Brandon Chrostowski promised that he was just getting started. In addition to EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute
, the fine-dining bistro that provides formerly incarcerated citizens a foothold in the hospitality industry, the philanthropist recently unveiled EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center, a three-building campus in Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood that provides housing, services and amenities to current and former students while striving to improve the surrounding community.
But even that was just the tip of the spear when it came to Chrostowski’s plans to improve both the lives of the formerly incarcerated and the entire neighborhood around him.
“To solidify the EDWINS mission and make it stick, we have to keep doing these impossible tasks,” he explained. “This is just another notch in our long-term plan of building an elite culinary school, building this community up, enlarging our footprint, and casting that mission even farther.”
The next step will be a butcher shop, which will be the Buckeye neighborhood’s first fresh meat vendor in almost 50 years. The 3,200-square-foot shop is slated to open this winter.
“EDWINS Butcher Shop is the next step in an overall plan to combat the problem of re-entry through food," Chrostowski adds. “It is also a step in a broader vision. For far too long, an entire system within U.S. society, from banks to prisons to city courts, has benefited from exploiting the poverty and powerlessness of inner-city residents, including people exiting prison.”
The retail shop will be at 13024 Buckeye Rd., near the intersection of South Moreland. It is adjacent to the new EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center student campus and less than one mile from the Shaker Square restaurant. The strategic location allows for a walkable, bikeable commute between the three properties. Designed by local architecture firm Bialosky Cleveland, the project will renovate a long-vacant one-story commercial building.
“Unfair pricing, lack of healthy food options and economic oppression have gone unchecked in our poorest neighborhoods for decades,” Chrostowski says. “The butcher shop is another piece in our overall plan to combat these issues.”
The philanthropic organization will continue transforming properties in the neighborhood, with future plans that might include a bakery, fish shop, and wine and cheese shop, each of which will present the students and alumni with a new set of skills, new employment opportunities, improved confidence and heightened self-esteem.
Having purchased four properties in the neighborhood since 2014, and receiving ongoing support from several major foundations, EDWINS is slowly but surely making the village a reality.