Your nose knows when Charisse McGill is working.
Her stand, which has popped up at malls and festivals over the years, sells French toast bites with toppings (both regular and vegan), bacon on a stick, and French toast shakes made with vanilla ice cream and her French toast spice.
McGill’s story has taken a few twists and turns. A Temple University grad, McGill, 38, is the former director of special events at Valley Forge Military Academy who in her spare time set up and ran the Lansdale Farmers Market. In 2018, she quit VFMA and — with an investment from her now-14-year-old daughter, Madison — opened a French toast pop-up near City Hall during the holiday season.
That led to stands at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Montgomery County, followed by the Bronx Night Market in New York, Piazza Pod Park in Northern Liberties, Made in America on the Parkway, and back to the holiday market. All the while, she taught entrepreneurship classes at Montgomery County Community College and pursued an MBA in food marketing at St. Joseph’s University; she has one class to go. She developed a French toast seasoning for retail.
All the while, McGill hustled for backing and income. She set up a takeout and delivery business out of the Northeast Philadelphia location of the Better Box, also a Black-owned food business. She became the first paid vendor on the Black and Mobile delivery service. She was one of 60 recipients of a grant from Black People Eats. She raised all of her goal through a community Kiva loan, and was awarded a Magic Johnson forgivable loan. She won a grant from the PA 30 Day Fund.
When the coronavirus forced the cancellation of outdoor events, McGill faced an uncertain future. “Then Spruce Street Harbor Park called,” she said. She helped champion and became the site’s first Black and female-owned business.