Fishtown: The Barbary Founder Recounts Neighborhood’s Past And Present.

Kriaris in front of his home on Frankford Avenue.

Vori Kriaris, a Fishtown resident who founded The Barbary on Frankford Avenue back in the 1980’s, noted his neighborhood looks much different now than it did 30 years ago when he first moved there.

“It was very working class,” Kriaris said, “The neighborhood was tough. Frankford Avenue had a lot of junkies.”

Kriaris was born and raised in Cleveland. After moving to Philadelphia to attend the University of the Arts in the 1970’s, he lived on Walnut and 13TH streets. Kriaris moved to South Street and in 1982 moved in to his home on Frankford Avenue, where he still lives today.

“In 1983, people starting moving in here,” Kriaris said. “I wasn’t the only one who said this is a cool neighborhood.”

When Kriaris first moved to Fishtown, he wasn’t well received by longtime residents.

“I got grief,” Kriaris said. “The neighborhood knew people like me were moving in, which threatened them.”

That didn’t stop Kriaris from attempting to spark business in the area. Along with two of his business partners, Kriaris purchased an old bar on Frankford Avenue in hopes of renewing it.

“Back then it was called The Colonial and it was for sale,” Kriaris said. “It was on the skids. It was an awful bar.

Kriaris, who came up with The Barbary’s new name, saw initial success with the bar as a music venue.

The Barbary.
The Barbary.

“It was a blues bar,” Kriaris said, “We had great, top names. We had some great nights there.”

However, The Barbary soon ran in to a financial standstill, forcing Kriaris and his partners to sell the bar.

“It wasn’t making money,” Kriaris said. “The building was always in need of upgrading. The real problem was we were young.”

Since the sale of The Barbary, Kriaris has worked has worked in retail doing store fixturing, merchandising, and window displays.

Kriaris’ home is filled with a wide variety of antiques and vintage memorabilia, including everything from a working television set from the 1950’s to Greek Orthodox religious paintings. Some of his decorations are Kriaris’ own creations, such as papier mache boats and a detailed miniature model of an old hotel.

A miniature replica of a hotel that Kriaris built inside his Fishtown home.
A miniature replica of a hotel that Kriaris built inside his Fishtown home.

“I was in the paper a couple times,” Kriaris said. “My house was in The Inquirer a few times. I got publicity.”

Kriaris is beginning to see a new wave of young people moving in to his neighborhood that reminds him of when he moved to Fishtown.

“It’s ironic this many years later I’ve turned in to a true Fishtowner,” Kriaris said. “I look at the people coming in now and I treat them the way I was treated when I moved in.”

Kriaris has noticed both good and bad with Fishtown’s changing landscape.

“My house has tripled in value but so have the taxes,” Kriaris said. “Time goes on, generations change. I realize I’m part of the past generation.”

– Text, video and images by Daniel Craig.


  1. The Barbary is nothing but a nuisance bar. The patron’s have no regard for the neighbors. I would like to see it closed. Some of the patron’s are so young. Also when the bar closes the noise is deafening waking everyone up in the middle of the night not to mention taking all our parking spaces and vandalizing our property. I hate the place.

  2. Well Joanne it wasn’t a nuisance when I owned it…Guess you are in the wrong spot, just await until the venue across the the street opens then you really have something to bitch about.

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