Daffy’s Reopens As Nordstrom Rack

Chestnut Street evolves -- again.


The line outside Nordstrom Rack on opening day, just before doors opened at 9am. | Photo by Tim Haas.

Discount retailer Daffy’s was in business for 20 years at 1700 Chestnut when it closed in 2012. Before that, the space was occupied by the independently owned department store Bonwit Teller, which I remember, from my childhood, as a wonderland of perfume mist and well-dressed ladies and hard-plastic name tags pinned to gray cardigans. Bonwit’s closed in 1990. A year prior to its closure, the Inquirer’s Susan Warner spoke to Ross Brightwell, who worked with the Chestnut Street Association, about what would happen if Bonwit’s left Chestnut Street.

…[Brightwell] said merchants would try to assure that another high-quality tenant would move into the space being vacated by Bonwit. “It’s very sad,” he said. “When you lose a name like Bonwit Teller, it will just reinforce this perception that Center City Philadelphia is on a downward spiral.”

Bonwit Teller—the store that preceded Daffy’s—shortly before the discount retailer moved in. | Photo via PhillyHistory.org

Daffy’s bought the building in 1992, and Center City Philadelphia did not spiral downward, though it was sad to see one of the last independently owned department stores close. As with Century 21’s new store on Market Street, which opened this week, the 1700 Chestnut Daffy’s was the chain’s first venture outside of its native New York.

I can’t speak to the lamentations that accompanied Bonwit Teller’s closure, but when Daffy’s was about to close, the keening and wailing was profound. I myself wrote at the time that Daffy’s embodied democracy. Seriously.

But all that’s over now. Nordstrom Rack has transformed the space that once yielded so many summer dresses and ill-fitting winter hats to my closet. It now occupies three floors and, at least this morning, a full block of Chestnut Street, where crowds were waiting in line to get in.

More on the Nordstrom Rack opening at our sister site, Shoppist, which knows from fashion and never — not ever — wears an ill-fitting winter hat.