Article By Claudia Giunta
The need to support local and independent businesses has increased throughout the worldwide pandemic. As many restaurants have shortened their hours, closed their doors, and/or had to layoff a selection of their employees, business revenue has severely declined.
However, the restaurant industry in Metro New York and across the nation, is simply too busy taking care of their customer base and the communities they serve to succumb to the challenges of the Pandemic. That commitment has now taken center stage as several visionary fundraisers have generated donations, and with that consumer support, so that these smaller businesses can continue to serve their communities.
Borrelli’s, an Italian cafe and pizzeria located in East Meadow, NY, was one of the many smaller businesses in New York whose business suffered from Covid restrictions. Borrelli’s has been serving Italian cuisine in the Long Island area for 65 years, but owner Frank Borrelli Jr. anticipated having to close his doors after the pandemic hindered business so abruptly.
“When Governor Cuomo announced a 10 pm curfew and advised that people should be eating in their homes for Thanksgiving with no more than five people, he scared people so much so that my business dropped by 70%,” said Borrelli. This placed a sense of fear in people, and smaller restaurants began to question whether their regulars would continue supporting them. What is usually Borrelli’s busiest time of the year with many holiday parties to cater, has meant the occasional small catering service for small gatherings or serving people outdoors at a 50% capacity.
Barstool Sports personality Dave Portnoy simply was not going to allow the doors of the iconic Long Island eatery to shutter. Borrelli’s was Barstool Sports’ first recipient of the Barstool Fund, which aimed to help prevent small businesses from closing as a result of the pandemic. Barstool Sports is a digital media company that produces content focused on sports and pop-culture. Founded by Portnoy, Barstool has created a vision for how sports are covered and analyzed today.
The Swampscott, MA native is no stranger to restaurant industry. His reviews of pizzeria’s signature slices throughout the Metro New York area have become some of You Tube’s mostly highly view content. Coincidentally, Portnoy also employs Borrelli’s son Frankie as his chief videographer. When word got to Portnoy, who is referred to by his legion of fans and employees as “El Presidente”, he sprang into action.
With a goal of supporting small businesses that were struggling during these unprecedented times, Portnoy created The Barstool Fund in December with a pledge of $500k which has since raised an astounding $19 plus million dollars. The movement was also recently bolstered by matching pledge from celebrity chef Guy Fieri and television host Marcus Lemonis.
Borrelli recognizes the impact of the compassionate efforts of the Barstool Fund. “This hits home to everyone that I know. If I’m able to stay open I’m helping the vegetable guy, the fish guy; it’s not just that I’m helping the 40 people who work for me. I’m helping people work for them– delivery guys, even Restaurant Depot, and our consumers who can get the food they love.”
Borrelli’s has successfully been able to pay its employees throughout the pandemic, which is a requirement of businesses to receive Barstool funding. The funding has allowed Borrelli’s to continue catering and serving its surrounding community.
Borrelli has since been inspired by Portnoy’s efforts and has started a fundraiser on his website in partnership with The INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network) of Long Island, helping to serve Borrelli’s dishes to the homeless community.
“A few weeks ago, I started working with a foodbank in Hempstead that serves 500 meals a day to those in need. I started a fundraiser on our website to help contribute. Additionally, Borrelli has started selling merchandise for charity with Barstool’s assistance: “We started selling shirts online for charities that support local businesses. We probably sold $300-400 worth of shirts all over the country. It’s just one way of giving back.”
Borrelli is optimistic about the future of the restaurant industry. He’s hoping that when the numbers of those affected by the virus decline and the numbers of those able to receive the vaccine increase, more people will feel comfortable dining out. While Borrelli’s isn’t able to take advantage of its typically active surrounding college campuses, delivery providers and Barstool funding have allowed them to continue running their business. Borrelli’s is currently offering its original menu through take-out and delivery options, as well as available outdoor seating. “I think about restaurants being open and you walk in to see people that creates a sense of normalcy in your life.”
In addition, to the support of Borelli’s, the Barstool Fund has come to the aid of Laskan Restaurants in Wallingford, CT, the Keystone State’s Reading Terminal Market, Durf’s in Fairport, NY , Yonkers’ San Martino Ristorante and the Mayan Restaurants in Greater Seattle, WA.
Learn more at Barstool Sports Barstool Fund website