As national stores move in, Rittenhouse Row’s iconic boutiques migrate

The shopping district around Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square is changing.  Rittenhouse Row gained a reputation for its pricey, stylish shops.  Now the Joan Shepp store is moving, following a recent relocation by fellow indie boutique Knit Wit.


Ellen Shepp and her mom own Joan Shepp, a clothing boutique that’s moving from its Walnut Street location.  The shop is leaving the spot it’s held for more than a dozen years because the building was sold, she said.

“They’re renovating the entire building from offices to apartments and they’re also renovating the store that I’m in and making it larger,” Ellen Shepp said.

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They plan to move the store to a nearby spot, but haven’t signed a lease yet.  And the Shepp store is not alone.

“Quite a few of the independents have either closed or moved because the rents are increasing dramatically and so that’s why you’ll see more corporate stores moving in,” Shepp said. “Because they can handle the rents that are being asked … they’re more than doubling and tripling in recent years.”

Shepp says Walnut Street is experiencing the same thing that happens in other major cities. As a street becomes more successful — and costs more expensive — corporate stores replace the independents.

Michelle Shannon, with the Center City District, says it’s all part of an ongoing cycle in real estate.  Because of stores such as Joan Shepp and Knit Wit, “There are national high-end stores that have discovered Philadelphia and the Market and Walnut Street area and nationals … typically pay higher rents than local boutiques.” 

Tourists and visitors often prefer to buy at stores that they know and understand, Shannon said.  Now, the iconic boutiques can help establish West Chestnut Street as a new shopping destination, she says. 

“You’ve now got Knit Wit; you’ve got South Moon Under, which is a great regional merchant; you’ve got some nationals like Sephora, Second Time Around consignment boutique,” she said. “So what you’re seeing is the rebirth of a new hip and upscale retail neighborhood that is more locally driven.”

Don’t shed too many tears for the pricey boutiques.  Shannon says their very loyal customers will no doubt follow the iconic establishments to their new homes


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