Retail shops are continuing to pop up along the formerly industrial western stretch of Washington Avenue. The latest is Breezy’s, a marketplace-deli-smoothie shop set to open this winter.
“Think of it like your local, very small version of Wawa,” chef-owner Chad Durkin told Billy Penn. “You go in there, there’s the sandwiches, there’s the drink bar, there’s grab-and-go quick coffee. I want to make it like a friendly neighborhood joint.”
The business is an expansion of an original expansion plan, Durkin explained. His initial idea had been for increased commissary space and a packaging-shipping center for his current spots, Porco’s Porchetteria & Small Oven Pastry Shop, which share a kitchen and pickup window at the corner of 22nd and Washington.
With a deal to move into the building’s second floor falling through and local brokers OCF reaching out to gauge his interest in a ground floor venue at their upcoming development across the street, the 40-year-old chef considered ways to make it work without competing with himself.
The result: Just under half of the 1,880-square-foot space will be devoted to the consumer area, split between market, deli, and smoothie shop.
With few grocery options in the area, and the development above bringing another 90 apartments and 21 townhomes, a market offering basic goods and essentials seemed a smart bet, Durkin said.
The space could also provide a “stage” for local brands — independent small businesses like his own efforts. “This area doesn’t have any[thing] like Fishtown Pickles or Heavy Metal Sausage,” or Milk Jawn, he said, adding that he’s also reached out to Side Project Jerky and Poppy’s Custard to see how he can get their products on his shelves. “That’s the Philadelphia that I like, and I believe in.”
Though small and independent, Breezy’s is aiming for a price point just below gourmet megachain Sprouts, nine blocks east at Broad and Washington. Prices will vary with product style, with fancy artisanal potato chips sharing shelf space with Herr’s.
Ultimately, Durkin said, it’ll be customer feedback and shopping patterns that’ll determine how shelves are stocked. “I’m building a store for the consumers.”
Then there’s the deli. Breezy’s sandwiches will be different from those at Porco’s, with twists on traditional Philly staples like Italian, roast beef, and turkey hoagies The goal is to offer a menu that is “approachable, comfortable, affordable,” Durkin said, “something that you’d want to eat weekly.”
The smoothie shop is a bonus, he added, and a way to use extra market produce in delicious fashion.
Addressing another shortage in the neighborhood, Breezy’s will offer event space available to rent for everything from birthdays and dinners to cocktail parties, corporate functions, and, potentially, cooking classes.
The added square footage should generally be a boon to his restaurant operations, Durkin said; currently, staff meetings are held by the mixers.
“I’m trying to build our brand, I’m trying to build a better hospitality team. So I want to invest in them,” said Durkin, who previously worked for “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, opening 23 locations of Carlo’s Bakery around the world.
He got his original culinary start in Philly after moving from Toms River in 2000, interning at Le Bec Fin before getting hired by Susanna Foo for her eponymous Walnut Street restaurant, where he worked his way up to pastry chef. In 2013, with Sidecar co-owner Adam Ritter, he launched Kermit’s Bake Shoppe in the same corner storefront today rented by Porco’s and Small Oven today.
“I’m invested in the area,” Durkin said of the Washington Avenue stretch he envisions becoming “a really fun corridor,” similar to New York City’s Chelsea Market. Given unlimited funds, he’d bring a ramen restaurant and ice cream store to the neighborhood.
A veteran of restaurant openings, Durkin said Breezy’s marks the first time he’s managed every aspect of a project, from designing the floors to financing — the latter being the toughest hurdle, one he’s still working to clear.
“If anyone wants to dive in and invest some money, let me know,” Durkin said. “I’m not opposed to it!”