A Philadelphia Institution
Founded by an immigrant escaping persecution and seeking opportunity and religious freedom in the
city of brotherly love.
Abe Levis was sent to America from Lithuania at the age of fourteen to evade being drafted into the Czar’s army for a twenty five year stint. He married Anna Solo when he was twenty-one and they opened a simple little sandwich shop in the heart of the South Street business district thriving with immigrant owned businesses. Rumors suggest that a sausage on a bun was invented by Abe Levis, but there is not proof of this.
The carbonation for the soda was produced in the basement.
Levis served hot dogs, sandwiches, fish cakes, ice cream and sodas.
Levis was located across from Star Gardens and people came there on summer nights to watch silent movies projected on
the roof of Levis. Abe opened a movie theatre in the area.
This is a drawing of the marble soda fountain purchased used in 1895 by Abe Levis.
Levis known to generations of Philadelphians.
The founding to the industrialization of America. Massive immigration to America from Russia, Eastern Europe, Italy, Ireland and other countries to escape hunger and to find a better life.
Levis was a cheap meal for the working man who was searching for the streets paved with gold
The Depression to the start of WWII.. It wasn’t a date if you didn’t go to Levis.
During WWII. A meeting place to catch up with your buddies.
Pent up demand for consumer goods such as automobiles fueled the post war economy.
People had mobility. Population starts the move to outlying areas and the “suburbs” is invented as Levittown, Cherry Hill, Broomal and other areas are developed. The old neighborhoods are left behind.
The decline of the inner city and the demise of South Street due to a planned cross town expressway. A few businesses like Lester´s Shoes, Krauss Brothers hold out. A few art galleys and a handful of restaurants populate the area.
The rebirth of Society Hill and the South Street Renaissance. The opening of the Electric Factory brought baby boomers into the city for concerts. Levis expands and opens up a store at 16th and Walnut and also one in the NE near the Orleans Theatre at Bustleton and Cottman Ave. These locations close. No one in the Levis family wanted to take over the business and daughter Phyllis sells it to the daughter of a friend, Benay Gerber Birch and her husband.
After running the business for three years and the birth of a second child, Benay sells the business and the real estate to Marc Polish and his wife Max. Marc who was a huge fan of Levis for years and like many others, had great memories of going there with his father.