Old City Fest showcases new local businesses in historic neighborhood

More than 50 new businesses have opened in Old City in 2022, according to the district executive director.

A close-up of an intricate painting on a circle.

Art was on display at the Old City Fest on Oct. 9, 2022, including pieces from the Jewish Arts Center and Samantha Carell. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The Old City Festival returned to the historic neighborhood Sunday after being dormant for three years because of COVID-19.

The pandemic put a halt to large events over the past couple of years and resulted in many businesses shutting down.

In Old City on Sunday, thousands were in attendance to experience the sights and new businesses filling vacant storefronts.

Old City District Executive Director Job Itzkowitz said that in December 2020, a fifth of the businesses were vacant, but since January, more than 50 new businesses have opened.

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“It’s great to make a sale today, but it’s really great to earn a long-term customer to incentivize someone to come back to support their businesses next door, across the street, around the corner from their storefront,” Itzkowitz said. “And so, yes, this is a great way to relaunch the festival, but it’s really about long-term growth and economic health and vitality of the neighborhood.”

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Vincent Finazzo, founder of Riverwards Produce Market, recently opened up a new location in Old City. He said what drew the market to Old City was the neighborhood’s overall vibe, but also a desire to fulfill a need for the community.

“The neighborhood’s been hungry for a market for almost three decades,” Finazzo said. “By working with the neighborhood groups, making sure every person that comes in, we talk to them, tell them to tell their friends… just making sure that we’re really consistent with making the market a truly spectacular, beautiful place to enjoy.”

Darryl Brown is a tailoring liaison at Damari, a business that focuses on clothing across all genders for special events. It’s been operating since 2018, but moved to Old City in December 2020.

“Old City has been great to us,” Brown said. “We’ve had great clients and we built great relationships with clients.”

Elsewhere in Philadelphia, more than three-quarters of Center City businesses have reopened, compared with just over half that were open in the spring of 2020.

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