Many structures in West Philadelphia harbor a rich history. VIX Emporium, located on 5009 Baltimore Ave., is no different. The unique gift boutique not only houses handcrafted jewelry, locally designed cards, ceramics and all natural soaps, but has also maintained a unique history, one that dates back to the 1940s.
More than 70 years ago, before the Emporium was an artisan gallery, Jeanie and Margaret Grumbine established J.M. Grumbine Millinery, a boutique that specialized in lady’s hats, a popular attraction to residents in the community.
The design of the current store displays original woodwork cabinetry and architecture, all of which were designed by the Grumbine’s. Towards the back of the store, the Grumbine’s glass cabinetry is displayed along the walls, a structure most admired by the store’s patrons.
“People are like, where did you get these? We [actually] didn’t get them, they were here,” said Emily Conroy-Dorn, co-owner of VIX Emporium. “They’re of the place.”
After the hat shop closed, the building went on to house Meme Fashion’s, a dress shop that featured a collection of custom made garments.
In 2003, Conroy-Dorn’s husband Sean Dorn purchased the building with a previous partner after the building became abandoned following the closure of Meme’s Fashions.
“[Sean] thought it was important to salvage the store,” Conroy-Dorn said.
Today, the store is owned by both Conroy-Dorn and her husband, both of whom are deeply immersed in the arts and craft making.
Currently, the store features unique affordable jewelry, home ware, apparel, accessories, baby gifts and novelties, all of which are made by local artists in West Philadelphia.
“I don’t limit the work to any particular group of artists,” Conroy-Dorn said. “It is a mutually beneficial relationship. [The artists] have the opportunity to earn a living through their work.”
In addition to pieces by other artists, the shop also showcases some of the work of Conroy-Dorn, who specializes in hand-crocheted jewelry.
Over the years, the building has managed to house the crafts of local Philadelphian artists and remained a unique and admiral store in the Cedar Park neighborhood.
Along with the stores interior woodwork and architecture, the Dorn’s have managed to preserve the creative and crafty foundation of the storefront.
“It has always been a fancy little store,” Conroy-Dorn said.
For more information on VIX Emporium, visit its website at www.vixemporium.com