Superior Motors is off and running.
Around 6 a.m. Monday, a good 18 hours before its official 11:59 p.m. deadline, chef Kevin Sousa's Kickstarter campaign to create a community restaurant in Braddock hit its fundraising goal of $250,000. And the money keeps coming in from across the country.
As of Monday night, a little more than 2,000 people had pledged $300,485 for the project, which also will provide culinary training and jobs for young people in the beleaguered community, which is one of the region's poorest.
"I'm completely stunned and humbled and proud to be a Pittsburgher," said Mr. Sousa, who grew up in McKees Rocks and lived in Polish Hill before moving his family to Braddock in the fall. "It's crazy. ... Who knew?"
Mr. Sousa said the vast majority of support came from Pittsburghers who each pledged less than $100 toward the project. But fans from as far away as Colorado and California also opened up their wallets.
"I can honestly say I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it," he said, especially because the effort did not get any big Hollywood donors. (The campaign launch coincided with the Dec. 6 premiere of the drama "Out of the Furnace" starring Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson, which was filmed in Braddock.) "But somehow, it struck a chord with people and moved them."
That includes Rob Stephany, program director of community development at the The Heinz Endowments, which committed $40,000 toward the job-training facet of Superior Motors.
In June 2012, Mr. Sousa announced plans to open a Braddock restaurant called Magarac, named for the rugged steelworker of folklore, but the renovation proved too costly to pull off. Launching the new project this past fall, he turned to the idea of crowd-sourcing -- the process of getting funding, usually online, from a crowd of people -- because he was unable to raise money through traditional methods. Had he not hit his goal within the 33-day time frame, no money would have been collected from would-be backers.
Superior Motors will be at 1211 Braddock Ave., the former site of one of the first indoor Chevrolet dealerships in the country.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who owns the building and lives in a loft upstairs, will offer the space rent-free and also make available a 1,000-square-foot greenhouse on the roof. The open-kitchen design by Studio for Spatial Practice will include seating for about 50, a private dining room and a unique fire feature.
Construction is expected to begin within the next three months, with an opening-date goal of February 2015.
Mr. Sousa is best known for Salt of the Earth, a fine-dining restaurant with a minimalist aesthetic that opened in September 2010 in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood. He went on to re-open Station Street Hot Dogs in nearby East Liberty. Union Pig and Chicken, also in East Liberty, is a barbecue joint with a craft cocktail bar upstairs.
At Superior Motors, Mr. Sousa plans to use the hostel in a formerly abandoned convent next door to provide free housing for stagiaires and culinary and service interns from all over the country.
In keeping with farm-to-table philosophy, the restaurant will teach aspiring chefs and farmers all aspects of the food business by giving them rotating stints at the nearby Braddock Farms, in addition to providing training in the kitchen and front of the house.
Since its inception in 2009, Kickstarter has successfully funded nearly 55,000 projects with $811 million. Superior Motors is the most-funded restaurant project in Kickstarter's history.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay. First Published January 6, 2014 3:22 PM