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"It's family and it's community": Iconic Eye's Gallery thriving in new South Street space

South Street's iconic Eye's Gallery to reopen new space following devastating fire
Iconic Eye's Gallery thriving in new South Street space 02:37

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia icon is back up and running after a devastating fire at Jim's South Street took out its storefront last summer. Now, Eye's Gallery is starting a new chapter.

"It's an 'intercambio,' as they say in Spanish," said Julia Zagar, partner of Eye's Gallery. "It's a mix of their lives and our ideas, too."

It's hard to miss the colorful storefront on South Street, which is home to the iconic Eye's Gallery.

Zagar's passion for Latin American folk art is on full display. For 54 years, Zagar and her team have traveled the world, handpicking each piece.

"South Street, you never know who's going to walk through the door. You know, we have the local people, we also have, you know, a great many tourists and people from, you know, 2 years old to 90 years old," said Caroline Shields, the manager and buyer at Eye's Gallery.

Zagar said when the gallery first started, there wasn't a large Latin influence in the city's fabric, but over the years, that's changed.

"As Philadelphia became more and more Latin, we began to get more and more intensified in our Latin American pieces that we have here," Zagar said.

Eye's Gallery called 402 South Street home for some 50 years before a fire last summer. Now, this spring, a new era of the gallery began just a half block away.

The July 2022 fire that gutted Jim's South Street also destroyed the gallery space, knocking out half of its inventory.

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"It was kind of a shock, first of all, but then I wasn't ready," Zagar said.

The grandmother may soon be turning 84 but retirement isn't in the cards. In fact, some may call this chapter a literal rising from the ashes. Some eight months after the fire, the gallery reopened this spring.

"Everything that we, you know, felt for and loved and made with a lot of love, we tried to get over here," Zagar said.

That includes pieces like the check-out desk and a handrail, which is from the staircase in the old space.

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As for what's next, Zagar isn't slowing down.

"Hopefully, the store goes on. I mean, we are certainly presenting something that I think is very unique," she said.

She's thankful for her team and community's support, and is looking forward to Jim's reopening soon.

"I love, love my neighbors, [I was] thinking I don't want to [retire], I wasn't ready. It was a kind of a shock, first of all, but then I wasn't ready," Zagar said.

Zagar said a big part of being able to rebuild came from the outpouring of community support. She adds her team, including long-time manager/buyer Caroline Shields, stayed with her every step of the way.

"We're hoping that that we have another like, at least another 10 years ahead of us to keep doing what we're doing," Shields said. She's worked alongside Zagar and her husband for 27 years.

So what's different at the new space? The gallery had to downsize from three floors to one, but Zagar said the space itself is wider and has better light.

"It has two big windows that we can show more of our merchandise," Zagar added.

Zagar jokes she hopes the store will continue for another 50 years with the possibility of one of her longtime employees eventually taking over the reins.

"It's family and it's community -- community being the most important thing," Zagar said with a smile.

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