Blocks We Love: 743-772 South 4th Street

Zebra stripes, purple polka dots and snake skin are not patterns one expects to see on the brick and stone streets of Philadelphia. However, on a part of South 4th Street known as Fabric Row, rolls of brightly colored cloths stand out like the flags of this historically independent-minded community.

 

Stretching down South 4th Street from Bainbridge to Christian Streets, Fabric Row is an ever-changing commercial corridor that for over a century has hosted independent entrepreneurs and artisans. While the roots of the community go as far back as the founding of Philadelphia, Fabric Row as it is today was developed by Jewish textile merchants at the turn of the 20th century and was once home to countless bulk sellers, tailors and other related businesses.

 

The slice of Fabric Row between Fitzwater and Catharine Streets is an excellent example of this community’s evolving nature. Home to more traditional textile shops than any other block of Fabric Row, in recent years the street has seen the growth of quirky boutiques, a café and other independent stores. And while not every storefront is occupied, this block’s growing success is likely a sign that the area’s location – near enough to bustling South Street to attract visitors but far from that strip’s notoriously-rowdy crowds – will remain a key factor in Fabric Row’s continued development.

 

New independent businesses like Red Hook Coffee & Tea share South 4th Street with older fabric shops.
New independent businesses like Red Hook Coffee & Tea share South 4th Street with older fabric shops.

New independent businesses like Red Hook Coffee & Tea share South 4th Street with older fabric shops.

Recently though, a tragic event tested this community’s resolve: on April 6th, 2013 a fire at the corner of South 4thand Fitzwater cost a emergency responder his life and destroyed the generations-old Jack B. Fabrics store. While this community continues to mourn, it is also looking towards the future, hoping to rebuild and shape a space that truly represents the best of this historic and vibrant commercial corridor.

 

The future of the 743-772 block of South 4th Street, and indeed all of Fabric Row, looks bright. Queen Village has become an increasingly popular place for urban professionals to settle down and start families; these savvy urbanites are just the kind of consumers who actively support the local, independently-run businesses that for a century have found a home on Fabric Row. Strollers may have replaced pushcarts, but this block will continue to represent Philadelphia’s independent spirit.