When West Philly Local last reported on the Center for Culinary Enterprises in May, two new restaurants options were slated to open late that summer—48th Street Grille and Planet Vegan. But the summer has come and gone, and neither restaurant has opened its doors in their respective spaces at 48th and Spruce Streets.
This week, West Philly Local caught up with Bryan Fenstermaker, senior director of programming at The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation (TEC-CDC), to find out the reason for the radio silence. Turns out, financing delays pushed back the grand opening of 48th Street Grille, Fenstermaker told us. According to the TEC-CDC executive, Chef Carl Lewis has signed a 10-year lease for the Culinary Center’s retail space, where he will open his American-Caribbean restaurant this spring.
As for Planet Vegan, it’s no longer opening in the second space. Owner Dorinda Hampton told West Philly Local she wants to instead focus on further expanding her health food line, Really Fresh Vegan, which operates out of the Culinary Center, and grow the list of places that carry her products. “Once things get more stable, I will start looking for another location for Planet Vegan I’m really passionate about opening it up in the near future,” Hampton said.
Real Food Works To Go will, instead, open in Planet Vegan’s place, Fenstermaker said—although there is no word yet on its launch date. Real Food Works To Go is a pilot program developed through a partnership between TEC-CDC and Real Food Works—a Philadelphia start-up providing subscription-based, home-delivered healthy meal plans—that will function as a health food store, as well as offer on-site food preparation, cooking demos, and nutritional education.
In addition to 48th Street Grille, TEC-CDC will open the Philly Restaurant Residency Incubator in the middle retail space at the Culinary Center. The new program, said Fenstermaker, will serve as a sort of pop-up shop for the food world—aspiring restaurateurs and chefs can test out their sit-down restaurant concepts in the 1,445 sq-ft fully-functioning space without “cashing in their life savings to do so.”
The restaurant incubator model received an economic boost recently from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services through its Economic Development Healthy Food Finance Initiative Award distributed by HHS’ Office of Community Services. The award, according to Fenstermaker, will be put towards construction and operation of incubator. In February, TEC-CDC will also release a business plan competition for the incubator.
“The restaurant incubator will allow new entrepreneurs to hone their craft while we work with them to line up financing,” Fenstermaker told West Philly Local. “The end result would be to place them on corridors in West Philly and other parts of the city with financing ready to go. It is a proof of concept model to assist small entrepreneurs.”