By Leah Fletcher
ABOVE PHOTO: PHILADELPHIA ENTREPRENEUR and budding lifestyle mogul KeVen Parker inside one of his beautiful new luxury suites located on South Street.
(Photo by Robert Mendelsohn)
What occurs when purpose meets passion?
If you asked KeVen D. Parker that question, his answer would be KDP Lifestyle and Luxury Suites.
Parker, best known as the proprietor of Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Café on South Street, will soon expand his KeVen Parker Company empire to include KDP Lifestyle, a home design and furnishing store, and Luxury Suites, a small boutique hotel, both of which are located at 1310-1314 South Street.
“This new venture allows me to infuse my profession and passion,” said Parker, who admits to working 15 to 18 hour daily. “Home design has been my recreational passion and the launch of KDP Lifestyles gives me an opportunity to merge the two.”
The Drexel University graduate, who also owns a catering company and operates the 3801 Café, said the concept of KDP Lifestyle and Luxury Suites began four years ago with a desire to create a destination stop for out-of-towners looking for a place to stay, somewhere to dine, and a place to shop.
“It is about a lifestyle destination that allows a group of friends to have a night out or provides a traveler or couples with the possibility of staying somewhere for a night or a weekend,’ said Parker. “But the motivation is the same. I wanted to create a luxury experience that is both unique and convenient.”
KDP Lifestyles home store offers small decorative house wares, pillows, chairs, sofas, bedding, lamps and more. The store’s items are handpicked by Parker and represent a mix of trendy, traditional and eclectic. All reflect Parker’s love of antiques, vintage items and one-of- a- kind pieces.
The Luxury Suites property, a boutique hotel located above the home store, has three signature luxury suites that feature a bedroom, living room, marble bathroom and kitchen area. Guests may access the suites from a South Street entrance, but they also may access the restaurant and bar lounge via an entry connecting the three buildings. Guests never have to venture outdoors for lunch, dinner, or a nightcap.
Parker explains that “Boutique hotel” is a term popularized to describe intimate, usually luxurious or unique hotel environments. Boutique hotels differentiate themselves from larger chain hotels and motels by providing personalized accommodations, services and facilities. Sometimes known as “design hotels” or “lifestyle hotels”, they began appearing in the 1980s in major cities like London, New York and San Francisco. They are usually considerably smaller than mainstream hotels, often ranging from 3 to 50 guest rooms.
Like typical boutique hotels, Parker’s Lifestyle Suites is furnished in a themed and stylish manner. And, being true to the genre, he focuses on offering services in a comfortable, intimate and welcoming setting. The property officially opens for business on New Year’s Eve and is already booked.
To enhance the KDP Lifestyle and Luxury Suites experience, Parker renovated his signature venue, Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Café and Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant and Bar Lounge. He also added a new menu, developed in partnership with his Executive Chef, Terrance Clarke. The new items include: Herb Crusted Grilled Lamb Chops with Fried Apples, Bourbon Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potato Home Fries, Crunchy Spring Rolls wrapped with Chicken, Yams and Cabbage, and Ms. Tootsie Pop’s, deep-fried chicken drummettes served with tangy dipping sauce.
On the second floor is the R&B Room, black and white photos of musicians decorated in deep bread and black satins; plush leather couches, flat screen televisions and walls lined in steel gray velvet with a contrasting metallic damask motif welcome quests onto the fourth floor Luxe Lounge. Also new to Ms. Tootsie’s is the “Love Lounge”, an all-white room highlighted in dark wood accents and dim lighting, created specifically for dining couples.
Parker believes his new “mini-empire” can be supported by the Philadelphia tourism industry, which attracts millions of hotel patrons and dollars to the city each year.
Above all, he invites patrons to come and have an amazing time.
Ultimately, Parker is driven to provide his guests with the same joyful experiences emanating from his childhood and made so extraordinary by his late mother’s home cooking and warm surroundings. It is from her, he said, he drew the inspiration to open Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Café, which bears her name.
“I remember Sunday dinner being a special time,” Parker recalls. “My mother’s cooking was comforting and also legendary in our neighborhood. She made our home environment soothing and welcoming to all. I want to create for my guests that special joy I felt.”
Parker is banking on his guests experiencing an “award-winning and legendary venue where all things are possible” and he is inviting all to “come and have an “amazing time, with no limits.”