The White Dog Cafe
At A Glance
|Number of employees:||90 (2008)|
|Total revenue:||$4.4 million|
For 25 years Judy Wicks’ wake-up ritual was to go to her bedroom mirror and chant a four-word mantra: “Good morning beautiful business!” Her commute to the business, the White Dog Café, was about 60 seconds, as she wound her way down the stairs of her three-story brownstone, through the offices of the nonprofit White Dog Community Enterprises, past her retail shop called the Black Cat, selling locally made and fair trade gifts, and finally entered the restaurant. Besides being a popular eatery and bar featuring local food, organic produce, and humanely raised meat, the White Dog has become ground zero for efforts in Philadelphia, and nationally, to organize locally owned businesses.
If the White Dog has a “homey” feel to it, it’s because the building, across the street from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, has actually been Judy’s home. Each of the half- dozen sitting spaces in the restaurant has a special ambiance: tables out front resembling a neighborhood porch; a living room with big, bright windows and lace curtains; a darker room with a piano; a horse shoe bar next to the entrance. Scattered throughout the restaurant are funny dog statues, pictures, and knick knacks. The menu features its own canine labels of wine, “Snaggletooth,” and microbrews under the name “Leg Lift Lager.”
The two upper floors of the White Dog were Judy’s home and office. “It would have been impossible to raise my children without living above the shop. A restaurant is so intensive, with people here almost 24-7...My daughter, Grace, was a bus girl at one point, one of our first sales girls in Black Cat, and is now Director of Community Programs. My son, who is more shy, tended not to go down as much as she did, but he did work as a busboy in high school and as our tech guy before he left for college. It has been a real family business.”
This past year, two momentous changes have taken place. First, Judy finally sold the business to another local proprietor to focus on White Dog Community Enterprises and moved into a new house. And second, White Dog Community Enterprises merged with the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, a local network of the international Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. But more on these shortly.