why Superior Motors is so important – and not just for Pittsburgh

This past week a Kickstarter campaign started by a local chef, Kevin Sousa, was not only fully funded, but became the most successful Kickstarter campaign for a restaurant in that site’s history. The campaign was for a community restaurant concept called Superior Motors, named as such after the Chevy dealership formerly located in that space. Also notable about the space? It’s located in Braddock, a Pittsburgh neighborhood devastated by the loss of the steel industry, with a 90% population loss. It doesn’t even have a McDonald’s, let alone a restaurant with dinner service. (View the videos describing the project here.)

Mark generously contributed to the campaign as a birthday gift to me. For awhile it looked like they weren’t going to meet their goal. Which would have meant the end for the concept, since though Mr. Sousa is a James Beard semi-finalist chef with a loyal following, banks are not interested in investments in such an economically distressed area.

But in the eleventh hour, a dramatic surge of support pushed the campaign way over the top and it was fully funded. 124% funded, to be exact. 

From Kickstarter campaign website

Superior Motors will be an accessible restaurant for Braddock’s residents, and will help to educate Braddock youth with free professional culinary instruction. A greenhouse on the roof, with room for raised beds, a hostel next door with free housing for workers, a nearby apiary and flock of hens, plus the Grow Pittsburgh Braddock farms nearby, providing the majority of the produce for the restaurant are just some of the layers to this ambitious concept. The Kickstarter information indicates that a core principle will be that no Braddock resident will be excluded from partaking based upon household income. (Visit the page and read more about the details of this project. It’s fascinating.)

And that right there is what makes this concept revolutionary. Yes, the success of the campaign should be looked at as an example of what can happen when Pittsburgh comes together. It truly is an amazing place to live and even when I’m shaking my fist in my car at the traffic approaching the Fort Pitt Tunnel, I am blessed to live and work here. But this goes beyond Pittsburgh.

Fine dining is virtually inaccessible to anyone below a certain economic threshold. And because of that, it’s often thought of as elitist. The same holds true for many issues around health and food. People validly argue that only focusing on issues like organic agriculture and GMO labeling obscures the fact that thousands of Americans don’t have enough FOOD, let alone healthy food.

I am so moved by this concept because it holds at its core the value that good, fresh, quality food belongs to everyone – even communities that have been largely abandoned by society. The idea of Superior Motors embodies the word ‘community’ by feeding, nourishing and sustaining not just the people, but the land and the place and history. It places value there and encourages others to follow. Other communities across the country will look to this project as well, and hopefully attempt to rally around similar investments in their own areas.  

I am so excited to see Superior Motors develop and can’t wait to go eat there someday. It’s going to be worth braving the tunnel traffic, that’s for sure.