Webb’s Department Store on Ridge Avenue was once a go-to spot for legendary African American musicians and entertainers like Miles Davis, Al Green, the Temptations, and Richard Pryor. Today, the crumbling little record shop in Sharswood is being demolished. L&I issued an unsafe structure violation on the property in October 2016. A demolition permit was filed in February 2018. The building, which dates back to the late 19th century, is currently being razed by GAMA Wrecking Inc. Although most of the store’s stock has been removed, loose piles of vinyl records remain scattered on the floor of the shop under a gathering layer of rubble.
Bruce Cornell Webb, a beloved community figure of North Philly, opened his music store over 40 years ago. Luminaries like Smokey Robinson, Grover Washington Jr., and Joe Frazier frequently stopped by the shop to chat with Webb and take pictures with customers.
Webb, the son of a chef for the Pennsylvania Railroad, grew up in Black Bottom, a neighborhood in West Philly that was largely razed during the city’s urban renewal phase in the 1960s. The record store owner learned how to box while serving in the Army and coached fighter Jimmy Young before his title match with Muhammad Ali in 1976. Along with running his store, Webb was active in the music industry as a promoter, consultant, and record distributor to local radio stations. He was also a photographer for Philadelphia’s oldest free Black newspaper, Scoop USA, for 50 years. One of the highlights of Webb’s tenure was taking photos of a young Janet Jackson at the beginning of her solo career during a press event at The Pub in Pennsauken.
Webb died at 83 on Thanksgiving Day 2017 at Sacred Heart Home, a free nursing facility for terminally ill cancer patients in Hunting Park.