Brooke and Jim Higgins have traveled the world, working as personal chefs and caterers for high-end clientele. Northeast native Brooke even had the experience of working under celebrity chef Todd English at his Boston restaurant, Olives.
In 2003, the couple found itself a new calling in Holmesburg, in the form of a lunch truck. With experienced culinary backgrounds and a little inspiration from their 110-pound Newfoundland, Sweet Lucy, the couple took the catering business to a whole new level.
“Brooke’s father has a business here,” said Jim, “First, we thought we were just going to park it in his parking lot and you know, end up taking it around the city. Then, one day, we decided to open up the window and see if people would come and we had such a good response, we decided to put the restaurant right here.” Upon entering what appears to be an old warehouse off State Road, the typical first-timer will be pleasantly surprised with what they find inside. A petite blonde with a red bandana tied around her head will probably be close by, ready to greet you, while a taller man in a black T-shirt and matching baseball cap can be found in the kitchen, checking on the chicken, ribs and turkeys rotating in one of the establishment’s wood-burning smokers. The story of Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse continues to leave a mark on those living not only in the Northeast, but in surrounding areas as well.
“It’s obvious that these people put a lot of care into their food. The atmosphere here is just great,” said Nathashya Nguyen from Hoboken, N.J. Currently living in North Philadelphia, Nguyen makes occasional trips to the establishment and said she is happy she discovered it.
“I actually found this place online, read over some reviews and figured I’d give it a try. I was happy I did. This is definitely a spot I tell all of my friends to check out, whether they live in the area or not,” Nguyen said.
The staff and customers not only boast about the restaurant’s food, but the role it plays within the community, as well. Brooke and Jim like to show constant support to local organizations and charities in the area.
“The community here has really supported us. The people in the Northeast, really, you know. We were amazed at how busy this restaurant was,” Brooke said.
Since the restaurant’s opening in 2005, the Higginses have actively participated in supporting fundraisers for pet therapy animals, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Father Judge High School and the Ronald McDonald House. The couple has also generated a great deal of support from the Philadelphia Fire Academy and Police Department. Since 2006, the couple reciprocated this support by raising approximately $15,000 for the Philadelphia Police Department’s K-9 Unit. They were also able to donate $2,200 for the PPD’s Survivors Fund earlier this year. On June 10, the Higginses will be taking on their first Alex’s Lemonade Stand fundraiser. They hope to reach their donation goal of $1,000.
“We are just a place where people can come to celebrate,” Jim said. We try to treat every customer like it’s an important event for them.”
Gina Benigno is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.