I currently live in Philadelphia, specifically in the small, yet socially and culturally-thriving Northwest neighborhood of Manayunk, named a National Historic District in 1983. Consisting of dozens of small, winding, hilly one-way streets, dog parks, and a trendy main street, Manayunk for many serves as a “transition neighborhood” from suburban life into the City of Brotherly Love or whatever phase comes next for young twenty-somethings after graduating college.
The main draw point to Manayunk is not the steep streets that are treacherous in the winter or the maze of one-way streets, and it’s not just the social scene. It’s Main Street. Main Street Manayunk runs along the the banks of the Schuylkill River and the Manayunk Canal and Tow Path. The street itself is lined with charming store fronts, boutiques, upscale art galleries, dozens of restaurants and bars, fitness centers, and so much more. It is located only 15 miles from Center City and less than 10 miles from the Philadelphia Art Museum, and Manayunk bikers and runners are able to easily access the trail along Boat House Row and parts of the 1,800 acre Wissahickon Park.
Now it is easy to say a neighborhood is “up-and-coming” and since moving to Philadelphia, I have heard that term thrown around far too loosely: “Didn’t you hear? Fishtown is the new up-and-coming neighborhood”, “I was thinking of moving to Northern Liberties- it’s the new up-and-coming neighborhood”… etc. The reason I don’t like that term for Manayunk is because I believe it has already arrived and has settled in quite nicely.
Before this rave of all things Manayunk continues even farther though, I want to focus specifically on the local shopping experience here in Manayunk. As mentioned, Main Street in Manayunk provides a great variety of charming Victorian-stye storefront shops privately owned by local entrepreneurs, and to me personally, they are what make Manayunk as desirable a place to live as it is.
Anything you could possibly need or want can be found on Main Street. Local shops offer consignment clothing, gourmet kitchenware, beauty supplies, vintage records, jewelry, locally-made gifts, wine, exercise equipment and really anything else you can think of to buy. The local shop owners in Manayunk make up a small close-knit community, supporting and promoting and helping each other to succeed.
The best part of this style of shopping though is that the people selling these things take so much pride in what they are selling and in the shops that they own. There is such a significant difference in the shopping experience in a large department store versus a small locally-owned and owner-operated business. The level of personal attention is unmatched, and the experience is personal, and when you purchase something you can take pleasure in knowing that you are directly supporting not only that store but an entire community.
I could have gone to CVS for my spring Essie colors this week, but I went to Beans Beauty Store and Salon on Main Street instead. I could have gone to WalMart for a candle, but I purchased one from Petit Gourmand, and it was handmade by a local Philadelphia woman. I was going to go the easy way out for a gift and simply buy a bottle of wine from a PA Wine and Spirits, but I paired it with an original Philadelphia Wine Tote from The Little Apple.
In 2010, American Express decided to sponsor Small Business Saturday to help small local businesses achieve more exposure during the biggest shopping weekend of the year, Black Friday to Cyber Monday. This was like a dream come true for Manayunk, which is run almost entirely by small businesses. This past year in Manayunk, the neighborhood made the most of the opportunity and made the day an entire shopping experience with great deals at local restaurants and carolers walking up and down the street. The feeling of community and local support is just so strong in Manayunk that it is easy to get caught up in the spirit, and there is no negative to be found in that.
So next time there is something you need or want, consider shopping local. Supporting a local business supports an entire community, keeping it afloat and moving it forward.