The founder of the environmentally sustainable White Dog Cafe, Judy Wicks, shines as a local social activist and entrepreneur. Wicks founded the hospitable White Dog Cafe in 1983.
She sold the restaurant in 2009 in order to focus more on her love of social activism. Through her creation of the White Dog Cafe, Wicks focused on specific major requirements that she used to keep her restaurant as environmentally sustainable as possible.
The White Dog Cafe was located on the first floor of Wick’s home on a row of Victorian brownstones in West Philadelphia. The White Dog Cafe started off with humble beginnings.
“I didn’t have much money so I only made muffins and coffee to start with,” Wicks said.
Wicks said her customers would come into her home to use the restroom and at the end of the night the earnings from that day were placed in an envelope under the pillow on her bed. Wicks really wanted to create a restaurant that people would enjoy coming to while at the same time realizing they could make a difference in the world.
“We had table talks at the cafe,” Wicks said. “We would have different speakers so that people thought they were a part of something more.” Although Wicks owned the restaurant she didn’t do any of the cooking.
“I am not a professional chef, but since I was a girl, I had to take home economics. The only thing I ever cooked was bread and soup.”
After the transfer of ownership, the restaurant still keeps the same specific values. Even though the restaurant was sold, the name was not. When the owner changed, the mission of the café was required to stay the same. Their mission is to serve their customers, community, earth and each other.
Throughout the years, Wicks has shared her life experiences and goals with many other leaders around the world.
“There have been a lot of people that have impressed me, but very few that I can call my hero,” Linda Panetta, photography instructor and friend of Wicks, said. “Judy is one of my heroes.”
The White Dog Cafe now belongs to Pennsylvania and New Jersey restaurateur, Marty Grims. Grims has promised to keep the legacy of The White Dog Cafe in both the original University City, Pa., location and the new Wayne, Pa., location.
“I want people to know that you can use business as a strong vehicle of social change,” Wicks said.
Even if it is just a restaurant, The White Dog Cafe will continue to be a positive model of how businesses can make a difference.
“Some people say I use good food to lure people into social activism,” Wicks said. “That is actually the truth.”