By 5:30 p.m. on Thursday night, a crowd had already gathered outside Green Line Cafe on the corner of 42nd and Baltimore streets, drawn by the smell of barbeque and an eclectic dish — “carrot dogs.”
It was the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, an evening where businesses along Baltimore Avenue, from 42nd to 50th streets, offered samplings of neighborhood goods for only a dollar.
In its third year, the event aims to “raise awareness of the local businesses on Baltimore Avenue” and “to expand [students’] horizons in terms of what’s just off campus,” Dollar Stroll coordinator and University City District Director of Marketing and Communications Lori Brennan said.
And the neighborhood turned out in force. Stands offering everything from exotic food to vintage records lined the street alongside live musicians and community group advocates.
Some of the most popular restaurants included Desi Village, offering Indian cuisine, and Vietnamese restaurant Vientiane Café.
The longest lines, however, formed in front the dessert booths, whose offerings ranged from ice cream at Milk and Honey Market — a corner store on 44th Street serving locally-grown produce — to gourmet cupcakes at the Sweet Box Cupcakes truck.
The stands weren’t limited just to food, however, and local jewelry makers and record stores advertised their wares, also going for no more than a dollar.
Alongside merchants offering yoga lessons and theater tickets, Philadelphia resident Pamela Haines sought to raise awareness and funds for a local family center, selling used books, home-baked goods and distributing informational flyers.
Only a few blocks away, fellow volunteer Ben Sears and his co-workers sought to raise awareness of a different kind. Operating out of Bindlestiff Books on 45th Street — a reading room that stocks political books with a Marxist bent, Sears explained — they informed both local residents and students of the new Pennsylvania voter ID laws, while encouraging them to register to vote.
While the overall atmosphere was festive, some local businesses, such as Milk and Honey, faced disgruntled regular customers, frustrated by the business’ focus on the Dollar Stroll at the expense of its normal operations.
However, Shannon Coble, one of the store’s workers, said past Dollar Strolls have brought in new customers who became regular patrons once they found the store “had more to offer than just ice cream.”
College sophomore Tatiana Rodriguez and College and Nursing sophomore Ally Coopersmith agreed that they would make the trek back out to Milk and Honey. For some of the other attractions, however, it was just too far.
But Coopersmith and Rodriguez did enjoy the Dollar Stroll while they were there. “I really liked the sample size and how all the food was from a different nationality,” Rodriguez said.
Coopersmith added that the Stroll had “just a really nice ambiance,” while David Little, who worked a music stand offering sample CDs, said it was “very free.”
“There’s a mix of students, neighbors and people who’ve never been to University City before,” Brennan said of the event. This easy intermixing was visible everywhere, from the lines outside the stands to the crowd around the concert playing at the 46th Street triangle.
Lloyd Alexander, a member of the band The Makes, which performed this year and at two previous Dollar Strolls, spoke to what a great neighborhood West Philadelphia is, with its mix of students and older home owners. He said he was particularly happy to be “playing for everybody rather than being some prize ticket item.”
“It shows a good way to have fun without being too dangerous or spending too much money,” Alexander said.