In 2010, one of the biggest businesses in the world, American Express, launched Small Business Saturday. It was and is a thoughtful move for the multinational company. But here in Philly, we’ve been shopping small since, well, forever. Still are.
Independent shops make up the fabric of countless corridors in our city of neighborhoods. These stores create jobs and community, and provide the kinds of giftable goods and services that are best experienced in person.
So this holiday season, and even after, step away from Amazon to explore the small businesses outside your door. Here, a snapshot of three small business districts — with more to come — to get you started.
Chestnut Hill, in the Northwest corner of the city, is nicknamed the “Garden District” with good reason: Volunteers work year-round to beautify the neighborhood. More than 200 businesses, most supported by the Chestnut Hill Business District, line Germantown Avenue and the surrounding streets.
On Wednesday nights leading up to Christmas, many businesses take part in the decades-old tradition of Stag & Doe Nights: extended store hours, free refreshments, holiday deals, and a roaming brass quartet.
A vibrant “open” flag beckons outside both locations of Windfall Gallery selling gifts and trinkets — handmade ponchos and jewelry, greeting cards. Windfall Gallery has two addresses in Chestnut Hill: 7944 Germantown Avenue and 8419 Germantown Avenue.
“Lots of our jewelry and art is coming from all around the world,” says Norah DePalma, an employee of the gallery. “Cynthia, [the owner], frequently travels to trade shows in New York where she finds her pieces. Sometimes, artists will walk in and showcase things they want to sell.” This means shoppers will find pieces from Nepal, Africa, Indonesia, California — and around the corner.
Booked is owner Debra Gress’s tribute to her “love of story,” at 8511 Germantown Avenue. The all-ages bookshop also hosts community events: storytime for children, book talks with authors. View their event calendar here.
What’s more, says Jansen, “We provide passion and empathy. We welcome folks into our shops and hope they’ll share stories, stay for a while, and feel that they can depend on us to provide them with whatever they are seeking.”
Hideaway Music at 8232 Germantown Avenue lives up to its name: Tucked away, down a flight of stairs off of the street, it might make you look twice to find. Inside the music staple (since 2002), are records, CDs, posters, and more. Hideaway also buys records for cash.
Francophiles rejoice: The newly-opened Matines Cafe at 89 Bethlehem Pike offers customers a taste of France with its cuisine, decor, and imported gifts and treats from France (and elsewhere in Europe). French natives Amanda and Arthur de Bruc opened the business this fall and serve an all-day menu seven days a week from 8am to 5pm, indoors and outdoors.
Amanda de Bruc says it well: “Small businesses create stronger communities.”
With more than 160 independently-owned businesses, South Philly’s thriving East Passyunk neighborhood is home to great bars, restaurants, and small businesses of every stripe.
This holiday season, the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District is hosting events throughout the holiday season, including pop-up concerts with carolers and musicians, chances to win gift cards, and a Hot Chocolate Crawl on December 10.
You’ll find greeting cards, gifts, candles, clothing and more at Occasionette at 1825 E. Passyunk Avenue. Occassionette has five local shops (this one, two in Collingswood, NJ, one in Chestnut Hill, and a pop-up in Kennett Square). All strive to engage with the surrounding community. Owner and creative director Sara Villari and staff plan charitable giveback days, and all employees get paid time to volunteer. Follow Ocasionette on Instagram to stay up to date about special events.
Good Buy Supply is a one-stop shop for doing right by our planet. Couple Emily Rodia and Jason Rusnock opened their shop at 1737 E. Passyunk Avenue in 2020 to offer sustainable goods galore.
The store works to help the community reduce waste on a local level while providing a resource for durable, eco-friendly products that are better for people and the planet. Inside, you’ll find refill kits for detergents, soaps, and other household products in addition to a wide range of other good habit-starting goodies.
Books, community and events come together at A Novel Idea, a bookshop, event space and self-proclaimed witch shop (in a totally non-spooky way) at 1726 E. Passyunk Avenue. Since opening the store in 2018, husband and wife Alexander Schneider and Christina Rosso-Schneider have hosted more than 1,000 events and workshops that support local artists and writers.
Inside the vintage warehouse garage that houses Urban Jungle, 1526 E. Passyunk Avenue, South Philly plant people are ready with advice about all things green. At their Passyunk Avenue location — which is in addition to their nursery house near Pennsport — you can find soil, plants, and gifts, including ornaments for your tree, which you can also buy here. Wreaths too. Be sure to check out the second floor, which houses the plants. The company also offers landscaping services.
Northeast of Center City, Fishtown has some of the newer, hippest stores, restaurants, and nightlife on the list. Most retail and walk-in businesses are clustered around Girard and Frankford avenues and N. Front Street.
On Saturday, December 10 from noon – 10pm, the Fishtown Business Improvement District will host its free, fourth annual Fishtown Freeze, bringing together families and businesses for winter fun: ice sculptures, photos with Santa, refreshments and entertainment.
Cake Life at 1306 Frankford Avenue stocks cakes, cookies, pies, gifts, party favors, and allergy-friendly options — plus, they’ve baked Beyoncé a birthday cake (twice!). A proudly woman- and trans/MENA/immigrant-owned and -operated business, Cake Life has two goals: to serve the best cakes, pastries, and coffee in Philadelphia, and to do so as an equitable, diverse, and ethically run workplace. “In that spirit, we judge our own success by the triple bottom line model of economic sustainability, prioritizing people and planet alongside profit, so we work hard to be a positive force in our community, including for our staff,” says co-owner Nima Etemadi.
The upbeat music and multicolored lights set the tone at Jinxed Fishtown, 1331 Frankford Avenue, one of five Jinxed secondhand stores. Inside, customers can find furniture, vintage clothing, light fixtures, and other treasures. New (old) stock arrives multiple times each week, so new-to-you merch is always making their way onto the shelves and sales floor.
Minnow Lane feels like a children’s boutique in Paris, stocked with ethically sourced, sustainable, and non-toxic clothing, toys, and good family style vibes. Minnow Lane also hosts events and workshops including playgroups, parenting tips, and CPR training. 2029 Frankford Avenue.
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