Giraffe Heroes Database

Wicks, Judy

Wicks, Judy

When Judy Wicks started baking and selling muffins out of her own Philadelphia house in 1983, she didn’t expect to become one of the most lauded business owners in the nation. But the quality of her menus as the muffin operation morphed into the White Dog Café, and the concern for social justice that has guided her business decisions, may have made her renown inevitable.

The restaurant business is a notoriously difficult one; typical owners will tell you how thin the profit margins are, how fickle the dining public is, how necessary it is to pay low wages and cut every corner possible. Many will tell you that they don’t have a minute for any concerns beyond the running of the business and that anyone who thinks otherwise is doomed to fail.

Wicks stuck her neck out and defied all that conventional wisdom.

Profit has never been her primary reason for doing business, yet the White Dog is soundly profitable. The place is always filled with devoted regulars as well as newcomers drawn there by word that it’s an extraordinary place. Her employees start out at higher than minimum wage and get regular raises and solid benefits. The quality of the produce and meats coming into the kitchen are the highest, all grown or raised organically on nearby farms. The menu prices are reasonable. And the White Dog sponsors so many environmental and social justice programs that a Philadelphian could have a fully subscribed social action life just by signing up for activities that are all based at the now greatly expanded restaurant.

Wicks mentors minority high school students interested in the business, and directs a sister restaurant program that reaches out to minority-owned restaurants in Philadelphia, Camden, and in eight countries around the world.

She’s led other restaurant owners in refusing to serve endangered fish or any genetically modified produce. She’s advocating for pastured animal farming instead of confined production operations. And the White Dog’s entire electricity supply is from wind power.

To business owners worried that their companies might fail if they were socially responsible as well as watching the bottom line, Judy Wicks is a living, breathing exemplar of the viability of doing business as service, not just as a way to make a buck.

Keep up with her work at

Age when commended: adult (20-64)
Year commended: 2005
Occupation: Business person
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