Landmark Record Store On Ridge Avenue Razed

 

Webb’s Department Store in North Philly was once famous for its hot vinyl and visiting Black celebrities. It is currently being demolished. | Photo: Michael Bixler

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.

About the author

Michael Bixler is a writer, photographer, and managing editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter with Mountain Xpress weekly in Asheville, North Carolina and a native of South Carolina. Bixler has a keen interest in adaptive reuse, underappreciated architecture, contemporary literature and art, and forward-thinking dialogue about people and place. Follow him on Instagram



8 Comments


  1. Records laying on the floor, I would love to go through them and see what “gems” are being tossed in the trash.

    • I knew Mr Webb – I work in music and he’d be at every show taking photos and talking to everybody- the people that are demolishing his building you best believe have gotten as much stuff out of there as the y could.People are becoming “smart scavengers” when it comes to this kind of stuff.
      Its really ashamed.

  2. This is a great story. I wasn’t too familiar with the purpose of this site when I bookmarked it a few weeks ago. I came on today & found this article…and as a Delaware Valley Music producer, this hurts my heart. Hate to see it!

    Yeah, this is a violation, those records needed to be saved.

    • RHONDA Lancaster

      I hate to say it…but something should have happen before this . If you read my post – youll see. I knew Mr Webb- hed be at the Robin Hood Dell taking photos and talkin to everybody. Its so sad

  3. Jerome C. (Jerry) Wells, Radio-One, Philadelphia

    It’s really sad to me to see Webb’s Department Store (as he called it) go, though I know why, given the condition of the building. It’s personal to me, as a North Philadelphia native. Growing up, I used to hear the store mention on ads on WDAS and WHAT radio. Later, as a newspaper delivery boy, I worked that neighborhood and frequently stopped in to buy 45 records with some of my earnings. Bruce ALWAYS had what I wanted! Also, he was a friendly, though sometimes stern presence to the neighborhood children. Even later, as a college radio broadcaster at Temple University’s WRTI, I frequently saw Bruce at radio and record industry events and formed a lasting friendship. I have many photos that he took of me with various music stars. He was EVERYWHERE that something was happening! At all the concerts, you could count on seeing him, camera in hand, taking photos. He was a great guy and is greatly missed, as are those “good old days” in Philly’s entertainment scene! Now seeing his beloved store coming down really brings it home. I’ll miss the landmark, Webb’s Department Store and especially Bruce! RIP! Jerry Wells, Radio-One Philadelphia

  4. Mr Webb’s family was able to remove a bunch of the un-damaged records out of the shop. I have been buying them in bulk over the past year. I also spent two years prior while Mr Webb was sick but able to sit with me at his store going through stuff and I was pulling boxes of better stuff out and paying him directly. Webb was a dear friend and mentor to me and my business. He is truly missed.

    • I too was a buyer at Mr. Webb’s store over the years. I was wondering how and where I could buy some of his stock, as I know there was a lot of 45’s upstairs and downstairs. Drop me a line and maybe we could talk.

      Dennis

  5. When Eminent Domain was declared on Sharswood/Brewerytown in June of 2015 Mr Webb ,was in attendance at the community meeting.
    He apparently was planning then…per conversation with owner of Brewerytown Beats ,and his family.Rest in peace Mr.Webb….

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