CLEVELAND-- Brandon Chrostowski has built his reputation on second chances. Someone gave him one years ago after an arrest and he has made it his mission to pass that on.
In his words, "Believe in someone's second chance, believe in someone's potential."
It began with EDWINS Restaurant on Shaker Square nearly six years ago and the institute which educates its employees: Men and women released from jail or prison who are looking for a future. He followed with EDWINS Butcher Shop on Buckeye Road last year and now he's building a new bakery in one of Cleveland's most under-served neighborhoods.
"It's rolling. The idea is to continue to focus on our students, build that skill level to the top, get that elite skill into someone's hands and mind. Therefore, you're never oppressed. You can always be free in what you do," Chrostowski said.
This latest addition, a natural progression of Chrostowski's vision, is not just for his employees, but for the neighborhood.
"You put your mind and your heart and your business sense where the potential lies. And there's no greater potential here in Cleveland I think than in Buckeye," he said.
On a recent tour of the space he pointed out what the future bakery building was and what it will become.
"This was once a police drop in station for added security. It's now going to be our pastry shop."
In the area that is currently home to the institute's library, he shows the plans for a "Fifteen-seat diner. You can get a little eggs and bacon, and we can utilize what we bake to make the breakfast."
Chrostowski's program graduates about a hundred students a year, men and women with a set of skills that 95 percent of the time lands them a job. Among his graduates there is just a 1 percent recidivism rate.
The man behind it all stresses that none of this would be possible without the support of the community, customers and contributors.
"A 7-year-old gave us $4 of her allowance. A foundation gives us $200,000 from Baltimore. There are so many different heroics going on to make this thing work," Chrostowski said.
With work underway for the bakery, he is already looking ahead to what's next. He'd like to purchase two run-down buildings behind his property and turn one into family housing, to add to the student and alumni housing which already exists, and in the second building a fish shop, a spice shop and an entrepreneurship center for the neighborhood.
"That's the vision," he said. "When you believe in something or a community or a neighborhood then you know good things will follow, so long as you do it for the right reasons. And they followed."