Meredith Podob has an extensive background. But the industrial engineer, graphic designer and new business owner also boasts nearly a decade of retail experience on Main Street.
Before Podob opened Latitudes and Longitudes at 4325 Main St., she worked off-and-on while in college at Philadelphia University and after for long-time merchant Joan Castronuovo, owner of Latitudes Fine Craft Gifts. When the opportunity came, Podob—long wanting to own her own business—decided to continue Castronuovo's gift shop.
Her love for independent shop owners began as a child growing up in Southampton, Bucks County. Her grandfathers separately ran tailor and butcher shops, and her parents own Metlab, a heat-treating company in Glenside.
"I've always looked at my parents when I was in the corporate world and admired them. What you put in to your own business is what you get back," she said.
Podob purchased Castronuovo's inventory and was able to open June 1. Before reopening under the reimagined Latitudes and Longitudes (not vice versa, as some say), she painted, moved the register up front, opened up the front window and began adding different merchandise.
A Roxborough resident, Podob wanted to transform the store into a "one-stop shop" for gift needs. She continues to carry jewelry and gifts ideal to women, but she added mens' items—like cuff links, ties, flasks—and more for women, like lotion and candles. She also expanded her religious offerings to include more Judaic gifts.
Additionally, she boasts the you won't find greeting cards quite like what you'll see at Latitudes and Longitudes—but they can be a little raunchy.
"I'm taking what I know and what worked before, and I'm putting my own style to it," she said.
Podob altered bodices to use as display cases and redesigned the greeting card cases.
Admittedly, Podob knows that debuting a new store in 2012 is tough due to the economic climate. Plus, she said Manayunk in the summer might not be ideal.
"While the recession is still there, I just felt this was the right time... My parents were supportive and when they said they believed in me, I knew I was ready," she said.
Even though some of the hot July days have been a challenge, she says business has been consistent.
"It's summer. It's almost August. I can pay my bills, and I feel good about that," she said.
Latitudes and Longitudes also participates in Manayunk's monthly First Friday event, including the one August 3. In addition to wine and cheese, Podob hosts a gallery opening for artists whose work hangs in her shop throughout the month. In August, artist Jonah Isserman will exhibit.
For more information, visit the shop's Facebook page here.