Middletown restaurant turns to merchandise for raising funds during coronavirus shutdown

A Middletown downtown restaurant has teamed up with I Love Restaurants to launch a fundraising campaign that will allow members of the community to support its staff by purchasing branded merchandise.

Gracie’s is selling T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, tote bags and other items and part of the proceeds will benefits employees, said Amy Vitori, owner of the restaurant.

“It’s a great way that people might be able to get a little extra money over the course of the coming weeks when we’re not open,” she said.

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I Love Restaurants was founded by Dimitra Murphy and Peter LeSar, industry veterans who support independent restaurants and understand their importance within the local landscape, especially as they fight to survive, recover and to give back to their communities.

Vitori said members of Gracie’s staff will have an opportunity to raise money and maintain the profits by selling Gracie’s branded merchandise. When a team member shares his or her referral link, customers, friends and loved ones can click on the link, and they will automatically be directed to a personalized shopping portal that goes directly to that staff member. Then, they will receive the profits from each sale. Gross profits will range from about $3.50 to $11 per item.

“I think everybody is missing each other, and this is a cool way that they can reach out through social media and ask people to support them while we’re closed,” Vitori said.

Gracie's store is now up and running. Products range in cost from around $15.50 to $49. Check out the selection of Gracie's branded merchandise at www.iloverestaurants.org. In addition to training their staff, Gracie's will also be marketing the fundraiser on social media.

I Love Restaurants also recently honored Gracie’s with an “Essential Independent Restaurant” award. Gracie’s was recognized for the special value it brings to Middletown, and for its goodwill in supporting the fundraising efforts of other independent restaurants in the area.

“We can see across the country how restaurants and small businesses are really the backbone of revitalization, and downtown Middletown has obviously made some great progress in the past couple of years, and I think we’re a big part of that,” she said. “So, if people want to continue to see Middletown move forward and come out of this dark period for the better, I think this is just a way to support businesses who are fundamental to the fabric of our community.”

In the next few weeks, Gracie’s will collaborate with other local restaurants to promote the program to them and their staffs. More than 70 restaurants are participating in the I Love Restaurants fundraising campaign, nationwide.

Gracie’s is not open for take-out, but the restaurant is considering offering “Meals of the Day,” and customers can follow Facebook for any updates.

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