In an email yesterday addressed to the "Taco Punk family," the NuLu eatery's chef and owner, Gabe Sowder, requested $20,000 in donations through a pending Kickstarter campaign.
"We are struggling to keep our doors open," Sowder wrote. "Although we are asking for $20k, we need every contribution we can get in order for us to survive into our second year. If we do not reach our goal we will be forced to make very undesirable decisions."
Sowder didn't specify if one of those "undesirable decisions" would be more unsightly begging.
Sowder said the funds raised would support "developing the capacity of our location to increase sales," increasing Taco Punk's catering business, launching a targeted marketing campaign and developing "our side lot into a beautiful alfresco dining and performance space."
Desirable outcomes possibly. The Wayside Christian Mission and Dare to Care Food Bank feed the hungry rather than charge $12.95 for the Yucatecan Style Fish Punk Platter (as tasty as it is). Might they be better places for your charitable dollars?
If Sowder and Taco Punk raise the $20,000, expect Eater Louisville to launch a Kickstarter campaign. We'll use the funds to buy new patio furniture. The community will benefit; in the spring and fall, we'll host outdoor salons (with a $10 cover).
John Timmons, the proprietor of ear X-tacy, was maligned for releasing a since-deleted video pleading for business in his iconic record store's waning days. But at least Timmons was offering merchandise in exchange for dollars. According to his email, Sowder just wants your cash and is offering nothing in return. No equity. No interest. Not even a free guacamole add-on to "take your Taco to the next level" (normally $0.50). [UPDATE Jan. 24, 9:33 a.m.: Per the campaign's now-approved Kickstarter page, there are rewards for contributions.]
Yesterday's email isn't the first time Sowder has publicly lamented the state of his business. In October, he told the Louisville Courier-Journal, "he's consistently late on bills." Sowder also said, "I am very concerned rolling into February and March. Those are pretty lean times." In both that article and yesterday's email, Sowder attributed Taco Punk's business problems to not bringing in as much business from conventions, arena and waterfront events, which take place a mile away, as his business plan expected.
In that case, rather than whine and beg, perhaps Taco Punk should revise or relocate?
Sowder's email ends with this plea: "I am asking for you all to say, "Yes, Louisville is ready to help Taco Punk keep on serving Louisville tasty tacos!" Or, as we're all in the inaugural mood, ask not what Taco Punk can do for you—ask what you can do for Taco Punk.
Here's Sowder's appeal in its entirety:
Greetings Taco Punk family! I write to you as we are celebrating our first anniversary and what a year it has been. All of you are in one way or another involved in our journey to change the way Louisvillians eat on a daily basis. We have experienced many successes and setbacks. Without a doubt, Taco Punk is a trend setting industry leader in the areas of high quick-service quality, local sourcing, transparent, nutrition focused menu, environmental responsibility, and community involvement.
Unfortunately, being a leader does not guarantee immediate financial success. We are discovering what it means to be on the "bleeding edge." In our first year, we concentrated on developing our concept as a QSR with hopes of launching multiple Taco Punks in the Louisville area. Now we are struggling to keep our doors open. Located in the emerging NuLu district, our business model planned on windfall income from conventions, arena and waterfront events. Although we are only a mile away, we have been unable to realize any substantial, regular sales from these sources.
We have submitted a Kickstarter proposal with the modest goal of $20,000. According to the rules, if we do not reach or exceed our goal, we do not collect any contributions. Although we are asking for $20k, we need every contribution we can get in order for us to survive into our second year. If we do not reach our goal we will be forced to make very undesirable decisions. Taco Punk is depending on you not only for contributions but for help spreading the word about our campaign.
Our plan to offset these losses involves developing the capacity of our location to increase sales. We are already catering on a small, irregular basis. With a targeted marketing campaign, Taco Punk will be able to take a great product to a larger market. In addition, Taco Punk will use these funds to develop our side lot into a beautiful alfresco dining and performance space.
This is a chance for Louisville to speak out about our everyday food choices. In recent months, I have been taking advice from numerous, expert sources and the greatest concern about our business centers on being "ahead of the market." There is a huge question we have yet to answer: "Is Louisville ready to support a quick service, farm-to-table taco shop in NuLu?" If we are approved, you will receive another e-mail in the coming days. I am Gabe Sowder chef and owner and I am asking for you all to say, "Yes, Louisville is ready to help Taco Punk keep on serving Louisville tasty tacos!" We thank you for your help and look forward to many years of tacos!
·Taco Punk: Hey, Ho, Let's Go somewhere else [The Louisville Cardinal]
·Gabe Sowder: 'Rae Hodge, businesses such as Taco Punk are revitalizing a wasteland into a vibrant neighborhood' [Insider Louisville]
[Photos: Top, Taco Punk Courtesy Facebook/Taco Punk].