When Suzanne Levinson and her partner Omer Shorshi were looking for a new space for their destroyed Pommes Frites restaurant, Levinson knew they’d found it when she looked around MacDougal Street. The feel and look of the tiny street in the shadow of New York University, she says, reminded her of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
“It just looks like a mini Bourbon Street,” Levinson tells the Village Voice. “What better place for Pommes Frites to move to than that? It just had the right feel, the right traffic because it has the students and the tourists there as well that used to come to our store on Second Avenue.”
After months of inactivity, in which the pair dealt with the fallout from the East Village gas explosion that destroyed the building housing the restaurant and two other buildings nearby, Pommes Frites is slowly inching toward an opening date this fall. It has now set up a fundraising page at Indiegogo and hopes the response from the community will help Levinson and Shorshi raise $64,000 toward new kitchen equipment for the space.
This is the second fundraising effort the pair has engaged in. The first one netted $2,500 but Levinson says they weren’t comfortable taking donations without the ability to give anything back. This way, she says, customers will be able to engage with the shop and support it at the same time.
“Opening a restaurant in New York is very, very hard,” Levinson tells the Voice. “And now we’re basically starting from scratch. We had such an amazing response from the community when the store was destroyed that we hope they will support us through this once again.”
The store at 128 MacDougal Street is about 300-square feet bigger than the old hole-in-the-wall on Second Avenue. Levinson says she’ll now be able to customize and build the space up in an old-world European way, which they weren’t able to do the last time around because of the space’s constricting 500 square feet. Now, she wants to design a bar and bring in some design elements that will mimic the Belgian-style she fell in love with.
As of Wednesday, the Indiegogo campaign had raised nearly $5,300 from 129 people. The contributions range from $6 for one order of regular frites to $10,000 for a two-hour party for 30 that includes unlimited frites, sauces, and drinks. So far, the most popular item seems to be the $10 contribution for a combo of frites, three sauces, and a soft drink. Nine people have opted for the $100 contribution, which includes ten orders of frites and an exclusive shop t-shirt. Those who contributed to the restaurant in the first fundraising effort will also receive these perks depending on their donations.
“In our eyes, the biggest tragedy from that day in March was for the families who were impacted, and they are always in our prayers” Levinson says. “It was a much smaller loss that our restaurant had to close. The response we received from our customers and friends after that day was completely overwhelming, and we knew we had to find a way to involve them in our reopening.”
Levinson has also filed for a wine and beer license — that hearing is set for July 14. Since the space will have about 20 to 25 seats, she hopes customers will be able to enjoy a Belgian ale with their order of frites. Right now, however, she says the focus is on rebuilding. They have estimated that the entire venture will cost about $367,500. The biggest cost, $175,000, will come from building the space, which Levinson says will include new plumbing, gas, and electrical work. The rest is split between equipment, rents, permits and leases, food inventory and other miscellaneous expenses.
“I had always dreamed of having a place closer to Washington Square Park, where visitors could take their cone of frites to sit down and relax,” Levinson says. “Now we’ll have that.”