When Mt. Airy developer Ken Weinstein, owner of Mt. Airy’s Trolley Car Diner, the Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls and the Trolley Car Station in West Philadelphia, first heard about the government shutdown, he knew he would have to do something to help.
“My parents and my grandparents clearly instilled these type of values in me, and I credit them 100 percent towards wanting to give back with everything you do,” said Weinstein, who was named “Do Gooder of the Year” by the Philadelphia Business Journal and Go Mt. Airy Community Champion by the Mt. Airy CDC.
On Jan. 17, Weinstein had a notice posted to the Trolley Car Diner’s Facebook page urging furloughed government workers to stop by any Trolley Car location to enjoy meals on credit.
“We have had several families come in to enjoy our food and service,” Weinstein said, “but the big surprise so far is how many of our customers have come in to make a donation towards the effort. In fact, we have not put out any credit, because any furloughed workers’ families who have come in to the restaurants have had their meals paid for by generous customers.”
One Trolley Car Diner customer contributed $200 — and she is a furloughed worker herself.
“If God gave me the ability to help others, this is what I will do,” the customer explained.
Such acts of generosity were seen across the city, as dozens of area restaurants offered free food and drink and special discounts to federal workers, including Sedition, Ardiente, Le Virtu, In the Valley, &pizza, Brickwall Tavern, Brigantessa, Jane G’s, Tiffin, Misconduct Tavern, Dim Sum House, Rotten Ralph’s, Nick’s Bar and Grill, Pineville Fishtown, Mike’s BBQ, Pineville Tavern and others.
In Manayunk alone, 13 restaurants offered deals, while 10 of Stephen Starr’s Philadelphia restaurants are giving out free lunches to federal workers from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1 as part of the #ChefsforFeds project. Philadelphia chef/restaurateur Michael Schulson is offering free sandwiches during certain hours at Center City’s Giuseppe & Sons through Feb. 1.
Federal Donuts, co-founded by Steve Cook and Michael Solomonov, gave out free donuts and coffee to federal employees during the shutdown.
“At Federal Donuts, we try to give more than we get — that’s a good motto to live by,” said Federal Donuts CEO and co-founder Tom Henneman. “Help comes in different forms. Help can be a hand, help can be a shoulder, help can be a dollar, help can be a meal. There’s different ways for everybody to contribute. For us, the most direct way for us to do that is to let people have a donut, let people have a coffee. That’s the least that we can do.”
Hundreds of people took Federal Donuts up on its offer, and last week, the chicken-and-donuts chain went to Philadelphia International Airport to deliver fresh donuts to TSA workers.
“They were so thankful,” said Henneman, who added that the best part of the trip to the airport for him was seeing all the customers who were bringing food to the TSA agents, just to help out.
If the shutdown resumes, Henneman said, they’ll offer the donuts and coffee again. “Why wouldn’t we do this?” he said. “It is in our moral code as a company.”
Weinstein, too, feels there’s a moral imperative at work.
“You don’t do it for the recognition, you don’t do it for the kudos. It’s something you do as a responsible citizen of Philadelphia,” he said. “We’re happy to provide credit as long as it takes until people get their back pay, and if they don’t get their back pay, we’ll just eat it.”