A carriage house on North 35th Street is home to one of Mantua's more successful businessmen.
Rick Young is a real estate developer who also teaches entrepreneurship at a local elementary school, hoping to inspire the next Ford or Facebook.
Now 50, Young has a success story that started when he was just 19. While recording hits such as "We Could Be Lovers" for his record label, the Beat Factory, he worked at a Domino's pizza franchise at the University of Pennsylvania campus.
The Young family had a history of entrepreneurship: His father and grandfather, both named Richard Young, opened an Esso station at Eighth and Bainbridge Streets.
"My grandfather attended Penn in the late 1930s," unusual for an African American at that time, he said.
In the early 1980s, Young crossed paths with Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, who had set up an entrepreneurship program within the company known as the Blue Star project. It recruited employees to train for management. Young took part and ultimately managed the first four franchises in Philadelphia.
"It was through that management job that I learned how to multitask, how to balance a profit-and-loss statement from reconciling and stapling together thousands of pizza slips and orders every night, or rather, at 3 in the morning," Young recalled. "All that inspiration took just one person. And it allowed me to do what I'm doing now."
The Beat Factory profits produced seed money to redevelop vacant lots and blighted buildings in Mantua. Through his development company, Strong Properties, Young has acquired and rehabbed about 45 units.
Currently, he's working to develop a grocery store and shopping center at 36th Street and Haverford Avenue.
"That first phase we acquired through the Redevelopment Authority in 2012," he said. He'd like to purchase and expand westward to include the 37th and 38th Street blocks.
His Westview Plaza shopping center would rectify Mantua's status as a food desert, he said. "Mantua hasn't had a supermarket since 1983."
"My mother died from diabetes in 2000, partly due to bad diet, and this project would be in her memory. It would also create about 100 or 150 jobs in the neighborhood," and offer commercial space for small businesses such as a pharmacy, nail, and hair care, or a dry cleaner.
Young has had discussions with Walmart, Shop Rite, and Fresh Grocer for a 25,000- to 40,000-square-foot store, but there are no signed agreements yet.
He founded the nonprofit Mantua Community Improvement Committee in 2000 as a vehicle to keep the streets clean. And in 2009, he started the Rick Young Youth Development Academy (http://ryyda.org), which sprang out of his fondness for Mantua's local Morton McMichael School - he's an alumnus.
Akin to the ABC-TV show Shark Tank, the McMichael entrepreneurship classes run every Friday through the semester, with groups of eighth graders generating ideas, writing business plans, incorporating, and then competing for funding. Young will underwrite the winners' idea.
"I want these kids to dream not just of a good job, but of being a business owner like I am," he said. "It should be clear to them before they get to college whether they are cut out to be an entrepreneur."
One Friday in February, a group of McMichael students drafted a business plan for customized heated backpacks with pre-installed headphones in the straps and a secret compartment for hiding cellphones. Other students had an idea for a bike chain with an alarm.
Young has raised about half of the $30,000 needed to run the program, and RYYDA now has a GoFundMe campaign.
"College kids need practical degrees, and a lot of them aren't getting that in school," he said. "Entrepreneurship can help change that."