Federal St. has always been welcoming to immigrants. Nearly a hundred years ago, Russian Jewish immigrant businessmen set up shop and made the street thrive. A new generation of new immigrants has started the process again.
Camden’s own Federal St. has changed from a predominantly white neighborhood to one more welcoming of Asian and Hispanic families. The small business community has evolved in order to cater to the different demographics that now live in that area by including bilingual signs and ethnic restaurants and shops.
We took a stroll down the lively Federal St., taking note of the many businesses lining the street and the services that are provided for the public, starting on 26th St. and ending on 31st.
Despite uninformed misconceptions about Camden, Federal St. proved to be pleasant to walk down, and seemed to be an integral part of a tight-knit community. At 10 A.M. on a Monday, small shops were already open for business and restaurants were prepping their main dishes for the lunchtime rush.
Worth visiting on 26th St. is San Lucas Mexican Restaurant, a vibrant establishment with ample seating and a wide variety of dishes on its menu. The restaurant’s brightly colored walls and rustic decor invite patrons in from the street, and the food resembles homemade Latin dishes that anyone can enjoy.
One patron of Mexican heritage seemed thoroughly satisfied by the torta cubana he ordered. “Great taste, good value, good service,” he said to describe the quality of his meal. “It’s authentic Mexican food.”
And while the food is prepared in a Mexican style, patrons of all races and ethnic groups are drawn to the bold flavors of San Lucas. “We get Latinos, Caucasians, African Americans — everything,” says a waitress about the diversity of their customers. “And it’s always different people coming through here.”
The 2600 block on Federal St. also features businesses like Camden Trust Company, Federal Liquors, Golden Dragon Chinese and American Food, Milly’s Pharmacy, Imperial Check Cashing and El Globo Pastries. Across the street you can find El Recodo Restaurant and Bar.
You can find H&R Block, Rite Aid, VIP Barber Shop, Jimenez Grocery Store, and Impressive Nails on the 2700 block.
Found on 28th and Federal Streets are Camden Churches, La Belleza Food Market, the U.S. Post Office, Maria’s Unisex Beauty Salon, and St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral and Childhood Development Center.
On 29th st. you can find EZ Plus Electronics, The Latin Connection Shop, and a Wellness Center. This last one has friendly employees who go out into the neighborhood to educate people on the importance of nutrition and and good health.
The 3000 block on Federal St. features Cars Unlimited Automotive Shop, Contemporary Nail Design, Giohanna Beauty Salon, Las Cabanas Restaurant, and El Encanto Food Market.
This specific area of Camden has seen many construction changes since the 1950s, considering that it started out as a commercial-based community with local department stores.
A perfect example of the small businesses available at that time is the well-known Kotlikoff’s. East Camden’s only department store was located on the 2500 block of Federal St., serving the public from 1912 to 1981.
Kotlikoff’s was the business of a Russian immigrant named Louis Kotlikoff, who ran the store with his three sons and wife into commercial success well into the mid 1900s. However, in 1961 the opening of the Cherry Hill Mall competed with their sales and drove them into a steady decline until Kotlikoff’s closed.
East Camden has gone through a journey of constant renovation and improvement to fit the lifestyle of its inhabitants over the years, effectively turning Federal St. into a hub for commerce and public services that is easily accessible and safer than ever before.
*** Historical photos credited to the Courier post, all other photos credited to Brandon Cornelius***