After word spread that Burrito Bros. Taco Co. was struggling to stay afloat in the midst of large-scale construction next door, persistent customers took matters into their own hands.
On Saturday, after the local restaurant announced its revenues had dipped 23 percent since last year, donors have raised more than $5,000 through a GoFundMe page created Saturday.
The 1402 W. University Ave. restaurant has been in Gainesville for the past 40 years, but with the construction of The Standard at Gainesville apartment complex next door, Burrito Bros. owner Randy Akerson said the removal of customer parking spots on Northwest 14th Street and the noise and dust from construction has turned away prospective customers.
But despite the “outpouring of affection” for the restaurant, Akerson said he still hopes to be compensated for his revenue loss by the city or by Landmark Properties, the company that owns The Standard at Gainesville.
“Five-thousand dollars in a GoFundMe will certainly help us for now, and we are so grateful, but it just keeps the wolf from the door for a time,” he said.
On Sept. 27, Akerson took to Facebook to inform fans of the restaurant about its struggle with The Standard’s construction. The post reached 90,000 people, he said, and led to a couple of busy lunch rushes and a response from Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe.
Akerson received response from local government officials via Facebook, but he said they have yet to reach out to him personally.
“People from our city government have been here to eat lunch and talk to my customers, but have never asked to speak to me,” he said. “The only reason I knew they were here is photos they posted on my back patio.”
On Saturday, Akerson’s wife, Janet, and one of their friends created the GoFundMe page for the restaurant as a way to show support. As of press time, the website has brought in 118 donations and has raised $5,537.
Grace Wenham, a UF alumna who helped create the page, said although she lives in Wisconsin, she felt compelled to help the restaurant, which has become a Gainesville mainstay.
“I’m overwhelmed, but I kind of did think that people would come together for this,” Wenham said. “As Gator fans, the Gainesville community is so tight and strong. I know we rally very well, and I knew there would be support. It’s blown my expectations out of the water, though.”
Noy Epstein, a UF electrical engineering sophomore, said that she has eaten at Burrito Bros. and learned of the apartment’s struggle through its Facebook post.
She said GoFundMe is a powerful tool people can use to raise money for causes they care about. The amount of money raised in such a short amount of time just shows how strongly people feel about the restaurant.
“I know a lot of people love that place, and to raise all that money in three days — power to the people,” she said.