Feeding Fishtown what Fishtown wants

New Brindle Cafe along Gir­ard has a menu based on loc­al tastes, re­quests.

Scott Forman speaks with pas­sion.

Wheth­er the North­east Philly nat­ive is talk­ing about a fine bottle of wine, his dogs, mar­ried life or nav­ig­at­ing city bur­eau­cracy, the 35-year-old en­tre­pren­eur is nev­er at a loss for words, or ac­com­pa­ny­ing ges­tures or ex­pres­sions.

To those who have got­ten to know Forman, who lives in Fishtown these days, his pas­sion is one reas­on he might have re­ceived the wel­come he did when he star­ted to present his plans for a neigh­bor­hood eat­ery.

As he tells it, the com­munity learned about the Brindle Caf&ea­cute;, on Gir­ard Av­en­ue between Marl­bor­ough and Day streets, through his in­tense present­a­tions.

Forman may have been vis­it­ing com­munity groups that lacked any real gov­ern­ment­al power, but he went in­to it as though he were ad­dress­ing the board of dir­ect­ors of a ma­jor cor­por­a­tion.

Why? Be­cause he wants people to know his is not some fly-by-night op­er­a­tion. He in­tends to stay here.

ldquo;I took a couple of weeks and let the curi­os­ity of Fishtown dic­tate what I was go­ing to do,” Forman, small in stature but big on ideas, said dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at his busi­ness.

That pre­ceded Brindle’s soft open­ing late last year. For the first couple of weeks, there were no lo­gos on the win­dows, no signs on the door.

It was just Forman, his re­fri­ger­ated case, cof­fee ma­chine, hand­ful of cafe tables and a black­board now covered with food and drink spe­cials.

Dur­ing those early days, he’d de­vel­op his menu ac­cord­ingly. Someone came in and wanted a pork sand­wich? He’d add it to the list of re­quests.

An­oth­er cus­tom­er sug­ges­ted adding salads. He’d ac­com­mod­ate.

To Forman, it was about ca­ter­ing to the neigh­bor­hood. The first-time en­tre­pren­eur, whose back­ground is in bar­tend­ing and res­taur­ant man­age­ment, didn’t want to open a res­taur­ant in Old City be­cause it was the “place to be.” Or Ritten­house Square be­cause of name re­cog­ni­tion.

He came about his loc­ale of choice be­cause he knew a little something about Fishtown; he has lived here for five years, and was ready to serve his neigh­bors.

“We had moved here and saw the be­ne­fit of the neigh­bor­hood,” Forman said. “We spec­u­lated that this would be a good place to buy, and it turns out we were right.”

Forman and his wife, Deepti, who works in fin­an­cial ser­vices, learned the lay of the land by walk­ing their dogs throughout the neigh­bor­hood.

While tak­ing a new route one day, Forman came across an avail­able store­front at 221 E. Gir­ard Ave. Fast-for­ward a year later and that space is now home to the Brindle Caf&ea­cute;, which of­fers Tan­zani­an, Colom­bi­an and Per­uvi­an cof­fee, a wide as­sort­ment of east­ern teas, and such fare as the beef and feta salad, slow-roas­ted pork sand­wiches, a hum­mus and roas­ted pep­pers plat­ter, and, yes, a gour­met pea­nut but­ter-and-jelly sand­wich and the grilled cheese, both served on thick slices of chal­lah bread from Ka­plan’s Bakery in North­ern Liber­ties. 

Why pea­nut but­ter-and-jelly and grilled cheese? Simple, Forman says. Who doesn’t like pea­nut but­ter-and-jelly and grilled cheese?

And again, it all goes back to those sug­ges­tions by cus­tom­ers. At the same time, he does aim to in­tro­duce to the people around him cer­tain things that he en­joys, hence some of the salad op­tions and bever­ages on the menu.

Per­haps the most dif­fi­cult as­pect of get­ting his busi­ness up and run­ning was the hurdles he had to jump down­town. First there were the zon­ing vari­ances and nav­ig­at­ing the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions. Then came the per­mit­ting pro­cess. Add to that list the city bur­eau­crats on the oth­er end of the phone, and the pro­cess be­came both try­ing and fin­an­cially drain­ing.

The fin­an­cial part was a par­tic­u­lar hard­ship, and one that forced him to shelve his ori­gin­al plan to hire em­ploy­ees to help him out. For now it’s just him tak­ing care of the food and drink, not to men­tion run­ning back-end op­er­a­tions.

“Most people would find it fin­an­cially dev­ast­at­ing” to open a small busi­ness in Phil­adelphia, Forman said. But his de­sire to help put Fishtown — a neigh­bor­hood he calls in trans­ition — on the map is the in­spir­a­tion that keeps him go­ing.

That com­mit­ment is what he ori­gin­ally wanted to prove to the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation. “I wanted them to know be­cause they were a pri­or­ity,” Forman said. “I really wanted them to see that it (the busi­ness plan) was genu­ine.”

His de­cision to reach out paid off.

“The sup­port was there, un­an­im­ously, for this pro­ject,” he said.

Forman didn’t bor­row money for his ven­ture, mean­ing all star­tup costs were paid out-of-pock­et. And be­cause he spent more on plan­ning than he’d budgeted, he had little money left for things like ad­vert­ising and hir­ing a wait staff.

“Do­ing it right cost me three times more than what was ex­pec­ted,” he said.

But to Forman, hav­ing a loc­al busi­ness that strives to of­fer qual­ity food at reas­on­able prices makes it all worth­while.

“It came from something I really be­lieved in do­ing,” he said. “Ul­ti­mately, I’m not giv­ing up.” ••

To learn more about the Brindle Caf&ea­cute;, call 215-279-8866 or vis­it www.brindle­cafe.com

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