Northeast: Mayfair Then and Now

New types of businesses have sprung up along the Mayfair business district over the last couple of decades.
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Change is relative. That seemed to be the message from longtime locals living and working near Frankford Avenue in Mayfair.

As the heart of Mayfair, Frankford Avenue has certainly gained a few nail salons and lost a few retail outlets over the years, but not all locals believe these changes to be monumental or even for the worse.

“People have all these memories of Mayfair as a golden age. It hasn’t really changed that much,” said Mike Scotese, president of the Mayfair Business Association and owner of Frankford Avenue’s Grey Lodge.

Mike Scotese, president of the Mayfair Business Association, explains the changes seen on Frankford Avenue over the last 15 years.

Joe Veneziale disagreed. “There’s no retail on the street anymore,” said the owner of Giggles Gifts on Frankford and Bleigh avenues. “Thirty, 35, 40 years ago, there was nothing but retail stores on the avenue. You could get anything you wanted.”

Ed Lloyd, longtime owner of Lloyd Sixsmith Sporting Goods on Frankford Avenue near Sheffield Street, has noticed similar changes over the years.

Where there used to be clothing and shoe stores, there are now nail salons and doctor’s offices, he said.

Scotese acknowledged retail has been lost on the street, but said it’s not just a Frankford Avenue problem, it’s an everywhere problem.

Bob Domanico, owner of Pat’s Music Center on Frankford and Bleigh avenues, said he felt Frankford Avenue was a good area in terms of retail business.

“Some stores would say no, but I think there’s a lot of retail business in Mayfair,” he said. “We have some good stores on these four or five blocks.”

New types of businesses have sprung up along the Mayfair business district over the last couple of decades.

Many locals have also noticed vacant store fronts cropping up over the years.

The vacant stores are victims of the malls, which began to drive businesses out of Frankford Avenue in the 1980s and early 1990s, Lloyd said.

Although some on the avenue, like Lloyd and Stephen Kanoff, owner of nearby Morry’s Dinettes, have definitely noticed more vacancies over the years, others, like Scotese, disagreed.

“There are vacancies, but there’s not a crazy number of vacancies. You really can’t find a lot of vacant store fronts around here,” he said. “Frankford Avenue is holding up very well.”

Many were divided whether or not chain stores, like Walgreens, the Family Dollar and Dollar Tree have taken over Frankford Avenue.

Kanoff said he was not happy with what he considered big business taking over small “ma and pop” shops in the last two decades.

“How many butchers and shore makers and tailors have all gone out of because of the corporations?” he said. “And that’s the way it is.”

Others had a more sunny assessment of chains on the street.

“We’ve lost a pharmacy or two and gained a Walgreens,” Scotese said. But “there always have been chain stores on the avenue. I think we have fewer than normal.”

Scotese and fellow Business Association member, Antoniette Montgomery, owner of Torresdale Flowers on Frankford Avenue near Aldine Street, welcomed the chain stores if they brought more people onto the street to shop and check out the local bars and restaurants.

Torresdale Flowers has been a mainstay on Frankford Avenue through the ups and downs of the economy.

“It’s a shame we can’t get bigger stores in the area, like a Barnes and Noble, that would attract the area a little bit better,” said Montgomery, who has lived here for more than 20 years.

“The more problems we have are with the check cashing places showing up because some of them end up being pawn shops. Once people start seeing that they get scared.”

Entertainment on the street was another topic for debate.

Kelli Smelser, an employee of Penn Hardware on Frankford and Bleigh avenues, has lived in neighboring Tacony for more than 15 years. She said she felt there used to be more to do on the street.

She recalled the Concord Roller Rink on Princeton and Frankford avenues, which shut down in 1985 and is now a public storage facility.

There were also four movie theaters–the Mayfair, the Holme, the Merben and the Devon–on Frankford Avenue that have since closed.

Scotese pointed out although the avenue’s roller skating rink and single-screen movie theaters have shut down, these old-fashioned entertainment venues are pretty much obsolete everywhere.

He said it was pointless to “worry about what’s not on the avenue anymore that isn’t going to survive anyway.”

Despite the loss of some entertainment spots on Frankford Avenue, there is still plenty to do on the street, Scotese said.

The Business Association hosts several events like the Mayfair-Holmesburg Thanksgiving Day parade, an annual Christmas tree lighting and the Mayfair May Fair and Fallen Heroes 5K run each May.

There is also entertainment on the avenue every day, Scotese said.

“Mayfair’s always had a very lively bar scene and we still do,” he said. “There are a lot of restaurants, and we are starting to see some really good restaurants open up.”

11 Comments

  1. I use the retro site on occasion and woould like to know if you could put a picture of the Concord Roller Rink on this site as I’m very much interested in seeing it again…Thanks a person of the old time..now into my very early 60’s….While I’m at it, could you find a picture of the school before it caught on fire..the name of the catholic school was called “EDEN HALL” and it was on the end of Convent Lane off of Frankford Avenue and if you do not remember please ask your parents. I remember like it was yesterday going to that school, on days when it was nice out in the spring and summer time some of the teacher’s had there classes out side..This was also before they had air-conditioning in schools and where we ate our lunches in the class room and got our milk out of the pint sized old glass bottles which are now worth a lot of money….You have my e-mail address…for me the old times were better..no cell phones…PTC busses were around…no one bothered little children I know because I use to walk home from Eden Hall which was almost three miles from my house in Philly….the mail was addressed as Phila., 14 Pa..OH THE GOOD TIMES…..BRING THEM BACK…..and pay phones were 10 cents….

  2. I also skated at Concord roller rink on Frankford Ave. in the 60’s. Extremely fond memories. I found out today they were having a reunion tonite 3/16/2012 at 530pm. I found out too late to attend. I remember the 3 owners Ted and Pete and cant remember the 3rd name.
    I’m hopeing they do it again. I heard they now have 48 alumni. So anyone out there with any knowledge of when they will have another meet, please contact me @ gailstormm@aol.com put Concord in the subject line.

    ty ty,
    Lorraine

    PS: Billy or Steve Indictor (dont think i’m spelling that right lol. are you out there? The 3 of us were asked to do a skating demo at some club back in the 60’s. it was a flop but had fun lol.

  3. I’m just looking for place to start up a blog with a friend where we talk sports in Chicago as well as other things going on nationwide….just for fun. Any suggestions on sites would be great. Thanks..

  4. I went to the old saint Katherine school in Torresdale. I am now 73. I remember mother Schumann, mother Cronin,miss Parkinson et al. We climbed trees in the school yard, watched the pigs being slaughtered in the barn, watched Mr. Keble chop the heads off chickens for the nuns and students at Eden Hall. The Mooney family on premises were the caretakers. Those were the best of times.

  5. This guy is has no idea ,in the early 60’s it had wonderful stores like Fleet’s Howard Herbert’s music store and all the theaters. This guy Mike wasn’t around so how would know? All these places were pushed out by malls. I stopped buy on my Lincoln class reunion and it has really fallen by the wayside. It used to be a nice part of town. Kensington is a disaster a disgusting drugged out ghetto to think family’s would shop at Kensington & Somerset. To think we had to have tons of cops when we shot Rocky Balboa.

  6. Almost every Sunday night during the Summer in the early 1970s I and my other landlocked friends (those of us not lucky enough to go to the Jersey shore for the summer) went to the Concord Ballroom for dancing with other kids our age. During the week it was the Concord Roller Skating Rink, but on Sunday nights it was the Concord Ballroom. Great times. We girls would mostly dance with each other until a slow song came on and we would nervously await to see if any boy would take a chance on us. It was an important adolescent experience that we had there. It was our time, our music, our way of dancing; and, for me, a time I will never forget and still think about 50 years later. There was a good-looking boy named Tom who would ask me to slow dance before his girlfriend showed up at the dance. I was in my glory. Nothing ever came of us and to this day I wish something had. We had no cell phones them, just ourselves. He is still a wonderful memory for me. We found out he was from Jersey when we spied him from my Dad’s car on the way home, driving a turquoise blue Pinto with Jersey tags. That made him and exotic mystery. I feel sorry for kids today, believe me.

  7. Believe me, it was so different in my day. Looking back, I just took it all for granted as being part of a normal life and even a bit too boring and mundane. But now I see how great it was. Walks down the avenue were a commonplace way to pass an afternoon and there were plenty of great stores to shop and wonderful things to buy at modest prices. Stores like Fleet’s, Howard Herbert’s and a great big drug store on the corner of Frankford and Cottman called Drug Fair.
    On Sunday evenings in the summer I and my friends went to the weekly dance at Concord Roller Skating Rink which on Sundays became Concord Ballroom with the mirrored mosaic dance ball and all. Kids my age–about 15 to 20–enjoyed some really innocent fun there. The music was great, the dancing was great and it was so safe. We girls danced with each other during the fast songs and any boy would ask you to dance during a slow song. I do not remember any chaperones. I do not think there were any; but nothing bad or even improper in any way ever went on at Concord.
    My Mom and I would shop at great stores like the Parisian which must have been there for 50 years and then burned down in the 1980s. That was so sad. They had clothing and nice scarves of all kinds that you could not get anywhere else on the first floor and on the second floor were beautiful dresses and winter coats. Both the downstairs and the upstairs of the store were very small, close and cramped. It was so unique. There was a sales lady there who gave elegant personal service and could tie a beautiful bow like nobody’s business. I remember her name too, but I won’t mention it here in case it would prevent my blog being posted.
    And speaking of elegant, memories of McDonald’s jewelry store must be mentioned. First they were tucked away in a corner at the Mayfair movies. Then they moved across the way on Frankford Avenue on the ground floor and then moved upstairs to a second or third floor. When you walked in there you knew you were in some place very special. The first thing you would see as you stepped in the store was an imposing grandfather clock. You would have to stop and readjust yourself to this elegant world away from the world. The atmosphere was so quiet, clean and elegant and the service was personal and dignified. One day the sales lady there explained to me what Krementz was. I recently spoke to a jeweler and he said that, today, know one knows how it was made. Despite the imposing elegance of McDonald’s you could buy affordable pieces of gold-filled jewelry for $10 to $12 there as well as high-end pieces. Is there even such a thing as gold-filled anymore?
    Also, around the same area was Rudemar Beauty Culture School on a second floor where you could get your hair done by the very sweet and pleasant students. The name of the school ‘Rudemar’ was in jumbo capital letters in giant glittering gold sequins running just below the second floor windows of the school.
    One day, when I myself was attending Wilfred Beauty Academy in 1974 to1976 I was waiting for the 66 trolley, but something must have been wrong and no trolleys were running. A policeman saw me waiting and drove me to school. I can’t imagine this happening now.
    Safe and pleasant are the keywords here. It just isn’t the same now. I am sorry to say, but all the people that made Mayfair the great apple pie place that it was have all moved away; and all in all our life style has changed. I may be typing this on a computer, but technology has ruined everything. We could be living it instead of typing about a bygone time.

  8. anyone remember the name of the old roast beef restaurant on frankford ave between princeton & tyson??

  9. I have question about Mayfair, My name is Diane I live in NE Philly but I was born and raised in Frankford, I am having a debate with my brother. Does anyone remember the name of a Bar that was once located at Levick & Frankford avenue back in the late 60’s early 70’s ? It was a bar that would not card you and it had Go Go girls in there and the Warlocks went there too. It is now the Curbside Flower Stand and Monroe Muffler is there too. Does anyone recall the name of this old run down bar?

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