‘Times are changing’ in Port Richmond

Tony's Pizza is up for sale, but is likely to re­main a pizza res­taur­ant; the va­cant Pilsud­ski Fraternal As­so­ci­ation could be­come apart­ments, and the former law offces of the late Jack E. Matty may be­come a fam­ily-owned drug store. 

The Pilsud­ski Fraternal As­so­ci­ation at Bel­grade and Ontario streets has been closed for a year, and may soon be con­ver­ted in­to new apart­ments, one of sev­er­al Bel­grade Street fix­tures that may soon be chan­ging. SAM NE­W­HOUSE / STAR PHOTO

Three long-run­ning neigh­bor­hood fix­tures, all on Bel­grade Street in Port Rich­mond, will soon see new own­ers and new uses. 

“The times are chan­ging,” said Larry Truszkowski, co-own­er of Cathy’s Cross­ing, and a former mem­ber of the Pilsud­ski Fraternal As­so­ci­ation, a Pol­ish so­cial club at Bel­grade and Ontario streets in Port Rich­mond. 

The Pilsud­ski As­so­ci­ation, which opened in the 1950s, has been closed for about a year and may soon be con­ver­ted in­to apart­ments.

“I’m sad the club is closed, be­cause the old guys worked so hard to keep it run­ning,” Truskowski said. “But the over­head was too much for it to sur­vive.”

An­gel Men­dez of The Men­dez Cor­por­a­tion is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing the pur­chase of the As­so­ci­ation’s old build­ing. If all goes well, he will buy the build­ing in Au­gust for a res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment, he said.

“We’re look­ing to keep that build­ing as close as pos­sible to what it is,” Men­dez said. 

Men­dez said he plans to fill the build­ing with one-bed­room and two-bed­room apart­ments de­signed for pro­fes­sion­als and small fam­il­ies – not a bar or nightclub, as was the be­lief of some in the neigh­bor­hood.

“Nobody’s go­ing to open up a club or a bar there. I’m not in that busi­ness,” Men­dez said.

The land sur­round­ing the prop­erty will be used for sur­face park­ing, and may in the fu­ture be used for build­ing new houses, Men­dez said.

“There were a lot of ru­mors go­ing around about that build­ing. I’m glad to hear it’s go­ing to be something pos­it­ive,” said Theresa Mar­ie Cos­tello, pres­id­ent of the Port Rich­mond Commnity Group, of the Pilsud­ski As­so­ci­ation build­ing. “But it’s sad be­cause the older people al­ways went there and I know they miss it. There’s not really a place like that for them all to go to any­more.”

Mean­while, a few blocks down Bel­grade Street at Al­legheny Av­en­ue, the former law of­fices of the late Jack E. Matty may soon be con­ver­ted in­to a fam­ily-owned corner drug store and phar­macy.

The Tiang fam­ily is in talks to pur­chase the prop­erty from the Matty fam­ily, pending the ne­ces­sary zon­ing ap­provals that will al­low the Tiangs to set up their busi­ness at 2534 Bel­grade St., ac­cord­ing to the Tiang’s at­tor­ney, Glenn Hing.

“They like this build­ing, they like this loc­a­tion, and they think they can have a good busi­ness that would be an as­set to a com­munity,” Hing said.

Hing said he is work­ing closely with com­munity groups to ad­dress neigh­bors’ con­cerns about a new phar­macy on Al­legheny Av­en­ue.

Neigh­bors at a Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic meet­ing gave “over­whelm­ing sup­port” for the phar­macy, Hing said, but re­ac­tions were more mixed at a second meet­ing with neigh­bors, or­gan­ized by City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) and hos­ted at U.S. Con­gress­man Bob Brady’s Port Rich­mond of­fice.

“That meet­ing did not go well,” Hing ac­know­ledged. “There were some con­cerns some neigh­bors raised about the use of the phar­macy. … I think there may be some mis­in­form­a­tion cir­cu­lat­ing, but that’s just part of the pro­cess.”

“My cli­ent wants to do it, my cli­ent is go­ing to do this, [and] they are go­ing to open up a phar­macy,” Hing con­tin­ued.

Cos­tello said that neigh­bors might fear a new phar­macy could cre­ate com­pet­i­tion for oth­er fam­ily-owned phar­ma­cies in the neigh­bor­hood.

“People may worry that they’re go­ing to push out the people we know. Why would you want to come here? There’s a phar­macy a block away. That’s prob­ably what people are wor­ried about,” Cos­tello said.

A Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment hear­ing sched­uled for Ju­ly 10 re­gard­ing needed vari­ances for the Tiang’s phar­macy was post­poned and will be res­ched­uled at some point in the fu­ture, Hing said.

Fur­ther south, at 3128 Bel­grade St., Port Rich­mond’s be­loved Tony’s Pizza is up for sale, it was re­vealed last week. Tony’s Pizza has been voted by Star read­ers has hav­ing the ldquo;Best Cheesesteak” in Star‘s an­nu­al “Best of the River Wards” read­ers’ choice con­test.

Real es­tate agent Ry­an Straub pos­ted a list­ing for Tony’s Pizza on thes­traub­group.com with a price tag of $350,000.

Mario Ditri, who along with broth­ers John and Sal has been proudly mak­ing their sig­na­ture ho­agies and piz­zas for 30 years, de­clined to com­ment to Star about the busi­ness be­ing put up for sale.

Straub con­firmed via email that Tony’s Pizza is up for sale. His list­ing in­dic­ates that the Ditri broth­ers are look­ing to pass on the torch to a buy­er who is in­ter­ested in con­tinu­ing the busi­ness and churn­ing out the trade­mark ho­agies, strom­bol­is and pizza pies that made Tony’s fam­ous.

“In­cluded in the sale [are] the build­ing, all equip­ment and the busi­ness name. The own­ers are will­ing to stay for a short peri­od of time to train and help get things situ­ated,” Straub’s list­ing states.

All in all, while Port Rich­mond may change, some things will al­ways stay the same. 

“Slowly but surely, there are some really nice busi­nesses open­ing up in Port Rich­mond,” Cos­tello said, men­tion­ing the Sweets & Treats candy store and the Hinge Caf&ea­cute; as ex­amples. ldquo;If de­vel­op­ment fol­lows along those lines, that’s a good sign.”

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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