Like most New Yorkers, Sydney Wayman is not from here. He’s a native of Philadelphia, and the owner of Syd’s Serious Sandwich Shop, which has been serving up Philly cheesesteaks and “hoagies” (or submarine sandwiches, for you New Yorkers) on Nostrand Avenue for the past four years. Syd’s was an instant hit in the local cheesesteak scene, making many of the relevant “best of” sandwich lists. As operating costs threatened to overtake the shop’s narrow profit margin, an investor came to the rescue this spring—then backed out this summer. Syd’s needs $75,000 to keep going.
In a campaign page on IndieGoGo, Syd and his business partners hope to raise the money necessary to keep the shop in operation. This includes finding a new location, renting it (with security deposit), purchasing equipment, and making renovations necessary to run a restaurant. It’s a huge undertaking, but Syd’s Serious Sandwich Shop has the benefit of history in the neighborhood, community support, and a fantastic product.
Syd’s crowdfunding campaign is well-designed, with funding levels ranging from $10 to $3,000 including store credit, invitations to Syd’s soft re-open, and a chance to create and name a Syd’s sandwich, which is so close to being a Seinfeld plot I almost want to count it. $25 will buy you a $38 gift card to the new Syd’s; $50 will buy you $75 of sweet, sweet hoagies.
Reviving Syd’s Serious Sandwich Shop is exactly the kind of investment Crown Heights needs in the midst of its ongoing gentrification. Local small businesses are often some of the first to leave a rapidly changing neighborhood, making room for the chain stores and twee bakeries that snowball into reviled Starbucks and glassy condos. Crown Heights already has one Starbucks, but that hardly means it’s safe from a second. Small business owners make communities as much as community members do—more, even, because while the average New Yorker moves once a year, businesses tend to stay put if they’re able to.
Crown Heights is in the crosshairs of developers from all over the world, eager to get a piece of the Brooklyn real estate action. If Crown Heights can bring back Syd’s Serious Sandwich Shop, it will mean a lot more than saving a Philly cheesesteak spot; it will be an investment in the future of a community.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.