In the days following the Feb. 28 fire that will keep Satchel’s Pizza closed for three months, owner Satchel Raye was thinking of how to help the 50 Satchel’s employees who were left out of work.
They’d collect unemployment, he said, but it wouldn’t be enough.
“We have a lot of people with kids and mortgages,” Raye said.
Satchel’s Pizza usually pays out $27,000 every two weeks. That doesn’t include tips.
To help with the bills, he created the Satchel’s Pizza Employee Relief Fund on IndieGoGo, an online fundraising website.
Raye initially wanted to give the fundraising page three weeks to raise $20,000 instead of two weeks. If the fundraising goal wasn’t met, Satchel’s would have to pay IndieGoGo a percentage of the donations.
The page raised $1,000 within the first hour. About 24 hours after the page went up, the Satchel’s Pizza Employee Relief Fund had met its goal of $20,000.
“I could just refresh my page and the money was just going in there,” Raye said. “It was just mindboggling.”
As of press time, 641 people had given a total of $35,416 to the fundraiser.
Lisa Duke, who teaches advertising at UF, first heard about the fire at Satchel’s Pizza on Facebook.
“I was really sad because I love that place,” she said. “I take my son there.”
Just after that, one of Duke’s students posted about the Satchel’s IndieGoGo page.
Duke knew she had to help. She gave $200.
Duke said the creativity of the restaurant is what touched her so deeply and made her want to help.
“You could just tell that someone poured their whole heart and soul into that business,” she said. “I really feel like Satchel put himself in that building.”
To help with the cost of buying new ovens, which Raye said probably won’t be covered by insurance, he put a football signed by Will Muschamp and a basketball signed by Billy Donovan for auction on eBay. A Satchel’s fan donated a football signed by Tim Tebow to the auction.
Double Down Live will host a benefit show on Wednesday featuring Satchel’s employees’ bands.
All of the money raised at the door will go to the employee relief fund, according to Double Down social media manager Mat Poe.
The day after the fire, Raye thought Satchel’s Pizza would be closed for about a month. Now he thinks it will be at least three.
The fire damaged the ceiling and walls and the building needs a new electric system. The restaurant needs another exit to meet safety codes. Raye is also taking the opportunity to make the kitchen a little bigger.
“The whole thing kind of quickly escalates and snowballs into a bigger project,” he said.
In the meantime, he said, he’s trying to stay positive.
The well-wishes of fans on Facebook and by email, the calls and texts and the “get well soon” cards from local businesses have been so uplifting, he said.
“It’s quite startling how many real big fans are out there that are wanting to wish us well and are looking forward to us opening back.”
Contact Erin Jester at [email protected].