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O'Malley has focused on giving local farmers and producers a helping hand by using their products. Photo: Inquirer.
O'Malley has focused on giving local farmers and producers a helping hand by using their products. Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer.

How Pat O’Malley found a new beginning at Fitz and Starts with locally-sourced goods amid COVID-19

The goal of supporting local farmers has always been at the heart of the owner’s business plan.

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Pat O’Malley always had a vision on opening a restaurant, but alongside that desire was one to include producers that were local and took their products seriously.

“We buy exclusively from around the neighborhood, or from in general, just smaller producers, including winemakers, beermakers, and cheesemakers,” he said.

Fitz and Starts was born in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has faced a lot of hardships in the process, but they haven’t stopped O’Malley sourcing strictly local for all his dishes.

That commitment to small producers started at the beginning of his first foray into food service, when Fitz and Start went by a different name.

“Originally, [me and] my former business partner opened Hungry Pigeon in 2016,” said O’Malley.

During the summer of 2020, his partner, Scott Schroeder, left the business following a series of racist social media posts he made amid the uprisings in Philadelphia around the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The name change to Fitz and Start was both a new beginning considering the controversy and a nod to where the restaurant gets its wares. 

“The producers that we support are very ethical when it comes to the food that they source,” said O’Malley.

In the midst of the pandemic, O’Malley decided to put less effort into making a profit, and more effort in supporting other smaller businesses that have been struggling since the pandemic began.

“We work with growers who focus on ethological sourcing and are more natural and less produced,” he said.

The domino effect that O’Malley and other locals in his neighborhood have created is a prime example of neighbors helping neighbors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Where we are located there are a lot of small businesses here, we have all been impacted negatively by COVID, but we all realized that we are all in this together,” he said.

Another cause the restaurant supports is the One Fair Wage, which supports servers' right to end all sub-minimum wages in the United States. 

There is now a 20% service fee added to the bill for servers and cooks.

“No hourly employee in the restaurant makes less than $15 an hour, which is more than twice the minimum wage in Pennsylvania,” he said.

By supporting Fitz and Starts, customers are also supporting local farmers that span from Lancaster to New Jersey.

“Since we focus more on quality ingredients, our menu changes, we do have seasonal menus,” he said.

With the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Malley’s business has been down by around 40%.

“But we do have a ton of loyal customers. A lot of the same people come every day or every week,” he explained.

O’Malley, who is a pastry chef and James Beard nominee encourages locals to try his croissants that are always baked in-house.

“We want our food to be comfortable, approachable, and we want them to know their money is going to a bunch of different causes,” said O’Malley.

Fitz and Starts is located on the corner of 4th and Fitzwater St.

Stop by to try their airy buttermilk biscuits with cultured butter and homemade jam, or their ham and cheese croissants that are flaky and buttery in every bite!

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