Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Happened to Manny, Moe, and Jack?

42nd and Market isn't known for much. As University City seems to be challenging Center City for its title, its ambition ceases at 36th Street. Beyond that are parking lots, suburban pharmacies, and remnants of what once was.

While 42nd and Market is nothing special, it did own something special: a unique statue of the Pep Boys: Manny, Moe, and Jack. Pep Boys, originally Pep Auto Supplies, originated in Philadelphia at 63rd and Market almost a century ago. The original location is long gone, but it's 42nd Street shop was one of the city's most iconic.

So where did Manny, Moe, and Jack go? In 2012, Pep Boys was acquired by The Gores Group for about $1B, after which many locations closed, including the one on 42nd Street. The boys vanished.
One of the company's statues was donated to the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles but it's unclear where it came from. Could it have been the statue from 42nd and Market? Considering Philadelphia was the birthplace of Pep Boys, and one of the world's first automotive shops, it seems likely in its significance. 

It's fortunate that such a piece of history carries on in a museum dedicated to unique Americana. But it's unfortunate for Philadelphia to lose such an icon. I've said it before, Philadelphia is America's Gotham. We embrace defunct nostalgia. 

From the Divine Lorraine to the PSFS Building, to ghost signs and mosaics embedded in the sidewalks, Philadelphia is a narrative full of fictional business. We still refer to Macy's as Wanamaker's and Century 21 as Strawbridge and Clothier. The Pep Boys, slowly fading into the annals of history, is no exception to our appreciation for our robust history. Manny, Moe, and Jack deserve a prominent place in our city's public space.