Brunch with Bottomless Hearts: Square Cafe Crowdfunds $250,000 for Restaurant Move
Updated: Jul 14, 2021
If you ever ask someone in Pittsburgh where the best place is to get some brunch, chances are they’ll send you to Square Cafe. Square Cafe has remained a beloved neighborhood staple brunch spot since 2003, even after moving to a different neighborhood!
Why is this? Well, the delicious pancakes, breakfast burritos, and other healthy comfort foods that the restaurant turns out to have something to do with it, but the real heart of Square Cafe is its owner, Sherree Goldstein.
Community and inclusivity are at the heart of what Sherree does, so it’s no surprise that when the opportunity to expand Square Cafe to a bigger restaurant location came up, she decided to fund her move with Honeycomb.
Sherree actually is a two-time Honeycomb alum, having raised $35,000 for new equipment in her other business, Regent Square’s neighborhood market My Goodness. This time around, Square Cafe’s record-setting campaign raised $250,000 in 47 days.
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Square Cafe moves to a bigger restaurant location
Sherree wasn’t always a restaurateur - in fact, starting in 1992 she worked at Gateway Rehabilitation Center as an Adventure-Based Therapy Specialist. This passion for helping others that she practiced in this career carried on into her first restaurant venture, Square Cafe.
Since opening in 2003 in a cozy spot in Regent Square, Square Cafe has skyrocketed to popularity, tripling its expected revenue thanks to the support of the Pittsburgh community. By 2018, Square Cafe was generating $2 million dollars in sales annually and was able to hire up to 28 employees.
In May of 2020, a dream commercial location in East Liberty opened up, and Sherree knew it was time to expand Square Cafe. The 8,000 square foot building would effectively triple Square Cafe’s dining space, which was increasingly necessary as the coronavirus pandemic required social distancing. The new restaurant space would have two dining rooms, an outdoor courtyard, and a rooftop deck with lots of seating and ample space for curbside pick-up and delivery to adapt to the pandemic.
But how was Sherree going to fund the move? While Sherree had established a longtime relationship with her bank, she decided to turn to another familiar friend for restaurant funding: Honeycomb!
Sherree first worked with Honeycomb in 2018 to open up My Goodness, her new grocery market, and raised $35,000 in 36 hours! Unlike going to a bank for restaurant financing, Sherree’s Honeycomb campaign allowed her to give her biggest fans and customers the opportunity to invest in her restaurant and take part in her success.
Now, Sherree was back for seconds. She launched a second Honeycomb campaign with the goal to raise $250,000 in restaurant funding, engage more of her customers, and build marketing buzz and excitement around Square Cafe’s big move.
“It was a big undertaking, it was in the middle of a pandemic, I wasn’t sure how to go about it,” said Sherree about the crowdfunding campaign to fund her restaurant’s move. “Working with Honeycomb gave me a lot of strength and power, it helped me get out there in front of a lot of different people that we wouldn’t have been able to be in front of.”
“We got $100,000 in the first 11 days! A lot of people came through for us and we felt so supported,” says Sherree.
Overall, through its Honeycomb crowdfunding campaign, Square Cafe was able to meet its maximum goal of $250,000 in only 47 days to help finance the restaurant’s move.
Sherree is also thrilled to be paying her neighbors and biggest supporters back.
“We were able to fund a campaign for a lot of money and pay it back in a timely manner. It gives us as an organization more empowerment to continue and move forward,” says Sherree.
Setting high standards for the community
Square Cafe sets a standard for being a beloved neighborhood restaurant not only through the great food and customer service but for the acts of philanthropy they do as well. Square Cafe earned the Power of Work award from Goodwill for its inclusivity of employees living with disabilities. They also work with 412 Food Rescue to increase food access in Pittsburgh, and they’ve received the Platinum Award from Sustainable Pittsburgh.
When hiring employees, Square Cafe not only pays employees far beyond the national minimum wage, but also offers benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and flexible work schedules to their employees in order to promote a healthy work-life balance.
Sherree also makes an effort to give people who otherwise might struggle to find employment the opportunities to make a living, whether it’s those struggling with addiction or those who are disabled.
“I like to hire people who are sometimes difficult to hire,” says Sherree. “We’ve been able to empower people to make huge changes in their lives. We’ve had people who’ve kept themselves out of jail, people who’ve been able to get sober and clean since coming here and having a nice and safe work environment.”