'Down North Pizza': How this not so ordinary pizzeria aims to reduce recidivism rate in North Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For the past two and half years, local entrepreneur chef Kurt Evans has had a vision of a different kind of pizza shop.

"I idea started from this dinner series I had for mass incarceration," said Evans.

Evans and his business partner had dinner about recidivism and decided to branch off into a bigger vision for the community.

"We decided to take a property and turn it into a space that was equitable and fair for formerly incarcerated people coming home from prison," he added.

Down North Pizza is a mission-led for-profit restaurant, providing food and exclusively providing culinary career opportunities at a fair wage for those formerly incarcerated.

"Philadelphia has a recidivism rate of about 35 percent," said Evans. "What we wanted to do was bring something to a neighborhood like Strawberry Mansion and give the people something of good quality. As in food, and we wanted to bring good people in to give them good quality jobs."

Short-term housing units will also be available upstairs as an incentive, Evans says, to provide temporary housing assistance for employees and allow adequate time to save funds for permanent living.

Evans targeted the official opening date for December 2020, but while these efforts are self-funded, he seeks help financing the mission to get the doors open.

Through his recently launched GoFundMe campaign, Evans is targeting $100,000 where supporters can purchase "virtual pizzas" that will be donated to local community groups during the week of Thanksgiving.

The goal behind the 'Everybody Eats Fundraiser' is to sell 100 virtual pizzas per day to cover operating costs, fair wages for employees, and costs related to housing.

"A lot of Black minority businesses run into underfunding because of lack of access and resources," said Evans.

Overall, Evans says he's just focused on uplifting his community through his craft.

"We're looking to be the north star of Black businesses," said Evans. "A lot of people through people that's been in prison away. We want to be able to bring a new standard of business to the city."
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