The chicken fryers are cold and the signs are dark at Delilah's, the signature soul-food stands at Reading Terminal Market since 1984 and at 30th Street Station since 1993.

The stands are closed, apparently as a result of a bankruptcy case in New Jersey, where founder Delilah Winder lives and bases her business. Winder did not return messages left at her office and on her cell phone Tuesday.

Her attorneys indicate in court filings that her rents had been paid through March.

Hard times have befallen the entrepreneur whose macaroni and cheese - made with seven cheeses (plus Velveeta) - was hailed nationally by talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey in a show dubbed "best of the best."

In a recent bankruptcy court filing, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania claimed that Winder and her company, Southern Girl Inc., owed $840,227.73.

Last year, Winder filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, which allows reorganization. The company listed assets of up to $50,000 and debts of $500,000 to $1 million. Recently, creditors, including her 30th Street Station landlord Amtrak, petitioned to move the case to Chapter 7, effectively dissolving the business.

If the closings are permanent, they would be an ignoble end to a mainstay. Winder, a single mother, started the Reading Terminal stand, on the prime aisle facing 12th Street, with $1,000, she told an interviewer. The market was the site of a 2007 mac-and-cheese challenge by chef Bobby Flay for his Throwdown show on Food Network. Though Flay won, that didn't matter. Crowds flocked there anyway.

Reading Terminal Market manager Paul Steinke called Winder "one of the icons of the market. When you talk about merchants who have brought positive attention to the market, Delilah is right up there. We're pulling for her to make the most of a negative situation."

Winder's biography says she left a career as a business analyst to open the Terminal stand. At one point, she had six stands, including two in supermarkets, and a restaurant called Bluezette in Old City.

She was named business owner of the year in 1999 by the Philadelphia chapter of National Association of Women Business Owners.