edwins restaurant plans dormitory-style housing for homeless workers

In just over a year since it opened, Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute has trained almost 50 formerly convicted criminals in the art of working at an upscale French restaurant. It has also trained another 30 at the Grafton Correctional Institute. Now, founder and CEO Brandon Chrostowski is taking it to the next level by helping his students start their new careers on the right footing.

On February 23rd, Chrostowski will host NEXT, a six-course dinner fundraiser to build student housing. Chrostowski is working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to buy an abandoned two-building parcel on Buckeye. “The whole idea behind Next is to take things to the next level for Edwins students,” he says. “I had a vision to build dorms near the school. I thought it would be a bit later, but the needs of the students – some of them are in shelters, some of them are homeless – made it happen sooner.”

The plan to build the dorms began brewing in April of last year. “In October, I put it out there to people supporting Edwins and within one month I received $1 million in two checks for $500,000 each,” says Chrostowski.

Additional support wasn’t far behind. Six chefs from Cleveland and chefs from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will come together to make a memorable dining experience at Edwins. “It’s a great group -- anything we need they provide,” says Chrostowski.

Tickets for the event, which cost between $250 and $350 each, sold out in three days. Chrostowski is still open to sponsorships for the project, though. “It’s going to be one big party to contribute to a good cause,” he says. “It’s not just about the money. It’s about community support.”

Chrostowski has phase-one designs for a 37-bed dorm. Students will pay $100 a month, which would be returned to them at the end of the program for a deposit on an apartment. The plan also calls for six individual units on the top floor for Edwins graduates who are having trouble finding housing. Their rent would contribute to operating costs.

Bialosky and Partners Architects helped with the design and Kirt Montlack of Montack Realty helped guide Chrostowski through the operating costs of running the buildings. Jones Day helped with the legal work.

“This is one example of the community coming together, and Buckeye is a neighborhood I believe in,” Chrostowski says. “We’re talking about someone without a home who is struggling. We have to change that. It’s a very real problem and we have the power to change it.”
Phase two of Chrostowski’s plan includes a library, fitness center and a meat and fish shop where employees will butcher the meat for sale and for use at Edwins.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.