A South Philadelphia vegan bakery weathers the pandemic—and lifts other small businesses with it.
When searching for the best vegan bakery Philadelphia offers, one might at first overlook a small storefront at Reed and Carlisle Streets near the Mario Lanza mural in South Philadelphia. In the 16 months since opening, however, Batter and Crumbs Cafe (1401 Reed St. Philadelphia, PA 19146) has weathered a pandemic, become a community gathering spot, established an excellent reputation for its vegan treats, and lifted other small businesses with it.
Batter and Crumbs began as an online vegan bakery in 2014. Paul Carmine and husband John Schultz filled wholesale orders from a commercial kitchen in Delaware County, gathering positive reviews along the way.
“We saw tons of orders going to South Philly, so when we transitioned from wholesale to retail, it made sense to look here,” said Carmine. “We spent over two years finding an ideal space, and found our current location when it was under construction. Our landlord helped us build it into exactly the store we wanted, and we opened in July 2019.”
The South Philly store adopted a “grab and go” model pioneered by Starbucks, where Schultz once worked. The bakery makes their own cakes, cookies, and delicacies, but outsources bagels and sandwiches. Rather than buying from a faceless commercial bakery, however, they rely on local small and minority-owned businesses.
“Our sourdough bagels come from Four Worlds Bakery in West Philly,” said Carmine. “Chef Reeky, owner of Chef Reeky’s Cafe & Juice Bar in Elmwood Park, provides one of our most popular menu items—a vegan breakfast sandwich called the McReeky. We just began a partnership with Vegan Chef Lenka [Zivkovic], and source ingredients from Rowhouse Grocery. Our coffee comes from Philly Fair Trade Roasters.”
Except for their most popular items, the menu changes from week to week as Schultz, Carmine, and their suppliers get creative and invent new products. A vegan chicken and waffle sandwich is in the works. Batter and Crumbs also offers soft-serve ice cream.
A pop-and-pop cafe in the era of COVID
8 months after opening, the pandemic shutdown occurred. “We were closed for six weeks beginning March 17,” said Carmine. “Our customers showed us a lot of love, buying gift cards they could use later. On Mother’s Day, we re-opened with reduced hours, Thursday-Sunday, 8 a.m.—2 p.m.”
“We’re takeout only. The pandemic has made it impossible to re-open our small customer dining space, so you won’t see people reading and working on their laptops yet.”
So what’s Batter and Crumbs’s secret to survival? Carmine continued, “We’re extremely busy on the bakery side of the business. Custom vegan cakes are sold out through 2020, so we won’t be taking orders until mid-January 2021.
Pre-made cakes are still available at the store on weekends, and with Thanksgiving approaching, the bakery will also sell pumpkin pie, cannoli, apple crisp and butterscotch bundt cake. All vegan, of course.