If the opening of Fashion District Philadelphia Thursday has you nostalgic for The Gallery and suspicious that something so shiny and new could fit ever into Philly’s landscape, we get it.
While the clean surfaces and touch-screen maps at Fashion District Philadelphia scream more King of Prussia than Market East, those who loved The Gallery and Philly will find nods — intentional and unintentional — to both throughout.
Here are the 10 most Philly things we saw at the new Fashion District Philadelphia:
1. A broken escalator
There was always at least one escalator broken at The Gallery. Inevitably, you’d get stuck walking up it behind someone who’d apparently not ascended stairs in decades, given their pacing.
So it was oddly comforting to see one of the escalators in the Fashion District had stopped working. On the first day.
As my colleague Allison Steele so aptly put it, “Every good reboot pays homage to the original.”
2. Everyone still calls it ‘The Gallery’
Of the thousands who rushed into Fashion District Philadelphia Thursday, we didn’t hear a single person call it that.
We did, however, hear people call it “the old Gallery," “the new Gallery," and “this jawn.”
Frankly, we’re not crazy about the new name either, so we put our choices up for a poll.
As you can see, Starcourt Mall won. Given the amount of colored neon lighting, it’s fitting.
Spencer’s has already got the shirts made up.
Since posting the poll, my colleague Ronnie Polaneczky has come up with an even better name: Phashiontown.
3. South Fellini and The Sable Collective
Among the local businesses in Phashiontown are South Fellini (the South Philly apparel company behind the Gritty and Phanatic Pulp Fiction shirt), and The Sable Collective, a store curated for women of color that features locally made goods by women.
The Sable Collective has totally Philly items like “Hanging with the Homies” air fresheners of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s head, a box of used records, a “that 90s tarot” deck, and a small banner that reads: “WE ALL WE GOT."
Store owner Shanti Mayers said her parents used to have a cleaning business and as a child, she’d help them wipe windows at The Gallery.
Now, she owns her own store there.
“We wanted to create a space where women of color didn’t feel like an afterthought,” she said.
Johnny Zito, who owns South Fellini with Tony Trov, grew up going to The Gallery, too. He bought everything from Van sneakers to his first katana blade there.
Zito would meet his friends under the “The Gallery” sign. It’s what inspired the amazingly meta shirt paying homage to it that can be found in his new store in the old Gallery.
Zito’s nostalgia might lead him on an epic quest too.
“A contractor told us that it still exists, hidden around here somewhere,” he said. “We might do some Night at the Museum stuff and try to find it.”
4. Running into people you know
In a city of 1.5 million people it’s hard to imagine randomly running into anyone you know.
But in happens in Philly. All. The. Time. And at Fashion District Philadelphia, it may happen even more.
Paul Ross, 68, of North Philly, a sharp-dressed man clad in yellow from head to toe, said he saw three cousins and a high school classmate at the opening.
Though we’re guessing they saw him first.
5. It’s not done yet
Not all the stores are open. Even the movie theater still has its carpets rolled up inside.
It somehow all feels very Philly.
Just more than 60% of the retail and entertainment spaces are open in Phasiontown, though that number is projected to reach 90% within a year.
6. SEPTA signs still point to “The Gallery”
Signs in SEPTA’s Jefferson Station — the concourse formerly known as Market East — which directly opens up to Fashion District Philly underground, still point people to “The Gallery.”
And we hope they always will. We support anything that is both nostalgic for locals and utterly confusing for tourists.
7. Tiffany’s Bakery
As my colleague Ellie Silverman so sweetly reported, Tiffany’s Bakery is the only “continuously operating” business that made it from The Gallery through to Fashion District Philadelphia.
Kimberly Turner, 43, of Camden, was beaming at the counter Thursday. She’s bought her daughter’s birthday cake at the bakery every year since since she turned one.
“She’s 22 now and she’s having her own baby,” Turner said.
8. The irony
9. The Art
Colorful, interactive, sequined walls allow people to write messages. Signs reading “please don’t go” and “you belong here” are reminiscent of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s “A Love Letter for You” project along the Market Street corridor.
Then there are the 10 murals curated by Conrad Benner and created by 11 Philly artists that decorate Phashiontown’s walls.
From paint to yarn, the murals are representative of the city’s diverse culture and arts scene and serve as a reminder that not all of our best art can be found in museums.
10. There’s booze
Philadelphia-based Yards Brewing Company has a location on site — which was half occupied by union workers on opening day — and City Winery, which specializes in grownup grape juice, appeared to be mostly occupied by men and women in suits.
Very Philly indeed.