South Philadelphia: A Magazine to Tell its Story

Covers from each issue from their first to their most recent.]

In today’s times, magazines face a new landscape. With one folding, there is another starting up. But for local magazines, there are few to speak about, especially for those local to South Philadelphia.

Luckily, there is one now.

Philadelphia Row Home
focuses on businesses and “row-home grown” celebrities in the South Philadelphia and through the city-wide area.

“Our main reason for starting this magazine was to talk about the history, the families who live here and generations of families who have become famous because of the businesses that they ran here,” says Dorette Rota Jackson, a Temple University graduate and an editor and owner of the magazine. Her sister, Dawn Rhoades ,also shares in the ownership of the magazine. The magazine got its name from the row homes Philadelphia is known for. And in which its headquarters now reside.

Covers from each issue from their first to their most recent.

Their celebrity spotlights have varied from Pat Croce, Tony Luke and Kerri-Lee Halkett to the local garbage men. “We had our trash men come in and we took pictures and did a story on them once,” says Rhoades. “Everyone has a story to tell, and we want to share it,” she says. Rhoades works with the business aspects of the magazine.

When the magazine launched in the spring of 2004, its popularity boomed nearly overnight. As a first edition, Row Home came out with 54 pages. By the time its third quarter rolled around and the third edition was printed, it was over 300 pages long. “The community really responded,” says Jackson.

Today, PRH distributes over 15,000 copies per quarter and has a pass-around rate of nearly 60,000 – meaning the magazine gets passed around to other people as well as the person who picked up the magazine. A huge boost for South Philadelphia residents and businesses alike, each see a turnaround.

“It’s the bible of South Philadelphia- they read it from cover to cover,” says Carmen D’Aquilante, owner of Swan Caterers, located on Water Street. “It’s prestigious for South Philadelphia… it’s something to be proud of.”

First conceived as an idea on a napkin in Venuto’s, a bar off of Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia, the magazine and its concepts have come a long way. The sisters, who have dedicated their livelihood to the magazine, have developed a team, both working for the magazine as well as promoting it. Today, to assist the women are a team of contributing writers, who spotlight different businesses every issue, as well as photographers. The art director helps pull the final product together.

A group of interns, led by Internship Coordinator and Temple senior Lauren Gordon, has created a blog for the magazine, which incorporates stories from all over the city.

Dorette Rota Jackson and Dawn Rhoades' mother works diligently in her office, which was converted from the kids bedroom in their home offices.

“I feel proud that I am part of PRH,” says intern Lauren Macaluso, who is also a Temple journalism student.

Most important, though, are the more than 350 businesses in the South Philadelphia and surrounding areas who support the magazine by purchasing ad space in it. “[South Philadelphians] are super involved in the magazine, because they are the magazine,” Gordon says. Many agree it was a great decision to invest in.

“I’ve been with [the magazine] from the very beginning,” says Danny Olivieri, owner of Oliveieri Jewelers on South Broad Street. “It was the best decision I ever made… it just increased my business by – I can’t even tell you how much. My customers love coming in and getting the magazine from me. It gets my people coming in, on top of seeing it.”

Damian Colella, owner of Hot Hands Studio and Spa, agrees. “I felt that Row Home was a little more family oriented for me. It has a reputation that precedes itself… It’s a classy neighborhood magazine. I want to be part of anything that is with my neighborhood.”

Although many would love for the magazine to come out more often, it is a quarterly publication. With only a few issues, the staff uses each moment to the magazine’s advantage. The sisters promote the magazine and their community every day. “Selling our city is what we do,” says Jackson. “We sell the celebrities who grew up here, the whole nuance of living in a city this size, but being rooted in a community with so many friends and family.” When Jackson and Rhoades are out on the job, both are in the restaurants, stores and businesses, spreading the word not only of their magazine, but also purchasing the products that are sold in the businesses that grace their pages.

“When you become a part of the Row Home family, we are in your business, eating in your restaurant, purchasing your merchandise,” explains Jackson. “We want everyone to know that Philadelphia has everything from history to culture to restaurants to entertainment, everything you could possibly want in city life is here. We are so proud of that, and we wanted to…give them their five seconds of fame and tell their stories on our pages.”

Rhoades and Jackson are also trying to improve their community, and not only by writing about them. Recently, they launched the “Go Home, Philly” campaign, encouraging people to buy from their neighborhood stores, patronizing the home-grown businesses rather than the larger chain stores.

Philadelphia Row Home magazine is displayed in many businesses, including Hot Hands Studio and Spa.

Annually, Philadelphia Row Home hands out its Blue Sapphire Awards. These recognize five people who have made a contribution to the culture of the city. This year’s winners include Cathy Gandolfo of ABC, Michael Toklish of Jefferson Square Park and Ray Didinger, a radio sports host.

Through supporting and promoting their neighborhoods, Dorette Rota Jackson and Dawn Rhoades have had one goal.

“Our goal is to let everyone know, throughout the city, and throughout the tri-state area, that we are here,” says Jackson. “And we want everyone to participate in this project and be part of it, because it’s a great neighborhood and a great project to be part of. It’s just fun.”