofficial agreement NOT to build a structure taller than the William Penn statue atop City Hall. One Liberty Place seems to give the city more life, more pizzazz.