Long-standing Drexel favorite California Pizza closes quietly | The Triangle

Long-standing Drexel favorite California Pizza closes quietly

A long-standing local business, California Pizza, closed its doors quietly in West Philadelphia and Trio’s Fresh Italian is taking its place. (Photograph by Nick Camarata for The Triangle.)

While the United States and Philadelphia are currently following  more prominent news regarding the large-scale protests continuing to occur nation- and city-wide, small changes are being made to Drexel’s restaurant scene.

One of Drexel’s longest standing restaurants on Powelton Avenue — the California Pizza that was never related to the restaurant chain — has seemingly closed its doors for good. Furthermore, there is someone already in the process replacing them.

As seen in the photo above, the new owners of 3231 Powelton Avenue will be Trio’s Fresh Italian, which seems to be expanding to another location on the other side of Philadelphia. Their first location is at 342 West Girard Avenue in Olde Kensington, just a handful of blocks away from the wildly popular restaurant scenes at the heart of Fishtown and Northern Liberties.

This move by Trio’s makes sense in terms of expanding to both sides of the city for easier delivery and dine-in points for its consumer base. However, one must ask the question — why did California Pizza close, and how did Trio’s get moving so quickly to take over the Powelton Avenue space?

The elephant in the emergency room here is the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on small businesses around the country. Countless long-standing restaurants have been forced to close due to the lack of revenue that the stay-at-home orders have created. At first glance, California Pizza was a prime candidate for joining that list.

California Pizza was always open till at least midnight, including 2:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. It was a restaurant that thrived on the late night and bang-for-their-buck college population, but when their dependable consumer base all went home and the rest of the city shuttered inside, California Pizza found itself with almost no customers.

The other understandable answer could be a rent increase after California Pizza’s lease expired. California Pizza has been a Drexel institution for over a decade, and many restaurants are known for being unable to pay the rising cost of rent for new leases. Drexel University’s steady increase of a neighborhood presence in the Mantua neighborhood has not made rent go down.

Even a prosperous restaurant could be scared by a rent increase, and while Drexel’s unique California Pizza could be taking some time to relocate with a cheaper rent space instead of closing entirely, they will no longer be on Drexel’s campus — a sight that many students may be saddened by when returning to campus in the fall.

The winners of this closure are obvious: the restaurants on Lancaster Avenue’s pizza row.

The back-to-back-to-back restaurant lineup of Savas Brick Oven Pizza, Ed’s Buffalo Wings & Pizza and Mad Greek’s Pizza, Beer and Catering are all breathing a little sigh of relief right now. The three campus favorites are now going to be even more popular with the spillover from California Pizza’s customers needing another place to get their late night eats.

Another winner is the Drexel location of Blaze Pizza, but they are a larger corporation that does not rely as heavily on local customers; nevertheless, they will probably see an uptick in customers in the coming months.

More information regarding California Pizza’s closure and the opening of the University City location of Trio’s Fresh Italian will come soon.