On certain Wednesdays in the summer, South Street has certainly been the place to be.
The South Street Headhouse District’s inaugural biweekly initiative called the “Meet Me on South Street Night Market” has brought great food, vendors, music and games as a way to highlight the small businesses that thrive along the trendy stretch in South Philly.
Every other Wednesday, the party shifts to a different block. For the purpose of safety, It’s closed off to vehicles, but the good vibes are able to navigate freely.
“It’s really just about bringing back those vibes,” said Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, assistant director of the South Street Headhouse District. “If you feel safe and comfortable and are making memories, or even if you’re just strolling through on your way to something else, it just kind of changes your attitude about the entire place.”
On Aug. 30, it was the 600 block of South Street’s turn to strut its stuff. Businesses like Atomic Comics, Bon Kif Grill, The DreamEerie, Mercado De Latinas, Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop and other mom and pop shops enjoyed the extra foot traffic of residents and guests who took advantage of a beautiful late summer evening.
Other nearby businesses packed up some goods and set up tables along the block to make a few extra sales along the highlighted block.
Nicole Wiegand, who co-owns South Street Art Mart at 530 S. 4th St., said small festivals like South Street’s Night Market brought her back to her roots of opening a business with her wife Nicole Krecicki.
“This is old hat for my wife and I,” Wiegand said. “We started out just as vendors and selling our own artwork. We’ve been doing that for 15 years. Transitioning to brick and mortar was actually the opposite of what we were used to. This is just an extension of what we’ve always done. It’s very much in our wheelhouse.”
Wiegand and Krecicki set up a vending table with some overhead cover and happily greeted pedestrians strolling down the block. People could shop for unique items, play games like cornhole and washers, twirl a hula hoop or grab a bite from a variety of food trucks like Federal Donuts, Deke’s BBQ, Husky Jawn, Mom-Mom’s or the Little Sicilian on site. Restaurants on the block could take advantage of the great weather and set up tables outside their locations for additional dining.
“As a business district, we’re trying to boost the economy of the area, but a lot more needs to be done than just making it clean and safe to make that happen,” Johnston-Zimmerman said. “We have to really create a draw that brings people in and makes them want to come, an attraction of some kind that maybe they can’t find anywhere else.”
Local musicians set the tone and set the dance moves in motion. On other nights, different pop-ups based on the existing business on the block take center stage.
“This summer we wanted to feature each of the blocks and the different businesses on them and bring people back to the street in a fun way during the evenings,” Johnston-Zimmerman said. “The reception has been really good. Wednesday nights are great in the summer. This gives retail a bit of a boost mid-week, and people are always looking for things to do in the summer that are exciting and outdoors. There’s only two more Meet Me on South Street Night Markets remaining this season as Sept. 13 will feature the 500 block of South Street while the Sept. 27 market will highlight the 400 block of South Street. Festivities get going around 5 p.m. and are scheduled to wrap up at 9 p.m. Sometimes that’s a challenge.
“We go into the evening, and honestly it’s a little hard to shut it down once it kicks off,” Johnston-Zimmerman said.
It’s a tradition local vendors and guests are hoping returns next summer.
“I love that they’ve been doing these night markets,” Wiegand said. “I grew up coming to South Street and there’s this energy about this street. When people are on the street, interacting with the businesses and street fairs are happening, it’s electric.”