Looking Back at “Uptown” Conshohocken
by Brian Coll
I Know, I know…how the hell can you have an “Uptown” when the whole borough is a square mile with something like 11 blocks in the borough limits…. well when you have beautiful “downtown” Conshohocken, you have to have an “Uptown” to go along with it. So forget Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars and let’s talk about “Uptown” Conshohocken. We at least have to look back at these photos of 9th and Fayette.
Man… I miss those days. This was what Fayette Street was like for me as a kid in the 80’s. Bolero’s Pizza (currently available for sale from the Pasta Via family). For me, Bolero’s was my first place to get a slice of pizza and maybe a soda. Tony and Joe’s was where my baseball teams would go after a game to have a pizza party, but Bolero’s was the cool place you and a few buddies would ride your bike to or walk around the corner and get a slice. For me growing up the only topping I remember was pepperoni, or maybe a sausage… Bolero’s dropped cheesesteak on me as a topping and my life has never been the same.
Next to Bolero’s you had the Fayette Grill. Now, depending on my age when I walked in there, I have a few memories, most of them revolve around me delivering the Norristown Times Herald. When I would deliver to houses, you would simply throw or drop the newspaper close to the door of the home. With businesses you would walk in. Most days I’d walk in and simply leave the paper on the end of the bar closest to the front door. On collection days, I would barter for a bag of bar nuts, these were extremely salty flavorful peanuts. Maybe throw in a slim Jim, not the little ones that are around today, but the old school big ones. On days where the bartender would have to go to the till to pay me a couple bucks, I remember the smoky air, the men in their work clothes. not the white collars of today, but the dirty blue collars of yesteryear. Being a paperboy was a good gig back then. So much so that my sister took over my route when I moved onto landscaping or busing tables. Little side note, I recently met someone who introduced themselves and told me that they had to meet me before I became a paperboy. The Times Herald sent people to your house if you wanted to be a paperboy. I guess they made sure you and your family were trustworthy. Making sure I wouldn’t take a weeks worth of newspapers down to Sutcliffe Park and dump them.
At the corner you had Pleasant Valley Cleaners and tailoring. Today it’s home to Dr. Brett Neal and his optometrist office. Actually, Dr. Neal is working on the space next door which was up until recently a barber shop. Besides the Pleasant Valley Cleaners, there was a little arts and crafts type store in the corner space. Then it became Dr. Scott Goldberg’s office before Dr. Neal took over in recent years.
On the other side of 9th Avenue.. well what can we say about Jem’s? I guess part of what I’m about to say has something to do with my age and the time in my life I was going there. This will probably hold true for you and your corner deli… In my household, and no offense to my parents and in particular my moms cooking…. there was nothing like a Jem’s sandwich or hoagie. Part of it was a regular lunch at home was a peanut butter and jelly, or in my case, I simply liked rolls… maybe oodles of noodles. But when I got something from Jem’s, it was a full sandwich on a big roll, turkey and cheese hoagie, or tuna, it felt like more than a whole can, where at home one can would be split up among everyone.. so to get your own giant one, well, it was something special. My mom worked there for a bit and would have fond memories of some of the nice customers, of course in Conshy she would see her share of characters as well. Jem’s itself was your typical sandwich shop/corner deli at the time.
After Jem’s it became Mastracola’s and then Lenny’s and now Ashley’s…. and here is the thing… if you loved Jem’s well Mastracola’s wasn’t the same, it you loved Mastracola’s well Lenny’s wasn’t the same, and now… if you loved Lenny’s you guessed it Ashley’s isn’t going to be the same. However, give it a try. I saw a comment somewhere that asked about the recent name change. My thoughts are this about anytime a new owner comes in, it’s up to the new owner as to what to call the business. In some cases, the original name carries a lot of weight and maybe should be kept, in other case, like this one Lenny named it Lenny’s, Mastracola’s, you guessed it, named it Mastracola’s and now it is Ashley’s. Ashley the owner is great and the staff is super. They recently remolded and you should check it out.
Next door to Jem’s, and I was really sad to see it go was Pete’s Hardware Store. Pete Crippen was just the best. This was the old school hardware store, if you needed 3 nails, guess what, you could buy 3 nails, and when you bent one of those, go back and buy a couple more. If you needed some doo hickey thing, Pete probably had it on one of the back shelves. When you walked in and told Pete what you needed, he didn’t send you to some other department where you had to hunt down another employee for them to radio someone else… Nope, Pete knew his store.
So, there is a quick look at “Uptown” Conshohocken. Hope you don’t mind my little memories thrown in as we walked along Fayette Street between 8th and 10th Avenue. The difference in a snapshot and a memory can be tricky. For instance… I want to talk about a few other things on these blocks. I can tell you for sure that my doctor office was just a couple doors up from Pete’s Hardware store and I can tell you about the dress shop that was at the 8th Avenue corner and DeMedio’s bar current home to the Stone Rose as well as WS Interiors where ‘Feine is now. My mind can blend the places, however, maybe they weren’t all there at the exact same time. These pictures though, they stand the test of time. We have a collection of ads as well from certain businesses over the years that help when we research a certain place. In some cases though, maybe there isn’t a photo, or a business never advertised… that’s where the memories come in, and maybe, just maybe your memory or mine might not get it perfect. But, it’s good to have memories and hopefully, as spring rolls around and more people are getting vaccinated we can all get back to making more memories in our great community.
Thank you for checking us out here at Conshystuff.com. Please keep supporting the small locally owned and operated places in our community.