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September 10, 2015

Philly@Work: Gregory M. Diehl

Entertainment Neighborhoods
Carroll - Old City District Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Gregory Diehl, Economic Development Coordinator for Old City District, on Elfreth's Alley.

Ever wonder about the guy who sits down the hall from you in the office, or the woman who works at your favorite bar or coffee house? How about the parking lot attendant or dog walker in your neighborhood?

Welcome to Philly@Work, a new monthly feature spotlighting some of the smartest, most interesting, funny and downright eclectic people who work hard for their money. We want to find out what makes Philly’s working class special – with great tips from locals about where to eat, shop, catch a band and kick back after closing time.

Gregory M. Diehl, 27

Economic Development Coordinator for Old City District

Neighborhood where I work: Old City
Neighborhood where I live: Point Breeze

What I do: Basically my job is to help attract, assist and retain business tenants for commercial property owners in Old City. I help new businesses identify suitable spaces, navigate the approval processes for things like signage and make them aware of grants and other resources available they may not know about. Once the businesses have opened, my coworkers and I provide support that can take many different forms – resolving quality-of-life issues like graffiti, acting as a liaison to city agencies, organizing events and supplementing their marketing efforts.

Stuff I work on: The Vision 2026 master planning process has been really exciting to be a part of. In the spring, we hired a team of urban planners, economists and architects to help us take a comprehensive look at current conditions in order to establish a vision to guide private development and create a really high-quality public realm. Under the direction of a steering committee comprised of local stakeholders, the team has been conducting research, gathering public input and identifying strengths and challenges. We’ll be hosting a public meeting in early October where they will begin to share some of their initial conclusions with the public, and we look forward to begin implementing the full plan when it is released later this fall.

What I like most about my job: A huge part of what I do at work is to help connect local business owners with grants and other resources that are out there that they may not be aware of. We are also a resource for them to call upon when they are having trouble with a particular issue. For me, the most satisfying part of this job is when I am able to help a business in a concrete way that contributes to their success. Old City is unique from the rest of Center City in that many of the business and property owners tend to be individuals rather than large companies, and when I can solve a problem for them or help them improve their businesses, those are the moments when I feel like I’m really doing something positive.

Hardest part of my job: Since Old City doesn’t have a civic association, we often serve as a resource to residents as well as the business community. It can be difficult trying to balance the needs of groups whose interests sometimes can be in conflict in different ways. For example, there is a ton of new construction happening in Old City right now, and that can be disruptive to neighbors with street closures, noise and debris. We get calls about it constantly. Most people realize that we are here to help and are calling us in that spirit, but sometimes you get a person who is maybe overly entitled or just legitimately really upset and they can be harder to work with.

Where else you can find me: I’m also a partner at Vegan Commissary, a small vegan catering and wholesale business. We started in 2013, opening a commercial kitchen and cafe near E. Passyunk Avenue. We operated the cafe for about a year and a half before closing it down this past spring. We've since moved into a true commissary kitchen deeper in South Philly and are focusing on growing the catering and wholesale.

Yep, I play in a band: Right now I’m actually in a few bands. I play drums in Manterial Girl and bass in Tutlie and The Great Vibration. Manterial Girl is an all-male Madonna cover band that plays her early work in a variety of different musical styles. It kind of started as a joke, but we keep getting offered shows. Tutlie is the most active of the three. The music is hard to describe, but I’d say it’s a mixture of dreamy baroque pop and dance-y rock. The Great Vibration plays catchy pop and rock songs; our main influences are Kanye, Philly public schools and SEPTA. Some of my oldest and best friends are in that band and we don't play many shows anymore, so every time we do, it feels like a reunion.

Where you can catch my next show: With Tutlie at the Fishtown River City Festival on Oct. 10 at Penn Treaty Park.

Other stuff I like to do: Between work, bands and the business, I don't have time for many other hobbies, but most of my friends are musicians so there are always miscellaneous side projects that come and go. I also enjoy cooking and talking to my cats (I have two).

My favorite neighborhood bar: Fountain Porter is my favorite neighborhood bar. They spin vinyl, have a great beer selection and great burgers (Vegan Commissary actually makes their veggie burger patties).

My favorite music venue: Most of the time when I am going out it's to see a band play, which usually means going to Fishtown. Kung Fu Necktie and Johnny Brenda’s are probably the two that I spend the most time at.

Where I like to shop for clothes: Being young and of modest means, I get most of my clothes from thrift stores. Circle Thrift and AIDS Thrift are my go-to spots.

Something you may not know about me: I have an encyclopedic knowledge of business addresses in Old City. Name an art gallery or shop in Old City and I can tell you the street address off the top of my head. I also share a house with eight people. It’s a big house.

Best part about working in Philly: It’s really affordable (for now) and really easy to get around. I bike to work every day and it only takes about 10 minutes.

Want to be considered for Philly@Work? Please send us your name, age, job title, company name and what you love about your work.