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Archive | Retail

What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

Bok gets caffeinated: Two Persons

New coffee house aims to keep it simple.

When the School District of Philadelphia closed 23 schools at the end of 2013 and auctioned Edward Bok Technical School in 2014, uncertainty surrounded its future. Developers who bought similar grand old schools in gentrifying neighborhoods turned them into private residences, sold them for high prices, and locked the community out.

Bok was different because it always has been. In 1935, Designer Irwin T. Catherine designed the 340,000 square-foot art déco building as a vocational school with vocation-specific classrooms and spaces. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lindsey Scannapieco of developer Scout, Ltd. saw a community space for makers, creatives, innovators and entrepreneurs. A seasonal bar opened on the rooftop, and artists and artisans moved in.

The only thing missing was coffee.

Under the antique curing lights of an old auto body bay, Whitney Joslin and Adam Gery of Two Persons Coffee sit at a butcher-block art table streaked with decades of paint. “Almost everything in this space is an adaptive re-use of the furniture and elements included in the sale of Bok,” said Joslin. A tour of the seating area is an homage to the school’s past. There are lab tables, card catalogs, old musical instruments and trophies of 1970s sport victories any other developer might have thrown away.

Even the name – “Two Persons” – is an homage to Edward Bok, who wrote a novel of that title.

Two Persons seating area

Gery, Two Persons’ manager and operator, managed Last Drop Coffee in Center City for a decade and a half and now devotes seven days a week to the new venture. Joslin, a managing partner, has a background in architecture and fell in love with the space.

Adam Gery and Whitney Joslin during construction at Two Persons, May 2018.

“One of our goals is to keep things simple,” said Joslin. “We want to serve the tenants in the building, but we also want contractors, people in the neighborhood, and people who once attended Bok to feel like they can come in, have a regular cup of coffee with no fuss, and enjoy the space.

The menu is simple – coffee, tea, basic espresso drinks and baked goods. The sourcing is simple, too, and based on personal connection. The pastries come from Machine Shop Bakery, a small-batch wholesale French bakery that also operates out of Bok. “We’re their first delivery of the day,” said Gery. “The coffee comes from Passenger Coffee in Lancaster. Our day-to-day blend is a light roast that people will find consistent and enjoyable. We sell the beans for home use, too. We hope to have single-origin varieties for sale in the future.”

“Keeping a simple business model means we do a few things well,” added Joslin. “It makes operations easy, fits in well with the community, and is environmentally responsible.”

Two Persons is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. They accept cash and credit cards. Access is from the building’s southwest entrance at 821 Dudley Street.

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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

Tropical-Floral Jawn Coming to East Passyunk Avenue

New Shop Brings Dart Frogs, Exotic Plants, and Stunning Floral Design Together Under One Roof

“Floral Fauna,” a combination of two nature-centric shops, will open soon at 1724 East Passyunk Avenue, the former Avenue Cheese Shop.  The new store, which promises “exotic pets, house plants, fresh flowers and so much more,” is the brainchild of long-time friends Franco Franchina, Chris Urban, and Marianna Coppola.  The trio decided to create a shared space to host their already-established businesses: Creations by Coppola, specializing in floral and event design; and ILLExotics, featuring tropical fauna and flora.

Franco Franchina (left) and Chris Urban set up a display case at the new shop.

Chris and Franco, who are also life partners, will present some very unique fauna: exotic reptiles and amphibians not usually seen outside of zoos. As Chris stresses, “This is not your typical pet shop.”  If their website is any indication, the options will be colorful conversation pieces:  chameleons, dart frogs, scorpions, and much more.

Franco worked with exotics from a young age, but his “obsession…was always with plants and reptiles.”  He parlayed his hobby into a Biology degree with a concentration in horticulture and herpetology (reptiles and amphibians) from Stockton University in New Jersey.  

Chris studied at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and traveled the world as a performance artist.  After meeting Franco, he developed a passion for “dart frogs and tree frogs – and creating the naturalistic vivaria for each species…”  Vivaria are enclosures, like aquariums and terrariums, prepared to create semi-natural conditions for pets. The shop will feature BioActive habitats which create miniature ecosystems for the reptiles. They’ll also feature plants like orchids, succulents and cacti which will thrive in a rowhome setting.

The other flora in the shop will be curated under the artistic eye of Marianna Coppola. Coppola promises fresh flowers available daily.  She’ll also provide floral design and event services.  And, if we’re lucky, she’ll distribute another “flower bomb” or two.

Marianna Coppola at work. Photo courtesy of CreationsbyCoppola.com

Coppola moved to Philadelphia from Monte de Procida on Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 2004 to work at Ristorante Positano Coast. At the restaurant she created designs with floral and citrus, “that would immerse guests in an experience that was beyond the plate.” She received a degree from the Flower School of New York and trained with some of New York’s most renowned floral artists. In 2014 she established Creations by Coppola, characterized on its website as, “rustic to refined, modern floral artistry.”

Coppola has also created public art installations featuring flowers.  The first, which she referred to as a “Flower Bomb,” appeared overnight last October on a light pole outside Barcelona Restaurant. Another installation appeared last December at 10th & Spring Garden.

Marianna Coppola with her “Flower Bomb” installation outside Barcelona Restaurant. Fall 2017. Photo courtesy of CreationsbyCoppola.com.

Coppola notes that, with the addition of her new shared shop, East Passyunk Avenue is one-stop place for brides and wedding planners: “a bride can get her gown, shoes, have her hair and makeup done, and now you can get your flowers – all within walking distance of each other!”

Besides establishing a successful business, Floral-Fauna’s owners share another common goal: educating their customers – with an emphasis on outreach to local schools and other organizations. One event is already in the works: this summer, the East Passyunk Community Center will send student campers to a reptile tutorial at the shop.

The shop also envisions evening BYOB terrarium-making and floral arranging classes for adults. These will be more intimate, one-on-one lessons, with class size limited to 10 to 12.

The shop’s grand opening will be late June, with a friends-and-family-only soft opening mid-month.

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What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

Celebrate National Doughnut Day in South Philly!

National Doughnut Day, or, if you prefer, National Donut Day, is celebrated in the U.S. on the first Friday of June of each year (pssst…that’s TODAY!). The event evolved out of the Doughnut event created by The Salvation Army in Chicago in 1938 to honor their members who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I.

To honor this important culinary milestone we’ve compiled the following guide with some help from our friends at Zagat’s, Visit Philly, and an online review or two.

Photo by Frangelli’s Bakery

Please let us know places we missed (we’re sure there’s a few) and we’ll add them to the list. National chains were not covered in this piece.


The Donut ‘Work-out’?

For a “best of ” introduction to South Philly donuts, check out Zagat’s South Philly Donut Crawl. This trail promises “a morning immersed in sugary comfort,” with stops at Federal Donuts, Frangelli’s Bakery, Varallo Brothers Pasticceria, and Potito’s Bakery. Note that Grubhouse has unfortunately left South Philly since this piece was created.


Bella Vista / Italian Market

Golden Donut901 S. 9th St.; 215-592-8569

According to a Google review by “Eric K.,”

Excellent donuts. What more do you need to know?


East Passyunk

Varallo Brothers Pasticceria1639 S. 10th St.; 215-952-0367

According to Zagat:

If you even mention the word D-U-N-K-I-N to the family that runs this Morris Street bakeshop, you’ll be laughed out of the store. While Italian pastries are a specialty, donuts have been made here for more than three decades. Look for glazed and jelly yeast donuts as well as crullers.


Lower Moyamensing

Amigos Bakery2327 S 12th St.; 215-462-7320

Amigos opened in 2014, as reported here. Since then, we’ve enjoyed our share of their tasty treats. Their signature Tres Leches Cake is divine, as is their square cheesecake. BUT, it’s donut day, and their cream-filled donuts are our go-to fave!

Frangelli’s Bakery847 West Ritner Street; 215-271-7878

Opened in 1947, Frangelli’s doughnuts were billed as one of the “Dozen Best Donuts in America” by Huffington Post. These doughnuts are made fresh each day and filled as-you-order. Since Friday’s going to be hot, consider Frangelli’s ice cream doughnut which we wrote about here.


Passyunk Square

Amelie’s Bark Shop1544 E. Passyunk Ave. 267-758-6151

Our canine friends & family love donuts too! Amelie’s Bark Shop has dog-friendly treats in these flavors: cheesesteak, strawberry coconut, peanut crumble, and carob banana. Available while supplies last.


Pennsport

Federal Donuts 1219 S. 2nd Street; 267.687.8258

According to VisitPhilly.com:

Early risers can choose from fancy donuts with changing flavors that have included the likes of lemon gingersnap, maple bacon and chocolate caramel banana.

The made-fresh-all-day hot-and-fresh donuts arrive straight from the fryer and are dusted with sugary strawberry lavender, cinnamon and more.


West of Broad

Potito’s Bakery1614 W. Ritner St.; 215-334-2996

According to Zagat:

Best-known for cannoli, this bakery just West of Broad also does donuts, and you can even get them with the signature ricotta filling. Also available filled with Bavarian cream, the donuts are made from croissant batter and deep-fried.


Whitman

Baker Brothers (formerly Hier’s)2300 S. 3rd St.; 215-468-8095

Donuts are baked fresh daily at this 3rd & Wolf bakery. All baking is done on the premises, some from original recipes that date back 50-plus years.
In a Yelp review, “Penelope M.” from Cherry Hill, NJ wrote about Baker Brothers’ donuts:
Sugar twist – so light & airy that it can be finished in a few happy bites

Vanilla crueller – better than any other you’ve ever had

Powdered creme – so soft and fresh & not disgustingly overfilled like some other places

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What's Happening in:  All over South Philly 

Inspections temporarily close local businesses

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s “Clean Plates Philly” report for April included three South Philadelphia establishments that were temporarily closed for assorted violations.

As the article notes: “Inspectors visit nearly 1,000 eateries and food retailers every two weeks. Each inspection is generally regarded as a snapshot in time, and not necessarily a reflection of day-to-day conditions. Most violations were corrected immediately in the presence of an inspector.”

Read details about the three sites in South Philly that were temporarily closed in the the monthly summary. Or click on the names below to see the actual inspection report. Before delving into the inspection report it helps to read this first.

K & L Store – 2324 S 7th St. From Google Maps

Snyder Retail
1849 S 12th St.
9 violations; none serious

K & L Store
2324 S 7th St
12 violations, 4 serious

Farm House Grocery
2553 S 7th St.
12 violations, 1 serious

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What's Happening in:  Whitman 

Lipkin’s Bakery returns to South Philly

by Sandy Smith

When the Lipkin family started their kosher bakery at Fourth and McKean streets many decades ago, the neighborhood surrounding it was 90 percent Jewish.

Photo from www.lipkinsoriginalbakery.com

By the time Mitch Lipkin moved it to Northeast Philly’s Rhawnhurst section in 1975, most of those Jews had moved elsewhere.

“I think Mitch figured that only Jews would eat their products, so he moved it up to the Northeast, which was heavily Jewish then,” said Lipkin’s current owner, Steven Nawalany.

Nawalany had been a Lipkin’s customer for 50 years, and he liked it so much, he bought it from Mitch in 2016. Now he’s returning the bakery to its South Philly roots because he discovered to his delight that Mitch Lipkin was wrong: you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy kosher baked goods.

 Lipkin’s return to South Philly, with a retail store at 2153 S. Hancock St., has generated an enthusiastic response from the bakery’s many fans, Jewish and otherwise, and it hasn’t even opened yet. Nawalany is awaiting final inspection from the Health Department and expects to open the store’s doors in the next few weeks.

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What's Happening in:  East Passyunk Crossing 

Escape the 1980s on E. Passyunk Ave. to close, residential units coming soon

Escape the 1980s, one of the city’s top escape rooms, will close its location at 1804 E. Passyunk Ave. on June 30th.  The business opened in August of 2015 in a former pharmacy that had been vacant for at least five years. According to a press release announcing the closure: “Building owner Vince DiBacco plans to develop a luxury condo unit[s] and [a] storefront. Construction will begin July 2018.”

Photo of 1804 E Passyunk Ave. captured by Google Street View before the trees were added out front.

The changes to the building required a zoning variance and were vetted at a public meeting of the East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association zoning committee on January 11, 2017. Plans call for the addition of a third floor to create three dwelling units above the first-floor retail space.  Roof decks (more akin to balconies) would be added to the back of the building above the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors.  The top floor deck is initially permitted for maintenance purposes only.

The presenter, Ron Patterson, attorney for the owner, said the third floor facade will feature “a metal panel with wood slats. Lighting and a small canopy will accentuate the residential entrance.”  The plans were approved by the community and EPX zoning committee.

At the time the plans were presented, Escape the 1980s, which obtained an “assembly and entertainment” permit in 2016, was to remain as the tenant. According to their website, the business now hopes to relocate and add an Escape the 1990s room as well.

Photo of a group enjoying Escape the 1980s, courtesy of TripAdvisor

Escape the 1980s is an interactive game where 2-12 players figure out clues and codes to unlock doors and get through an 80s themed adventure. The award-winning game, conceived by Steel Owl Productions, was built in the summer of 2015 by Philly artists, programmers and engineers. It’s been featured in dozens of publications including USA Today and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

If you’d like to check it out before June 30th, go here.

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