In 2015, Point Breeze has witnessed a seasonal pop-up beer garden and a bistro opening in the neighborhood where change is no longer just in housing development.
As a neighborhood gentrifies, businesses follow suit. The Point Breeze Pop-Up Beer Garden had its first season at Point Breeze Avenue and Tasker Street from May to October. Bistro Buckminster’s opened in mid-November. Dozens of high-end housing units have been built in the last two years in a neighborhood where the median household income is $29,241, according to City Data.
In the section of Point Breeze that is sometimes referred to as Newbold, Rachel Klein owns and operates Miss Rachel’s Pantry at Chadwick and McKean streets. Her vegan catering company, restaurant and market has seen success in the neighborhood and she is optimistic about future businesses in the area.
“I think it’s going to become more inclusionary,” Klein said. “You can go out to different restaurants and stores in the neighborhood. It’s attractive because it hasn’t been flooded and rents are still relatively low. It’s a neighborhood that can support lots of different places.”
Klein said that her restaurant is a destination because it is entirely vegan and kosher, but the auto mechanics that share her block come in for coffee and snacks.
Kristin Wolak opened Breezy’s Café at 20th and Federal streets in March 2013. The menu includes hoagies, breakfast food and salads. The most expensive item on the menu is a $9 cheesesteak.
“I opened here completely believing in Point Breeze and believing that I would make it work,” said Wolak. “My idea was to open for the neighborhood that already existed, not the neighborhood that’s coming.”
Long-term resident Darnell Morton, 57, recently stood outside Breezy’s and gestured to the businesses surrounding the corner and the people walking past holding cups of coffee and walking their dogs.
“This is the intersection where everything flourishes,” said Morton, who calls himself “King of the Breeze.” “You’ve got all the buses. And any time you’ve got two coffee shops across the street from each other and both are making money, that’s doing good.”
He added, “Five or ten years ago, most of this shit wasn’t here.”
Realtor Luis Luciano of the Mickey Group at Keller Williams frequented Breezy’s Café as both a customer and someone who sees the potential for more places like it in the area.
“The fact that you’re on the west side of Broad Street and six or seven blocks from the Broad Street Line makes it a little challenging for people from different neighborhoods to frequent Breezy’s Café,” Luciano said. “Whenever a business goes into a neighborhood, it’s to stay long-term. Breezy’s in this case, they’ve been there since 2013 – before this whole boom. They were there for the community that has been there for many years.”
PhillyRising is a program run by the city targeting high-crime neighborhoods that also face issues when it comes to quality of life. In 2012, the group reported that 46 percent of Point Breeze residents have an annual household income below $19,000. This statistic indicates that almost half of Point Breeze residents live below the poverty line. The agency also reported that crime in the area decreased by 28 percent from 2010 to 2014.
“A lot of new businesses are coming, which surprised me because there were a lot of businesses closing and [empty] lots popping up,” said PhillyRising Director Adé Fuqua. “It’s a key area because [residents] can’t get down to Oregon Avenue. A lot of people are on foot. Point Breeze and Germantown are the kinds of neighborhoods that you do everything in.”
Bistro Buckminster’s opened its doors in mid-November at 1200 S. 21st St. The menu includes options such as oysters for $16 and a chicken marsala entrée for $21.
“In the neighborhood, it definitely stands out,” said Point Breeze resident and Buckminster’s customer Jesse Stolarcyk. “Residentially, there have been a lot of changes – housing flips and new houses. From a restaurant perspective, I don’t think it’s had the same amount.”
Luciano said that commercial space in Point Breeze sells for around $100 per square foot. In other areas such as Graduate Hospital, space sells for $150 to $350 per square foot, he said.
“We know that the market shifts every day just like the stock market,” Luciano said. “What we’re seeing right now is that inventory is shrinking. The fact that inventory is low and rates right now are somewhat affordable, more buyers are competing against each other and driving the prices up.”
Breezy’s Café has received notice from its landlord that its commercial lease will not be renewed next year. Wolak is currently searching for a new location.
“Before I moved to this location, people said, ‘Oh you might just be a placeholder on Point Breeze Avenue for bigger people to move into,’” Wolak said. “Point Breeze Avenue has a lot of buildings that aren’t ready. This location was ready to go. Whether it was a placeholder for me or not, it was a good move for me.”
Klein added: “There are some good things happening. This wouldn’t have happened five or 10 years ago when this area was being ignored.”
– Video, text and images by Madeline Presland