University City Review: Small Business Saturday At The New Renata’s Kitchen Which Opens Today

Black Friday, perhaps the biggest and most anticipated shopping day of the year, is the day most major businesses mark down prices and host attractive deals designed to attract holiday shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. And it works. Lines form outside retail establishments and shoppers eagerly await doors to open so they can rush in and fill their carts with their desired items at significantly reduced prices.

But after Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday and that’s when small businesses get the opportunity to show their stuff for those who might be on the market to pick up bargains from local, small businesses.

That was the case at the new Renata’s Kitchen located at 3940 Baltimore Avenue in the diner this past Saturday. Vendors lined the downstairs of the newly renovated establishment and displayed their products which ranged from beauty and healthcare products, garments, accessories and other items.

“I invited the honorable Congressman Dwight Evans to come and speak, several panelists, mostly all from this area, all entrepreneurs with side-hustles and that kind of thing to speak about changing neighborhoods and how it affects independent businesses,” said Rasheed Rafik Abdellah who organized the event. Abdellah is the founder and managing partner of Indie Life, a media and promotions company whose office is located on Baltimore Ave.

“We also invited a number of vendors to sell some stuff because, of course, Small Business Saturday is about shopping,” Abdellah said.

Along with the panel discussions and speakers were food, music and lively fellowship as community residents, local entrepreneurs and those from surrounding areas came to enjoy the day-long event.

The event was held at Renata’s Kitchen whose doors are today now officially opened to the public, but on Saturday the restaurant was not officially open, but the new owners Kate and Yasser Aiq graciously hosted the Small Business Saturday none-the-less. The couple had just signed the lease for the venue a few days before the Small Business Saturday event. In fact, the ink on the lease haven’t even dried and the gas wasn’t even turned on at the time the event was held. The Philadelphia Gas Works connected service for the new occupants during the event, much to the relief of the guests in attendance.

Not only was the event one which attracted residents and local business owners and entrepreneurs but also elected officials, a few of whom stopped by to show their support for small businesses and the opening of the new restaurant.

Among them was State Representative James Roebuck.

“I think this is a very important event,” said Roebuck. The strength of any of our communities is the business structure around which we live,” he said.

Roebuck grew up in West Philadelphia. “I lived near 60th street, I remember the stores used to be there and if I did my chores in time, I could go to the movies. I didn’t even get on the bus, I walked down to 52nd street, [there were] five movie theaters there,” Roebuck said.

“We have to rebuild that structure. Stores and entertainment, all of that stuff in retail. I look forward to working with people to do that. So that’s a goal I remain committed to.”

Congressman Dwight Evans spoke to guests and applauded the new occupants of the space expected to open their doors to the public soon.

“They are what America is about, you need to understand that clearly,” said Evans.

“They are the first-responders, they are the ones who build this country. Understand the importance and the significance of small businesses. Them doing this every single day is a challenge, it’s not easy.”

Evans shared his history and spoke about the Ogontz Community Development Corporation which he created and how that CDC transformed the community.

“We renovated and turned Ogontz Avenue around, the 7100 block of Ogontz Avenue. But people told me it wasn’t possible for that to happen,” he said.

“When people buy a house, they make a decision connected to the amenities of a community,” he said. “They look at what kind of support they have in the community so when you decide to live wherever you live, you don’t just buy the house you look at the neighborhood, you look at the community and that’s what’s happening here.”

“This will be Renata’s Kitchen and we’re going to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and we’re really excited to expand on what we are already doing on 46th street and expand it into this place,” said Kate Aiq.

“This is an opportunity for small business people and the community to connect with one another and to learn more about what each other does,” said realtor Algernong Allen.

“Each year this happens as a way to celebrate small businesses and what they do for the community. As Congressman Evans said, they are on the front lines of serving the people, bringing amenities to people and making the community better,” he said.

Other panelists, guests and speakers at the event included Councilwoman-elect Jamie Gauthier; Artist advocate, Erica Hawthorne; Entrepreneur/Real Estate Investor Algernong Allen; Entrepreneur/producer and consultant ,Marangeli Mejia-Rabell; City Planner/lecturer and DJ Michael Fichman; Entrepreneur/owner of Hair Vyce Studio and President of the Baltimore Avenue Business Association (BABA), Franchon Pryor; and Entrepreneur/RE Investor, Ryan Spak.