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5147 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, PA

Original Tenant: Penn Fruit
Address: 5147 Frankford Ave, Frankford, Philadelphia, PA
Opened: 1955
Closed: 1978
Later Tenants: Holiday Thriftway (ca. 1979-2016)
Photographed: July 2021
There are a few supermarkets out there, current and former, that are absolute classics that every supermarket fan knows about. This is surely in the top 5 best-known current and former supermarkets in this area (maybe the east coast?). In 1955, the Penn Fruit company built a roughly 16,000 square foot arched-roof supermarket at Frankford and Pratt in Philadelphia. To them at the time, it was not a particularly remarkable location -- just another store of the type they were building across the region at the time.
The Penn Fruit closed in 1978 and was replaced shortly thereafter by Holiday Thriftway, which had a few locations around Philadelphia at various times. And at some point, it was expanded to just under 28,000 square feet with an additional 6,000 square feet of retail in the form of a small strip of stores just out of frame to the right above, running perpendicular to the front wall of the store.
In 2016, Thriftway/Shop n Bag went bankrupt and most of the stores were absorbed into Retail Marketing Group, a local IGA affiliate. At that time, this store and a few others continued operating as Thriftway under an arrangement with C&S Wholesale Grocers, who took on the Thriftway and Shop n Bag names (through their subsidiary Surry Licensing, which today licenses the names to Allegiance, the cooperative behind Foodtown, Pathmark, Green Way, and others).
But by the end of the year, Holiday Supermarkets declared bankruptcy and closed their remaining two locations -- this one and a store roughly 3.5 miles north between Rhawnhurst and Fox Chase. That store briefly became Gary's IGA with RMG before closing and becoming a Dollar Tree. The 5147 Frankford store, however, remained vacant for a few reasons.
For one, the property was not owned by the supermarket owners, nor by a real estate developer. Instead, it was (and still is) actually owned by Rite Aid, who had hoped to demolish the supermarket building and construct new retail with themselves as an anchor on the property. Also complicating matters was the fact that the site was designated as a historical property after a long fight over the property's fate. But residents of this neighborhood weren't exactly on board with the preservation plan, and in 2020, the building was approved by the city to be demolished in the hopes of sparking redevelopment at this site as a transit hub.
And based on these 2021 pictures, it's not hard to see why residents of the area favor the building being demolished. As mentioned in the articles linked above from WHYY (which you should definitely read), this building was not a particularly special Penn Fruit when it was built, and it was not particularly well-constructed. The building materials were not intended to last for this long, 45 years after Penn Fruit went under and nearly 70 years after it was constructed. The property is completely abandoned now, with the majestic glass arched front wall covered by these panels. The parking lot and much of the building is overgrown, and vegetation was even making its home on the roof of the store.
The parking lot was blocked off with concrete blocks, and the building itself was completely boarded up. In other words, there's unfortunately no way we're seeing inside this building these days. But if you want to know what it looked like when it was in business, you're in luck! David from Groceteria visited in 2010 and captured some incredible pictures of the store's interior, which you can see here. (Just hit the right arrow or right arrow key on your keyboard to take a tour of the store.)
In fact, I was surprised to find the store still standing by 2021, five years after it closed and a year after its demolition was approved. I'm not sure, unfortunately, whether the store is still standing today, though.
As we can see, there was no attempt at preserving or in any way maintaining the property in the years after Holiday closed, which I assume would've been the responsibility of Rite Aid as the property owner. Maybe they wanted to wait until they were given a solid answer on whether they could demolish the building.
Anyway, I'm very glad to have gotten these images before the store came down for sure! Countless grocery enthusiasts have photographed the store over the years, but I'm fairly certain I'm the only one who's returned following Holiday's closure. At least I haven't seen any other such photos circulating in the usual places online.
The sole remaining Holiday Thriftway sign on the building. You can see where there used to be a sign on the front of the store to the left of the arch, where only the posts remain.
As we can see, the property's maintenance has been exactly zero in the last few years, as I said. The parking lot looks like it wasn't in the greatest shape in the years before Holiday closed, anyway.
And here we see the loading docks that were built out of the back of the building, but after the initial store was built. I mean, looking at the store from a subjective point of view, all indications suggest it was a very high-volume store. And why not? Great location, once a modern and impressive store with all the latest features...
The huge parking lot, significant expansions, and surprisingly long lifespan of this store suggests that it was in fact quite successful at one time. I'm fairly certain, though, that the decor shown in the pictures linked above (which stayed on the walls until the store closed in 2016) was original to Penn Fruit, though (1) likely repainted and (2) maybe not the original decor of the store, but certainly installed by Penn Fruit prior to their closure.
Now let's take a look at the incredible signage remaining around the perimeter of the property.
These signs are mostly original to Penn Fruit, with only minor attempts to cover the Penn Fruit name. In fact, the board across the sign seen here suggests there may have been another sign (likely with Holiday Thriftway logos) mounted over this one, instead of in its frame.
Here's more suggestions that the Penn Fruit signage was simply covered up, not removed, when Holiday came in.
A closeup of this incredible sign!
I'd wager that the Customer Parking sign here is newer than the others, probably installed by Holiday at some point. And as for the attempts to cover Penn Fruit...
Well, that's one way to do it. I hope you enjoyed this post, and while it's extremely sad to see the store in this condition, I am also incredibly happy that I got to preserve it while it was still in existence. If today's store is a historical supermarket that's been neglected over the years and now sits in disrepair, let's see something very different tomorrow -- a historical supermarket that's been fixed up several times and just finished its latest renovation, across at the western side of Frankford. That'll be tomorrow on The Market Report!

Comments

  1. I can confirm that as of this afternoon, this store is still standing. I only went past the front facing out onto Frankford Ave, so I don't know if anything has changed back there, but the building is definitely still there.

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  2. Thank you for this superb blog post. Surprisingly, I have never heard of this supermarket prior to you telling me about it.

    It is depressing to see such a historic building in such sad shape. This building is on my top three list of closed supermarkets that were/are in such sorry condition; the other two buildings on that list are the Centennial A&P on Spruce Street in Newark and the now-demolished Clementon Acme. (There are obviously other closed supermarket buildings in terrible shape, but I would have to say that the three aforementioned stores are the worst, saddest, and creepiest amongst the buildings that I am aware of.)

    --A&P Fan

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    1. I'd like to add a few comments to what I wrote above:

      *I love the Penn Fruit decor which the Holiday Thriftway had. It was so lively and colorful. In a way, it was as if somebody looked at the packaging of a Life Savers "Five Flavor" package and was inspired to make a supermarket decor package that was reminiscent of it. A&P also had a "colorful" decor package (albeit one that was considerably toned down when compared to what Penn Fruit had) which I'm guessing was introduced at around the time the "Sunrise" oval logo made its chainwide debut in February 1976. Remnants of this A&P decor package are still present at the Associated Supermarket in Great Neck, NY (which you profiled). (The A&P at 12 Queen Anne Road in Chatham, MA--which opened sometime between 1955 and 1959 and was basically a Centennial, though it did not have the triangular peak--had this decor package until it closed when the chain pulled out of Cape Cod in 2003.)

      *As I mentioned above, this supermarket, the Newark A&P, and Clementon Acme, were/are the former supermarket buildings in the worst, saddest, and creepiest shape (IMO). However, the decline of this Penn Fruit is the by far the most depressing of any former supermarket that I'm aware of. Though I hate to see a former Centennial in such bad shape, it isn't hard (in many parts of the country) to find a fairly well-preserved Centennial. The Clementon Acme's decline is even less depressing, because for starters, the "33M" Acme store design isn't as iconic as the Centennial A&P design. (Of course, the Clementon Acme building was originally a ShopRite and then a Pathmark, but Acme put the familiar 33M awning on the structure and did a good job of making me think that Acme was the building's original occupant.) And though well-preserved 33M stores aren't as common as well-preserved Centennials, there are still enough of them in existence. In contrast to those two stores, it is very hard to find a well-preserved Penn Fruit building. (Do you know of any still in existence?) The store was truly historic and beautiful, and its interior and exterior were still in great shape in those 2010 photos. The building was probably in similar shape when the Holiday Thriftway closed in 2016, so the structure's decline happened at a rapid pace. This quick decline combined with the extreme rarity of a beautiful and historic building are why the deterioration of this former Penn Fruit/Holiday Thriftway is the most depressing of any former supermarket I can think of.

      --A&P Fan

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