This summer, Philly will get its first thoroughfare named after the city’s iconic favorite frozen treat.
Thanks to a City Council resolution introduced by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, the stretch of 60th Street between Walnut and Locust will become known as “Siddiq’s Water Ice Way.” The bright red markers installed atop the regular green street signs will serve to call attention to the West Philly corridor’s newest storefront — and highlight the community contributions of its owner, Siddiq Moore.
The name should ring a bell for Billy Penn readers — Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice was the runaway winner of our Ultimate Frozen Treat bracket contest held last summer — and for Temple students, who’ve long patronized the street cart that sets up on campus as soon as the weather is warm.
But there’s more to Moore than just incredible water ice. (Note: If you haven’t tried it, remedy that ASAP. Start with the white grape, move on to strawberry-coconut and go crazy from there).
Last summer, the West Philadelphia native and Temple grad shared with us his plans to open a flagship brick-and-mortar home for his cooling treats. He envisioned the shop at the corner of 60th and Irving as a catalyst that would help reinvigorate and become a central gathering place for the neighborhood.
One year later, he’s made good on that vision. On July 8, Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice will open its doors to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony. But the street already seems to be changing for the better — finally.
There have been other efforts to revitalize the strip, which has been known as a haven for gun violence — last year, a police officer was shot execution-style through the window of his car there — as well as for being lined with dealers and prostitutes. Recently, a nonprofit called Partnership Community Development Corporation came in and erected what Moore called “cookie cutter” facades along the street. He points out that many of them are now sitting vacant.
“It takes more than just structure to stimulate the economy in the neighborhood,” he said.
During the construction of his shop, which is bright and cheerful with a welcoming glass facade — “I’m going to try and not put steel gates on it, see how it goes” — Moore has engaged almost everyone in the area in some way or another.
He invited parents who live on the surrounding blocks to bring their small children by, so the kids could dip their hands in paint and create the decoration for the store’s front columns. He offered area prostitutes the opportunity to score regular cash infusions by picking up a broom and helping sweep trash from the sidewalks. He offers jobs to high school students, and mentors them as they help him, with advice about how to get into college and what life skills they need to know to get ahead. He installed a giant LED light outside his building, bathing a previously dark corner with 8000 lumens of brightness.
Even the cops who patrol the corridor are big fans of Siddiq’s — and not just because they like the product.
“We’ll be sure to tell [18th District] Capt. Riley about your grand opening,” said a foot patrol officer who immediately walked over to chat when he saw Moore wave hello. “I’m sure he’d love to come.” He looked around, eager to satisfy a craving. “You don’t have any water ice for sale now, do you?”
Other area business owners are also thrilled with Moore’s leadership.
“I’m 50 years old and have lived here all my life,” said Saleem Youmanis of Old Boys Soul Food, just up the street. “The block has definitely come a long way.”
Proprietor Jazmine Overton of the House and Hair Lounge added her praise. “In terms of ownership, African American ownership, this block is definitely coming up.”
The importance of owning real estate in the neighborhood where you live is one of Moore’s pet talking points.
“Look at what happened in South Philly,” he said, in an oblique reference to the gentrification that has been encroaching on neighborhoods like Point Breeze. “We gotta buy everything before developers swoop in. If you don’t own the bricks, you’ll be a stranger in your own community, which is real unfortunate.”
To that end, he recently purchased the empty lot behind the flagship store — “had to do it before someone else got it” — and is planning to set up outdoor seating and host special events beneath a large tent stretched over the grass-filled space.
The shop interior also has touches that hammer home the self-made entrepreneur’s “own the bricks” philosophy. At front, next to the order counter, is an exposed wall, and Moore is planning to “sell” the bricks that make it up — each donor will get a silver plaque with their name affixed to the block they choose to sponsor. Funds will be used to bolster his community efforts.
A flatscreen TV by the door will flash cards with information about scholarship opportunities and civic meetings.
Of course, it’ll also display photos of the treats sold in the store, which will go beyond just water ice. Moore plans to offer fresh Belgian waffles and housemade waffle cones, topped with soft-serve ice cream, frozen yogurt or vegan frozen treats. Pretzels with interesting flavor toppings are also on the menu, along with funnel cake. As for drinks, the cooler will be stocked with water — “They’re not getting me with that soda tax.”
As much as Moore is a proponent of education and getting kids to stay in school, he believes that self-reliance is the most important key to success, whether you’re talking about individuals or an entire neighborhood.
“They didn’t teach me this stuff at Temple, you know,” he noted with subdued pride. “This is all my own doing.”