Ever get hungry while you are wandering through the shops in The Gateway Quarter? Well, there is a pizza place on the corner of Vine and 13th called Venice on Vine that is there to hook you up with a bite to eat. On the surface, it seems just like any other pizza parlor There is exposed brick, a large oven, art on the wall, and a friendly staff to take your order and make up your lunch. Look closer though and you’ll see this is not your average restaurant.
Run by the non-profit group Power Inspires Progress, Venice on Vine is not just there to satisfy hungry patrons but is there to train and develop employees by helping them build job skills that they can carry into the workforce and become viable members of society. Most everyone that comes through the Venice program does so because they are have a poor work history, lack transportation to another job or are in need of a second chance either due to criminal or drug history. The folks that run Venice are there to help ensure that the trainees, as they are called, get a fresh start, job training skills, and the resume builder that is needed to land full time gainful employment.
If a candidate makes it through the three step interview process ,they come to Venice to learn and develop a variety of skills that are needed in the restaurant business. The trainees earn stars for their name tag by showing proficiency in the different roles at Venice including dishes, utilities, server, cook, register, and catering. In doing so they are building job skills, and oh by the way, running their own place. UrbanCincy visited on a Tuesday night and while it wasn’t very crowded, the staff of five was busy cleaning up from the day and there was not one detail going unnoticed.
In addition to learning all the parts of the restaurant, trainees are encouraged to continue their development and education in other areas. Many are focused on furthering their education by working towards their GED, or will work on building additional job skills such as Microsoft Office or even resume writing. In fact, each person earns money for food by taking five 45 minutes sessions during each two week pay period to further develop themselves.
Photos by Dave Rolfes
The night we visited, the longest tenured employees had been there four months but that is part of the plan. Once brought on board, a trainee is expected to graduate within twelve months and go out to find a job in the workforce. The stated goal of the program is “to increase the power of people through skill development, relationship building and collaboration with other organizations.” Without a doubt, the trainees were so happy to talk about their experiences, why they joined Venice, and it shined through brightly just how proud they were of where they worked.
Coming up on it’s third anniversary at 1301 Vine, another thing that is noticeable about Venice on Vine is its ties to the community. The tables in the restaurant are adorned with flowers from neighboring City Roots. There is artwork displayed and for sale on the wall from local artists that work through the Visionaries & Voices program. There are even local bands played on the stereo and displayed on the Cincy In Your Ear rack near the register.
Again, without looking closer it is easy to think Venice is just another pizza joint when in reality it is so much more. It is an important piece to the Gateway Quarter that really helps to develop the people that live in and around the area and help them build the job skills they need to be successful. Help Venice on Vine help others by volunteering, donating, or just being a customer and stopping in for a pizza or hoagie the next time you are around town because quite frankly the food is almost as good as the cause they are going after.