The Far Northeast No Longer Smells Like Cookies

Mondelēz International shut the old Nabisco building in Far Northeast Philadelphia last week. The company is looking for a buyer.

The Northeast Philly Nabisco building

(Image via Google Street View)

I grew up off Chalfont Drive in Far Northeast Philadelphia. It’s not a part of the city many of my friends now have ever heard of. Even growing up, no one knew the name of my section. Even I’m not sure of the name. It shows up in real estate sections as things like Pennswood Park, but growing up I’d have to say, “Near Modena Park, but definitely not Modena Park.” Google now lists the section as Modena Park, and I simply say I grew up “near what was then called Franklin Mills.”

I liked where I grew up. It was certainly suburban-style living — I grew up on a loop street, and there were several cul-de-sacs in my neighborhood — but I lived near a playground and could walk to the strip mall or Franklin Mills. There were always plenty of kids around. And there was one thing that brought all of us in Northeast Philly, from Parkwood to Somerton to to Normandy to Modena Park to Pennswood Park (or whatever), together: The Far Northeast often smelled like cookies.

You’d walk out your door in the morning and it’d smell like chocolate. Or Oreos. Or just the delicious smell of cookie batter. It came from the Nabisco building at 12000 Roosevelt Boulevard. Last week, the plant — now owned by Mondelēz International — ceased making cookies.

Growing up, people who worked for Nabisco really seemed to enjoy working at the Nabisco plant. You’d occasionally meet people who just loved talking about cookies. “Can’t you get your kid a decent cookie?” a Nabisco worker once asked my father upon seeing me eating a snack from Keebler.

Mondelēz told the Inquirer the plant is currently being cleaned and closed, and that the company is looking for a buyer. Production is being moved to newer plants in Fair Lawn, N.J., and Richmond, Va. Hundreds of Philadelphia workers are now out of a job.

The building wasn’t even the Nabisco building anymore. Philip Morris bought Nabisco in 2003, merged it with its Kraft unit, and eventually spun off the company. A Kraft sign replaced the Nabisco sign at the top of the building. A sign on The Boulevard still calls an access road to the plant “Nabisco Dr.” Kraft then split into a U.S. grocery division and an international snack foods division, with the snack division getting the new Mondelēz name. The Kraft sign was removed from the top of the building sometime later.

Mondelēz, which recently said it had found an innovative process to make chocolate heat-resistant, made more than $3.92 billion in profit in 2013. The company is considering eliminating hundreds of jobs at a Chicago plant, but said it was not closing the bakery there.

The Far Northeast smelling like cookies was one of Philadelphia’s great features. You’d be having a bad day, come home and the entire neighborhood would smell like cookies, and suddenly you wouldn’t be having a bad day anymore. One can only hope the plant is sold, and the people who worked there can find new jobs.