A restaurant that helps the homeless is opening a new location right off-campus.
Mason Wartman, owner of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, recently announced he was opening a second store on 40th and Market streets, which will maintain Wartman’s “pay-it-forward” business model.
Under Rosa’s system, slices of pizza are a dollar, and customers can pay additional money to reserve future slices. That food is later given to a person in need who comes into the store for something to eat. Customers are also encouraged, after making their donation, to leave an inspirational Post-It note.
Since appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Wartman has seen demand for his business increase dramatically. Wartman responded by expanding — both purchasing a second location and hiring five employees, three of whom have experienced homelessness.
Wartman said a combination of affordable rental-rates and rising consumer-traffic prompted him to move west. Once the restaurant opens, Wartman looks forward to continuing to work closely with Penn students and other universities.
“We work with a lot of groups, like Penn Appetit, or other food related networks, or other social giving networks or business related clubs,” Wartman said. “We’re just very involved in not just getting our story out there, but also sharing what has made our business successful, and paying it forward and having students learn from that.”
Wartman will be speaking at a Drexel University Close School of Entrepreneurship social entrepreneurship panel on Monday. Last month, Wartman spoke at Penn for a similar event hosted by the Wharton Undergraduate Giving Society. Penn Appetit is in talks to host Wartman for another speaker event.
College and Wharton sophomore Daphne Fong, vice president of WUGS’ annual “Giving Month,” is eager for Wartman to move so close to campus. She said she feels confident that Rosa’s will give Penn students a great opportunity to help the local community.
“I’m very excited [that Rosa’s Fresh Pizza] is coming to University City,” Fong said. “A lot of students may be very busy at times, and [Rosa’s] is such a low cost and low difficulty way to give back.”
Fong added that her group would seek to work closely with Rosa’s in the future.
“I think we’d like to do as much work as possible, whether that’s through marketing or helping out in the kitchen … or fundraising,” Fong said. “Anything he really wants us to do we’d be happy to help out with.”
Nursing junior Laura Ng, the president and founder of Penn Project One, believes Rosa’s Fresh Pizza will do much to advance the cause of her organization, which is dedicated to feeding people experiencing homelessness.
“One of the things that Project One aims to do is make volunteering or outreach easy for Penn students, so the convenience of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza complements what we do," Ng said. “[Rosa’s] also raises awareness that these people are out there in the community and that there are easy ways to reach out and give back.”
Wartman also hopes Rosa’s encourages Penn students to interact more with people experiencing homelessness.
“[Rosa’s] has been a great way to build community and have two disparate groups that otherwise wouldn’t interact to share ideas, learn about each other and literally share the same space here,” Wartman said. “That’s definitely coming down the pike [at Penn].”
Wartman wants his restaurant to serve as an example. A finance major and former Wall Street researcher, Wartman thinks Rosa’s story can be an inspiration for Penn students and former vice presidents.
“A lot students at Penn are very good at a myriad of different things, just like we are at pizza,” he said. “They can do similar work to us, and help a community that often gets overlooked.”