Felix Florez knew he needed to expand his Cherry Block concept outside of downtown when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on what had been a thriving upscale food scene anchored by places like Bravery Chef Hall.
The chef and restaurateur made his final push to open in Garden Oaks at Stomping Grounds, 1223 W. 34th St., by offering a free burger for life for anyone who invests $1,000 or more. Investors who do so will receive one burger per week as long as the restaurant is open.
Florez said Wednesday he hopes to open the restaurant by November.
He only had until Thursday at midnight to reach his minimum goal of $275,000 on NextSeed, a Houston-based investment platform. As of Wednesday, Cherry Block had exceeded its goal, with $285,300 raised. Its maximum target, to cover additional expenses, is $400,000. Florez said a deadline to reach the next funding goal has not been set yet.
“We’re very excited that we reached our NextSeed minimum,” Florez said. “We have a few more things to do to secure the full amount we need to do to open. We’re going to get to work on that right away and keep moving forward.”
Monica Danna, the director of marketing and leasing of Revive Development, which operates Stomping Grounds, said that due to FDIC regulations, all of the money would have been returned to investors if the initial goal had not been met.
Florez was clear-eyed about the possibility that the restaurant might not have happened at all without the capital from the NextSeed campaign.
But Danna made what turned out to be a prescient observation about the ability of the Cherry Block team to secure the funding it needed.
NextSeed alerted the Cherry Block team about the potential for a last-minute spike in funding from people who wouldn't want to miss out on the perks awarded to investors, or the opportunity to have a meaningful stake in something rooted to their community.
She said Common Bond, another NextSeed client, reached its max of $225,000 in just 47 minutes last year for its drive-through location at 3210 N. Shepherd Drive, and that Cherry Block had the same potential to get the breakthrough it needed to reach its goal.
Cherry Block ended up raising $36,700 in less than 24 hours to clear the $275,000 threshold. As of Wednesday, 315 people had invested in Cherry Block through NextSeed.
Danna said she and Marie Elgamal, a spokesperson for Cherry Block, came up with the burger giveaway in an effort to foster a connection between the restaurant and the community. Danna said places like Cherry Block could have a greater economic impact on the other Stomping Grounds tenants and the small business community in the area as a whole.
Danna said the Cherry Block burger, which has been regarded by some critics as the best in Houston, is what Florez is best known for. Florez agreed.
“We think with the quality and reputation of that burger, that it’s going to be a great incentive,” Florez said.
Florez said his restaurants are known for using locally-raised, hormone-free meats, and “meals (that) taste like they belong in a high-end steak house, but without the high-end price tag.”
He also said Cherry Block will feature ready-to-heat meals that will make life easy for people and families on the go. Cherry Block will also have a selection of wines produced with “extreme attention to detail” and on a small scale that Florez said will blow away mass-produced wines.
“(People will say), ‘This is my new watering hole, it’s right down the street,’” Danna said. “People can come for a burger and stay for a drink. We’ve got eight other restaurants that are coming (to Stomping Grounds). They’re not only getting a monetary return, but getting a chance to be part of the Cherry Block family.”
Florez said the Stomping Grounds development is an ideal location for his restaurant because of his commitment to sourcing products locally. He plans to sell pantry goods and cookware and other daily staples as well.
“It couldn’t fit any better than it does,” Florez said. “That specific area is a great community, and it’s a community that gets behind local (businesses). There is no brand that is more local than our brand. We really feel strongly that Garden Oaks is going to be a neighborhood that is in tune to that and really embrace it.”
Investors can contribute to the NextSeed fund at https://www.nextseed.com/offerings/cherry-block.