The moving trucks were still weeks away, but Peter Cohen already waxed sentimental.

"Look at this," Cohen said, gazing at a photograph on his computer screen. "This is Kensington - 1900."

The 58-year-old proprietor of Baum's Dancewear sat in his Center City office, speechless.

His family business goes back four generations, to Kensington in 1887, then South Street, then, for the last 75 years, South 11th Street.

That's done now, too.

"It blows me away," Cohen said. "The fact that we've been able to sustain this business all these years.

"This building is all I know."

The land rush that has taken over central Philadelphia east of Broad Street arrived earlier this year at Baum's. Cohen accepted an unsolicited offer to sell the amalgam of adjoining buildings from which his family has peddled feathers to Mummers and leotards to professional dancers. The sale was done in June.

Baum's will close after Thanksgiving and move to 1805 E. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia.

The buildings' buyer, Brickstone Co., plans refurbished shops on street level and apartments above in the three-story and four-story buildings that form Baum's.

Although they have been in Cohen hands since 1940, the buildings are full of architectural touches that Brickstone managing partner John Connors fell in love with during his first walk-through.

Tax maps suggest the properties at one time contained a billiard hall with an observation room. Horn & Hardart also sold creamed spinach there.

The buildings' strongest appeal, however, is location.

Baum's is wedged between two hot spots that have opened in recent years and that cater to the upscale crowd that has turned South 11th Street, two blocks away, into a buzzy strip of dining and drinking: the music venue MilkBoy and the bar/restaurant Smokin' Betty's.

Around the corner, Brickstone is redeveloping a huge chunk of the 1100 block of Chestnut Street into stores and apartments.

"We thought that Baum's would be a really critical piece to carry that energy," Connors said, "and hopefully turn 11th Street into 13th Street."

Cohen was not looking to sell at first - even though the Internet had taken steam out of Baum's sales over the last decade and the building had become an albatross.

Baum's had been there so long, how could Cohen even imagine life without it? How could its customers?

"I have been going to Baum's since I was 16 years old, and now I'm 82," said Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown, surprised by the news.

A prominent wooden staircase off the sales floor used to lead to a fitting area of dancers' dreams.

Myers Brown recalled when Cohen's grandfather Jacob could escort her to the second floor to try on pink pointe shoes. Climbing those stairs, she recalled, "I always thought I was going to heaven."

Today, that staircase leads to a maze of offices, empty rooms, and boxes used for Internet orders.

When customers enter the sales floor off the street, they encounter random displays of sparkle hats, feathers, and fabrics tucked into old fixtures. Walls of ceiling-to-floor wooden shelves stand empty, and an unremarkable grid of drop-ceiling tiles draws the eyes upward.

In the center of the sales floor: a 60-year-old cash register atop the checkout counter, still in use.

Cohen was at first unfazed when approached this year with an offer from an agent representing Brickstone.

"Look," Cohen told the agent, "the building is not for sale."

But if there's anything he had learned through the years, "it's never say no, and always listen to what people have to say."

Cohen had said yes when he wanted to say no back in the 1980s, too. That's when his uncle and father asked that he leave his job as an accountant and help run the store he had left behind after college.

It seemed like a bad idea. But at least he would be working with his brother Robert - "he was the gentlest, kindest guy."

Within a few years, Robert was dead of cancer at 42.

"This is what I would describe as a life-altering event," Cohen said, the memory bringing back tears.

All others involved with the business have since died, too.

"I never imagined being in this office all alone," Cohen said.

In its own way, selling the building has been liberating. Keeping the business open, and rebuilding it as a higher-tech operation on Passyunk, has been an enlivening, if exhausting, prospect, he said.

Passyunk, meanwhile, is thrilled to have him.

"We have five blocks of independently owned businesses," said Renee Gilinger, executive director of the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District. "Baum's is a dream tenant."

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@Panaritism