When I was younger and stayed out longer than I should have, my mom would always tell the same story.
"You know, when I was little and stayed out too late my mother would greet at me at the front stoop and scream, "Where'd you go...Manayunk?!"
Given that my mom grew up in South Philadelphia, the idea of traveling to the neighborhood of Manayunk must have seemed like a trip to the ends of the earth. And, technically, Manayunk is about as far west in the city one can travel before venturing into the western suburbs.
Even the name, Manayunk, seems like an strange and far away land.
But it's not a strange place.
And it really isn't all that far away.
The neighborhood used to actually be called "Flat Rock". However, back in the 1820's some locals thought that neighborhood name lacked personality. So, within a few years a new name emerged: Manayunk, the Lenni Lenape Indian word for "river" or "place to drink".
Perhaps it's no coincidence that almost a century later many people still consider Manayunk "a place to drink". But that's not because of the cool flowing waters of the Schuylkill River that used to refresh the Lenni Lenape Indians.
It's because of the nightlife...specifically the bars.
There are many areas in Philadelphia that have restructured their neighborhoods so that they could be the latest "place to be". But Manayunk may have drawn up the blueprint for other neighborhoods to follow.
First, find an area of the city that commercially, for whatever reason, needs to re-invent itself. For Manayunk that meant taking a neighborhood along the Schuyllkill River Canal that relied heavily on once thriving industrial mills and transforming it into a more modern and vibrant retail and hospitality destination.
Next, give that area a look and feeling that is reminiscent of small town/Main Street U.S.A. Of course, it always helps if, like Manayunk, there actually IS a street named "Main Street" already in place. That's when the marketing and branding of the neighborhood comes into play. That's when a neighborhood begins to take on the new identity.
What you ultimately hope for is to be the standard, the place that people are always referring to.
"Yeah, I've been to Conshohocken. That's an up and coming place...it has that whole Manayunk-look thing going-on."
That's when you know your neighborhood has come back from it's long trip away from home.