“Welcome aboard the Flying Carpet!” trumpeted a jovial Kevin Young as a reporter entered The Flying Carpet Café and Bar at 1841 Poplar St.
Like a latter day Ricardo Montalban, ala Fantasy Island, Young, the affable proprietor of the five-month-old Francisville business, strives to make the place a friendly, all-inclusive oasis — a rare thing in a neighborhood where vacant properties and blight dot the landscape.
“We are a community-driven organization, based on the idea of not being able to find a good spot for coffee on this side of Fairmount Avenue,” he said.
Originally from Boston, Young has traveled the world and lived in Europe — including a few years spent in Paris and London — and he said he learned there how something as simple as a neighborhood coffee shop can change communities for the better.
“The neighborhood was in desperate need for a point of unity, a place where everyone feels welcome,” said Young. “We want this to be the neighborhood’s living room.”
A real estate manager for Urban Realty Works, which is owned by a group from Boston, Mass., and a resident of Francisville for nine years, Young said he wanted to create a business that would serve as a community hub.
The reason it’s a bar as well as a coffee house?
ldquo;Starbucks doesn’t have gin and tonic. Say that’s what I want, but you just want a coffee,” he said, as an example. “Then, we would come here.”
For that same reason, Young said, the business offers brunch and breakfast foods all day long, and this is no simple eatery.
No, instead, Young said at Flying Carpet the idea was to provide fresh foods, as locally produced as possible.
For at least six months, he said, working with friends and others in the restaurant industry, he set up food committees and tasting committees to find the best products available.
Sandwiches made with artisan bread, falafels with fresh humus and 14 types of tea are just some of the offerings available at Flying Carpet.
“We always go to the neighborhood first for everything and then we branch out,” he said, talking about where he gets the ingredients for the menu.
“Even for our employees — I live the furthest away and I only live a block and a half away,” he said with a laugh.
In just five months that the business has been open, Young said the Flying Carpet Café and Bar has been a positive influence in Francisville, and realtors have even brought clients over to see the spot when they are selling homes in the community.
He knows of at least two homes that were sold because the new neighborhood residents liked the café and bar.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a stabilizing factor for the neighborhood,” said Young. “The most beautiful thing is seeing all the ethnic mix and there’s no prejudices … You come to the Flying Carpet and can be transformed.”
With rotating art created by Philadelphia based artists constantly on display and a variety of books on architecture, travel and other topics on the bar for anyone’s perusal, Young said he hopes the Flying Carpet Café and Bar brings a touch of class to an area where vacant lots and blighted properties had once been the norm.
Young said he wanted to bring that element, as he has an ingrained love of the Francisville community, and, it’s been rubbing off as many customers tell him they enjoy how the spot allows them to meet their neighbors in a friendly, comfortable atmosphere.
“People have said they are happy something classy finally landed here, no pun intended … I love when people say that and they tell me their feelings. It tickles my senses,” he said.
“Our goal is to continue a mission of unity. One world, one rhythm … There’s no discrimination with good food and drinks. Everyone rides first class at Magic Carpet.”
Along with providing the community with an outlet to present the art on display at the café and bar, the Flying Carpet also holds live jazz performances twice a week and live DJ nights on Fridays.
But, he’s also reached out to Calcutta House, a local non-profit that provides housing and health services for those sick and dying of AIDS, to help support the program.
Calcutta House is at 16th Street and Girard Avenue and Young said that when he learned about the non-profit having financial troubles, he wanted to do something for the organization.
Young said he’s lost friends to the disease and he believes in the work that the Calcutta House does.
“It’s something I felt compelled to reach out and do,” Young said. “We are working with them to create new sources of funding.”
For more information about The Flying Carpet Café and Bar, including hours and specials, visit the Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/FLYPHL or call 215-235-2525.••
Calcutta House benefit at Flying Carpet
On Aug. 25 at 6 p.m., at Flying Carpet Café and Bar, 1842 Poplar St. in Francisville, local artist Justin Hinte and photo artist Celeste Hardester will auction off their work, with 50 percent of the proceeds donated directly to Calcutta House.
There will also be live jazz performed by Philly native Jeannie Brooks and her jazz trio.
Entrance fee is $30, which includes hors d’oeuvres, an open bar from 6 to 7 p.m. and reduced price drinks the remainder of the evening.
Reporter Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org