Chef Kevin Sousa had no idea how much money, if any, he'd raise when he kicked off a Kickstarter campaign in early December to fund the community restaurant he'd long dreamed of building in Braddock. Especially since his goal of raising $250,000 in 33 days was so very ambitious -- and food projects have only about a 40 percent success rate on the site.
Turns out, fans were only too happy to open their hearts and wallets.
When the crowd-sourcing campaign wrapped up at 11:59 p.m. this past Monday, 2,026 backers from across the country had pledged a whopping $310,225, exceeding his goal by $60,000. In the process, they made the restaurant to be called Superior Motors the most-funded restaurant project in Kickstarter's history.
"We're so thrilled and can't thank the people of Pittsburgh enough," said Mr. Sousa, adding, "It's really remarkable. It's been a wild ride."
As late as Sunday morning, the Pittsburgh chef -- best known for his Salt of the Earth restaurant in Garfield -- wasn't sure the project would happen. Then social media exploded. In the last 24 hours, he raised more than $100,000.
"I think a lot of people were waiting to see how it went down, and when it started to become something within reach, they got behind it and rallied," said Mr. Sousa, who likened the experience to the last moments of a presidential election. "At that point it was out of my hands. They took it upon themselves to make it a thing."
In addition, The Heinz Endowments has committed $40,000 toward the restaurant's job-training facet.
Mr. Sousa has been trying since June 2012 to get this project off the ground. That's when he announced plans to open a Braddock restaurant called Magarac in the old Cuda building on Braddock Avenue. But the renovation ended up being too costly to pull off and financing through traditional sources also proved difficult.
Superior Motors will be at 1211 Braddock Ave., the former site of one of the country's first indoor Chevrolet dealerships. Construction is expected to begin within the next three months, with an opening-date goal of February 2015.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.