Kurt Evans and Muhammed Abdul-Hadi from Philadelphia have been lifelong friends. They’ve always been passionate about pizza and giving back to their community. So, after several months of planning, they decided to open up a pizza shop in the heart of North Philadelphia. It’s a shop run exclusively by formerly incarcerated men and women.
“We’re changing the quality of life for our community by being the hand that feeds and teaching others to do the same,” said the co-founder of Down North Pizza, Kurt Evans. He told Good Morning America that after seeing how incarceration has impacted their families and how it’s been hard for their loved ones to find employment after leaving prison, the two knew that the pizzeria could help reduce the recidivism rate in Philadelphia.
Down North Pizza is known for its Detroit-style pizzas and provides culinary career opportunities at a fair wage for those that were previously involved in the justice system. The restaurant has eight employees, and each of them was taught various skills in the kitchen as a stepping stone back into society.
Evans and Abdul-Hadi are also offering their employees six months of free rent at the upstairs apartment, allowing them to save up for a permanent living.
The two friends said they hope to be an example for Black businesses, encouraging other establishments to find ways to give back to the community.
“If you want to get involved, you can start by partnering with local organizations that are like-minded,” Evans told Good Morning America. “Usually the community is speaking to you about what it needs, you just have to listen to it.”