Charice McGill, founder of Philadelphia's Local Artisan Foods and the popular French Toast Bites line, died Monday at the age of 42. Her cause of death has not been made public.
She is survived by her only daughter, Madison, who is an entrepreneur herself and plans to run Local Artisan Foods, said Cory Aversa, a public relations professional and friend.
McGill quit her job in event planning in 2018 to launch the French Toast Bites stand in Dilworth Park's Christmas Village. In 2020, she became the first Black woman to own her own food stall at Spruce Street Harbor Park. She was named the 2021 Greater She's United Way of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey's Female Entrepreneur of the Year, among other honors.
Mr. McGill also served as executive director of the National Farmers Market Federation.
“Charice was a devoted mother and daughter, community leader, businesswoman, and advocate,” a statement from the nonprofit's staff and board shared by Aversa reads. It's dark. “She brought a wealth of energy, enthusiasm, and joy to everything she did. As a friend and colleague, we will greatly miss her. As a community, we will miss her deeply. We know everyone has felt the loss of passion, leadership, and innovative spirit. Together, we will return to her with renewed dedication to our shared vision of a better food system for all. I would like to congratulate him on his accomplishments.”
Her influence was evidenced by the outpouring of condolences from those mourning her death. Ms. McGill's death was covered in the media in the Philadelphia area, and many noted her efforts to help others follow in her footsteps.
Technical.ly spoke with McGill in 2020 about the need to increase access to capital for Black entrepreneurs. At the time, she said she credits the community with helping other Black entrepreneurs succeed and helping more Black-owned businesses grow. She intentionally hired people from underserved communities and included them in decision-making meetings so they could learn the ins and outs of running a business.
“Everyone who works for me doesn't just work for me. It's an ongoing business opportunity,” McGill said. “If I have a meeting with that person, [Delaware River Waterfront Corporation], they can come too. I want the people who work for me to open across the street. ”
She led Lokal Artisan Foods to French toast-themed partnerships with numerous Philadelphia businesses. She launched French Toast Bites Ale with Yard Brewing Company, becoming the first black woman to offer specialty craft beer in Pennsylvania.
“Charice was a dear friend to the Yard, a bright light in our community and a true force of nature. Her indomitable determination, entrepreneurial spirit and loving warm embrace will be sorely missed. CEO Trevor Pritchett said in a statement on behalf of the employees.
Entrepreneur at heart
Mr. McGill is an alumnus of both Temple University in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in Sports and Recreation Management and St. Joseph's University with a Food Marketing MBA. Faculty and staff at both schools expressed shock and sadness at the news of her death.
Danielle Funk, associate dean of the Fox School of Business' School of Sports, Tourism and Hospitality Management, said Temple considered her an outstanding alumnus.
“It's very rare to see someone of this caliber pass through here,” Funk told Technical.ly. Former professors at McGill remember her most for her generous interactions with other students, saying that she “made people feel like there was great potential.”
“From my perspective, she's truly been an inspiration and even a role model for the students as to what's possible. I think that's a real testament,” Funk said. “She will be clearly missed by our faculty and staff.”
George Latera, an assistant professor of food marketing at St. Joe's University, taught several classes to McGill while pursuing his master's degree. Of the thousands of students he has met, “Charisse is definitely one of the people who stands out from the crowd,” he says.
According to Latera, McGill had the characteristics of a true entrepreneur. He was always building networks, always striving to develop the company, was creative and had an engaging personality. And because she was in the middle of growing Lokal Artisan Foods during her time in school, “I don't think she got much sleep,” he noted.
The professor hoped to one day return to St. Joe's to give a guest lecture.
“I think she was great on 'Shark Tank,'” Patera said.
In early 2023, McGill was selected from hundreds of applicants as the third recipient of the Philadelphia 76ers' Buy Black program. This program was created to support local Black-owned businesses through marketing, advertising, educational programs, and other growth tools.
“Charisse was a trailblazer for business leaders in our city,” Chief Diversity and Impact Officer David Gould said in a written statement this week. “She was a force for change, for good, and she brought vibrancy and passion to the Philadelphia community, and she brought an infectious energy. It was truly an honor to know her and We, along with the rest of our community, are devastated by this loss.”
Information regarding memorials and donations will be announced in the coming days.
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