In 2019, the Department of Commerce is celebrating 10 years of the Storefront Improvement Program (SIP), a grant program that offers reimbursements for facade improvements on commercial properties. Follow along this year for more stories of SIP’s impact on Philadelphia businesses and neighborhoods.
With 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Chef Bobby Saritsoglou decided it was time to open a place of his own in the South Philadelphia neighborhood he calls home. Stina, the restaurant concept Bobby and his partner and co-founder Christina Kallas Saritsoglou dreamed up, opened just a few months ago at 1705 Snyder Avenue.
“From day one, we’ve been busy,” Bobby expresses. “For this neighborhood, there’s no other place that is like ours where you can sit down and have a full meal.”
Bobby saw a need for an establishment like Stina in this neighborhood and took that as an opportunity to bring his Mediterranean roots to the forefront. Bobby’s cooking paired with Christina’s design sense has allowed them to bring Stina to life. The Department of Commerce supported them through this process with two grants: the Storefront Improvement Program to renovate the exterior and the Instore Forgivable Loan to purchase equipment for the interior.
It took almost two years for the Saritsoglous to fully gut the first floor of the building—both inside and out—and renovate the space.
“[The storefront] was in such bad shape that it was falling apart. Same with the inside,” Bobby shares. “The whole place was falling apart and needed to be gutted. We started from scratch from inside to out.”
The blank slate allowed them to re-imagine what the space could be. For the exterior, the Saritsoglous took inspiration from old photographs of Philadelphia’s storefronts. They wanted to combine the classic style with modern elements.
“We like the old look of Philadelphia,” Bobby says. “It’s definitely what inspired the storefront.”
The exterior is painted black and white with a pop of red on the restaurant’s door. There are new planters for flowers, a freshly-planted street tree, and other upgrades that not only beautify this storefront, but extend beyond to Stina’s neighbors. A repaved sidewalk, a new loading zone, and more have improved the block for residents and businesses alike.
Inside the restaurant, you’ll find years of collected artwork from flea markets and junk shops lining the walls. With the Instore Forgivable Loan, they were also able to purchase kitchen equipment, shelving, tables, and more with support from the City.
Stina has only been open for a few months, but the reception from customers has been overwhelmingly positive, says Bobby. “Everyone who lives in this neighborhood has really told us how much they appreciate what we’ve done, especially how it looks on the outside.”
The restaurant’s menu includes, “everything Mediterranean from Morocco to Tunisia to Turkey to kind of the whole region of the Mediterranean.”
“You could probably come here ten times and have a different dinner experience because we have everything from pizza to hummus to kebabs, to shawarma sandwiches, there’s pastas, there’s nightly specials,” Bobby lists off.