The landscape in this area may look generally the same, but some things around Rittenhouse Square have changed in the last ten years--not all for the better. Here are some of the ones that have affected our lives most. (And yes, I do note how many of them are food-related. You don't think anyone in my house cooks anymore, do you?)
1. The IHOP on Walnut Street is now Cosi. Who benefits from this? When Diana was born (in 1999), there was someplace we could take her that was centrally located, had highchairs, and was noisy enough that we weren't embarrassed. By the time Eva was born, there wasn't. And I bet the 16-to-20-yr-olds are pretty cranky about not having anyplace to go that's cheap and open late. On top of which, the coffee at Cosi is so bad.
2. The Diner on the Square (19th and Spruce) is now Marathon on the Square. See above. Remember meeting people for brunch there on Sunday morning? At 10:45, you had your choice of tables. At 11:00, you'd wait 45 minutes to be seated at all. There used to be complaints that the food was overpriced--but it was still a real diner.
3. Del Colle Italian Grocer appeared in the 222 W. Rittenhouse building, and then disappeared about a year ago. The sandwiches were great, and now there's no takeout prepared food to be had between Rittenhouse Grocer (18th and Spruce) and Bacchus (23rd and Spruce).
4. Rago's is gone. Joe Rago had a cheese, produce, and abuse shop on 20th between Spruce and Locust (the location is now part of D'Angelo's). The quality of the food you bought depended on whether Joe liked you or not, but he sure packed a lot in there. The Kims across the street at Maxx's are trying to pick up the slack.
5. The General Store is gone. After 40 years in the same place.
6. William H. Allen Bookseller isn't on Walnut Street anymore. After Mr. Allen died, the employees moved the shop out to Sharon Hill. Still one of the best sources for used, rare, and antiquarian scholarly books; just harder to browse.
7. Betsy Johnson becomes Rindelaub's becomes American Pie becomes the Pad Thai Shack. Now here's one that's a big improvement, in my opinion. Fast, fresh, delicious food on 18th Street: while I'm at it, let's hear it for Le Bus and Paninoteca as well. But on the opposite side of the street, it's a different story: because those buildings are slated for demolition, Rindelaub's lost its lease and then couldn't survive in its new location; Lombardi's closed its only non-New York location; Perry Milou's gallery moved around the corner and then went . . . does anyone know where Perry Milou's gallery went?
8. Everything on the 20XX block of Locust stays the same, except where it doesn't. Niederkorn, the silver shop, is still in its spot to our east; Moennig, the violinmaker, is still to the west, with Julius Scissor; we still look out across the street at Dr. Balderston, the dentist. On the other hand, the Sande Webster Gallery had to relocate to Walnut Street when the owners of the building decided to retool it as a single-family home, Anita’s Touch became Pooch, and the travel agency on the corner at 21st gave way to Hello, World--which in turn became Doggie Style, just this week.
9. On 20th, the Woolsack becomes Santa Fe Burrito Co. becomes Caffe Costa Diva. Bring back the burritos, please.
10. Chestnut Street. Somewhere in the last two years, Chestnut Street went from being a place that I thought was too iffy to consider moving, to a place I couldn't possibly afford. Casual Corner becomes the Continental?? Who could have imagined?
I'm told that the average new business fails within the first three years. Almost none of these were that new. I'm as pleased as anyone else with all the cool new places (not that I ever get to most of them), but let's take a moment to acknowledge that change has a cost.