"Alex is our general and our cheerleader," DeGiralomo said, smiling. "I see him marching around here, talking up Tacony's positives to store owners until he rah-rahs us into being a team.
"Alex gives us hope that because new awnings and signs are up, things are getting better."
In fact, Balloon said, things are getting much better.
The $200,000, 15-storefront improvement project, with major funding from the city's Commerce Department, turned the boarded-up, graffiti-magnet old Woolworth's building on Torresdale Avenue near Longshore into the Fu Mei Supermarket - a Woolworth's-style variety store with big, bright display windows.
"It's the center of our business district," Balloon said. "It's our Broad and Market."
Wellens Hosiery on Torresdale Avenue near Wellington, which, Balloon said, "was all blocked up and covered with signage," now displays window mannequins wearing wedding gowns and sexy lingerie under elegant black-and-white awnings.
"People are telling the owner, 'Wow, we had no idea what you sold in here,' " Balloon said. "Business is up."
Balloon brought the Tacony Hoagie Trail - DeNofa's Italian Deli, Fink's Hoagie Shop, Jack's Place - to the public's attention last year, thanks to DeGiralomo's website design and online videos.
He is proud of Tacony CDC's little-engine-that-could success.
"We had 21 dead-tree pits on Torresdale Avenue," Balloon said. "No more. We planted 55 trees.
"We have a 15th Police District beat cop who walks Torresdale Avenue every day," he said. "We have Ready, Willing & Able men" - from the job-training program for the homeless - "keeping the avenue clean."
"We've got a really fresh seafood store in Tacony for the first time in 20 years," Balloon said, talking about Caribbean Seafood, near Fu Mei Supermarket. "We've added the new Pagano's Steaks & Shakes to the Tacony Hoagie Trail.
"You know, 14,000 cars go up and down Torresdale Avenue every day," Balloon said. "We're giving them more and more reasons to stop in Tacony. I can't believe all this is happening so fast."
On Twitter: @DanGeringer