A first trip to Hunting Park can create a bad first impression. Even a second trip will probably leave doubts. Frequent enough stories of murder, robbery and drugs make sure of that.
But those first impressions can be deceiving.
Miguel Jerez, 50, came to Hunting Park from Connecticut nearly two years ago on the advice of his brother-in-law that business was actually good in the area.
Jerez moved, along with his wife and son, and opened Jerez Grocery #2, a bodega on the corner of North Darien and West Lycoming streets. After arriving, Jerez saw Hunting Park as outsiders often do.
“Terrible,” Jerez said of his first thoughts on the neighborhood. “I remember the first time my GPS took me here and the streets were dirty, filthy. Then I come and park in front [of the store] and it’s even worse.”
“[Hunting Park] has got a bad reputation,” Jerez said. “People’s eyes pop open when they hear the name.”
But after running the store for close to two years, Jerez has gained a different perspective.
“I’ve never had any trouble with crime in my store” Jerez said. “The area around the store is low on drugs and it isn’t as bad as it once was.”
And despite competition from other local stores and the usual lull in business during the winter months, Jerez has been able to make a living for him and his family.
That doesn’t mean the neighborhood is without its problems.
Jezez said the park itself isn’t safe to walk through at night. However, none of that has stopped the community from working together to make things better.
Jerez and another neighborhood resident who goes by “Mr. Jimmy” help sweep the streets where city trucks don’t. Other neighbors united to repaint the fronts of two abandoned buildings, making them less of an eyesore.
It’s the sense of community that helped shape Jerez’s current views on the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood is not a bad place truthfully,” Jerez said. “Robbery and theft happen everywhere in Philly, but we have a good community here.”