Philadelphia is emerging from rundown outskirts to a new uptown feel with the help of local shop owners planning to defend the crown of the city and help the planning commission revamp and realize they aren’t the only ones seeking a new vision.
A New York native turned Philadelphia businessman plans to renovate the city with real estate, coffee and dessert shops, intimate clothing stores and just about anything he can stick his Muay Thai hands in.
Angel Cartagena, 44, wants to get caught putting treats in the cookie jar at his Sweet Spot Café located on Liberty Walk at 1040 N. Second St., along with his wife, Khara Cartagena whom he married in 2006.
“I fell in love with Philly the first day I was here. I fell in love with the intimacy of Philadelphia,” Cartagena said. “You can get somewhere in a short period of time. I thought it was a city I could do something with.”
Cartagena grew up with his mother in the Bronx, N.Y.
“I had good parenting. My mom was strong about me going to school, excelling and being very active in sports,” said Cartagena, who went straight into the Marine Corps after he graduated high school.
Cartagena recalls boxing and fighting as a kid, but never getting into anything organized until he went to the military. After being honorably discharged he went back home to New York and did a couple of odd jobs like bartending, and then landed a job in Sony Corp.
He started out as a shipping and receiving clerk and later was promoted to a supervising position, which relocated him to Philadelphia in 1993.
Cartagena opened his first business in 2000 called Body Arts Gym, a place strictly for combat training, conditioning and fighting. The gym is located on 926 N. Second St.
Simultaneously, the Cartagenas operate a real estate, development and construction venture where they make a majority of their income.
“In 2005, my wife and I started a fighting company called Evolved Fighting,” he said, “which is a fight promotion company that hosts 18 events over the period of three years for amateurs to compete.”
The Cartagenas began their first adult novelty shop in 2009 called The Velvet Lily, where Angel said he wants to be the “Victoria’s Secret” of intimate gifts on Liberty Walk.
Last summer, the couple set their eyes on coffee and dessert opening the Sweet Spot Café.
“If I did bake anything I would probably kill everyone,” Angel said. “So, one of the things we decided to do was go out there and find the best vendors.”
The Cartagenas show no sign of stopping or slowing down.
“We are more interested in developing in North Philly to redevelop some communities there, “ Angel said. “Where lower middle class people need new homes and better living spaces. It is something our business can provide.”
Sibyl Lindsay, 32, a local resident and frequent patron of the Sweet Spot, said she hopes to see more around.
“[Angel’s] hands are always in all the different businesses he owns,” Lindsay said. “He merges them all back into one.”
Cartagena has a strong sense of family and putting them first. He said he wants his family to always have good communication, tons of adventure and a prosperous lifestyle.
“Everything we do expresses us,” Cartagena said. “We do what we love.”