Mason Wartman isn’t your average pizza shop owner. He didn’t go to culinary school; he didn’t inherit a family business. He’s just a person with a big heart, a simple idea and a larger-than-life appetite for helping the homeless community in Philadelphia.
The former Wall Street-er left Manhattan in March of 2013 and headed home to Philadelphia. Nine months later, he opened Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, named after his mother and sister. He wanted to bring the classic $1 “pizza joint” to Philadelphia. But when a kind customer pre-paid for a slice for the next homeless person who stopped by, Wartman’s entire business model changed.
And now, he’s feeding more than 100 homeless Philadelphians per day.
Wartman encourages his patrons to “pay it forward” and buy a slice in advance for a homeless person who might come into the shop during one of three pizza periods throughout the day. Every sticky note that’s taped to the shop’s walls represents a free, paid-for slice; and almost every one of them has words of kindness, encouragement, or even thanks written on it.
“I was intrigued and I had to see what was behind the colorful windows,” said Rick Bates, a customer at Rosa’s told Rare. “The stickers on the wall says it all. As you’re eating your pizza, you’re reading messages (from) hundreds or thousands of people that have been here before me.”
Wartman estimates Rosa’s has given out 50,000 slices of pizza, and distributed a couple hundred sweatshirts since it opened.
“The problems that I have definitely seem much more manageable in comparison to a lot of other stuff that I’ve heard about, so I definitely feel much more fortunate when I step back and look at the bigger picture,” Wartman told Rare.
Wartman says some of his “heroes” are notables like George Washington, Warren Buffett, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bill Gates.
“I want to emulate their patience, compassion, strength and business acumen,” he told Rare, noting that he uses lessons from their biographies while managing Rosa’s.
But most of all, Wartman looks up to his mom and dad, for their patience, understanding and unconditional love.
“All I have accomplished is because they taught me to be a good person,” he told Rare. “I show up, I work really hard, and I try to make really good pizza and help as many people as possible. Generally, it works out.”
Wartman hopes to open a second Rosa’s location later this year.