PHILADELPHIA -- Ranging from hot crepes to "haute" clothes, hair care to hamburgers, five new businesses are opening in University City this fall, illustrating a surge in retail development near the University of Pennsylvania.
Now, folks on and around Penn campus can pick up gourmet take-out at Picnic, dine on classic American diner fare at the Philly Diner or indulge in the area hottest new food craze at Bonne Crepe. Or they can buy the latest in casual fashions at Smith Brothers and have their hair styled at Vog.
Building on the growth of retail development that started in 1998 with the construction of Sansom Common, the concentration of new openings shows a trend in a stimulated business climate west of Center City. Sansom Common, a 300,000-square-foot mixed retail district at 36th and Walnut streets, is now a hub of activity, featuring tables for al fresco dining and open-air musical performances.
"This concentration of retail development sends a strong signal that entrepreneurs want to operate in University City," said John Fry, Penn executive vice president. "There is a terrific market here, a supportive climate and network, and each new addition serves the campus community, as well as the local residents, while also contributing to a shopping and dining destination for the region."
Four of these enterprises selected University City sites for expansion of existing businesses, and one selected the area for its debut. Since January, University City also has seen the opening of The Left Bank, a luxury loft apartment building, and the FreshGrocer, a 32,000-square-foot grocery store.
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NEW BUSINESSES IN UNIVERSITY CITY
Picnic: 3133 Walnut St. (The Left Bank)
Owner and renowned Philadelphia chef Anne-Marie Lasher has created Picnic as a prepared-foods takeout shop with small indoor/outdoor dining areas. Lasher draws upon her extensive experience in some of Philadelphia most critically acclaimed restaurant kitchens, including Old City Fork, Pollo Rosso, White Dog Cafe and Magnolia Caf, to create imaginative menus prepared in an American bistro style. Open six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a daily-changing menu, Picnic offers home-baked goods, granola, fruit salad and yogurt in the mornings; made-to-order salads and sandwiches for lunch; and dinners prepared on the premises. Picnic also offers breads from Metropolitan Bakery, La Colombe coffee and gourmet snack food items as well as a variety of seasonal, organic produce.
Smith Brothers: 3661 Walnut St.
Smith Brothers is the region fastest growing retailer of women and men clothing such as jeans, T-shirts, jackets, sweaters and accessories. The new University City store is the company seventh. This funky, chic and trendy clothier carries brand names such as diesel, Buffalo and Kenneth Cole. Owned and operated by Wayne and Elisa Shulick, this 3,500-square-foot location will house the same up-to-date, cutting-edge lines as all other locations but with a slightly different merchandising concept to better fit the local market.
VOG: 3129 Walnut St. (The Left Bank)
This award-winning international salon is set in the ground floor of The Left Bank in an airy, post-industrial space with exposed beams and customized furnishings. Featuring a staff of award-wining stylists, it also carries a retail section stocked with a full range of branded hair-care products. Known for its personalized customer service and expert consultation, the salon offers a "check-up from the neck-up." Appointments are required. Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Bonne Crepe: 3101 Walnut St. (The Moravian Food Court)
The latest creative endeavor by Bitar, Philadelphia first family of Middle Eastern cuisine and owners of three award-winning restaurants, Bonne Crepe offers a wide range of sweet and savory crepes made to order in an open-air kitchen. Open for lunch a diner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Philly Diner: 3925 Walnut St.
The classic American diner has made its way to the Penn campus. Operated by local entrepreneur Hossein Elbanna, a veteran of the diner business in the Philadelphia area, the Philly Diner classic menu offers traditional diner food with a focus on great breakfasts. Its lunch and dinner menu features seafood, soups and other diner fare. Bakery items will also be available. Hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and ound the clock on Fridays and Saturdays.