The 10 Best Philadelphians » Best Philadelphians: Marcie Turney & Valerie Safran
Marcie Turney & Valerie Safran
The empresses of the Gayborhood laugh when they talk about opening their shop Open House. That was 10 years ago, and there they were, selling quirky kitchenware and throw pillows on a block whose biggest draw was a showing of Dawson’s Crack at the gay-porn Samson Cinema. They closed shop at six every night, when the streets emptied.
The business story here is impressive: how, after the bank refused their loan request, they started Open House on Val’s credit card; how she paid the card off within the year; how they then opened Mexican hot spot Lolita, with chef Marcie (left) in the kitchen; how that snowballed into a nearby grocery store and three more restaurants, another boutique and a chocolate shop. Now Food & Wine writes about them.
More impressive, though, is this: In a city where what has been usually dictates what will be, in a neighborhood that nobody else wanted or cared about, two women came in and breathed change all over everything. There was no grand vision—it was just that it was their block, and they had ideas. Then Stephen Starr’s El Vez came; so did Capogiro. And suddenly, their unloved, unlovely swath of 13th Street wasn’t just the center of Philly; it was the heart. “What Marcie and Val have been able to accomplish, in such a short amount of time, is astounding,” Starr says.
Val simply says this: “We’re neighborhood people. And that’s what Philly is: neighborhoods. That’s why this all works.” —Christine Speer Lejeune