At the outset, the founders of Savage Goods knew they were taking a gamble.
They needed capital to open their new bakery and cafe, but their fundraising method came with a risk—a public leap of faith made all the more frightening because a campaign of the sort they had in mind had hardly been tested in El Paso.
“I was terrified,” recalled Michelle Savage, president of Savage Goods.
“I was so stressed and so scared. With Kickstarter, it’s all-or-nothing funding. If you don’t hit your goal, you don’t get a single penny.”
Kickstarter is an online platform that taps the support of the public for funding projects. Several El Pasoans have launched Kickstarter campaigns over the years, but few had sought support at such ambitious levels.
To take Savage Goods from dream to reality, Michelle and her co-founders—Mariah Savage, her sister-in-law, and Tyler Savage, her husband—determined they would need $20,000 from the El Paso public. This was in addition to private funds they had already raised.
Before the campaign launch, the Savages assessed the factors that might contribute to their success. By then they had been selling baked goods in the El Paso area—albeit without a brick-and-mortar location—for roughly four years. Their food had garnered a passionate local following, and as a team they worked well together.
The gamble, they decided, arose from the part of the campaign they could not fully control. Ironically, the risk-factor also formed the backbone of the Savage Goods business model.
“Food was always a vehicle towards community with us,” Michelle said. “We love food and we love to eat food and make food. But it’s the gathering that’s so important; it’s the kitchen-table affect. When you make good food, people gather together and they share and they enjoy and they celebrate. And so food is the way that we hope to facilitate that community.”
The Savages launched their campaign on Sept. 6, 2017, and their bet on the community paid off. They raised nearly $31,000 from 188 backers, exceeding their goal by about $11,000. “From my research, it’s the second-largest Kickstarter campaign in El Paso of all time,” Michelle said.
The bakery and cafe, located at 1201 N Oregon St., opened in December. The Savages remodeled the old Jimmy’s grocery store, transforming the space into an inviting Sunset Heights hideout, a place where modern simplicity meets warmth and whimsy.
They serve beer, wine, a variety of baked goods, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many options are vegan and/or gluten free.
“We couldn’t have done this without the Kickstarter campaign and the support of the El Paso community,” Michelle said of the space.
With the public’s vote of confidence, the Savages now plan to turn their full attention toward fostering community around their restaurant. The process, said Michelle, takes into account not only local sourcing, but also making decisions that are good for the environment on which the community relies.
Their coffee comes from Picacho Coffee Roasters in Las Cruces, an organic, fair-trade coffee company. Their to-go goods, such as cups and utensils, are recyclable and compostable.
They source as much food as possible from providers such as El Paso True Food, Zumbido Farms and Legacy Pecans. As the business grows, they also hope to begin buying local greens from La Semilla Food Center.
During their remodel, the Savages recycled many on-site materials, rather than landfilling and buying new supplies.
Additionally, about 90 percent of their menu is vegan friendly—a choice they made, in part, because of its environmental benefits.
“We really do believe that going plant-based is one of the most significant things you can do in your life to protect the environment,” Michelle said. “As society moves that way, we want to have phenomenal food choices for people who are experimenting with that, even if it’s just one day a week.”
Looking forward, the Savage Goods team hopes to further integrate their business into a sustainable, closed-loop system. They plan to begin composting food scraps and to grow their own herbs, spices and greens in small gardens on the property.
The desire to make environmentally sound choices stems from the support and love they found in the El Paso community, Michelle said.
“A lot of it is that connection,” she said. “When you feel really grounded in a place, when you feel like you’re home, which comes from belonging—you want to take care of a place more.”
Environment and community, in other words, go hand in hand.
“We get so siloed in life,” Michelle said. “When you live in your apartment and you get in your car and you go to your job and you sit in your cubicle and you come back—it’s so isolating.”
Savage Goods, she hopes, provides an antidote to that isolation by being a “third place”—somewhere that is neither home nor work, but a friendly space where the community can gather.
“It’s important to the growth of an individual,” she said, “but it’s also important in the sense of community growth. Ideas are shared. It’s like Cheers. You go to this place after work, and you connect. You talk about politics, you talk about current events, you talk about your kids. That’s what the third space is; it provides this sense of belonging outside of home and work.”
***To view our previous story on Savage Goods, click here.
Editor’s Note: Green in the Desert is a new column exploring sustainability and conservation efforts in the El Paso/Juarez area. Previous Columns can be read HERE.
Writer Chilton Tippin works for Wondor and is pursuing an MA in Latin American and Border studies at UTEP. He likes to write, bike, ski, climb and explore. In 2015, he walked across America.