EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute has developed a worldwide reputation for giving ex-offenders a second chance with the training for a career in the culinary and hospitality industry but after the initial success of the Shaker Square restaurant founder Brandon Chrostowski always believed those in the program weren’t the only ones in need of a second chance.
Chrostowski found a few buildings a few blocks away on Buckeye that enabled him to create EDWINS Lifeskills Center where the students enrolled in the program could live while also learning additional skills.
Some may have looked at the long-empty former grocery store next door as a negative, he looked at it as an opportunity and after more than a year of planning and an investment “north of a million dollars” EDWINS Butcher Shop will open to the public Dec. 13.
The shop provides Chrostowski the opportunity to offer his students a different skill set while also giving this neighborhood something they haven’t had in a long time.
“A woman comes in the other day,” Chrostowski recalled, “and she said this used to be called Fish's in 1972 and she remembers the beef hanging, the salami hanging and just being surrounded by this butcher experience.”
“The vision's always been to build the best culinary school in the country,” he said. “The first step was to create a great restaurant and be able to do that consistently, draw visibility. Then as soon as that was under our feet I started thinking next housing, what neighborhood to build in? No better place than Buckeye. We're proud to be a part of this resurgence in Buckeye, it's back.”
“This is an example of what happens when you exemplify community, this is for everyone, this is our home.”
As for what might be next?
“See how our neighbors react to this and if all goes well, if we get the support that we received over at the restaurant, next will be a bakery you know just give me a year and we'll get that going,” he said.
The work of EDWINS was profiled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Knife Skills”, which Chrostowski said has helped bring their work to a whole new level.
“The documentary was huge, going to the Oscars gave it the visibility that we also deserve, everyone who is looking for that second chance deserves that spotlight and it was big,” he said.
“I've got a map at the restaurant now. I should have gotten one of the world, but everyone that comes because of the movie we start putting little flags up. Juneau Alaska, Cheyenne Wyoming, Pasadena. They're coming from all over the country.”
So, is this a blueprint that could be followed in other once thriving neighborhoods in need of help?
“We're just opening our doors, I don't want to pop the champagne yet that we succeeded but I think that if you listen and if you just listen to those around you and your neighborhood… you'll discover that it's all in front of you, what you need is right in front of you.”
EDWINS Butcher Shop, will be open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.