In early February 2020, everything was looking up for Piecemeal Pies restaurant owners Justin Barrett and Joshua Brown. They had developed a loyal customer base since opening their doors in downtown White River Junction in October of 2016. Piecemeal Pies had become the go-to brunch spot in the Hartford area – a place where customers came, not just for the quality, up-scale food, but for the experience. The establishment was a vital connector, interwoven into the fabric of the local community.
Barrett projected that 2020 would be one of the most profitable years for their business. They would finally be able to offer their employees benefits, such as healthcare and profit-sharing. They would open a second Piecemeal Pies and grow to the next level – creating larger communities and expanding their offerings across Vermont.
Originally, Barrett and Brown had their hearts set on opening a second Piecemeal Pies in the neighboring town of Hanover, New Hampshire. However, once they learned that the rent rates were $95.00 per square foot, their dream of opening in Hanover was quashed.
The pair ventured up to Stowe for the day to raise their spirits. Stowe held nothing but good memories for them. They went there every September to sell their specialty pies at the annual “British Invasion” – a day dedicated to showcasing British vintage motorsports cars.
They got out of their car near the town green, turned right, and directly in front of the spot where they sold their pies – there was a sign, “for lease.” They called the number on the sign and felt a kismet rapport with the landlord. Within a week, they were signing a lease for the space that would house their dream: their second Piecemeal Pies.
Then, in March of 2020, COVID-19 hit. For any restaurant, having to close unexpectedly for a single day when usually open, creates a loss of staff wages, food waste, and debt. Piecemeal was forced to close its doors for four weeks. The erupting pandemic was on course to scorch all of their plans, not only to build a new restaurant but to keep the one in White River afloat.
Instead of throwing down his apron, boarding up his doors, and walking away, Barrett got to work.
Barrett banded together with other local restaurants and business owners in downtown White River. They shared any new information they gathered around PPP loans that would aid in each other’s attempts to stay open. They applied and petitioned the town legislature to get permits for use of the sidewalk and parking spaces for outdoor dining. The town denied them. So, Barrett garnered support from the WCAX news radio station. Finally, the town heeded their requests and the restaurants were permitted to set up outdoor dining, to survive.
“The hardest part of COVID is that in hospitality, we are in the business of creating an experience, an in-person experience. We thrive on human interaction. How do you put that in a take-out bag?” said Barrett.
Lenders pulled out of their Stowe location and their landlord no longer wanted to rent to a restaurant. All plans and construction for the new restaurant came to a halt.
Barrett refused to give up. He reached back out to a crowdfunding platform that had contacted him a year ago, Mainvest.
Mainvest approached Barrett in February of 2020. At that time Barrett didn’t view crowdfunding as a viable option to fund their expansion. His only exposure to crowdfunding had been with other, larger platforms that asked for something but promised nothing in return. Additionally, Barrett already had traditional lenders lined up to fund their new restaurant.
In the end, Mainvest meshed perfectly with Barrett and Brown’s community-based ethos and was ultimately the oil that allowed Piecemeal Pies’ wheel to keep turning.
In one month, Barrett and Brown exceeded their target raise of $50,000 and raised their maximum, $125,000 to fund their new establishment.
“Mainvest was always ready to advise, consult, and encourage – no matter what time of day,” said Barrett.
With Mainvest, Barrett and Brown remain true to their goal of keeping dollars in the local economy. Donors who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign will earn a share of revenue each quarter as the business grows. They will earn a 1.5-times return on their investment over five years. This way, if the restaurant has a slow season, which they are apt to do – hello, Mud Season – the payouts will reflect that and be lower. Likewise, if the restaurant is booming during a busy summer, the payout will be higher.
Also, by using Mainvest instead of traditional lenders like banks, Barrett won’t have to repay high interest rates. Rather, Mainvest takes a fixed commission on the amount raised, in this case, 6%. “They are so worth that fee,” said Barrett. Mainvest helped market the Piecemeal Pies campaign by creating social media advertisements. They also handled all of the legal work, investment materials, and filings with the SEC. “Mainvest’s motto ‘Invest in Main Street, not Wall Street,’ helps me believe in everything we do,” said Barrett.
Now, one year later, in a time when many restaurants and bars have been forced to close their doors indefinitely, opening a new restaurant in a new town might seem ludicrous. But Barrett and Brown are doing just that.
This June 2021, thanks to the ingenuity of Mainvest, the contributions of all of Piecemeal Pies customers, and the community, they will open the doors to their second restaurant on Main Street in Stowe.
When asked how he selected “piecemeal” as part of the restaurant name, Barrett replied, “There is a story behind everything – every ingredient, every experience is a collaborative effort.”
“It’s a daily reminder that I don’t have to go it alone.”