From Fishtown to Old City, Riverwards Produce is Growing Access to Fresh Food for Philadelphia’s Food Makers
The working relationship between Veronica Blum, partner at MPN Realty Inc., and Vincent Finazzo, founder and owner of Riverwards Produce, began a few years ago when Finazzo opened his first location.
In the summer of 2016, Riverwards Produce started as a pop-up shop in a Fishtown garage selling pumpkins. As his offerings grew, the community response was astounding. Lines regularly stretched out of the door and down the block, residents grateful to finally have fresh alternatives to chain groceries, delis, and packaged goods stores.
The Riverwards Produce Market opened its first brick-and-mortar in one of Philadelphia’s first firehouses in Fishtown. This location, on Norris Street just off Frankford Ave, is on a cobblestone street with high ceilings, curved mahogany windows, exposed industrial beams, and brick walls – embracing the existing architectural design of the past while ushering in the modern aesthetic of the future. Finazzo had a vision to combine wholesale and retail operations, creating multiple exit strategies for his products that could, in turn, reduce storage requirements and in-house waste to practically zero.
The neighborhood immediately fell in love with Riverwards for both Finazzo’s high quality offerings and his unwavering support of locally made products.
When Riverwards Produce Market was ready for its second location, Finazzo had his eyes set on Old City. “Old City hasn’t had a full-scale food market in over 30 years, so finding this historical building met two of the biggest requirements: there was an available space to restore and there was a clear need in the neighborhood,” he said to Larua Brzyski of Philly Mag. Blum was handling a property that met the perfect space criteria and nurtured Finazzo’s affinity to bring new life to old bones. The question would be how to economically structure a lease that allowed for restoration of the building and provide room to get a second outpost up and running.
The site is situated in the heart of Old City — a little over 3,000 square feet on the ground floor plus a full basement and parking lot in the rear which was key to operations for loading and trash removal. The space boasts soaring ceilings, sky lights, exposed wood beams, and 43’ of frontage on N Bread Street’s cobblestone road. The quiet, tree-lined side street is steps away from Old City’s vibrant North 3rd Street, home to numerous restaurants, cafés, galleries, and boutiques. Finazzo along with local designers Michael and Lena Parcell worked with the Historical Society of Philadelphia to maintain and preserve the historically certified façade as well as the windows and doors – keeping the integrity of the space. Blum was able to get creative in structuring a deal that worked for both the ownership and Riverwards Produce.
“The gifts Vincent brings to Philadelphia through Riverwards Produce do not end with beautiful, fresh, high-quality ingredients that encourage a creative home cooking culture,” says Blum. “Through his vibrant, colorful, informative feed, he has organically grown an Instagram following of over 25,000 folks who engage with his daily spotlights on small businesses making excellent food products. If you are a Philadelphia maker who creates a product that should be sold in a grocery store, Vincent has the ability to get the word out like no one else. His small business has nurtured hundreds of other small businesses”
Finazzo hopes to continue to increase access to fresh food and wholesome ingredients for Philadelphia residents, as food deserts in metropolitan areas are common. “[Food] markets historically are gathering places — you meet your neighbors here, and share ideas and recipes,” he says. “By nature, a grocery store becomes a hub for the neighborhood. This is what we created in Fishtown, and I hope for the same here in Old City.”
Blum has already set out to find Finazzo’s next location. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please reach out to Veronica directly at [email protected].