DOVER – Restaurant owner Kaley Rae Fellows closed her vegan cafe for an extended July 4 weekend this month, as she considered if and how she could stay in business.
Despite her eligibility for a US Small Business Administration’s $ 28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant, federal funds dried up before her application was processed, leaving her faced with the prospect of shutting down permanently.
She wasn’t about to give up her business easily and ran a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe to keep her doors open as long as she can.
In two weeks, she received more than half of the amount the federal grant would have given her, filling the gap of more than $ 10,000 suddenly left by the decrease in restaurant revitalization funds.
“Whether or not we hit the fundraising goal, the support has already been extremely helpful and uplifting,” said Fellows. “This will allow us to expand our hours and our team, with enough to do a few updates in the kitchen. The hours have been a big challenge for me because I have been limited in what we can afford to do. . “
The fellows said she was grateful for those who reached out, offering advice and guidance to seek additional funding. This led her to learn more about Dover cares Dover Small Business Grants Program, which she is considering applying for.
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“The encouragement I have received is really worth a lot to me, especially when you start to lose hope and aren’t sure you really have the energy to keep fighting for your business,” Fellows said. “No matter what happens in the future, when I look back I will be so proud to be a part of this community and how we have all come together to make this last.”
Not all awareness has been positive
While Fellows have received a lot of positive words from other business owners and community members, not all have been positive. After Fellows was featured in Foster’s Daily Democrat earlier this month, Fellows has come under fire on social media for his efforts to save his business. Some said if she needed help she should give up, others made targeted comments about her as a young female business owner and blamed her struggles on limited hours and Roots be a vegan cafe.
“Restaurants in the area face similar challenges with limited hours, menus, staff and seating,” Fellows said. “It’s easy to point fingers, but these are challenges that everyone faces.”
Fellows don’t let negativity stop him from making efforts to save his business. Instead, she focuses on what her clients would like to see. She conducted a series of polls in his Instagram story, asking its subscribers things like they prefer breakfast or dinner, extended weekday or weekday evenings, and indoor or outdoor seating.
“Since our Roots community has stepped up for us, we’ve wanted to make sure that for the summer we have exactly what they’re looking for,” Fellows said. “This will help define the direction in which we are heading as we add hours, staff and expand services. We also asked customers what specialties they would like to see return to the menu, and we had an overwhelming response from suggestions for things like a vegan lobster roll. “
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The master plan
Fellows intended to maintain and expand their services and offerings with federal funds to better position their business for the future. These plans included adding staff and offering a dinner, as well as a selection of beers and wines with house cocktails. While now might not be a good time for the full vision to come to fruition, Fellows said it’s still part of the blueprint she envisions for Roots going forward.
“I see us as being bold going forward, offering good breakfast options, having some nights and weekends where we’re open late and have extra deals,” Fellows said. “In the meantime, I have to concentrate from week to week and month to month.”