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Connie Rogers, a member of the Schiattarella Family who started Mama Mia 44SW in Hell’s Kitchen back in 1971, made a last-ditch appeal this week via video to Dave Portnoy at The Barstool Fund. Indoor dining had just been closed down, $12,000 had been spent on outdoor dining, and the $34,000 per month rent was still due.
“If I don’t get any help, I don’t think I’m going to make it. I will have to close. I told my mom when she passed in January ‘don’t worry. I have your business’,” Connie said, holding back tears. “It’s my family. I want to give this business to the next generation. I love this business. I love my people. I really don’t want to lose it.”
Dave Portnoy, who invented Barstool Sports, is now working to save small business. Last week he launched The Barstool Fund — seeded with $500,000 of his own money — to save businesses like Connie’s. Today, he agreed to fund Mama Mia 44SW through the pandemic.
Connie’s business is one of the first to be saved by the fund. Portney said: “These people aren’t going out of business because they’re not successful or not making money. It’s because they have no other choice. They’ve been dealt a hand that nobody could play.”
The fund has now raised nearly $3 million and is currently funding 8 businesses. To benefit, the fund requires that the business is still paying their employees, they have been established for a number of years, and have a story to tell.
“Once we pick a business, we will issue a check from the fund to get the place through January,” shared Portney as he explained how funding would work. “Then, each month, we will continue to cut you a check for how much they need to stay in business until this thing’s over. Once you are in our program, we will pay whatever you need to get through this thing.”
Connie is delighted that the business, started by her parents Anna and Guido Schiattarella nearly 50 years ago as a one-window pizza shop, will survive to serve another day. “I’m so moved. I’m so happy,” she said in a call with Portnoy.
So far, nearly 40,000 people have donated to The Barstool Fund.
If you are a small business owner in need of help due to the impacts of COVID, you can email them your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.