Philadelphia is a diverse city that is full of diverse businesses. There are 93,000 small business owners in Philadelphia according to a report done by the Sustainable Business Network.
There is a concentration of small businesses on Fabric Row, located on Fourth Street just off of South Street. The area itself is currently going through a transition period where new businesses are replacing the old family businesses.
“The last generation didn’t want to be into fabric,” said Lois Arnold, owner and proprietor of Lois A. Wig Boutique at 766 S. Fourth St. “They wanted to do other things with their lives so, the children sold or rented out the property.”
Arnold’s mission is to provide wigs for women going through chemotherapy. That niche clientele is one of the reasons the business has survived the changes Fabric Row has undergone.
Among new businesses is Steel Pony, a sustainable artisan clothing and handbags store on 758 S. Fourth St., owned by Joanne Litz and her husband. Every item in the store is handmade by Litz and her husband, placing it with the more chic stores in the area.
“Fourth Street is hopefully going to be more upscale from South Street,” said Litz.
All of this change can be attributed to the number of people in the city that have decided to start their own businesses. According to the same report done by the Sustainable Business Network, 54 percent of Philadelphia’s jobs are created by small businesses.
However, the owners of these businesses are not alone in their entrepreneurship. The Office of Business Services, a division in the commerce department of city government, provides one-on-one support to businesses and entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. The department is made up of business services managers who are assigned to companies and they help business owners navigate the resources of the city.
“During the Rendell administration, they recognized the fact that government can be very complex and it can sometimes be cumbersome for small businesses,” said Curtis Gregory, senior director of the Office of Business Services. “So, they created a department called the Mayor’s Business Action Team and now it’s known as The Office of Business Services.”
Small business are vital to a city like Philadelphia, and therefore important that business owners have the support of city government. While there is always more the city can do for these businesses, there remains an effort to stay connected to entrepreneurs and offer what assistance as they can.
– Text, images and video by Rasmiyyah Hargust.