With the mandates for restaurants in the city changing overnight a couple of weeks ago, many owners were left scrambling to find new ways to serve their customers and keep their businesses viable.
Chad Todd, sole proprietor of Sulimay’s Restaurant in Fishtown, decided to turn his loss into the community’s gain.
“The idea just evolved from the terrifying question of uncertainty of, ‘What are we going to do?’ One way or another, we were going to lose business and income due to this horrible situation,” he said. “So, we might as well help as many people as we can, while we still have the means to.”
Enter Penn Treaty School.
Brooke Hoffman, co-president of Friends of Penn Treaty School, said a relationship between the restaurant formed after the school hosted a dining fundraiser at the Fishtown eatery around Valentine’s Day last year.
“Sulimay’s was such a great partner. They kept things inexpensive so that it would be accessible to everyone in our school community,” she said. “When our local high school football co-op was selling team T-shirts to raise money, Sulimay’s bought T-shirts for their staff and sold T-shirts to their customers to support the team. Sulimay’s Restaurant is the epitome of a good neighbor.”
Normally open seven days a week, Sulimay’s is known for its breakfast fare, from its Fishtown Scrapple made with smoked whitefish, to its beef hash, which “was No. 1 on the best things to eat and drink in Philly list in July.”
When restrictions were put in place on March 16 that prohibited dine-in service at restaurants, business dropped significantly.
Weekends account for more than half Sulimay’s sales, and were down 40 percent the weekend the mandate went into effect, according to Todd.
“[The following] Monday, the quarantine was put in place and we decided to cease selling food,” he said.
On Thursday, March 26, and Friday, March 27, Todd estimated the restaurant was able to feed about 200 students and families from Penn Treaty School, which included several local businesses contributing food, too, including Murph’s Bar, Riverwards Produce, Whipped Bake Shop, Fishtown Realty, One Stop Deli and Four Sons Pizzeria.
Friends of Penn Treaty and teachers at the school have donated.
And, the 26th Police District helped in the effort to get food to the community, according to Todd.
“We put together meals and necessities that were available for pick-up or delivery,” Todd said. “In addition to the school families, we asked the community if they knew of anyone in need. We fed around 150 neighbors through the community reaching out for their neighbors.”
Since the initial meals were served, Sulimay’s has continued to offer weekly donations to those in need.
Monday marked the first night the restaurant had take-out dinners available for purchase, and Easter dinners may be sold this week.
In the meantime, Sulimay’s is still busy putting meals together for those who need it most.
“Sulimay’s really is the catalyst for this effort. Without them spearheading this, we would not be able to meet these very real needs,” Hoffman said. “I can’t stress enough what a huge gift this is to our school community. Penn Treaty School is a Title 1 school, and many of our families struggle financially under normal circumstances. With the school closures, and the loss of work during this pandemic, the situation has become extreme and will become even more extreme as the quarantine continues. We are so grateful that Sulimay’s Restaurant has been and continues to be the amazing neighbor.”
For Sulimay’s, everyone is in the same boat.
“We’re all affected by the current situation,” Todd said. “There are a lot of people struggling right now, and we’re just using the tools at our disposal to help as many people as we can.”