Clothing stores, restaurants and pest control: This project celebrates the longtime business owners of 52nd St. in West Philly

Some histories are better heard than read.

A new oral history project called “Legacy on 52nd Street,” which features the voices of people and businesses from West Philly’s historic Black business corridor, makes that case.

The Enterprise Center, Rowhome Productions, and Urban Art Gallery collaborated and interviewed eight longtime business owners and community leaders along the street once referred to as “Black Main Street” about their businesses and the history of West Philadelphia.

All of the interviews are now available at the Enterprise Center’s website, Each interview is about five minutes long and is also available directly on the Enterprise Center’s SoundCloud page. “Legacy on 52nd Street” was originally released at the end of Black History Month and was featured in a short-term exhibit at Urban Art Gallery, featuring photo portraits of the business owners.

“I think that it’s so important for people to see the history and legacy of 52nd Street. I don’t know what better way to do that than to highlight these longstanding businesses who have seen so much change in all the time that they’ve been here,” said Daria Williams, senior director of community at the Enterprise Center.

The 52nd Street corridor was once referred to as “Black Main Street” because it was such a hub for West Philadelphia businesses, jazz clubs, theater, and more in the mid-20th century. The key criteria for the businesses chosen for this project were that they needed to have been operating on 52nd Street for at least 10 years, or otherwise be someone who has similarly been a longtime community figure.

It is an eclectic group of people and histories.

There is Yvonne Blake from Hakim’s Bookstore, which is the first and oldest African American bookstore in Philadelphia since Blake’s father opened it in 1959, as well as Dynamite Pest Control, currently owned by Richard Foreman Jr., whose own father taught him all about the extermination trade when he owned the business.

Gregorio Cojulun Jr., also known as Mr. Greg, is the president of Friends of Malcolm X Park. He told interviewers that decades ago, the land where the park now sits used to be a densely forested area that scared him as a kid.

The interview with Tedd and Miriam Hall, owners of the clothing store Babe, was a personal favorite of both Williams and Alex Lewis, the creative director and cofounder of Rowhome Productions, as the couple spoke about meeting for the first time on a SEPTA bus and bringing European fashion to Philly.

“It was framing it for people who are here and who are hungry to learn more about the area. But then also to give the longtime stakeholders, residents, business owners a chance to tell their story … to those folks and others to just celebrate this place,” Lewis said about the project.

Lewis has lived in this area for a dozen years, and originally approached the Enterprise Center with the idea for a historical audio project in 2020. He hopes that in the middle of today’s culture, with a constant stream of new content and disappearing media, there can be more space for telling the stories of people and places that are bedrocks of the community.

“As a resident of Philadelphia, seeking out this deeper relationship with the place around you, I think, is really important,” he said.

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