Jim’s Steaks owner says fire damage isn’t as bad as originally thought, targets spring 2023 reopening on South Street

Eye’s Gallery next door is facing an uncertain future.

Ken Silver, second-generation proprietor of Jim's South St., stands outside the shop his father cofounded in 1976. Silver has pledged to rebuild.

Ken Silver, second-generation proprietor of Jim's South St., stands outside the shop his father cofounded in 1976. Silver has pledged to rebuild.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
danyahenninger-headshot-2022

Twenty-three hours after firefighters declared under control a two-alarm blaze that consumed the business his father had opened nearly 50 years ago, Jim’s Steaks owner Ken Silver got some better-than-expected news.

The cheesesteak shop’s building at Fourth and South streets was declared stable. He and a crew could enter and immediately start to rebuild.

“It’s actually better than I thought it was going to be,” Silver told Billy Penn Saturday afternoon, after having expressed gratitude that no one was injured during the emergency. He watched as workers carted out bags of trash and nailed plywood to the windows. “Turns out the building is really strong.”

There’s a GoFundMe set up where people can donate to the Jim’s South St. Employee Relief Fund to support the shop’s 33 workers. “It all goes to staff,” Silver said. There’s another GoFundMe to support Eye’s Gallery, the Latin American craft and clothing boutique next door, which is in ruins after being soaked by water and suffused with smoke.

The fire, thought to have started in the HVAC system, burned through the tall rowhome structure for four hours on Friday morning, with over 125 firefighters working to eventually bring it under control around 1:30 p.m. First responders worked through the night to make sure the fire was out.

Around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Silver got the all-clear.


💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


The bones of the structure, in which his father cofounded Jim’s Steaks in 1976 and which city records date back to 1900, were found to be safe. However, the rest of the interior of the shop, which had an order counter downstairs and a dining room on the second floor, was destroyed.

“We’re just gonna gut it. It’s all gonna come down,” Silver said of the interior. Not having to raze the structure and start from scratch puts him way ahead of where he originally thought. Instead of targeting “late 2024” for a reopening, he’s hoping for spring 2023. “Memorial Day next year,” Silver said with a grin.


MORE: ‘We had a rough day’: Jim’s Steaks owner pledges to rebuild after fire


Proprietor Julia Zagar outside Eye's Gallery, which she opened at Fourth and South streets in 1968

Proprietor Julia Zagar outside Eye's Gallery, which she opened at Fourth and South streets in 1968

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Next door at 402 South St., Eye’s Gallery was an unexpected mess.

Proprietor Julia Zagar, whose husband’s famous mosaics decorate the store’s facade, opened it in that very location way back in 1968. Standing Saturday afternoon outside a fence barring the gallery’s entrance, she gazed at the door, uncertain what to do.

“There’s feet of water in there,” Zagar said. Even things that aren’t wet may be ruined by smoke. “It’s all stinky.”

She was reluctant to guess whether the store would be rebuilt, saying only “We will have to decide what to do.” No matter what, though, she knows people are pulling for her and her family. “So many people have reached out. It’s overflowing.”

The interior of the building that houses Jim's South St. was badly damaged, but the structure was deemed stable

The interior of the building that houses Jim's South St. was badly damaged, but the structure was deemed stable

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article — keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?