13th Street pioneers envision rebirth in Philadelphia after pandemic

Pennsylvania restaurants and bars are expected to get the green light to sell to-go cocktails to customers.

A local couple, well known for their pivotal role in Philly's restaurant scene, is already prepared to add that element to their recipe for recovery.

Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran own six popular restaurants and three retail shops, most of them on the same street in Center City.

Their vision helped revive that neighborhood once. Now, through this pandemic, they're ready to do it again.

"This is what a closed restaurant in Philadelphia looks like right now," says Marcie Turney as she shows us around inside Jamonera.

"Especially when you got shut down with just 24 hours notice," says her partner in life and in business, Valerie Safran.

Turney and Safran are lovingly known as the pioneers of 13th Street.

"We have these storefronts which are all shut down," says Safran, as they stroll the three-block strip where they've opened six spots. Eerily, it looks like it did when they first opened in 2002.

"18 years ago, it was empty storefronts," Safran says, "and we were the only ones here, so we actually are back at that, which is really weird."

Truth is, they've done this before.

"Yes, we know how to hustle," Safran says. "There are moments where it's exciting because it is forcing us to figure it out."

Upstairs at Barbuzzo, they're busy bottling cocktails to go.

Takeout is up and running at four of their restaurants: Barbuzzo, Bud & Marilyn's, Lolita and Little Nonna's.

All of this pivoting is hauntingly familiar.

"Marcie is prepping and turning out the food," Safran says. "I'm at the front door, just the way that it was 15 years ago when we started."

They're sort of back to square one, this time to save their dreams.

"You go into crisis mode," Turney says. "We had to lay off over 250 people."

But these working moms are making it work and firing up that pioneer spirit.

"I keep saying, we have resilience," Turney says. "'We're gonna do this. We're gonna do this."

As for 13th Street?

"This is a block that has come a long way in 20 years," Safran says. "We will figure out a way. We will."


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