The famous hoagies at Major Wing Lee Grocery Market in East Falls aren’t going anywhere.
The corner store’s fuchsia exterior is another story.
As part of an estimated $40,000 facade improvement project, owner Doi Dang has done away with the bright pink paint and covered the walls in deep red.
With the help of the city’s Storefront Improvement Program, run by the Department of Commerce, Dang is also making repairs to the Ridge Avenue building’s roof, addressing needed structural work on the walls and adding a new marquee sign, among other fixes.
The city awarded Dang a $12,000 matching grant, the max amount under the program for a property that occupies two corners. Dang is covering the rest of the finances.
The market, which will simply be called Majors when the renovations are complete, also occupies part of Midvale Avenue.
“After 30 years, you still want to improve a little, even though it’s not broken,” said Dang, whose family opened the business in 1982. “It’s more of an improvement to the neighborhood.”
Improving aesthetics at a key intersection
Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation, worked with Dang to secure city funding for the project.
The store sits right in the middle of the neighborhood’s Riverfront Business District, a stretch along which Snyder’s organization works to fill vacancies and beautify.
“When you’re trying to bring businesses into the neighborhood, you want to show them that things are looking better and getting more attractive,” said Snyder. “This intersection needs to be part of that selling and saying what’s happening in East Falls.”
Dang will also remove the grates from the store’s windows and replace an exterior roll down gate with an interior one.
“I guess we’re going to be one of the last ones [to remove the grates],” said Dang.
That’s significant for Snyder.
She said East Falls has become a much safer and more inviting neighborhood over the past 15 years, one that no longer necessitates exterior security measures.
“What I think the message is to this family is times have changed. You do not have to be afraid that danger is lurking,” said Snyder. Obviously the fact that they’re willing to invest in this and do this says that they know that it isn’t as scary.”
Customers weigh in
Longtime Wing Lee customers approve of Dang’s decision to upgrade the outside of the store.
“It looked like an average [corner] store in North Philly,” said Pratt, who drives from the Northeast for Dang’s hoagies. On Monday, it was turkey.
Mary Carr was carrying a corned beef hoagie when she emerged from the shop, which she’s frequented for more than a decade.
“It looks better than it did,” said Carr before crossing Midvale. “It was sore to the eye.”
The renovations are scheduled to wrap up by early summer.
On April 24, Dang will appear before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment to get approval for the store’s new sign.
He’ll meet with the zoning committee of the East Falls Community Council to gain neighborhood support the week before.