Caffeine addicts in South Philadelphia will soon have another coffeehouse to add to the collection of haunts south of Washington Avenue.
For two and a half years, the renovation process and opening of The Pharmacy has been an ongoing project many residents of Point Breeze have watched from its beginning.
Since acquiring the building two and a half years ago, owner Gary Viteri, 27, has worked on making the space something more. Viteri bought The Pharmacy, located on the corner of 18th and Wharton streets, in May 2011 and immediately started planning to create a community coffeehouse which would also serve as an art gallery and performance space for musicians, with a few successful events already underway.
“It’s been a long process, but I think we’ll be ready to open in the next couple of weeks,” Viteri said hopefully. “Right now we still have a final inspection with the city, but once the city comes back we can just say, ‘All right, well, here we go’, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Tim O’Hanlon, 31, of North Wales, the artist behind Lowlevel designs and a friend of Viteri’s, helped orchestrate an art show hosted at The Pharmacy this past June.
“This is an up-and-coming area that’s becoming sort of a hot spot with a lot of yuppies – excuse me, Young, Urban Professionals – moving in, but there’s still a lot of tension in the neighborhood,” O’Hanlon said. “There are always people complaining about noise from shows around here and if there’s an established place where they can place the blame, it might create more problems.”
Chris Frazier, 22, who lives on 18th Street between Wharton and Reed streets, disagreed with O’Hanlon.
“I think a space like this is good, it’s really chill,” said Frazier, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood. “People have seen Gary and the guys working on it, they know their names. It’s right in the center of the neighborhood. People don’t have to look for a place to hang out. There are couches and tables in here, people can say, ‘Hey, let’s chill. We can sit here, get some coffee and talk for a while.’”
Viteri looks to the opening of The Pharmacy with promise.
“A lot of the tension that we felt coming in here has kind of alleviated itself,” he said. “All day, every day, we see people walking by, asking, ‘Oh, when are you guys going to open?’ or ‘We can’t wait,’ so it’s way more positive now and we’re ready to open.”