• Alexandria Jones

Lifelong Friends Open Pizzeria in Philadelphia to Change Lives of Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

Credits: Down North Pizza

Kurt Evans and Muhammed Abdul-Hadi are positively impacting the lives of previously incarcerated men and women.

Good Morning America reports that the two childhood friends are the owners of Down North Pizza, a pizza restaurant located in North Philadelphia that exclusively employs formerly incarcerated individuals to give them a chance to change their quality of life. The business opened in March and has been packed with lines running out the door from members of the community who are showing up to support the local business.

Evans and Abdul-Hadi combined their appetite for pizza and their love for giving back to the community into this business. The inspiration behind their mission came from a situation that has touched both of their lives. After witnessing how incarceration has affected the lives of their families and loved ones who couldn’t find jobs after leaving prison, the two wanted to create a place of employment that would help reduce Philadelphia’s recidivism rate, which is the likelihood of a convicted criminal to reoffend.

“We’re changing the quality of life for our community by being the hand that feeds and teaching others to do the same,” Kurt Evans told Good Morning America.

Credits: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Along with employment, Down North Pizza offers culinary career opportunities at a fair wage. Their employees are taught multiple kitchen skills — from prepping the food, to cooking, and baking — that allow them to prepare the restaurant’s signature Detroit-style pizzas. The skills their employees will acquire is the starting point to help them integrate back into society.

“We just want to meet people where they’re at and help them along the way,” Evans said. “It was very important for us to help these people coming from the system and break the cycle of mass incarceration.”

In addition, they also provide short-term housing for their employees who need it. They allow their workers to live rent-free for six months in housing units in the apartment above the restaurant. Therefore, giving their employees the ability to work and obtain various skills all while also saving funds.

Evans and Abdul-Hadi hope that they’ve influenced and encouraged other Black-owned businesses and many others to realize their ability to help give back to the community and change the lives of those around them in meaningful ways.

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