One in a continuing series spotlighting real estate markets in the region's communities.
It might have been sunny enough Wednesday to lure a few homeowners with rakes into their front yards, but for Grace Metzinger and Joyce Hines it was business as usual in the basement of the Rockledge Municipal Building at Huntingdon Pike and Robbins Avenue.
Metzinger, the borough's manager for the last seven years, and Hines, its administrative assistant, spent the day, as they always do, sweating the details that make things run efficiently in this Montgomery County community tucked into 0.3 square miles between Fox Chase and Abington.
"Newcomers especially like the service they get from us," says Metzinger, an Olney native and Cardinal Dougherty graduate who moved here 18 years ago with husband Joe. "If someone calls and says their trash wasn't picked up, we make sure it is that day."
Like Metzinger and Hines, who grew up in a Port Richmond house next door to the venerable Swiacki Meats and moved here 23 years ago, a large number of residents are former city dwellers.
Hines, a Little Flower grad, first lived in an apartment, but, lured by "the peace and quiet" of Rockledge, she and her husband bought a house and are raising a son here.
Attracted by the Abington School District and reasonably priced single and twin homes, those who settle here also "want to be close enough to the city's amenities," including SEPTA's Fox Chase rail station, Metzinger says.
Rockledge is such a draw, in fact, that there's hardly a house to be had, and as "soon as they come on the market, they are snatched up," says Carol McCann, an agent with Re/Max Millennium just down the street in Fox Chase.
"In all the time I have been selling in Rockledge, I don't think a house has been on the market for more than a couple of months," McCann says.
There are eight listings now, and just 23 homes have sold in the last nine months, with asking and sale prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.
Most of the houses in Rockledge have two to three bedrooms, she says, and some have basements (either finished or with potential to be finished) for extra space.
Nearly all the houses in the borough are within view of the English Gothic tower of the Memorial Church of the Holy Nativity at Church Road and the Pike. And most are owner-occupied.
That's because of the school district, McCann says, seconding Metzinger and Hines, both of whom say parents here are "very loyal."
Rockledge "has a strong sense of community, and is sweet, old-fashioned, and nice," McCann says.
A major reason for the shortage of houses for sale, she says, is people born in Rockledge tend to stay put, and the same is true for their children.
"Fifteen or 20 years ago, you would never even see a for-sale sign," says Harold Praediger, borough mayor for the last nine years and owner for 15, with son Michael and wife Linda, of Acker's True Value Hardware in the Rockledge Shopping Center on Huntingdon Pike.
Praediger was born and reared in Rockledge, as were Linda and their three children, who also stayed and bought houses here.
"I've been trying to give back to Rockledge most of my life, starting when I joined the volunteer fire department at 16," says Praediger, who was a maintenance supervisor at nearby Jeanes Hospital before they bought Acker's.
Although "everything must change," Rockledge today is very much as it was when he was growing up, the mayor says. The two biggest issues it faces are the crime rate, "which has been rising for 10 to 15 years, and are mostly kids and car break-ins," and keeping down costs, and hence, taxes.
Though McCann describes taxes as "on the high side," the mayor says the borough's haven't gone up for three years and the school district's for two.
"It's tough to maintain the service level as costs go up and still keep taxes down," Praediger admits.
Businesses seem to lead long lives here, too, especially if they smell good. Among Rockledge's best examples are Danish Bakers and the Austrian Village restaurant, a few short blocks from each other on Huntingdon Pike.
With display cases bursting with strudel, gooey cinnamon buns, cheesecake, and hot-cross buns for Lent, the flow of customers never seems to ebb at Danish Bakers, especially on the Wednesday before Easter.
Founded in 1960 by Ramon and Dolores McCrimmon, the bakery is a family affair typical of Rockledge, operated by son Ramon Jr. and his wife, Jacklyn, and children Ramon 3d, Ian, Devon, and Brie, using Ramon Sr.'s recipes.
At Austrian Village, in addition to schnitzel, bratwurst, German potato salad, and goulash, the menu features "the Gottlieb," a burger honoring Gottlieb Burits, who, with his wife, Lotte, founded the restaurant in 1972.
Burits, who died in 2012 at age 88, was succeeded by their daughter, Linda.
Unlike some places, newcomers to Rockledge are not treated like outsiders, says Metzinger, and they get involved almost immediately in activities such as the Fourth of July parade and the September car show.
"Our residents and businesses are extraordinarily generous in their support" of these events, she says.
That generosity will be in evidence this Fourth of July.
"This is the first time in five years that we will be having fireworks," Praediger says excitedly.
Population: 2,553 (2013)
Median household income: $71,281 (2012)
Area: 0.3 square miles
Settlements in the last three months: 4
Homes for sale: 8
Average days on market: 35
Median sale price: $159,250
Housing stock: 1,091 units, older twins and singles, mostly small
School district: Abington
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com; Carol McCann, Re/Max Millennium, Fox Chase; Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors HomExpert Market ReportEndText