Introverted Buildings in Philadelphia
Holiday Thriftway (originally Penn Fruit), Frankford Avenue and Pratt Street
I feel the need to document every barrel-roofed supermarket I see. I know it’s just a matter of time…
This was originally built as one in the Penn Fruit grocery store chain, a company that got it’s start at 52nd and Market in the late 1920s, grew to 80 stores by the 1970s, just before it was killed off in a price war with bigger supermarket chains. Penn Fruit co-founder James Cooke wrote about its demise in Philadelphia Magazine in the late 1970s. His article was titled “How Penn Fruit Checked Out.” By then, anyone and everyone living in this area instantly recognized the distinctive vaulted roof, the cool font of the sign and the jaunty (fruity?) colors of the market interiors.
It’s surprisingly intact–from the days when people were loyal to one store and went “grocery-shopping” once a week. That low, serpentine wall on the left continues around the side of the building, broken only by the entrance/exit doors. The “fruity” stripes are repeated on the columns. Who would build with this kind of excess now? So much glass, so much space to heat! It might seem like a big, empty (wasteful) expanse in the front, but you need that visual ‘running start’ to fully take in the design.
My parents used to shop in this store when I was a kid and it was still a Penn Fruit. I used to stand and marvel at the large, curved ceiling and think that it was the biggest place I had ever been in. Today, I live around the corner and when I go in there it doesn’t seem as big anymore. But I still catch myself occasionally staring at that ceiling….
Though I don’t remember this store (not having lived in Northeast Philly), when I was a kid in the 60’s I remember my family shopping at a Penn Fruit in Center City; the southeast corner 19th & Market of all places. It’s facade was brick but it had the same huge vaulted roof design. Today it would be considered a very inefficient use of interior space. But it made the inside feel very expansive and inviting.
I like the Penn Fruit store with its arched ceilings, but do not like the unimproved decor inside which is full of obtacles designed to block shoplifters from leaving without paying. I feel like a loser and a bum on welfare when I buy food there instead of a like a customer with money to spend due to the attitudes of the security people with jaded eyes. Looking on it from the Frankford Terminal (modernist new design), I can see the arched roof does need to be replaced and a lot of interior work needs to be done but the store is on borrowed time and I am surprised that a chain like CVS has failed to snap it up to convert to a drug store is a busy location. CVS would score points by making good use of the arched roof to have half of it run as a food market and the other half as a drug store.
I also remember going to the Center City Penn Fruit as a child. Inside there were colorful stylized 2-dimensional figures attached to the walls (what is that called?), representing butchers, bakers, farmers, etc. I don’t remember if the arched ceiling extended to the facade.
i work for penn fruit after school and weekend it was a great place to be
can any one tell me what happen to the manger of the glenolden store
The architecture of the Penn Fruit buildings make it _the only_ bad ass supermarket. You felt powerful shopping there -you could take in its entire bounty at a glance. It was a soaring, semi-religious experience.
I started to work in this store in June of 1955 while going to high school. I was sixteen years old. After high school I went into the army . I got out and spent my entire career in the retail food business. The things that I learned with Penn Fruit lead me to a successful career.
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