Sunday, June 05, 2011

the i love kismet rally

As many of you know, the last ten days have been one of the most bizarre and intense weeks at kismet. After heavy rains on thursday night (may 26, 2011), kismet's basement was completely flooded. Like most other businesses in town, as well as businesses and homes in our neighboring towns, business as usual came to a halt. After an assessment of our losses, we were able to determine that kismet would need $55,000 to re-open. WOW! what a number! For whatever reason, closing down completely was not an option, as Kismet is the home and lively-hood for my family as well as the that of my 27 employees. With the help of my advisors and investors, I was able to create 3 plans. A B & C. C meant we would close the restaurant. Plan A meant raising the money we needed and creating a timeline for re-opening. As other restaurants and businesses opened up around us over the weekend, it became clear that it would be difficult to keep our morale high enough to stay focused. From the street, everything seemed fine- though behind the building we were still deep in muck, broken equipment, and toxicity. A visit from the health inspector determined that we would not be able to re-open until we figured out adequate storage, fixed up the basement, and repaired or replaced our walk-ins. Yikes.. my employees began to ask about the security of their jobs, and the community began talking about kismet. For the length of last week, i left the kitchen and became the project organizer, fundraiser, damage control center, negotiator, and spokesperson for kismet. With the help of the community, we started the week strong with $25,000 in pledged support and relief aid! As the week went on, I was overwhelmed by the extreme generosity and creativity of my neighbors. Other business owners around us offered all sorts of support including meals for my staff (thank you julios, pinky's, and bagitos), items to raffle or auction (thank you woodbury mountain toys, global gifts, positive pie, magic wheel community bikes, cheshire cat, salaam, lochlin smith, capitol kitchen, & many others), and then there were so so so many who stopped in to write us a check or just offer encouragement. With all of this support coming in, my staff rallied to pull together a last minute bake sale, raffle, and all day fundraiser. Chris P stayed up all night making the i love kismet shirts, and at 7 am we gathered and began our last efforts to try and raise enough money to reach our goal of $55,000.
Yesterday was amazing! seeing all of our vendors and the our community together was a rare treat as I am usually in the kitchen all day- the weather was finally beautiful (we ALL needed that), and spirits were high. At noon we had sold out of most everything at our bake-sale (thank you graeme, nessa, salt, and kate for your yummy goodnesses), and moses was diligently selling raffle tickets. After the fashion show we lit the grill, grilled some burgers, and liquidated our "condemned", but salvageable inventory. Having people close to us, cheering us on, was one of the greatest gifts of this whole year! My employees need the morale, and encouragement, and kismet desperately need the support. At the end of the day, we were able to total our donations, and were amazed to see that we had raised a total of $44,000 this week! wow...

For me, now, is the work of figuring out how to make $44,000 work for our budget. There is still so much to do, and we will need to be closed for at least 10 more days to get new equipment, get our storage space situated (perhaps build a new one completely), and deal with some of the damage that still exists in the basement. I would also like to follow through with previously scheduled plans to complete the dining room and kitchen renovations that began in november. I want to have the staff back this week, with paychecks going to them on schedule, and have things back in order without completely compromising our very delicate budget. I keep remembering that we have done this before, and are capable, we will just have to be creative.

thank you for your intense and incredible support! i look forward to future opportunities to raise money for other businesses and to keep montpelier a healthy and vibrant town.
thank you