NORTHERN LIBERTIES (WTXF) - Several years ago, Fox 29’s Bill Anderson did a story on Philly Cupcake featuring owners Johnny Columbo and Michael Lewis. They opened at 12th and Chestnut before it was popular. The business was a success, but as the area grew, mass construction killed their foot traffic. Ultimately, their business closed.
"A number of businesses had to leave that area basically because the city allowed way too much development to happen in a small area, and that was great for the developers,” Lewis said. “Not so great for small business."
Years later, the closing of their business inspired them to refocus. Now their new business is not only successful but funding the non-profit they dreamed of from the beginning.
"Even though we were frustrated and disgusted with what happened there and wanted to leave, we decided to regroup and look at our plan B, which was to work with animals."
Their desire to work with animals plus their history as a Philly Cupcake bakery combined, and Philly Pupcake was born.
"We took that passion, and we reinvented our business in another place: Northern Liberties,” Lewis said.
Philly Pupcake bills itself as a human grade dog kitchen with food and treats for dogs made with only healthy ingredients worthy of our dinner table.
Yes, Fox 29’s Bill Anderson did conduct a taste test to see if the treats were, in fact, human grade.
Bill tried what Pupcake calls its "Puppy Krispy Treat," which is comprised of peanut butter, rice crispies, and carob.
Bill reported that, though the food does pass the human grade test, the biggest bright spot is that Pupcake’s success also helps fund a non-profit for dogs who may never get to its store.
"The non-profit we started is called ‘Hold Your Paw,’” Lewis said. “The idea is that we provide short-term relief to families and individuals who otherwise would otherwise have to give up their animals [to shelters or rescues]."
They want to help the large numbers of people who surrender their pets to shelters not because they don't love them, but because they have some financial challenge.
"We’re really hoping this will help curtail the number of animals that are going into the shelters and rescues so that families stay together because basically our pets are our families,” Lewis said.
Lewis and Columbo’s personal commitment to help dogs stay with their owners and avoid ending up in the wrong hands was reinforced as Bill met their recent rescue puppy, Apricot.
Apricot previously suffered some electrical burn damage to the side of her face, according to her owners, and almost lost her teeth.
Now, Apricot is happy and healthy, and Philly PupCake could be seen an example that the challenges of owning a small business may drive business owners to a more important mission.