Factory Connection opens Friday in Canal Place Shopping Center.
Factory Connection opens Friday in Canal Place Shopping Center.
A pizza carry-out franchise and two new retailers are expected to open in Philadelphia soon.

Factory Connection, a clothing store, opens Friday in the old Sears building in Canal Place Shopping Center.

The store is currently being stocked and a new sign has already been erected. The store was housed earlier in a building on the southeast corner of the court square before it closed in June 2005.

GNC, which offers vitamins, supplements, minerals, herbs, sports nutrition, diet and energy, and health and beauty products, has signed a lease to locate in the Philadelphia Marketplace next to Hibbett Sports on south Lewis Avenue.

Already announced, Family Dollar plans to open in early spring in a new building on east Main Street where it will employ up to 10.

What Community Development Partnership President David Vowell described as an "eatery," is close to signing a lease agreement on space in Philadelphia.

"There are at least three others that are in different phases of discussion to locate here," said Vowell, who has ownership in the Canal Place Shopping Center.

Construction also began in 2013 on a new funeral home in the northwestern part of the city.

Divine Serenity Memorial Chapel is expected to open this year at 250 Carver Ave.

What's more, Jewelry Just For Fun relocated to a more spacious, newly renovated building at 440 Beacon St. last week next to Candace McKay Image and Design.

This is Jewelry Just For Fun's third expansion and relocation since opening 13 years ago.

Philadelphia Mayor James Young is happy for the increase in retail and restaurant business.

"I'm very pleased that we've got these new entities coming to our town," he said.

"It's a good sign that entrepreneurs have decided Philadelphia is a good place to invest. We've got to keep up the good work and keep our city business-friendly."

Tim Moore, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street, is excited as well.

"I plan to work with each one to make sure they are profitable and will stay in Philadelphia," Moore said. "I think the tide is turning on the recession and people are coming around and seeing Philadelphia as a unique place to work."

The past year has seen over 20 new businesses opening in Philadelphia, many niche ventures, focused on specific products and clientele.

The new businesses also brought an increase in sales tax collections for the city. The city's share of sales tax collections is up 7 percent or about $129,000 July 1 to-date.

While November collections were up 7.5 percent or $24,000, December totals have not been reported, though merchants reported brisk sales over the holidays.

Among the new businesses opening in 2013 were Knots, a kid's salon on the square; three liquor stores, Corks, Myxer's and Sips & Nips; a supplement retailer, Penny's Natural Market; and various restaurants, including Downtown Deli and Oishi.

Many of the new businesses have set up shop in vacant buildings.

City building official Jay Eakes said there was only one new commercial construction permit issued in the city in 2013, Family Dollar on east Main Street.

One was issued in 2012 for Tractor Supply on Mississippi 16 west.

There was no new commercial construction in the city in 2011.

Realtor Mike Tinsley said earlier that Philadelphia has always been more aggressive than other areas, even in recent years.

"It trumps places like Leake, Newton and Kemper. The closest to us would be Louisville. Philadelphia is more of a mecca for diversity and employment."

Tinsley also noted a slight increase in commercial property sales in 2013.

"People are tired of negativity in the market and waiting for everything to get better," he has said. "They just went on and did it."

Findings from a 2010 charrette showed that the empty buildings downtown diminish the appeal of the area.

A group of planning experts, in a final report on the charrette to the Main Street Association, said the nearly two dozen vacant buildings at the time were a major concern.

The effort to bring new retail opportunities, particularly restaurants, to Philadelphia stemmed from the charrette (pronounced shuh-ret).

The study showed that Philadelphia is underserved by sit-down restaurants and grocery stores.

An estimated $12.3 million in sit-down restaurant business leaves Philadelphia annually, while about $41 million in grocery shopping is apparently being done elsewhere, the study revealed.