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Shoe Seller Allbirds Opens First New Retail Store In Center City Since Pandemic Hit

The Allbirds shoe store at 1709 Walnut St. in Philadelphia

The coronavirus has decimated the foot traffic that sustained Philadelphia's high street retail businesses, but a new business has entered the fray anyway.

Allbirds, a high-end sneaker company focused on using sustainable materials, opened the doors on its 2,090 SF space at 1709 Walnut St. July 30, filling one of several vacancies that have opened up on the block that has perhaps the highest average retail rents in the city.

Allbirds signed the lease for 1709 Walnut before the coronavirus arrived in Philadelphia, and the ensuing shutdown did cause some delays in the construction of the store, a spokesperson for the company told Bisnow. The Walnut Street store is Allbirds' first new location in the U.S. since the advent of the pandemic as well.

The two-story, 4,356 SF masonry building at 1709 Walnut St. has been owned by a Saul Kaplan since 1985, according to Philadelphia property records, which also list a purchase price at the time of $1. Michael Gorman and Scott Benson of Metro Commercial Real Estate represented the owner in lease negotiations. 

Most non-restaurant retailers have been allowed to open back up in the Philadelphia region with altered store designs and policies, but foot traffic has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, causing even some well-established brands to close up shop.

"While COVID-19 has presented us all with a unique set of challenges, we could not feel more welcomed in Philadelphia," an Allbirds spokesperson said in a statement provided to Bisnow. "We ... have been blown away by the resilience and warmth of the community. The safety of our customers, team, and neighbors is our top priority, which is why we've taken numerous steps to ensure visitors and staff alike have a safe, positive experience in our store."

Among those safety measures are a limited capacity inside, as well as a system for making appointments. Allbirds also advertises a "digital queue" for customers to be able to avoid waiting in line on the street. The company said if a staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, it will immediately close the store and "determine the next appropriate steps."