What should be done with South Philly's 'King of Jeans' sign?
July 19, 2012By Eric Walter
Of all the clothing boutiques along South Philly's East Passyunk corridor, perhaps none has a sign as spectacular as King of Jeans.
Unfortunately, neighbors have known for some time that the store is on its way out. Philebrity reported from the rumor mill as early as 2009 that the store was going to close. The building, at 1843 E. Passyunk Avenue (at 13th Street), has been for sale for a while now, and the owner is, according to Naked Philly, tax delinquent for about $11,000.
Developer Max Glass wants to renovate the building as a residential space.
But what's going to happen with that wonderful, awful sign?
Not for Tourists highlights it as a cheering-up point for bedraggled travelers. And nearly every blogger reporting on the King's demise has more or less said, "I want that sign."
A shirtless cartoon stud out of a 1950s beefcake magazine, sporting a sailor's tattoo and drawn in the style of ubiquitous '80s art print icon Patrick Nagel, leans in to plant a kiss on a crouching woman in leather hot pants and matching bra.
The whole thing is like an enormous tattoo itself. (Hmm. I think I know what I want for Christmas now.) Who knows what it means. Who cares? It's eerily sexy and unabashed in its in-poor-taste extravagance.
The question came up at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night, where Glass (son of TV personality Nancy Glass) laid out his plans for the new space.
WHYY's Peter Crimmins was there, and he says, "Many in the room were a little aghast that somebody would want to save or preserve the thing. Somebody even gamely suggested the iconic sign could be donated the Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent — re-opening in September."
The triangular building, situated on a diagonal street, is actually four buildings that have been cobbled together over the years. "Right now, the upper floors are a labyrinth of windowless offices and storage areas," says Crimmins.
Glass wants to convert the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors into 12, single-bedroom apartments, keeping the ground floor retail. Zoning codes allow him to build only six apartments, so he's seeking a variance from the city's Zoning Board of Adjustments.