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September 30, 2016

New East Passyunk shop showcases the ‘pretty’ and ‘gritty’ of South Philly

Coming soon: Candles that smell like a station on the Broad Street Line

Shopping South Philadelphia
Carroll - South Fellini Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

South Fellini owners, Tony Trov, left, with his Brother 400 sewing and embroidery machine, and Johnny Zito, holding a 'Queen of Jeans' print.

Filmmakers-turned-designers Tony Trov and Johnny Zito never meant to start a novelty shop. They were just two movie buffs who wanted to make fan T-shirts.

“At the film festival in 2004, this movie [of ours] had this logo on it, and we needed to make money back because we printed DVDs to give out to cast and crew. So, we printed the shirts at Al’s Rainbow on Passyunk — like a local Modell’s — and he explained the process,” Zito told PhillyVoice. “We had no idea where shirts came from or how they were printed. And I think we got addicted after that — from there, every project had a T-shirt.”

Their addiction evolved into an online store after years of selling campy Phillies apparel. Starting Oct. 1, it will culminate in the opening of their new East Passyunk Avenue shop, South Fellini — a modest but charming 500-square-foot space at 1507 E. Passyunk Ave., sandwiched between Pub on Passyunk East and Sweat Fitness. It’s difficult to miss as a passerby, newly painted in sky blue with a yellow outline for the door frame.

They’re also planning to roll out scented candles before Christmas — ones with familiar Philly smells like pretzels, pork rolls and SEPTA’s subway.

The inspiration, Trov told PhillyVoice, was the remarkable lack of a go-to gift shop in South Philly.

“We keep saying we can’t believe there isn’t already a store like this around here,” Trov said. “I feel like there should be. In New York, these places are on every corner. … Here, there’s a lot of Philly pride and no one taking advantage of it.”

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

This shelf in the South Fellini store tells quite a story, displaying two comic books that Trov and Zito wrote and a feature horror film, 'Alpha Girls' that they directed and produced.

Inside the store: Many of the wares from the South Fellini online store, like their popular “Wawa Jawn” and Divine Lorraine T-shirts, pins and patchwork pieces, along with DVDs of their horror films and a selection of comic books. The book selection includes “ Dogs of Mars,” about astronauts haunted by monsters on Mars, and “Moon Girl,” an adventure comic book the duo collaborated on with local Marvel artist Rahzzah.

All of this is in addition to a few introductory items and store exclusives. Prime among those is a South Fellini-original design (available as a T-shirt and wood print, pressed on the premises) of nine mid-century doors they scouted in South Philadelphia, as well as a group of pastel-colored Edgar Allan Poe heads printed as patchworks — a nod to the poet’s brief visit to Moyamensing Prison, now an Acme, just down the street from the shop.

They’re also planning to roll out scented candles before Christmas — ones with familiar Philly smells like pretzels, pork rolls and SEPTA’s subway.

“We thought it’d be funny to do some good smells and some horrible smells — like the Broad and Snyder subway smell,” Zito laughed.

They hope to curate a selection that feels more authentic than “Art Museum gift shop” products without pandering too much to one crowd. There’s a tact, Zito said, to producing designs that are uniquely Philly — ones that are “a little gritty and a little pretty.”

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

These custom pint glass jawns are made in Pennsylvania.

“There’s a Venn diagram of if you love something or hate something, there’s still a crossover of interests,” Zito explained of how they pick designs to print. “There are people who are wearing the King of Jeans shirt to make fun of it and others who are wearing it because they really love it. That’s what we’re always trying to find — those crossover sections.”

Trov emphasized that they’ll be doing more small-batch runs of prints now that they have a store space to produce from, describing the shop as operating like a studio.

Prices range from $15 to $25 for men’s shirts, sizes extra-small to extra-large (women’s sizes are coming later). Patches are $5 to $8; pins are $10 to $12; comic books, meanwhile, are $10. Hours of operation are noon to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, with adjusted hours on Sundays.

And don’t expect them to be one of the avenue’s more fleeting ventures, they added.

“We’re here forever,” Zito quipped. “Born here, and we’ll die here. Hopefully, somebody will name a bench after us. Or a cobblestone.

“’On this triangle of land …’”

South Fellini Grand Opening

Saturday, Oct. 1, noon- 8p.m.
1507 E. Passyunk Ave.

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The mosaics on the facade were made by local muralist and friend of the owners, Lee Ann Fenderson.