By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There’s a new, community-driven effort in Southwest Philadelphia to spark more businesses along Woodland Avenue, kicking off this weekend.

Woodland Avenue Vendor’s Row is an area that stretches from 48th to 58th Street along Woodland Avenue.

“As you see standing here – it’s a lot of abandoned buildings and a lot of people standing around,” says Kevin Horne, spokesperson for Southwest Philadelphia District Services.

The non-profit meets weekly to come up with ideas and plans that create opportunity in the southwest corridor.

“We’ve seen a lot of young people laying around in neighborhoods not working, breaking into houses,” Horne says, “we have a lot of returning citizens who can’t get jobs. Vendors row gives this community a chance to do for self and take care of their families.”

Horne says SPDS created a business plan that allows anyone to set up shop on Woodland Avenue. He says new vendors get a grace period where the non-profit can help them get their license and provide training:

“We show them how to vend, we show them how to get their license and we show them how to become productive citizens. Put down the negative stuff and pick up a bag of potato chips or a hot dog and start a business.”

“You got jewelry, you got books, you got food you got clothing– you can sell just about anything as long as it’s legitimate,” adds Michael Ross, president of SPDS. “We’re just trying to create economic sustainability for people in this community– give them a way to turn this neighborhood around.”

Ross says the effort has been slow. They started Vendor’s Row three years ago and have been taking incremental steps to grow it.
Saturday’s Woodland Avenue Vendor’s Row Festival is the kickoff of an expanded effort to grow the opportunities.

“We want people to say– instead of going to Reading Terminal Market or the Italian Market for 52nd Street to say, hey– let’s go to Woodland Avenue,” says Ross.

The Woodland Avenue Vendor’s Row Festival runs from noon until 8 p.m. Saturday.

More details are available here.