Northern Liberties retail boom: A dozen new shops to visit

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New small businesses are popping up like spring flowers in Northern Liberties.

Restaurants, shops, and other enterprises are coming to the neighborhood at a record pace, with over a dozen newcomers just launched, opening soon, or about to announce their plans. There were several wintertime additions, too.

A lot of the businesses are the result of years-long outreach and recruitment efforts, according to the 4-year-old Northern Liberties Business Improvement District, which formed in July 2018.

The zone between Old City and Fishtown is a far cry from what it looked like half a century ago, when things were largely industrial. Within the last few decades, the neighborhood has become a fast-growing hot spot for new development.

That’s come with stark changes to its demographics. Northern Liberties was in 2016 classified as a gentrified neighborhood by a Pew Charitable Trusts report, which noted a jump in median income between 2000 and 2014 across both its census tracts: 83% in the area below Poplar Street, and 54% above. The residential makeup of the neighborhood also became less Black and Hispanic during that time.

Developers are still on a tear. The neighborhood is on track to add over 5,000 more residential units in the next two years, according to the NLBID, which could draw up to 10,000 new residents — doubling the neighborhood population.

There’s also nearly 185,000 square feet of new commercial development in the works, the biz district says. Many of the new storefronts in the current boom are locally-owned and operated.

From dim sum to doggie daycare, here’s a rundown of what to look for the next time you’re in Northern Liberties.

What it is: A restaurant run by two Rowan University grads who moved to Philly a decade ago and met when they became roommates. It adds Turkish cuisine options to the neighborhood’s thriving restaurant row, with offerings from döner to baba ganoush.

Address: 944 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: Pera soft-opened in March, and the full grand opening happened earlier this month, just in time for Northern Liberties Restaurant Week.

Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What: A cafe offering a variety of coffee-based drinks, as well as loose-leaf tea and tea drinks. It also sells baked goods from J’aime French Bakery and Cake & Joe.

Address: 716 N. 3rd St.

Opening details: The shop opened last month.

What it is: A new outpost of a seafood joint with two existing Northeast Philly locations. The NoLibs menu hasn’t been posted, but the other locations offer fried catfish, crab legs, lobster tail, wings, and hush puppies.

Address: 180 W. Girard Ave.

Opening details: As yet unannounced

Find fried catfish, crab legs, lobster tail, wings, and hush puppies at this third outpost of a Northeast Philly fave
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: Named for a portmanteau of “mochi” and “donut,” a Japanese-American fusion snack the national chain says originated in Hawaii. This is one of three locations coming to Philadelphia. In addition to the chewy rice flour-based rings, Mochinut will serve bubble tea and hot dogs covered in rice flour and fried.

Address: 809 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: The opening date for the NoLibs location is unclear. If you’re wanting to try one of the sweet treats, though, the Old City store is up and running.

What it is: A Jersey-based chain, founded by two Jersey Shore surfing enthusiasts, that sells açaí, pitaya, and coconut bowls, plus smoothies. Northern Liberties will house the chain’s third Philly location at the former home of Bimini Juice Bar, which closed in fall 2020.

Address: 807 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: As yet unannounced

Mochinut is opening right next to forthcoming Playa Bowls, opening in the former juice bar space
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A restaurant serving regional Chinese cuisine with existing locations in University City and Rittenhouse. The NoLibs outpost will offer lunch, dinner, and bar service — plus, it will have outdoor seating, a first for any of its locations.

Address: 1214 N. American St.

Opening details: There’s no exact date set, though the restaurateurs expect to open in late 2022 or early 2023, PhillyVoice reported.

What it is: Once upon a time, Ray Daly’s sustainability-focused, plastic-free business was based only out of a van, traveling between neighborhoods to bring things like “UNPaper towels,” bottleless shampoo bars, and body wash refills to residents. The NoLibs location is its first brick-and-mortar shop, but the mobile events continue.

Address: 935 N. 2nd St.

Opening details: The brick-and-mortar store opened in mid-March, and the grand opening celebration is happening Earth Day weekend.

This boutique with a unique take on the city's most famous number sells clothing and decor for under $100
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A boutique selling women’s clothing, home decor, and “pretty gifts” for under $100 each.

Address: 215 W. Laurel St.

Opening details: Open now, with a grand opening event set for April 30.

What it is: Bikes by Design sells new, custom-built bicycles, from road bikes to mountain bikes. They have already-built bikes for purchase in store, but they’ll also let you tell them what you want, creating a specialized fit from frame to pedals. The shop also services bicycles.

Address: 1024 N. 3rd Street, Unit 401

Opening details: The shop opened this winter, though its formal grand opening is still to come, per NLBID spokesperson Kory Aversa.

Not all the storefronts are on 2nd Street. Bikes by Design is off North 3rd.
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn

What it is: A new dog daycare open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It allows owners access to a livestream to watch their pups in the facility’s play spaces, as well as “spa services” for an additional charge.

Address: 807 N. 3rd St.

Opening details: The business started meet-and-greets with potential customers on April 16.

1040 Creative

What it is: An art center and gallery offering classes and clubs for everyone from children to seniors. April classes include still life drawing and painting for adults, art journaling and drinks for people 21+, and “Intro to Toy Design” for kids.

Address: 1040 N. 2nd St., Unit 301

Opening details: The art center already soft opened, offering a slate of classes over the course of April. Its official grand opening is happening Friday, May 6.

Doggie daycare with a livestream to watch your pup
Asha Prihar / Billy Penn
  • A yet-to-be-announced “major new restaurant ” is coming to North 2nd Street, according to the NLBID, but the details are hush-hush as of now.
  • The former Blackbird Pizzeria space at 614 N. 2nd St. will house something new. Former Blackbird owner Mark Mebus mentioned in a February Instagram post that another vegan restaurant would take its place.
  • Another business is set to occupy 702 N. 2nd St., once home to The Blind Pig.