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Dallas’ Only Brick-and-Mortar Filipino Restaurant Launches a GoFundMe to Stay Open

Marie's Kitchen in North Dallas wants to make it through these tough times.
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Elizabeth Lavin

Candy Ramos and Jay Gersan Jr., the couple behind the tiny Marie’s Kitchen, announced in an Instagram post yesterday that they’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to try to keep their vulnerable business afloat.

Off 635 in North Dallas, the out-of-the-way deli is nestled in a corporate office park, which has felt like a modern day ghost town as employees work from home.

Before everything dried up, though, Marie’s Kitchen was rapidly expanding its visibility. Having been featured in D Magazine as part of a community of vibrant Filipino pop-ups, the restaurant was highlighted on NBC5 News as vendors in the first Dallas Filipino food festival that brought throngs to Four Corners Brewery in early March.

Back then, diners came calling for Marie’s silog plates (the traditional Filipino breakfast dish consisting of a protein, fried garlic rice, and eggs) and daily Filipino specials. On April 21, the morning they posted their GoFundMe, they’d sold just two breakfast sandwiches.

Ramos went through the process of applying for a government-backed Small Business Association loan, only to be declined; a customer gave her a lead on a loan for female-owned businesses, which she followed up on, but has received no response. For the SBA loan, they needed back tax returns and payroll evidence. But she has no payroll to offer: “It’s just me and my husband.” And she has no back taxes from 2018. “I’m such a new business,” she says.

“They don’t need us,” she says of the larger scale she imagines the SBA loans are made for. And so a business that already had a hard time being seen now feels unneeded.

And yet, they’re filling a niche. Marie’s Kitchen creates a menu of family meals for curbside takeaway daily ($35, serves three to four people). For these, she’s been making labor-intensive Filipino specials accompanied sometimes by steamed puto, tiny cakes of fermented rice she grinds and soaks overnight for the perfect tang and puff; fluffy pandesal bread rolls they mix, form, and bake themselves.

Ramos preps for around a dozen meals a day, but things are unpredictable. “Because sometimes there’s a day that’s really busy for us and that day covers us for the week.” By busy she means perhaps 10 family meals. “That will do me okay, if they all buy [a] family meal,” she says. But sometimes customers ask for a la carte items from the larger meal. Sometimes someone will ask if they can order the meal, but perhaps for Friday. And Ramos says yes. She saves out one portion to prepare one meal that day for that person. “I try to accommodate,” she says. “That helps us a little bit.” Ramos says the family meals sold well for the first weeks; now the rate has slowed, sometimes to only one meal a day. She understands, she says. Everyone is in a difficult situation. “A lot of people are losing jobs.”

Ramos estimates that the GoFundMe goal of $30,000 would allow them to operate for four, maybe five, months.

They’re considering selling inventory items as a grocery and offering delivery even though it’s only Ramos and Gersan. “We’re operating a deli—just me and him—and we can’t afford to hire another person.”

But, she says, “We are going to try and do whatever we can do—until we can’t do it anymore.”

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