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An Inside Look: Penn Cafe

Written by: Jameel, Ja'Mya, and Freddie

Photographs by: Marquan, Jameel, and Freddie

July 31, 2023

Four members of the Penn Cafe staff, including co-owner, Fiona Hew-Wing.

Only a five-minute walk from our studio at CMP Radio you'll find Penn Cafe, a joint dedicated to providing healthy, yet delicious food and drink options for everyone. Surrounded by dozens of living plants and beautiful, authentic art from countries across Africa, our interns had the opportunity to sit down with co-owner, Ron Starr, and learn more about this wonderful place.

"Everything here is intentional. We want to have a sense of meaning in everything we do" said Ron. Immediately after stepping into the space, you can feel the precise attention to detail and dedication to providing a welcoming atmosphere.

The facade of Penn Cafe, an old bank vacated for over 30 years. The building was built in 1889.

"The best part about what I do is that I get to make my mom proud," Ron said laughingly. In the midst of a cultural renaissance in Chester, Ron and co-owner, Fiona Hew-Wing, have played significant roles in the revitalization of Chester. Before opening Penn Cafe, Ron felt like it wasn't up to him and the city to turn things around, "I felt like I was begging others outside the city to save us." However, as external corporations began to funnel into Chester without creating any substantial change, his perspective began to shift. He declared, "In order for the community to change for the better, we have to do it. We have to be a major part of that change. We can't expect someone else from the outside to lead the change... I want to help people change their perception of what they think of Chester."

Ron (center) along with local Chester owners of Status Restaurant and Duo Tacos.

Our neighbors over at Penn Cafe are doing their part. At CMP Radio, we have seen the power of creating change from within. Please make sure to stop by and support your local cafe. If you need help with your order, Ron recommends the Pineapple, Mango, and Spinach Smoothie as well as the Shrimp and Grits. Don't worry though, they've got options for everyone.

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