Food News

How the Community Is Standing Behind 175 Recently Displaced NYC Food Businesses

Soon-to-launch cafe project Dominga has a Go Fund Me page, and more.

October 19, 2018
Photo by Go Fund Me

When Brooklyn-based food incubator Pilotworks closed abruptly last weekend, 175 small businesses were displaced. According to GrubStreet, Pilotworks sent an email to announce it would be shuttering “after failing to raise the necessary capital to continue operations," and gave members limited access to collect possessions over the following few days.

For businesses like Dominga, a cafe collaboration between chefs Lani Halliday of Brutus Bakeshop and Woldy Reyes of food service company Woldy Kusina, slated to launch in 2019, the sudden closure was detrimental to normal-course business. While a neighboring commercial kitchen has welcomed Halliday and Reyes, Dominga had to leave behind critical supplies.

"It affected so many small makers in their fledgling stages," says Halliday. "And it’s not just the businesses, it's the staff of Pilotworks as well—like the people who worked in the kitchens."

Accordingly, and hearteningly, friend-of-Dominga Alek Marfisi (a mentor to Halliday) launched a Go Fund Me page to crowdsource capital to get the business back up-and-running, which we learned about from community-minded media company Cherry Bombe. According to the Go Fund Me page:

Dominga needs $10,000, which will help them buy a $3,000 reach-in refrigerator, $2,000 worth of cookware, and $5,000 for a basic restock trip to Restaurant Depot.

The campaign has raised nearly $4,000 at the time of print, but still needs some help to reach its goal.

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"We're really trying to stay positive and use this as a moment to be like 'here’s the fire'—we're scrambling, we haven’t been sleeping, we’re doing what we need to do to make sure everything’s going to continue functioning," says Halliday. "The whole community has come together beautifully in the aftermath to support the businesses."

The 175 formerly hosted Pilotworks businesses are also welcoming any leads on storage space, kitchen space, job openings for displaced team members, and more—you can post any helpful info here. We're inspired by the effort on behalf of Dominga, and we hope to see similar support for the rest of the businesses.

"I am so in gratitude and feeling galvanized by the far-reaching, deeply human support that’s been shown by so many people in the industry—and outside it—through money, kind words, legal help, all of that," says Halliday. "It’s been one person after the other reaching out to be like 'How can we help?' and that’s been just so beautiful to witness. My desire now is to connect all of the businesses and people affected with those resources—they need them, we all need them."

Have an idea to help any businesses affected by the Pilotworks closure? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lizbeth101
  • louisez
  • dinaofdoom
  • Christopher Robert Adams
    Christopher Robert Adams
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner
Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Lizbeth101 October 21, 2018
Sorry, basic economics, here! The market doesn't support what you think is a good idea, then move on! Cold, but that is the very real reality of the foodservice biz.
dinaofdoom October 26, 2018
So they're supposed to give up all their hard work and dreams because the incubator closed suddenly without warning? Your comment is not just cruel, it's ignorant in so many ways. Sorry!

Not sorry.
Christopher R. January 2, 2019
That's not how basic economics works. The situation here isn't about whether the market supports these startups or not. If you paid attention to the article you'd note that most of these hadn't even opened yet. The issue was the company that was working with them promised them funds and support and then took off the second venture capitalists started getting suspicious. They'd gotten plenty of funding before which is why people trusted them to help with their business.

There was no reason for anyone to not work with them which is why people were so shocked. They got duped by shady people which can happen to anyone.
louisez October 19, 2018
I appreciate your efforts on behalf of these folks.
However, living in Florida's Gulf Coast, you might forgive me for thinking an article about displaced people would have something to do with Hurricane Michael.
Ella Q. October 19, 2018
Hi Louise,

Thanks for pointing this out—we've adjusted the headline. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

louisez October 20, 2018
Thanks. However, I do wonder why there's been no mention on the site of the hurricane and the devastation it's caused --particularly since other events have prompted a reaction, if not action.