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Edmonton restaurateurs turn to crowdfunding to open trio of businesses in historic building

Help wanted for trio of businesses in historic Edmonton building
WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton hospitality group is turning to the community, and crowdfunding, to secure the money needed to convert space in the historic Gibbard Block building in the Highlands neighbourhood into a burger joint, deli and liquor store. Julia Wong explains.

A group of Edmonton restaurateurs is turning to the community for help to set up shop inside the city’s historic Gibbard Block building.

Nate Box, with Black Box Hospitality Group, is working to transform the main floor and basement of the building on 112 Avenue into a burger bar, deli and liquor store.

Box said the Gibbard Block was the perfect place to open the trio of businesses.

READ MORE: Highlands residents get a final look at Gibbard Block before major renovation

“The Gibbard Block is a beautiful heritage building. It’s 100 plus years old. It’s a heritage-designated building. It needs a breath of fresh air and life in there,” he said.

“We think our presence in there is just going to further enhance that hub.”

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Gibbard Block opened in 1912; it recently changed hands to a new owner, Sparrow Capital Group, which is restoring the building. The city has provided a $430,000 heritage grant to assist with preservation.

READ MORE: La Boheme closing but owners excited about future of historic Gibbard Block

The hospitality group is leasing more than half of the space inside the building, and Box said it will cost $900,000 to renovate the space, install the equipment and open the business.

The group is turning to crowdfunding to fund $100,000 of that.

“The ease at which microfunding works, it helps alleviate so much of the burden that’s placed by banks,” Box said.

“Without a Kickstarter or microfunding, we have to go to the bank for the difference and this is a way for us to get community engagement, to provide some really great rewards for some of the backers that are great value and get community buy-in.”

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When asked why the community should be chipping in with business expenses, Box said crowdfunding is an interesting way of doing business.

“We would love to build great coffee shops, great restaurants and great shops and stores throughout Edmonton, but the limiting factor for us is also cash flow, always capital in. With a crowdfunding campaign like this, it’s a way for the community to really engage and help with that and say we want this hub in our community,” he said.

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The restauranteur also disputes the argument crowdfunding is a demonstration there isn’t a good business plan in place.

“It’s a matter of working with the community and saying I would rather work with my neighbours, or the people in this city or the people in this neighbourhood in particular, than work with a big financial institution and provide some of the return back to patrons or back to the people that love the idea,” he said.

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Box said the hospitality group is still committed to the space if the $100,000 goal is not reached, however it will have to find other means of investment.

The projected opening date for the trio of business is spring 2019.