Reinventing the former Propper Brothers building

For 122 years, entering the Propper Bros. building gave visitors an eyeful of fine furniture, accessories and decor items. Now, with the furniture store closed and the building awaiting its next incarnation, what owner Sam Kroungold wants you to see, is possibility.

“We’re trying to reinvent this building, and we have a lot of different options,” Kroungold said.

Things are already underway on the first floor of the 40,000 square-foot, four-level site at 115 Levering St, where a 3,500 square-foot portion is leased out for the Palm Tree Market, a grocery store Kroungold said will open soon.

The rest of the first floor is now blank space, after workers removed the room dividers and demolished interior walls. “We wanted prospects to come in and get a vision for what they might want to do here,” Kroungold said.

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Right now, Kroungold, who bought the building and the furniture business in 1972, has a few different ideas under development. One would see retail development on the first floor, with residential units on the second and third floors. Kroungold said each floor could be divided into 10 or 12 units.

In that scenario, the lower level could be used as a community meeting room or common room for residents, but the entire plan would require zoning approval since the building is zoned for retail. It also has no parking of its own, a perpetual Manayunk problem, but Kroungold isn’t terribly worried about that part.

“When I was in business with the furniture store, we were using 15 parking spots at a minimum every day just for employees, then you add in the customers,” he said. Being closed, he claims, has given “probably 30 to 40 spots a day” back to the neighborhood.

Another idea Kroungold has is for what he’s temporarily calling the “Manayunk Mall,” an idea for leased retail spaces on the first floor for crafts, clothing, art and jewelry, similar in concept to New York City’s Limelight Marketplace.

“Barring any A-1 restaurant tenant or A1 retail tenant, I’m going to try to start this marketplace up,” he said. “Who knows, it might get legs and we might have to move it up to the second floor.”

Since the store closed earlier this year, Kroungold, 58, has been slowly adjusting to retirement and life without the demands of running Propper Bros., just as the neighborhood has been adjusting to one of Manayunk’s legacy retailers shutting down. And everyone’s wondered what’s going to come into the building next — Kroungold included.

“Right now, it’s just sitting, and I’m looking to bring the right tenant in here,” he said.  He’s already been approached by a few potential businesses he’s had to turn down. If nothing else, Kroungold said he knows what he doesn’t want: A bar posing as an upscale restaurant.

He wouldn’t name names, but said “they presented themselves as restaurants, and when I went and investigated and looked at their product, they’re bars.”

“We’re looking for a quality retailer who is looking to bring feet to the street,” he said. “That will help all of the businesses along the street and not harangue the neighborhood at 2 o’clock in the morning with drunks walking down the street.”

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