PIDC, Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation, announced that Mercer Cafe has signed a lease to open a restaurant in Spring 2015 at The Navy Yard, adding to the amenities on campus for its 11,000 employees and the local South Philadelphia neighborhood.
Originally a coffee shop and ice cream parlor in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, owners Tom Woltjen, Sr., his wife Dina – whose family is known for the Tacconelli’s Pizzeria, and their children Liza Bello and Thomas Woltjen, Jr. have grown Mercer Cafe into a local institution, serving homemade family recipes to its loyal customers. Mercer Cafe at The Navy Yard will be located in Building 623 at 4920 South 15th Street (15th & Kitty Hawk Ave) and will be the Woltjen family’s second Mercer Cafe location. During the warm weather, the cafe will offer outdoor dining.
“The Navy Yard is the perfect place for the Mercer Cafe to expand into its second location,” said John Grady, President of PIDC. “We are delighted to welcome this Philadelphia family business to the campus. Mercer Cafe will offer employees another great dining amenity at The Navy Yard.”
Mercer Cafe at The Navy Yard will feature the same renowned Mercer breakfast and lunch fare, with the addition of the famous Tacconelli family brick oven pizza, a grab-and-go market, lunch delivery, and corporate catering. The market will also offer local La Colombe coffee, fresh salads, wraps, paninis, breakfast sandwiches, parfaits, and other gourmet snacks. Tacconelli’s pizza pies will be hand-crafted in customer view and also offered for delivery throughout The Navy Yard.
This Mercer Cafe is designed by award-winning, local Otto Architects. The existing, one-story former bank will be dramatically transformed both inside and out. Taking cues from the refined grittiness of its surroundings in The Navy Yard, a new, modern façade clad in weathered metals and woods will present a bold public face. Large windows and doors will increase daylighting throughout the interior, allowing the dining room to open to the outdoors. A main focal point of the design is the featured pizza ovens in the rear of the market area. The dining room provides open seating and a diner counter, all beneath a ceiling of exposed joists.
“We are so excited to welcome The Navy Yard employees into our Mercer Cafe family,” said Liza Bello, Co-owner and General Manager. “We are certain Mercer at The Yard will be the perfect place for you to dine, relax, and escape your daily grind.”
This new location represents a return for Port Richmond native Tom Woltjen, Sr., who began his career in 1980 as a sheet metal mechanic in shop 17 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. In 1998, he and his brother Robert converted a row home at the corner of Westmoreland and Mercer streets into a simple corner cafe where they served coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and ice cream cones and sundaes. Woltjen, Sr. realized that he must expand the cafe’s offerings in order to sustain his business and began incorporating daily specials, as well as his wife’s chicken salad, roast pork, and specialty sandwich recipes which became an instant hit.
With the success of the business, Woltjen, Sr. brought in the next generation, with his son Thomas Woltjen and daughter Liza Bello joining to help run the operations. Bello is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program. In 2011, father and daughter realized the potential for growth as they saw a void in the restaurant market lacking a place where people could go who simply want a great meal, in a warm, friendly, non-corporate environment at a fair price. Bringing the Mercer Cafe to The Navy Yard, the Woltjen family knew they had the perfect ingredients for success. Woltjen, Sr. says, “To all the yard birds, it’s time to muster at Mercer!”