Fork in the City, Kissito Consider “Community Philanthropub”

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The Fork In The City Restaurant
The Fork In The City Restaurant
The Fork In The City Restaurant.

A Philanthropub? Admittedly, it’s not a term that most, if any of us has encountered but give me a minute and I’ll try to explain it per Tom Clarke, CEO of nonprofit Kissito Healthcare Inc., and what I could glean from Councilman and doctor David Trinkle, owner of Fork in The City.

Let’s break down Dave Trinkle’s description of the mystery transformation in the works for Fork in the City to a philanthropic pub. It could be a “pub” that gives away beer but don’t get excited about that just yet. (CLICK HERE for a definition “Drinking for a Cause.” http://dcist.com/2012/10/drinking_for_a_cause_new_shaw_bar_w.php#photo-1)

According to Clarke, new management has come to Fork in the City. Lindsey Crocker, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech has taken over as manager. “There is a group of Virginia Tech interns working and exploring development of the program for what’s called a social restaurant or social pub,” said Clark.

Crocker is an employee of Kissito Healthcare. She is straightening out the books and scoping out the prospective investment. If all goes well Kissito will have a stake in Fork in the City. “Right now the objective is to have accurate and timely financial information to determine if the proposal makes sense,” said Clarke. “We have not yet thought through all of this.”

His thought is for Kissito to have a stake in the Fork in the City similar to JMS Builders/Developer, Inc., Kissito Healthcare, Inc. has a 50.1 percent controlling interest in the for-profit JMS.

The concept will have the for-profit tax-paying subsidiary manage the restaurant with all profits going to charitable causes. “This probably is what makes the most sense,” he said.

Clarke said he could see maybe half of the months allocating profits to local causes (TAP, Rescue Mission, Big Brother Big Sister, and so on) and six of the months going to Kissito work in Health, Nutrition, and the Environment in Africa.

Clarke said they will need to prepare 150 lunch meals a day after the PACE program opens in August. The Fork in the City will prepare meals for the elderly PACE participants.

Kissito purchased Hawthorne Towers in Roanoke County for $1.2 million. There are 144 units in need of repair. Only about 60 of the units are occupied he said. To avoid a conflict of interest Trinkle abstained from the council vote to approve the $12 million of bonds issued by the  Economic Development Authority to renovate the Towers.

Clarke is negotiating with the city for another Roanoke location. The Villa Heights Recreation Center that is on the historical antebellum endangered list would add 76 additional units for the elderly. Villa heights was damaged by fire and needs extensive renovation.  A creditable source with firsthand knowledge said Kissito has asked to use the city’s fire insurance money to partly offset the renovation. If negotiations are successful in addition to the units the facility will offer usage by the community and connections with city schools.

This is the only proposal or inquiry the city has received since it has been on the market. Chris Chittum, Director of Planning and Building Development wouldn’t comment on the subject of the negotiation but did say that its historical significance “underscores the need to do something with it.” Trinkle abstained from the closed session meeting on the project due to his business dealings with Kissito.

There will be a PACE Center II said Clarke as he expects the surrounding region will support demand for as many as 800 participants. The locations will be spread out as far as Blacksburg and he has his eye on the Warm Hearth Village an independent living to long-term nursing care facility. “There’s close to 200 acres there,” he said.

Clarke said he has known Dr. Trinkle “for it seems like forever.” He is concerned that there are not enough physicians for their PACE center. Carilion is sending medical students to Kissito and Kissito is providing a $3000 scholarship for the students.

In January 2013 ten Carilion School of Medicine leaders including Dr. Trinkle and his daughter went to Africa (Uganda primarily) to explore a possible partnership with the Carilion School of Medicine and Busitema University to start a rural school of medicine. It’s hard to get physicians in rural Africa because they want to stay in the city.  Being trained in a challenging rural area would make the doctors more apt to stay, said Clarke.

The Fork in the City concept with Kissito came about as Clarke and Trinkle traveled Africa for over a week. The concept was for something like “Second Helpings” a cafe, gallery and upscale secondhand shop on Williamson Road. The goods and artwork of Uganda would be sold in a restaurant type environment.

Of course “Second Helpings” doesn’t serve alcohol. That is something that would have to be worked out he said. Clarke wants to deemphasize the bar aspect.

They had thought of building a franchise but Trinkle suggested using one of his restaurants and thought it could be a win/win for both of them.

The Fork in the City transformation is not a done deal and there are many issues to be worked out, said Clarke. Trinkle said they plan to release details sometime in July.

By Valerie Garner