Philadelphia is faring better than most cities in the face of the ever-changing dynamics of retail. In a report by the City Center District, 2018 showed only a 5.4% retail vacancy in downtown Philly, proving a strong stand against the retail downturn. The city also boasts its own businesses—75% of the retail stores in the area are local businesses.

From the changing retail mix along Rittenhouse Row to the expanding food and beverage offerings on East Market and Chestnut streets, Philly’s retail landscape is gearing towards accommodating the growing millennial market without compromising its service for longtime customers. This list features the top six companies in the retail construction industry that make this all possible. They were chosen for their awards, number of projects, adherence to national standards, and the overall ability to create attractive spaces with effective merchandising and interactive spaces that facilitate services efficiently. 

6) McCoubrey/Overholser Construction

6839 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19119

Based in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy neighborhood, McCoubrey/Overholser Construction works in both residential and commercial construction. It specializes in historic restoration in both categories. The firm is highly-accoladed, having won Preservation Awards from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and merit awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – Philadelphia Chapter.

The firm is headed by John McCoubrey, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He is accompanied by his brother, Peter, who serves as a senior site supervisor, and his business partner, Charlie Overholser. The team has completed some of the most demanding building construction projects smoothly and within the constraints of time and budget. The company’s retail portfolio includes local boutiques and specialty retail stores. 


5) A&E Construction Co.

152 Garrett Rd., Upper Darby, PA 19082

Serving the Mid-Atlantic Region since 1978, A&E Construction has continually exceeded expectations in commercial general contracting. The company has done institutional, commercial, retail, and private development as well as several government projects. Due to its wide success, the Philadelphia Business Journal has named it among its Top 50 Family Owned Businesses since 2010 and Top 25 General Contractors since 2002.

Founder Bill Santora grew the firm from four employees to its current staff of over seventy full-time employees. The company’s dedication to premium service and lasting relationships is continued by his sons Bill Santora, CEO, and Tony Santora, President. 70% of A&E’s business is gained through repeat customers and recommendations. The firm’s retail projects encompass malls, big box retail, and tenant fit-outs. It has been responsible for tenant fit-outs of multiple Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta retail outlets.  

4) E.P. Guidi, Inc.

1301 South Bethlehem Pike, Ambler, PA 19002

E.P. Guidi, Inc. is the oldest contractor on this list. A seasoned veteran in the commercial contracting business, its construction management and design/build capabilities continuously exceed expectations in the retail, restaurant, hospitality, and aviation industries. The firm serves the Northeast, particularly Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Brothers Enzo and John Guidi left Italy to start a new life in America in 1933. Their job remodeling homes in Philadelphia alongside their father eventually led to a construction company between them. From its first 7-11 store in the 1960s to its award-winning aviation projects, the firm consistently has brought excellent project quality and customer satisfaction. Featured below is part of the firm’s work in the 60,000 square-foot Terminal B Restaurant and Retail project at the Philadelphia International Airport. The project won in the General Building Contractors Association’s (GBCA) 2018 Construction Excellence Awards for Best Hospitality Project. The retail section of the Northeast, Southeast, and Northwest walkthroughs include wall merchandise displays, millwork, ceramic, and electric work. 

3) Russ Kelly & Associates

12 Orchard Way, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054

New Jersey-based commercial general contractor Russ Kelly & Associates has served the Center City of Philadelphia and the eight-county Philadelphia/New Jersey/Delaware region for over 37 years. The company is proud to be built on repeat business and customer referrals, building each client relationship to last. This strategy is instilled by the firm’s current president, Barbara Kelly. The Wharton School alumna is a past president of the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) and a past national board member.

Most of the firm’s retail projects are tenant build-outs found throughout Center City and the surrounding Philadelphia Area as well as the Philadelphia International Airport. An example of the firm’s work is the Bar Symon Restaurant in the Philadelphia International Airport. The project consisted of demolishing and remodeling the 4,200 square-foot anchor space in the D Terminal. The visible kitchen, island bar, and expansive 150-foot open-wall dining area are a few of the unique elements that RKA excels at for every project.

2) Bittenbender Construction

5 N Columbus Blvd., Pier 5, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Since 2003, Bittenbender Construction has served the Philadelphia region as a commercial general contractor. It prides itself on being a 100% woman-owned business, certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program. Its portfolio is populated with cultural, academic, health care, corporate and retail projects. 

Founder and president Emily Bittenbender has risen above the male-dominated construction world as an expert and leader of the industry. She is the first woman to lead the male-dominated General Building Contractors Association of Philadelphia in its 125-year history, and runs a company that favors inclusivity and diversity. Bittenbender’s retail projects include new construction and fit outs. It has done banks, shopping plazas, and tenant build-outs. The firm is responsible for the upgrade and renovation of the Walgreens Philly Marque store. It is one of Walgreens’s 11 flagship stores nationwide. The three-story building features wide open spaces decked in red, white, and blue showcasing products for health and wellness. 

1) Clemens Construction Company

1435 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

Clemens Construction Company is a leader in commercial construction all over the state of Pennsylvania. Its urban infill projects and construction of ground-up commercial in the education, hospitality, institutional, multi-family, and retail sectors have won awards from the GBCA of Philadelphia. It is also notable for its sustainable building practices and excellent safety record. Most recently, it received the 500,000 Hours No Incident Award from the GBCA. The firm has more than 350 carpenters on staff, enabling it to custom self-perform all carpentry related trades. This shows on the amount of detail and expertise put on each of its projects, from heavy restoration of Greek columns to intricate high-end finishes. The firm’s excellent retail projects have been featured in The New York Times, Dwell, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

The firm created the magnificent glass structure on 1430 Walnut in 2015. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the building is the cousin of the Apple Store Cube in New York. The ethereal 56,000-square-foot glass house boasts 23 feet of floor-to-ceiling glass, a vegetated green roof, and a sophisticated blue roof drainage system. With this project, the firm created the first truss-stiffened unitized curtain wall installation in the U.S. The project earned Best Retail Project and Best Commercial Project in the GBCA Building Excellence Awards. It was also featured in USGlass Magazine. 

How can I find a contractor near me?

Read our latest articles on the best contractors in and near Philadelphia. If you don’t see your project type below, just let us know – we are happy to create a tailored recommendation list just for you.

The Best Tenant Improvement Contractors in Philadelphia

The Best Restaurant Contractors in Philadelphia