Reading Terminal Market has hired a new general manager after its last appointment, Conor Murphy, left in December after six months on the job.
Annie Allman, who previously served as senior director of marketing at Comcast, in addition to marketing roles at casino chains that include Harrah’s locations in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, is set to start on Monday.
Allman said she had seen news about Murphy’s departure shortly before Christmas. Intrigued by the job, she contacted a Reading Terminal Market board member to express interest.
“It was a little out of my comfort zone to be so bold,” she said.
After she met and talked with the board and walked through the indoor market for a number of hours, she accepted the job, and on Monday, intends to “get back to basics.”
One of the first priorities, she said: Getting the word out that the 128-year-old market is open — and has been open — and that it’s waiting for people to stop by.
“Absolutely drill down and make sure we have a clean space — a welcoming, accessible experience for everyone,” she said. “How does it look visually, I think that’s the first order, and second, but along parallel lines, is all the foot traffic. Obviously, between convention tourism and folks working in the offices in Center City, foot traffic has disappeared.”
Anecdotally, the number of customers in the market last year was down 50% from 2019, said London Faust, a spokesperson for the market, which reported 7.6 million visitors in 2019. The market records around $60 million in sales every year, she said.
There were 80 merchants at the market before COVID-19, Faust said. Three — Tootsie’s Hot and Cold Buffet, Condiment, and The Tubby Olive — have closed permanently during the pandemic.
The months-long ban on indoor dining dealt a blow to businesses across the city. Reading Terminal, which said around 30% of its foot traffic comes from tourists, was no exception. In October, it launched an online fund-raiser to collect $250,000 to keep the sprawling marketplace running. It was about $24,000 away from its goal as of Friday.
A few months after the fund-raiser went live, Allman’s predecessor, Murphy, left his post. He did not share a reason for his departure, simply saying through the market in a statement: “COVID has been tough mentally, and my focus right now is getting some rest and hopefully being able to travel to see family in Europe. There are great businesses at the market, and I look forward to returning as a shopper soon. The market is an icon and the show goes on.”
Reading Terminal Market said that the “needs of the market have changed” but lauded Murphy as a “visionary and a creative talent.”
In a text message, Murphy said that he had signed a confidentiality agreement in January, leaving him unable to say much about the terms of his departure.
Since restrictions on indoor dining eased slightly last week, with businesses allowed to reopen dining rooms at 25% capacity, the hope is that the trickle of customers to Reading Terminal Market will pick up. Until that happens, Allman said, customers put off by the typical shoulder-to-shoulder jostling there can enjoy the uncharacteristically relaxed flow of traffic.
“I just think the Reading Terminal Market is such a great outlet right now for folks, even within this five-county region, or maybe into South Jersey,” she said. “You feel connected to a community when you go into Reading Terminal Market.
“It is everyone from every walk of life, and nowadays, people are feeling so isolated and so part of technology. It’s this authentic real world, and it sounds trite, but it’s a beautiful thing to have that.”