In the wake of the pandemic, many of the “charming shops of Chestnut Hill” have closed or moved up and down the Avenue like pieces on a chess board. With over a dozen vacant storefronts, we wanted to find out why some shops vanished while others survived and thrived.
In the wake of the pandemic, many of the “charming shops of Chestnut Hill” have closed or moved up and down the Avenue like pieces on a chess board. Meanwhile, new retailers arrived during the peak of the crisis. With over a dozen vacant storefronts, we wanted to find out why some shops vanished while others survived and thrived.
Even if you never ventured inside The Philadelphia Print Shop to explore their antique maps, historic prints or vintage postcards, the empty storefront is jarring. The owner, Don Cresswell, decided to retire in November of 2019 and put it up for sale. It was purchased and moved in August of last year.
Sanjiv Jain, President of Legacy Real Estate and broker for the property said he was looking at replacements but hadn’t found one.
“I am speaking with some interested parties but can’t provide any details yet.”
The window of Mango, 8442 Germantown Ave., no longer displays the delightful BoHo chic clothes that appealed to women from 19 to 90. In its place, a male mannequin sports a Kilian’s t-shirt, a clue of things to come. While the expansion of Chestnut Hill’s beloved hardware store into the adjacent space is good news for anyone who has tried to find a drill bit in its narrow aisles, Mango will be missed.
The Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop’s closure in October of 2019 had nothing to do with the pandemic, but the brown paper still covering its windows more than a year later is a sad commentary on the slow pace of economic recovery. This is echoed by the adjacent vacant storefront formerly occupied by Taste of Olive. Along with their Chestnut Hill shop, Taste of Olive also closed locations in Haddonfield and West Chester.
Then there are the stores that relocated along the Avenue. The aptly named Hideaway Music moved from its Top of the Hill location to a below-street-level shop across from the Chestnut Hill Hotel. All the more enticing for lovers of vinyl and music memorabilia.
Don’t be dismayed by the cavernous vacant space at 8440 Germantown Ave. that formerly housed Artisans on the Avenue. These purveyors of style and fashion moved just two doors down into a smaller shop at 8434.
“We’ve been lusting after this space for a great while,” confessed Lisa Howe, who co-owns Artisans with Georgia Doyle. “Our former space was a confusing maze. Customers find it easier to shop now.”
Other block hoppers include Jonesy’s Accessories who leap-frogged her way up the Avenue from her original location on the 6300 block of Germantown Avenue in Germantown to the 7900 block and is now situated across from Bredenbeck’s. Owner Stephanie Jones credits her survival during the pandemic to Facebook Live, where she streams her latest inventory for fashionistas who “dare to be different.” These days, you’ll find more than accessories at Jonesy’s, which features show-stopping dresses by Renee Bolden.
TC Unlimited Boutique made an auspicious move last October from the 8100 block to perhaps the most coveted location on the Hill, directly cross from Starbucks. This is where status-conscious shoppers will find designer accessories from Gucci, Dior and Chanel, as well as bathing suits by Louie Vuitton and Burberry.
Jennifer Clark relocated her Claudia Mills hand-woven rug shop from the former Oxford Circus Toys (next to Laurel Gardens) to the space formerly occupied by Roller’s Express-O at 8341 Germantown Ave. Although she calls it a pop-up shop, Clark has been weaving at her loom and selling her colorful rugs here for one year.
“Paul Roller offered me this space, and thanks to our online store, ClaudiaMills.com, I have been able to hang on,” said Clark.
Many of Chestnut Hill’s newest retailers made plans to set up shop here before Covid became a household word. For example, Jasmine Smalls, owner of Mixed Salon, a spacious hair salon at 8614 Germantown Ave., where the Chestnut Hill Camera Shop had been for 64 years, had made plans pre-pandemic to relocate here from Northeast Philadelphia.
“My husband and I opened the salon in November of 2020, and at the same time, we lost both his parents to Covid,” said Smalls.
On a brighter note, Smalls is optimistic.
“We brought our following with us and are attracting new clients,” she said.
Last Fall also brought Kathy Provost Jewelry and Design to 8617 Germantown Ave. A maker of fine custom jewelry, Provost was previously affiliated with Chestnut Hill Jewelers and brings 35 years’ experience to her new endeavor. Specializing in updating estate jewelry, Provost can turn grandma’s old brooch into a contemporary necklace or bracelet. She also creates jeweled colors for good dogs like Polly, her shop pooch.
Other pandemic pioneers include Door Décor by Dezaray, which opened last Fall at 8140 Germantown Ave. Their specialty is creating dazzling holiday wreaths for your front door as well as seasonal table and mantlepiece décor.
“This is my passion,” said Dezaray. “I have Easter wreaths in the window, but I also have Christmas wreaths at 25% discount.”
Shops that survived the pandemic relied on the income stream of online sales, loyal customers and sheer chutzpah. Many are still here because, despite their small-town appearance, they are part of national chains. That is the case for J McLaughlin, Sara Campbell and Glenda Gies.
On the other hand, Style by Blain at 8433 Germantown Ave. is still open, thanks to the stamina of its owner, Voltaire Blain.
“I had to dig into my savings,” said Blain. “As a new business, it takes a good three years to see a profit. I anticipated that when I opened in 2018.”
Blain also credits his shop’s survival to his partnership with a custom tailor, which broadened his customer base.
With all the losses and upheaval, many businesses managed to weather the storm and kept Chestnut Hill a thriving retail corridor.