For decades, Sam Kroungold watched the comings and goings at Manayunk’s Propper Bros. furniture store from his office, from a desk perched in a mezzanine overlooking the cavernous showroom.
These days, the view is quite different, but Kroungold still has a birds-eye view of activity at the 40,000 square-foot Levering Street landmark, busy with activity again two years after he went out of the furniture business.
The mezzanine has been enclosed as part of an ongoing $3 million renovation, so Kroungold’s desk now sits next to a wall and the view comes from a monitor showing security camera feeds. Instead of the chatter of customers browsing for furniture, the background noise in Kroungold’s office now comes from the massive heating system for the hot yoga studio downstairs.
Not that he’s complaining.
Evolving into a mixed-use development
The Propper Bros. building, built in two parts in 1888 and 1921, “has never been anything but furniture,” Kroungold said. But it’s growing into a new mixed-use life, with business tenants at street level and 18 apartments planned for the two floors above.
Last year, the Palm Tree Market became the first new fixture, moving into a newly-created space on the first floor on the Cresson Street side. In August, Bikram Yoga in Manayunk took another first-floor space, along the Levering side. Business heated up quickly, and the owners have added more instructors and classes.
Within a week or so, they will be joined on the first floor by Never Give Up, a new personal training, group fitness and sport-specific training studio. Owner Ali Cook will run the business with her fiancé, Alex Jackson, who, like her, is an elite sponsored triathlete.
Adding to the neighborhood’s fitness dynamic
Cook said she knew the studio would fit perfectly in the neighborhood, now home to several fitness-related businesses, including Row Zone and The Wall cycling studio. Cook worked at The Wall, building her client base, then decided to strike out on her own. She said she was instantly drawn to the Propper Bros. building because of its looks and location, but Kroungold’s enthusiasm sold her.
“I had my eye on the Propper Bros. building for months,” she said. “I loved the open, high ceilinged, lofty spaces. This space itself is just ‘Wow!'”
The studio will have its entrance from Cresson Street, with windows and a mirrored wall facing the street. Because most of Cook’s training focuses on endurance training and boot-camp style exercise, it doesn’t require a lot of machines, so the space is coming together quickly.
Also on the Cresson Street side, Kroungold will create a common entrance with a new elevator, for the future second- and third-floor apartments. Work on them will include re-opening some windows, and replacing all of the others, with restoration of wood floors and railings.
On the basement level, Kroungold is looking for one last commercial tenant, for a 3,200 square foot space, which he thinks could suit a physical therapy or similar practice.
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