Decades of losing business to malls and the past 10 years of losing neighborhood customers to the frequent street closures of SEPTA’s Market Street El reconstruction have decimated West Philadelphia commercial streets like 60th.
But back in the day, Burbage said, “We had Woolworth’s, Woolco, Kresge’s. We had a baker, a dentist, an eyeglass doctor, men’s and women’s clothing stores, a furniture store – everything a family needed. It looked like West Philadelphia’s Main Street.”
Smith agreed. “Karen and I are from West Philadelphia, and we used to go to 60th Street all the time because it had a movie theater, a roller-skating rink and several black clubs.
“The Swank Bar is the only thing still there from back in the day when 60th Street was jumping,” he said.
The Smiths – who went their separate ways after high school in the late ’60s, then reunited in 1996 and married in 2000 – and Burbage are among a hardy core of small-business owners who have settled on the 100 block of 60th Street in the wake of the El reconstruction, convinced that the street will soon be jumping again.
According to SEPTA, 47 businesses in the Market Street El corridor closed during the 2000-2009 reconstruction, 10 relocated and 21 opened.