Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fill This Front: 2108 Walnut

2108 Walnut Street

            This storefront has all kinds of shit going for it. Near Rittenhouse Square, located in a historic piece of architecture, near tons of rich-ass motherfuckers. Even during Center City's darkest decades, this space was continuously successful. Yet for over 2 years, the spot has been sitting empty as shit. Even the "For Lease" signs are gone. What gives?
            This great piece of empty retail is located at 2108 Walnut Street, one of the oldest surviving Frank Furness-designed pieces of architecture in the city. As I wrote on in the Hidden City Daily a couple of years ago, this address is part of the Rice-Warren Doublehouse, built in 1869.The old mansion this storefront is located in was once the home of the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court!
This lookin-ass motherfucker
                    In 1922, the Sims Wilson construction company was contracted to alter the house into offices and installed this storefront on the ground floor under the designs of architect H. Rex Stackhouse. I've had a hard time finding who was the first to lease this storefront, but looking at this picture below from 1927, I can at least tell you that if there was something there in the mid-20s, it didn't work out.

There it is all the way on the right, empty in 1927 just like it is now.
                 What I can tell you however, is that in 1935, this storefront became the ground floor entrance of the Philadelphia Roerich Center, an extension of the Roerich Museum, which itself was the result of a defunct school founded by Painter/Writer/Philosopher/Everything Elser Nicholas Roerich. Here, lectures, events, and exhibits of interest to the day's local intellectuals took place until 1938, when the Philadelphia Roerich Center was sued out of existence by Nick Roerich himself (long story).
              An antique store then held down the space until Frank Nahikian of the Davis & Nahikian home furnishings company bought 2108 Walnut. This company had been in the city since 1906, making names for themselves as some of the top rug importers around. The company's retail store then took over the space and Frank Nahikian himself took residence in one of the apartments in the upper floors. The Davis & Nihikian store stuck around at this space all the way until 1989. In an era when Center City's was at its lowest point in modern history, Davis & Nahikian was kicking ass all over the place selling wholesale carpets and rugs out of this little storefront.

Davis & Nahikian storefront in 1960.
                       After 43 years of continuous occupation, the space then stood empty for 7 whole years before the Total Serenity Day Spa leased the space in 1996. They were able to hold onto the spot all the way up to March of 2012, when they moved down the block to 2100 Walnut. Ever since, the location has been totally empty-- but as you should know by now, it need not be.

How it looked when Total Serenity was there according to Google Streetview
                    This is the 3,500 Square Foot storefront at 2108 Walnut Street, very close to the city's extremely popular Rittenhouse Square. This space is not your typical Rittenhouse-based storefront in that it also comes with 5 off-street parking spaces at 2110 Walnut! This means that the insane amount of cars that speed by this location at both day and night can now hook a left and park right next to your store! Holy crap! Other stores near Rittenhouse Square would kill their own mothers to get something like that! When it was offered for rent by the Michael Salove Company, the lease for this spot included a "tenant improvement allowance" and a motherfucking tax abatement!! Again, something other retailers by Rittenhouse would kick a baby in the face for!

Picture from Naked Philly showing when the space was covered in the For Lease signs. What happened to them? If there's a tenant, where the fuck are they?
             On top of the unusual auto access, this place gets passed by a whole shitload of bus lines and is walkable from the homes of literally tens of thousands of people. Its also right in the middle of a location where a whole lot of people with way too much money make their home and work. Not enough?
            The place also offers a basement and private access from the 2100 block of Chancellor Street. This was a retail storefront that was able to hold down the same piece of retail for 43 years in a time when Center City was in massive decline! Need more? An entire row of rich people's houses are about to be built right across the street.

"Van Pelt Mews" Sounds like my cat named them.
                      See? Your store will be able to directly advertise to the type of people who can afford a brand new, $2.3 million 5,231 square foot townhouse in Rittenhouse Square! Where the fuck else are you gonna find that? So what are you waiting for? Fill this Front!

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