For a century Market East thrived, serving Philadelphia's diverse community. It was America's Main Street, its success waxing and waning. But then Strawbridge and Clothier was purchased by Macy's, closed, and Market East was declared dead.
Macy's retained the Wanamaker Building and not wanting to compete with itself, relinquished the historic Strawbridge and Clothier building. The Wanamaker Building is certainly the more significant of the two, but the Strawbridge building on Market East was Strawbridge's historic flagship location.
Rumors of casinos and condos circulated for years until it was finally turned into a dull office building. For now the ground floor is occupied by the Franklin Flea Market, a temporary winter market that will undoubtedly be one of those places only truly appreciated by history, like Center City in the 90s or McGlinchey's.
The latest rumor is that Food Network's celebrity chef, Mario Batali and his colleagues are eyeing the building's retail space for Eataly, a Gourmet Italian grocery store started in New York.
With many Center City residents asking for a grocery store, Eataly may be one solution. There's no doubt that market research pointed Eataly to DiBruno's apparent interest in a Ben Franklin House location as well as the Reading Terminal Market, making Strawbridge's a perfect location for competition.
Grocery shopping is different for urbanites. Although Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (for some reason) serve their purpose, many city folks don't simply go to a big box grocery stores on Sunday afternoon. They grab things on their way home to work, selecting various items from one vendor or one shop, moving to the next.
Eataly provides this opportunity, particularly near DiBruno Brothers and Reading Terminal Market on the path from Center City to Washington Square, Society Hill, and the emerging Callowhill.
Of course the biggest question for Eataly if it decides to open here is, will they sell wine?