In addition to the varied neighborhood and downtown shopping districts, Philadelphia is home to Antique Row, Fabric Row, and Jewelers’ Row, each offering unparalleled selections of their respective specialties and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Like most things in Philly, each of these “rows” has a unique history.
The tree-lined stretch of Pine Street concentrated between 9th and Broad Streets is a treasure trove of antiques stores and boutiques known as Antique Row. But the oldest, continuously-operating antiques district in the entire country has continually evolved. So while at least 15 antiques stores remain today, the area represents a diverse mix of the old and the new. It is now also home to a wide variety of furniture, home accessories, jewelry, stained glass, clothing, and collectibles stores just steps from one another on Pine Street.
Shops range from Kohn and Kohn (1112 Pine St., 215/923-0432), established in 1932, specializing in antique furniture, glass, and collectibles, to fully modern shops to those offering a mix of antique and modern items, like Halloween (1329 Pine St., 215/732-7711), an impressive jewelry shop packed tight with a mix of vintage and estate pieces and unusual modern and handcrafted gems. Antique Row is also part of the Washington Square West neighborhood, straddling the Midtown Village shopping district; so there are plenty of additional stores of all kinds along the nearby streets to the north, especially along 13th Street—home to everything from books, records, and cosmetics to gay-themed specialty stores.
At the turn of the 20th century, scores of Jewish immigrants settled in the southern outskirts of Center City—now South Philadelphia. The many skilled tailors and seamstresses among them were often forced to take jobs in sweatshops creating fine clothes for the upper class. Many sold goods in pushcarts on several blocks of South 4th Street below South Street; some eventually opened their own shops, and the area became known as Fabric Row. What remains is a vibrant and eclectic (if a bit run-down on the outside) community of fabric shops, along with a sprinkling of clothing and shoe boutiques, a gourmet market, and cafés. While the stores appear mostly the same on the outside and it is hard to know where to start, many locals have their favorites.
For creating clothing or home wares, B Wilk Fabrics (618 S. 4th St., 215/627-1146) has a vast selection of cotton, spandex, Lycra, rayon, silk, draperies, and faux fur; Marmelstein’s (760 S. 4th St., 215/925-9862) offers a comprehensive selection of decorative trimmings and drapery hardware; and the basement of Maxie’s Daughter (724 S. 4th St., 215/829-2226) offers a veritable fabric history of Philadelphia, with vintage textiles that haven’t seen the light of day for the better half of a century. If you don’t work with fabric already, the fabulous finds just may inspire you to sew your own curtains or reupholster that old, comfy chair.
Get your bling on, on Jewelers’ Row—the oldest and second-largest (after New York) diamond district in the country. Concentrated on a brick-paved stretch of Sansom Street between 7th and 8th Streets and continuing along 8th Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, Jewelers’ Row is home to more than 300 jewelry specialists, retailers, wholesalers, craftspeople, and traders, offering a staggering variety of diamonds, precious and semiprecious stones, platinum, pearls, watches, and more. The sky is the limit on prices, but with so much competition in such a small area, good deals can often be found. Retailers include large stores like Steven Singer Jewelers (739 Walnut St., 215/627- 3242) and smaller ones like Maryanne S Ritter (704 Sansom St., 215/922-4923), with many more that can be found at www.jewelersrowusa.com.
The row was established as a center for jewelers in the years 1860-1880, but its historical significance dates back even further. Originally named Carstairs Row for builder and architect Thomas Carstairs, the row was home to 22 look-alike dwellings built in 1799-1820 and considered the first row homes in the country. They provided affordable housing and initiated a widespread housing trend that remains prevalent throughout downtown Philadelphia and much of the country today.