New condo development forces small biz to move; 18 months later, construction site sits stagnant

condo development Anastasi’s Seafood
Anastasi’s Seafood is now located at 1039 S. 9th Street.
Martin Sakansong

Anastasi’s Seafood has been a staple in the Italian Market for four generations. 

The Stechmans family lineage in the Italian Market began in 1930. Thomas Anastasi came to South Philadelphia from Sicily in 1913, and started his business selling fish off a cart. The business has always been a family affair, and continues to embrace that tradition today. 

We’re a 4th generation fishmonger. We have an attachment to the community, our family that are still in the area, and our neighborhood of course,Janet Stechmans, owner of Anastasi’s Seafood, said. 

But the local staple has been forced to move from their original spot at 1101 S. 9th Street to a new location at 1039 S. 9th Street, after being instructed by their landlords to vacant their original building.

Janet Stechmans, owner of Anastasi’s Seafood, is pictured.Martin Sakansong

According to Stechmans, Midwood Investment changed the restaurant’s five-year lease to a 30-day lease, forcing the eatery to move. Currently, the New York City-based developer is planning to build  a 157 unit-condominium building with a garage at the location. 

Its been very difficult for us. We have a place that’s half of what we had. We have no room for the restaurant or the bar,” said Stechmans. “We had to sell our own liquor license to help finance the move, it’s been a struggle.”

Stechmans cited one of the main problems of the condos being built on 9th Street is the lack of parking and change in foot traffic, which is hurting local businesses. The construction started very quickly, giving businesses and street vendors minimal time to prepare for the change. It has now been more than 18 months, and the construction site is still stagnant.

Of course, no construction has begun at all. This is just one of the problems I have with developers coming into the city. Forcing people out of businesses like myself. And leave nothing but an empty lot that leaves trash,” said Stechmans. 

A small outdoor dining area at Anastasi’s Seafood is shown.Martin Sakansong

The Anastasi’s Seafood owner has been in contact with Councilmember Mark Squilla regarding the development’s structure and if there was anything he could do to deny the permits. 

“Midwood did have a street closure permit that was expiring. We reached out to them, and they are still not able to start their project,” Squilla told Metro.

Anastasi’s is now in a much smaller storefront with a small outdoor dining area. They are open daily and offer catering, but Stechmans says keeping small businesses alive has become increasingly challenging along Washington Avenue. 

We continue to make it because we push forward. We’re not a big corporation where if we’re not making money everyday then we have to fire everyone or raise prices. We don’t do do that, we don’t roll that way, we are a small business and act like a small business,” said Stechmans. 

The only thing that’s keeping me from being able to have that business as it once was is because developers now own the majority of the land in and around Washington Avenue and I cannot compete with them,” she added. “Which is why I had to make the purchase that I did. These developers have money to burn and can leave properties empty for 10-20 years.”