Northern Liberties retail boom: a dozen new stores to visit

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New small businesses are springing up like spring flowers at Northern Liberties.

Restaurants, shops and other businesses are moving into the neighborhood at a record pace, with more than a dozen newcomers just launched, opening soon or about to announce plans. There were also several winter additions.

Many businesses are the result of years of outreach and recruitment efforts, according to the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District, which was established 4 years ago in July 2018.

The area between Old Town and Fishtown is far from what it looked like half a century ago, when things were largely industrial. In recent decades, the neighborhood has become a booming neighborhood hot spot for new development.

This is accompanied by drastic changes in its demographics. Northern Liberties was listed in 2016 as a gentrified neighborhood by a Pew Charitable Trusts report, which noted an increase in median income between 2000 and 2014 in its two census tracts: 83% in the area below Poplar Street and 54% above. The neighborhood’s residential makeup also became less black and Hispanic during this time.

The developers are still on a tear. The neighborhood is on track to add more than 5,000 more residential units over the next two years, according to the NLBID, which could attract up to 10,000 new residents, doubling the neighborhood’s population.

There are also nearly 185,000 square feet of new retail development underway, according to the business district. Many of the new storefronts in the current boom are locally owned and operated.

From dim sum to dog daycare, here’s a rundown of what to look out for the next time you’re at Northern Liberties.

What it is: A restaurant run by two Rowan University graduates who moved to Philadelphia ten years ago and met when they became roommates. It adds Turkish cuisine options to the neighborhood’s thriving row of restaurants, with offerings ranging from döner to baba ganoush.

Address: 944 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: Pera opened in March and the full grand opening took place earlier this month, just in time for Northern Liberties Restaurant Week.

Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What: A cafe offering a variety of coffee drinks, as well as loose leaf tea and tea drinks. It also sells pastries from J’aime French Bakery and Cake & Joe.

Address: 716 N. 3rd Street

Opening details: The shop opened last month.

What it is: A new outpost of a seafood joint with two existing Northeast Philly locations. The NoLibs menu has not been released, but the other locations offer fried catfish, crab legs, lobster tail, wings and puppies.

Address: 180, avenue W. Girard

Opening details: Not announced yet

Find fried catfish, crab legs, lobster tail, wings and hush puppies in this third outpost of a Northeast Philadelphia favorite
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: Named after a portmanteau of “mochi” and “donut,” an American-Japanese fusion snack that the national chain says originated in Hawaii. It is one of three locations come to Philadelphia. In addition to fluffy rings made from rice flour, Mochinut will serve bubble tea and hot dogs covered in rice flour and fried.

Address: 809 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: The opening date of the NoLibs location is unclear. If you want to try one of the sweet treats, the store in the old town is operational.

What it is: A Jersey-based chain, founded by two Jersey Shore surf enthusiasts, that sells acai, dragon fruit and coconut bowls, as well as smoothies. Northern Liberties will house the chain’s third Philadelphia location in the former home of Bimini Juice Bar, which closed fall 2020.

Address: 807 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: Not announced yet

Mochinut opens right next to upcoming Playa Bowls, opening in former juice bar space
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A restaurant serving regional Chinese cuisine with existing locations in University City and Rittenhouse. The NoLibs Outpost offer lunch, dinner and bar service – plus, it will have outdoor seating, a first for any of its locations.

Address: 1214 North American Street

Opening details: There is no exact date set, although restaurateurs plan to open in late 2022 or early 2023, PhillyVoice reported.

What it is: Once upon a time, Ray Daly’s plastic-free and sustainability-focused business was based purely on a van, traveling between neighborhoods to bring things like “UNPaper towels”, bottleless shampoo bars and refills of shower gel to residents. The NoLibs location is its first physical store, but mobile events continue.

Address: 935 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: The brick-and-mortar store opened in mid-March and the grand opening celebration takes place on Earth Day weekend.

This boutique with a unique take on the most famous act in town sells clothing and decor for less than $100
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A shop selling women’s clothing, interior decoration and “pretty gifts” for less than $100 each.

Address: 215 Laurel Street West

Opening details: Open now, with a grand opening event scheduled for April 30.

What it is: Bikes by Design sells new custom bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes. They’ve built shop-buy bikes before, but they’ll also let you tell them what you want, creating a specialized frame-to-pedal fit. The store also offers bicycles.

Address: 1024 N. 3rd Street, Unit 401

Opening details: The store opened this winter, although its official opening is yet to come, according to NLBID spokesperson Kory Aversa.

Not all storefronts are on 2nd Street.  Bikes by Design is off North 3rd.
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A new daycare for dogs open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It allows owners access to a live stream to watch their puppies in the facility’s play areas, as well as “spa services” for an additional fee.

Address: 807 N. 3rd Street

Opening details: The company began meeting potential customers on April 16.

1040 Creative

What it is: An art center and gallery offering classes and clubs for everyone, from children to seniors. Classes in April include Drawing and Still Life Painting for adults, Art Journaling and Drinking for ages 21 and up, and “Introduction to Toy Design” for kids.

Address: 1040 N. 2nd St., Unit 301

Opening details: The art center has already opened its doors, offering a slate of classes during the month of April. His official grand opening takes place on Friday, May 6.

Dog daycare with a live stream to watch your pup
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn
  • According to the NLBID, an as-yet-unannounced “major new restaurant” is coming to North 2nd Street, but details are muted for now.
  • The former Blackbird Pizzeria space at 614 N. 2nd St. will be home to something new. Former Blackbird owner Mark Mebus mentioned in a February Instagram post that another vegan restaurant would take his place.
  • Another business is set to occupy 702 N. 2nd St., which once housed The Blind Pig.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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