52nd Street vendors suspicious of city’s effort to revitalize their West Philly shopping corridor.
A street vendor himself for 30 years, Abdulaziz says the vendors on 52nd are tough enough to weather the storm until then. “I vended for many years in different parts of Philadelphia without a canopy and I made a living. The canopy added a certain uniqueness and convenience, and it became part of your makeup and your business. Losing it was like losing an advantage … But you get over it in time. It’s not easy, but we’re not going anywhere.”
Though more of a pipe dream than anything, Postley hopes the neighborhood will band together and pressure the city to install new canopies. It’s for everyone’s benefit, he says, and would at least symbolize the community’s desire to resist gentrification. “I love this neighborhood. It’s my neighborhood. But people around here gotta open their eyes. They already got one foot in the door.”
Dow says he gets it. “I grew up in that community and went shopping there. I bought my shell tops [Adidas] right there. I continue to shop there. It is not our interest to remove the character of the neighborhood. But with progress comes change. There might be some people who won’t be as happy about it as others, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a thriving commercial corridor that more people will be comfortable coming into.”
A few days after that sunny afternoon in West Philly, a steady rain pounds 52nd Street. There’s hardly anyone out on the sidewalks, shoppers or vendors. But there’s Postley, huddled under a store awning near his clear-plastic-covered tables, a sour look on his face as he scans left and right for customers. “We’ve invested our lives right here, building up something from the ground you can call your own,” he says. “Even if it’s not a Sunoco or whatever, it’s our store. It’s a chance to make it, and then they take everything away and they leave you with nothin’.”