From taco stands to pilates studios, Eastside businesses turn to online fundraisers for pandemic relief | Business

From taco stands to pilates studios, Eastside businesses turn to online fundraisers for pandemic relief | Business

Hugo's Tacos

An Atwater Village taco stand. A pilates studio in Echo Park. And a Silver Lake gay bar.

These were among the many Eastside businesses that turned to online fundraisers during the last year to get through the pandemic. As in many cases, those fundraisers were held on the GoFundMe platform.

Nearly 60% of COVID-19-related GoFundMe fundraisers launched in the U.S. were to support small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic, said the company, which charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per donation for processing fees and the safe transfer of funds. California was among the top ten states that donated the most money per capita.

“Throughout these last ten months,” said GoFundMe Spokesperson Jenny Perillo. “GoFundMe has seen an increase in fundraisers for small businesses that have turned to their communities to stay afloat and continue supporting their employees.”

One of these businesses is Hugo’s Tacos in Atwater Village and Studio City who had to temporarily close in late June 2020 after several customers harassed the business for requiring face masks. That was when the owners created the GoFundMe to help support employees while the taco stand took a short break. In less than 3 weeks, they surpassed their goal of $50,000 and were able to give each employee nearly $3,000. 

“It helped, obviously, the employees during the time when our stands were closed because of the whole freakout that customers were causing over the mask situation,” said Bill Khone, CEO of Hugo’s Tacos. “But it also kind of made them feel like people were paying attention.”

For other businesses, like Pilates & Arts, it was the final attempt to keep their business open. 

The studio’s owner Tannis Kobrinsky, who lived in Echo Park for nearly 25 years, transformed an abandoned art studio in 2011 into a pilates space, creating a community through different art forms by hosting art galleries, spoken word shows, and offering ballet classes. 

When the pandemic hit, Kobrinsky transitioned to online classes and tried to find other avenues of income to keep her studio open. 

“I was losing my nine years invested into this business, but I really felt bad for the community and the clients and I was trying my best to hold on to the space.”

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Kobrinsky opened a GoFundMe fundraiser as a last resort. She raised $7,175 of her $25,000 goal which helped cover costs that she had been accumulating since she stopped operating in the studio, like rent and her instructor’s incomes. 

Many donors commented saying “Thank you, Tannis, for creating such a special space.”

Another donor said, “The pandemic has been rough on small businesses, especially yoga and pilates studios, dance and art studios, venues that host readings and performances. Tannis’ place is very special.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the rent. And like most businesses, she had to close her doors at the end of August.

“I’d been an excellent tenant for 9 years at my Echo Park location,” she said. “Sadly, for my clients and for my instructors, my well-established studio is gone.”

Pilates & Arts wasn’t the only business to close despite efforts to fundraise on GoFundMe. Elf Cafe in Echo Park closed its doors in December until further notice after raising nearly $22,000. 

Akbar in Silver Lake had to close due to government orders on bars but was able to raise over $230,000 and promised their donors they will reopen.

“It is because of you all that Akbar will still be here, ready to open when it’s safe to do so,” said owners Peter Alexander and Scott Craig in their GoFundMe page. “We look forward to continuing to celebrate with our diverse community”

Among other businesses on the Eastside that have created GoFundMe campaigns include Daisy’s Antiques in Silver Lake, Stories Books and Cafe in Echo Park, Delicia’s Bakery and Some in Highland Park, and Xtiosu Kitchen in Boyle Heights.

In addition to GoFundMe, here are some other crowdfunding platforms used by businesses:

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