Back in the Day: Shopping was special and personal | Back in the Day

In searching the internet last week, I came across an article that focused on national stores that no longer exist. It was right down my alley and my thoughts quickly turned to stores and businesses where many of us once shopped, in Philadelphia neighborhoods and Center city, back in the day.

My thoughts first were of my neighborhood. Like many neighborhoods, my neighborhood had its own shopping strip or avenue, as it was called. Most avenues contained a Woolworth’s, McCrory’s or Kresge’s five and dime store. You may have traveled on the Avenue, with your mother to the American and Pacific Supermarket, usually called the A & P. In addition, memories are likely recalled of Penn Fruit, Shop ‘N Bag and Food Fair. On a corner in your own neighborhood, you might have found a Sunray Drug Store.

There are fond memories of Center City department stores, some with bargain basements. Around 8th and Market Streets, there were department stores such as Lit Brothers, Gimbel’s, Snellenburgs, Sterns as well as Strawbridge’s and Clothier. Then there was Wanamaker’s, located at 13th and Market Streets, the current location of Macy’s. What a store! I have great memories of its men’s department, the “Eagle” that served as a meeting place, the Grand Court Organ and the Christmas Show with its dancing lights. There were also other department stores in and around Philadelphia that disappeared some years ago. Did you shop at Klein’s or Grants? Perhaps you shopped at Bamberger’s, Pomeroy’s and Montgomery Ward. Or, were the discount department stores such as E.J. Korvettes, Clover, and Caldor the places where you shopped? When did you last shop in a Two Guys department store? Some readers of this column likely purchased clothing, furniture, toys, appliances and other items at these stores until the chains went out of business, back in the day.

There were some unforgettable stores exclusively for men to shop for clothing. While you may be a Boyd’s shopper today, back then, Morvilles was the place for fashionable and stylish clothing for men. Perhaps you shopped at Diamonds while others shopped at Witlin and Gallagher. Do you recall shopping at The Arrow Store located at 12th and Market Streets? Then there was Syms, the off-priced clothing store, a favorite for many until it went out of business in 2011. There were some neighborhood shopping venues for men such as The Vernon Shop that was across from Vernon Park in Germantown and Cisco’s with locations on 52nd and 60th Streets. Those looking for a newsboy cap, also called a “Jeff” or “Big Apple” by some, came from various neighborhoods to a 17th and Market Streets store. Echoes was the hat store that cornered the market when it came these hats. Both men and women shopped at Filenes Basement. They had great buys for the price.

Do you recall the clothing and apparel stores, for female shoppers, in Philadelphia, back in the day? The Bonwit Teller Store had one of its locations at 17th and Chestnut streets. Visits to this store might have been limited as it sold high-end woman’s apparel. Women who shopped at Bonwit Teller might also have shopped at The Blum Store located at 13th and Chestnut Street. Maybe you patronized the Lady Bug store. Employees at The Tribune, only had to walk around the corner to shop at Jessie’s Ladies Shop on South Street. If you wanted or needed a coat, Ridgeway at 58th and Walnut Street was a favorite place to go. Women might also recall making purchases of clothing at Lerner’s and York’s.

Space will not permit me to highlight all of the popular establishments where I shopped in the past. Thus, I shall highlight some that I recall based on their products. Shoppers of shoes for men, women and children often chose Baker’s and Shapiro’s. Men found their way to shoe stores such as Father and Son, Tom McCann, Flagg Brothers, and Hanover’s, the place for “old man’s comforts.” Buster Browns was usually a place to shop for children’s shoes. While today, we have Home Depot and Lowes for home improvement projects, back in the day we had Channels and Hechinger’s. Some of you recall stores where we shopped for electronics such as televisions, record players, radios and other home entertainment items in the past. If so, you might remember Crazy Eddie, Silos and Circuit City. What about those places where you purchased records and tapes? The places to shop were Tower Records, Sam Goody’s, Paramount Records, The Record Museum, Radio Store 437 and 3rd Street Jazz.

If you lived in the Germantown area, the corner of Germantown and Chelten Avenues was probably the place where you shopped rather than going into center city. One place was C.A. Rowell Department Store. Down the street from C.A. Rowell, at Greene Street and Chelten Avenue was Allen’s Department Store. You may be surprised to learn that these two Germantown stores sold higher-end items, back in the day.

I know the difficulty that most of us have finding quality places to shop today. This is definitely true when it comes to furniture. Thus, Van Sciver Furniture Store is sorely missed for those that desire quality furniture. It was unquestionably a place for quality items

If you were around in the 50s, 60s and 70s, you can attest to the desirable places located all over the city where we once shopped. One might ask the question, “how important are stores today” since so many people shop online? Not only do we miss the communication with sales staff at stores, but we also miss the experience of actually viewing and touching the items. The stores where we once shopped are faint yet fond memories that have been left, back in the day.

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at [email protected] or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146 The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Philadelphia Tribune.


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