Ten years ago this month, Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney popped open the door of Lolita, a Mexican BYOB on 13th Street between Chestnut and Sansom.
The two women, who had a home-furnishings shop across the street called Open House, were sold by a sweetheart deal from their landlord, Tony Goldman (who died two years ago). The neighborhood, already home to Capogiro and El Vez on opposite corners of 13th and Sansom, was on the rise.
Ten years later, the neighborhood is the most restaurant-rich of anywhere east of Broad Street, with more recent arrivals such as Zavino, The Corner, Sampan, Green Eggs, Indeblue and Nomad Roman. Safran and Turney built an empire. In addition to Barbuzzo and Jamonera, a grocery store called Grocery and a gift shop called Verde (plus a candy company) on the same block, last year they opened Little Nonna's two blocks south.
But you'll notice that all of these newcomers have liquor licenses; even Green Eggs, a bruncherie, is applying for one. People love BYOBs, but in many cases their profit margins are just too tight to sustain. Especially when rents are rising.