Dave Fine (C '11) has an unorthodox vision for his food truck: bagels for a cause. After working in Chicago, Baltimore and then at a Philly nonprofit, he saw the work of companies like Toms and Warby Parker with direct social impact visions. Drawn to social entrepreneurship, he bought an old food truck on eBay, painted it bright red and chose a name—Schmear It. Three years later, Schmear It has grown into a fixture of the Penn food truck scene and has blown up so much that a brick–and–mortar location just opened at 3061 Market St.
Fine defines his restaurant by three principles: its customer service, social impact and customizable food experience. Calling itself the "Coldstone Creamery of Breakfast" means Schmear It has big shoes to fill, but in the vein of fast casual, Fine delivers. He attributes his knowledge of the "business of people" to his time at Penn, and though he joked about the relevance of his History and Communications major, acknowledged that the curriculum and networking as well as the importance of communication shaped his approach to small–business ownership.
A major part of Schmear It's vision is its partnership with local nonprofits. The food truck features biweekly partnerships with rotating charities, but in the interest of permanence, the restaurant will focus on monthly charities. During the month of November, National Homelessness Awareness Month, Schmear it is partnering with the Bethesda Project, a Philly–area nonprofit focused on lessening homelessness. Fine says that with the theme of the month in addition to Thanksgiving and the increase in colder weather, the company felt that Bethesda Project was a natural choice. The wall to the left of the entrance is covered in little sticky–note houses with donators' names written on the wall, and a cork board with the charity's mission is on full display. This past Wednesday, Schmear It held a "soft opening" using a pay–as–you–wish strategy to benefit the Bethesda Project 100 percent. Fine tells of the day's success, happy that people paid equal to or more than the general asking price for the products.
The new permanent location offers, in addition to the variety of bagels and customizable schmears of the truck, customizable breakfast sandwiches and yogurt parfaits.
Looking to the future, Fine hopes to continue expanding the store's presence in Philly, but at the moment, he's keeping his options open. He's hoping to make the physical store space more homey, potentially hosting a decorating party. When asked what the most rewarding part of the ownership experience, he cites personal interaction. Breakfast is habitual, but that shouldn't mean it has to be miserable. Service with a smile, getting to know customers and ensuring quality food really seems to drive this small store. What Schmear It is really about is engaging with the community and making it better from the inside out. All that and bagels too? We'll take it.