Project Category: Investing in Small Business
Organization Name: San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE)
Organization Website: http://www.sagesanantonio.org
San Antonio, Texas 78205
Project Cost: $358,898
Tony Gradney, a retired police officer with over 18 years of experience in the food service industry had a vision for his community. His vision was to establish an eatery in an area that had been long neglected economically, where families could go and enjoy a nice meal, food and entertainment. He set out to develop a restaurant that not only had great food and offered superior service but would serve as a destination, gathering point and an inspiration to the surrounding community. It is from this vision that Tony G’s, a soul food restaurant that offers a Southern Style breakfast and lunch menu, was born. With the motto Every Day is Like Sunday”, its easy to understand why it’s Sunday Brunch with live music and bottomless Mimosas has become a community favorite. Friday nights are also special with the After-Work happy hour, dinner buffet and live music that keeps the party going well into the night. Tony G’s has also become a community gathering place hosting a variety of community meetings, announcements, private parties and other special events. This popular establishment has brought new life to long neglected part of the community.
Current Status: Open and Operating
Community Needs Addressed:
Tony G’s is located in San Antonio’s Eastside Promise Zone, one of the most distressed communities in the nation. When this project started in 2015 the median household income in the EPZ ranged from $31,262 to $39,167 compared to the state of Texas median of $52,576 as estimated for 2010-2010 by the Census’ American Community Survey. ACS also estimated that 77.26% of the households in the EPZ had an annual income of less than $50,000 compared to 47.62% in the state of Texas. Out of the 19 census tracts in the EPZ, six have unemployment rates greater than 150% of the national rate. The vacancy rate on commercial properties was 10.2%. Tony G’s is addressing the needs of this community in several ways. First, by creating jobs. Most of the positions created are entry level jobs such as servers and bussers. However, these jobs are the perfect starting point for individuals entering the job market for the first time or reentering after a long absence. Tony G’s is a second chance employer and many of the employees were formerly incarcerated or homeless. These jobs are giving them the opportunity to get back on their feet and become productive members of the community. Tony G’s took a long vacant retail location and turned it into a vibrant gathering place that draws customers from across the city. Tony G’s has acted as a catalyst for the once dormant St. Paul Square area. Since Tony G’s opened, another restaurant and bar have opened in the area with yet another opening soon.
Benefits and outcome:
As a second chance employer, Tony G’s is having a huge impact on the community. Tony will employ anyone who wants to work. To date, Tony G’s has created 26 jobs for people in this community many of whom have multiple barriers to employment such as being an ex-offender, homeless or substance abuser. Tony G has offered an opportunity to restart their lives or get recent work experience to many of its current and former employees. With a monthly payroll of close to $27,000 (not including tips) this project is having an impact on this community.
A secondary benefit of this project is that it has brought new life to a previously dormant historic district, “St. Paul Square”. The success of Tony G’s immediately attracted two additional food and beverage establishments, Smoke the Restaurant and Ash (a bar). There is another new establishment being added to the area in the near future. Streets that were once deserted after 5 pm and on the weekends are now bustling with activity and people.
The third benefit of this project is that is has brought tourists from downtown into a community that was not benefiting from San Antonio’s booming tourist industry. St. Paul Square and the Eastside Promise Zone are separated from the traditional tourist areas downtown by Interstate 37. Tony G’s and the activity that it is generating is giving tourists and downtown workers a reason to cross I-37 and explore a community that they do not normally visit.
Project partners and collaborators:
Chelsea’s Catering (parent company)
City of San Antonio
Zachry Real Estate (Landlord)
St. Paul Square Association
Dillard Architect Group
What makes your project unique?
Using funds from a US Department of Health and Human Services, Community Economic Development Grant (CED), SAGE made a $288,998 investment in Chelsea’s Catering and Bar Service to be used as start-up funding for Tony G’s Soul Food Restaurant. This is a unique use of CED funds. This new retail outlet for Chelsea’s is expected to create 29 new jobs in our community with 22 going to low income individuals. To date Tony G’s has created 22 new jobs that offer health insurance and paid time off.
It is also unique because it is located in the St. Paul Square Historic District. Building renovations had to be approved by the City of San Antonio Historic Design and Review Committee. The renovation effort was led by the minority owned Dillard Architect Group and included many local contractors and artisans. One of the highlights of the renovations and décor are the original works of art created by local artist Dr. James Brown.
What really makes this project unique however, is the impact that it has had on the lives of its employees. Most of the employees have multiple barriers to employment. Several of them were homeless. Tony Gradney and Tony G’s have worked with these individuals to provide lodging and in some cases furniture and clothing. Tony G’s will even make direct rent payments to landlords if that is requested by an employee. Mr. Gradney and the management staff of Tony G’s have gone out of their way to make the restaurant a safe and nurturing place for their employees.
Click here to download the complete awards submission