A Philadelphia furniture icon is shutting its doors after more than three decades in business.
Located at Broad and Parrish Streets in North Philadelphia, Uhuru has operated since the 1990s and is managed by the civil rights nonprofit African People’s Education & Defense Fund.
The Black-owned business was a mainstay for Philadelphians on the hunt for used and affordable household goods, from futons, couches, and dressers to dining sets, rugs, mirrors, and nightstands.
All of the store’s inventory was donated, and profits supported Black community economic development and self-determination programs such as doula training, community gardens, and women’s health centers.
But economic troubles proved a challenge for the store’s operations, according to a statement form Uhuru’s management.
“We have been through many ups and downs, but now we are facing a situation where the U.S. economy is in a crisis,” the nonprofit wrote. “Throughout the U.S., small businesses and large corporations alike are closing their stores. Skyrocketing rents, rising prices of gas, food and goods across the board have created untenable conditions, especially for African, Indigenous, Mexican and Puerto Rican communities in the U.S.”
Uhuru’s statement said that these conditions made it “impossible” for the store to absorb rising expenses, while still keeping employee wages sustainable and furniture prices affordable.
“The cost of doing business keeps so many African and other underserved communities from long term success,” the statement said.
Ruby Gittelsohn, community relations manager for Uhuru, said the store has received an outpouring of support from shoppers, donors, and volunteers.
“We don’t see it as a defeat, we see it as a victory that we’ve been able to provide top-quality and low-price furniture, and contribute to the work of the [nonprofit],” Gittelsohn said.
Uhuru will focus on clearing its inventory in the coming weeks while supporting staff as they transition to new jobs, Gittelsohn said.
The store is offering 30% off on all of its wares as well as buy-one-get-one deals. On Sunday, Uhuru will be offering up free items at its warehouse at 2401 West Allegheny Ave. from noon to 4 p.m.
“We want to encourage everybody to come down to the store and say goodbye, and see us before our final day,” Gittelsohn said, mentioning that the nonprofit’s work would continue nationally, including a workforce and training program for people coming out of the prison system and people experiencing homelessness.
Uhuru’s sister store, which the nonprofit has maintained in Oakland, Calif., for 34 years and shares the same name, will also close, according to the store.
The African People’s Education & Defense Fund is encouraging supporters to continue donating to its nonprofit programs, and for Philadelphians to share their memories of Uhuru for their website by e-mailing [email protected].