Victoria Kline Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 1
Penn Avenue’s small-business charm suffers during quarantine
Whenever the time rolls around for me to come home over a break from school, I always look forward to visiting Penn Avenue. It is a quaint and charming area comprisingsmall 19th century houses that have since been converted to host small businesses. The sidewalks are narrow and seem to become more and more uneven as the roots of the planted trees grow each year.
During Christmas time, I walk underneath the twinkling lights as I sip hot cocoa from Café Bold. In the summer, I hop from stand to stand at the farmers’ market while I race to finish my ice cream cone from Sweet Ride before it completely melts all over my hand.
The street is by far my favorite street in my hometown, and I am not the only one who loves it. Between the antique store that is so small you feel as though if you breathe too heavy you will break something, consignment shop that you can sift through for hours, the sandwich shop that left you smelling like the fryer but you keep going back to because they have the best subs in the county and the daytime coffee shop that morphs into a jazz bar when the sun goes down, there is truly something for everyone.
All that being said, when the outbreak first occurred, I wondered how this street was doing. Were the businesses open? Were people still flooding to Penn Avenue? Was I going to be able to see my friends at the skate shop or the chocolate store lady who gave me free samples? I decided to drive there to see for myself.
It was almost eerie. In my years of coming to Penn Avenue, I had never seen it so unoccupied. The first bad sign was that I did not have any issues finding street parking. Normally, all the spots would be taken, and I would be forced to park my car on a side street two blocks away. Though a good parking normally would thrill me, that was not the case today.
The temperature was around 60 degrees today and the sky was clear and blue – perfect weather to wander around the old two-story brick buildings of Penn Avenue. However, in my trip over to the street, I spotted merely one gentleman who was picking up Chinese takeout.
All of the apparel shops were closed as well as the barbershop, candy store, game store and nail salon. The restaurants were open only for takeout. Some have even taken extra precautions by giving customers their food orders through a side window rather than opening their doors. What is normally the most happening street in the neighborhood is now dismal and vacant. The owners of these shops are out of business indefinitely.
Click on one of the city names to read our correspondent’s blog post from that area: