First Posted: 1/20/2014
He gave it two weeks to reach a monetary goal to help save his business, and what happened astounded him.
“Everything was set up for 14 days, and yet we surpassed our goal in six and a half,” Christian Pilosi, founder and owner of Eden – A Vegan Cafe in Scranton said, the excitement barely contained in his voice. “I was just blown away.”
Pilosi launched a campaign to collect donations for his eatery on indigogo.com with the intent to raise $9,000 and, as of press time, he has already garnered $9, 480 – and there’s still six days left for people to donate.
However, this is merely the first step in what’s sure to a be a long process of saving Eden, a business that began in November 2008 and just this past fall started to falter.
Eden is the only purely vegan eatery in Scranton, bringing its own version of New American Vegan Cuisine to the city, such as vegan versions of BLTs, meatball subs, and cheesesteaks, as well as a wide variety of specialty pizzas, soups, salads, and smoothies. All the mock meats are non-GMO, and Pilosi strives to ensure the restaurant uses as much organic and local produce as possible, as well as local bakeries for the breads and pizza doughs.
Pilosi began his journey into the vegan lifestyle in 1997, when he was exposed to information about factory farming. It began with dispensing of meat from his diet, but soon after he gave up eggs and dairy as well and has since been a vegan and an animal rights activist.
He knew he was taking a chance starting the first all-vegan business in the area, but it paid off. The clientele was strong, with vegans and non-vegans alike coming in to check out the delicious menu items, and it’s that exact group of people that helped Pilosi see just how much locals liked his restaurant when things started to take a downturn.
“For the second half of 2013, we could feel it,” Pilosi said of when he knew things might not be looking so good for his beloved business. “Everyone downtown was feeling it. People just weren’t coming out as much.
“It can be attributed to many things,” he continued. “The economy; a lot of people have it hard, and a lot of the time, the first thing they cut out is eating out. The meter enforcement times increased, the fees increased, the fines increased, the timing of the lights changed in the last year, making it very difficult to get down some of the blocks, specifically on Linden and Adams; it’s just the way the lights are timed. It’s been frustrating a lot of customers.”
On Jan. 8, Pilosi wrote a Facebook announcement that he described as “very difficult:” the closing of Eden.
“It was barely paying for itself at the time,” he said of the restaurant, “and it wasn’t providing for me at all.”
Pilosi, who is the father of a 10-year-old girl, had not taken a salary from the business in a year and was simply living off savings, which are now depleted. He was determined to keep Eden open and, though it seemed dire, what followed his Facebook announcement gave him hope.
“The outpouring of support… People saying, ‘Oh please, don’t go,’ ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’ It was inspiring,” he said.
That weekend, Pilosi sat down and came up with a four-step plan, the first of which was to begin a fundraising campaign on indiegogo.com. Those funds will put him back on his feet, helping to pay all outstanding personal and business expenses.
It’s now on to step two for Pilosi.
“Dozens and dozens of people have expressed interest in investing or partnering, which is something I do need if it’s going to grow; it needs to be more than just me,” he said. “I’m going to talk to all these people, listen to what everyone has to say, and then sift through all the different offers and possibilities.”
Step three will be developing a Kickstarter campaign to raise additional capital to save Eden in its current brick-and-mortar form or to reshape it as a food truck. The last step involves implementing the plans that come together from the previous steps to “push Eden onward and upward, continuing to bring the public what they so desperately do not want to lose – our New American Vegan Cuisine,” according to Pilosi’s summary on the Indiegogo page.
“There has been so much local support, regional, national; people have contributed anything from $3 to $1,000. I had someone from Houston contribute and say, ‘I’ve never been there, but I love this story and I want to see it survive,’” Pilosi said.
“It’s been so overwhelming and I’m so thankful and so grateful. I knew people liked our restaurant, but I had no idea it was to this level. It’s been incredible, and I just want to say thank you to everyone. I haven’t been this inspired since five years ago, when I started the business. Everyone has been there for us, and now I’m going to be there for them.”