As a lifetime Philadelphian, I’m often asked (or just expected to know) what people should do while they’re here. Honestly, i’m often flummoxed – so much of what Philadelphia is to me is just scenery that passes by that i hardly know how to single out anything special. By the same token, i often flounder to suggest a day’s activity within walking distance other than the habitual trip to South Street.
Today proved that there is a little something more to be found, and it was the sort of day that bears recapping.
It all started out because we wanted to visit a sidewalk sale at Hello World that we noticed while driving by with Amanda the day before. Eleventh is one of the more pleasant walks up from South Philly to the city, so we made our way there and headed north.
The sidewalk sale wasn’t much – the store had a motley collection of many nice yuppy things, but each collection was too slim for there to be many pickings. We didn’t feel like walking straight home after such a small excursion. We walked up Pine to 13th (Last Drop and a new(er) sushi place on facing corners) to peek into a guitar store i’m always passing. They had some nice electrics and a finely weathered mandolin, but nothing unusual (which is what i’m looking for – primarily a baritone).
Walking backwards (east) we browsed by a few shops before Elise stopped to ogle Soul of the Artist – something i always do on my walk down Antique Row. I had never been inside – mostly because i assume that everything on Pine Street is out of my price range, but Elise decided we should venture in.
I’m happy we did, because SOTA is one of the most fantastic owner-operated stores i’ve ever been to, in Philly or elsewhere. Frank gave us a friendly greeting, and let us know that everything he sold was made by an artist he knows and appreciates (a nice change from yuppy giftshops), and while we browsed he invited us to touch and explore his merchandise. Elise was entranced by a series of intricate puzzle-boxes (the best was almost a thousand dollars), while i walked away with a beautiful starred wooden keychain from this collection. The thing that will probably motivate me to return were a series of polished wooden clipboards and business card holders, all of which were eminently afforable.
Frank sent us packing with as many oblong business cards as we cared to have. (PS – the store on the corner of 10th has some good beers). We peeked into Ethnics Furniture, but it was disgustingly (and predictably) expensive. Must be nice to work in a store where one sale covers a whole day of operating costs.
We aimed ourselves towards South Street via 9th, and stumbled (literally) into the spectacular Broadcast Guitars, a new(ish) store owned by former BlueBond salesguy (and cousin of Anastasia) Rocco Renzetti. Though they didn’t have the selection of BlueBond, the store has a cozy atmosphere. And a cat. I thought i’d just take a quick browse for an unlikely baritone, but in my browse i found a solid and affordable Cort 12-string. I played it on a pure lark (what Bowie fan doesn’t love 12-strings?), but I actually really liked it. Rocco said he’d put fresh strings on it later this week so i could give it a better try.
(Don’t get me wrong, i LOVE BlueBond, where i bought my beautiful green workhorse. I just don’t feel comfortable browsing there anymore (even though they finally recognize me) with all of their various rock-school kids roaming around and trying guitars they don’t plan to buy. Right now they have a beautiful white Hofner bass, and a 12-String Taylor (3x as much as the Cort) that i haven’t even dared to touch because i (frighteningly) do actually have that much credit available to me.)
We wound down our shopping with a peek into American Pie / Abode, another store i had passed but never entered. They had a killer collection of Yelena Designs (including this wardrobe) – i think they’d hand over the whole set for an offer of $10k. However, i was a bigger fan of this hanging (sortof) armoire. I almost walked out with some nifty placards (one with a weathered “P,” the other with guilded sheet music) but for my reluctance to put holes in walls. We were helped the adorable Mandy.
Afterwards we wandered our way back for a quick stop home before swinging back out and encountering (to my unmitigated delight) “O,” an awesome sandwich shop WITH EFFING BUBBLE TEA splitting 9th and Passyunk with Geno’s (blech). They open early enough that i could probably snag a bubble tea every day on my way to work. And they’re only $3. I think i can keep them in business single-handedly.
(This is a wonderful place to eat after you’ve hit Pat’s or Geno’s for a picture and a less-than-appetizing cheesesteak. Any Philadelphian with a stomach that isn’t made of cast iron would much rather eat at Jim’s on 4th and South, though the best ones in the city are acknowledged to reside @ Tony Luke’s @ 39 East Oregon Ave).
In any event, that was our adventure, and now i’m home dreaming of the 12-string and pounding out way-too-hard-for-me Tori songs on the piano eight note by eight note. It was a good day to be in Philly, and now perhaps i’ve given you a few ideas of where to visit when i may have before been lax.