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White Dog Cafe on 3420 Sansom St. celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this month.

Credit: Ellie Pirtle

White Dog Cafe — a restaurant frequented by many in the Penn community — celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this month. 

On Jan. 10, 1983, Judy Wicks opened the restaurant with a promise to serve organic and seasonal food. Wicks was seen as a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, according to 6ABC. 

"Judy was way ahead of her time,” Culinary Director of Fearless Restaurants Zach Grainda said in an interview with 6ABC. 

Wicks told The Daily Pennsylvanian in a 1998 interview that the three most important aspects of her life were "business, social change, and spirituality."

She always sought to integrate social responsibility into her business endeavors. A mentoring program sponsored by White Dog Cafe gave students from West Philadelphia High School workplace experience, community service participation, and recreational opportunities, the DP reported in 1998. 

In 2001, Wicks started White Dog Community Enterprises. WDCE was created to connect local Pennsylvanian farmers with urban restaurants. At that time, 20% of White Dog Cafe's profits were donated to WDCE and other nonprofit groups, the DP reported in 2008. 

In 2002, White Dog became the first business in Pennsylvania to purchase all of its electricity from wind power, the DP reported in 2008.  

Credit: Hannah Shumsky

One of the dining rooms in White Dog Cafe, a University City restaurant on 3420 Sansom St.

In 2008, Wicks was ready to sell her business and retire, yet she was very particular about giving White Dog Cafe to someone with the same vision for the restaurant as her, 6ABC reported

After a lengthy interview process with potential buyers, Wicks signed a contract with Fearless Restaurants, maintaining a 10-year auditing period, according to 6ABC. 

Under Fearless Restaurants, White Dog Cafe grew. The group bought and subsequently expanded University City's White Dog Cafe into the adjacent property, 6ABC reported.

White Dog Cafe also became a franchise, with four other locations in Wayne, Haverford, Glen Mills, and Chester Springs, Pa. 

Fearless Restaurants is also behind Louis-Louis at The Inn at Penn and Moshulu Restaurant on Penn’s Landing

White Dog Cafe has garnered several accolades throughout its years, including Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 50 American Restaurants Worth Traveling to See." 

“We never want to be a special occasion restaurant,” Grainda said to 6ABC. “We want to be a neighborhood restaurant and look forward to another 40 years.”