After many years at 23rd & Fairmount, a neighborhood grocer is out and Italian is in. A new proposal for a BYOB Italian restaurant at the site of the former Garden Fresh which closed last fall, points to the changing tide in Fairmount, where it's continuing to get more expensive and it’s continuing to draw the interest of entrepreneurs.
Garden Fresh used to be where you could get quality deli cuts, sandwiches, service and wonderful day old loaves of bread for a buck. Now, according to Michael Klein, Chef Townsend “Tod” Wentz, previously of McCrossen's Tavern and currently building a restaurant on Passyunk Avenue, envisions the location as a charming Italian eatery. The neighborhood used to feature good Italian nearby at Illuminare. But that closed in 2011 and became La Calaca Feliz. So the cuisine matches a neighborhood need.
Still, it’s a shame to see the ma and pa grocer gone. Plans for a new Whole Foods development for 21st & Hamilton, which you can almost see from the former Garden Fresh, might account for some of the reason for the market closing. The sale of the building may have also been the reason. There’s another very long-time local grocer in Klein's Market at 24th Street.
If you thought Fairmount Ave. was developed, or redeveloped, well, new projects just keep popping up. Tela's Market recently opened at a former vacant lot at 19th & Fairmount and features residential units above. And back in November, Loonstyn Properties bought a collection of properties on the 2000 block of Fairmount, including buildings and lots. The buildings will be renovated and a couple of new six-unit structures will be built.
So it's building and buying along Fairmount, and soon it will be some new Italian as well.