HUP Welcomes Local Vendors, From Ginger to Jewelry
Shelby Turner, the administrative assistant to Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) Food Service Director Anthony Avalone, keeps an ever-growing list of entrepreneurs in and around West Philadelphia who might like to sell their products to staff, patients, and caregivers at the hospital’s new Vendor Fridays program. There’s the juicer, the jewelry maker who also does hair, the pudding seller, the ginger-based beverage makers, and the list goes on.
Many of the food businesses on her list are participants in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises at The Enterprise Center, a long-standing minority business accelerator in West Philadelphia that provides commercial kitchen space and business support. Penn Medicine employees with businesses are also welcome to reach out. There are generally eight vendors each week, with four set up outside the cafeteria at HUP-Pavilion and four at HUP-Main. This month, vendors will begin selling at Penn Medicine Rittenhouse as well.
Vendor Fridays began as a one-month initiative, Avalone said. “We started this program during Black History Month to promote local Black business owners and give them a chance to get create awareness for their products while helping them to increase their sales,” Avalone said. “The program was so well-received that we continued to offer it.”
Turner puts a lot of thought into the weekly lineup; she would never have two cupcake vendors come the same week because she doesn’t want it to be a competition. She sees her job as helping local businesses while providing a convenience to Penn Medicine employees, and she wants to set them up for success. “I tell them, ‘Your goal is to promote yourself,’” Turner said. “I tell them to bring samples, because when customers sample, they buy. I tell them to bring business cards and bring flyers.”
Penn Medicine Director of Civic Engagement and Community Partnerships Ajeenah Amir and Community Relations Manager Laura Lombardo have been thrilled to see the program take off – strengthening the organization’s ties to small and Black- and brown-owned businesses in support of the community’s overall health.
“To be able to support our entrepreneurial neighbors, boost the local economy in a small way, and offer local products within our hospital is a great endeavor, and we applaud Anthony and Shelby,” Lombardo said. “It's a testament to what our employees can do when they really believe in something.”