As Austin sinks into another unpredictable winter, pamphlets flutter on the sometimes chilly breeze, providing advice on how to keep warm and prepare for emergencies. (Cue the demonstrations of terracotta pots placed upside down over decorative candles.) It would be nice to live somewhere with a less frenetic ability to run your power grid, but for now Austin’s businesses have… Yelp.
The trusty online neighborhood guide takes matters into your own hands. In December, he announced his $100,000 wintering fund, Deck the Halls with Yelp, which allowed Austinites and San Antonians to nominate small local businesses to receive warming grants. Those supporters ultimately voted for nine Austin businesses and one intrepid San Antonio staple.
A press release lists some of the spikes Yelp has seen in consumer interest related to keeping buildings running in the wake of last February’s big freeze: generator services, each at 30 percent.
Red flags like these showed Yelp where its resources could “prevent setbacks,” says Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s small business expert.
“Yelp’s Holiday Winterization Fund is one of the ways we hope to lend a helping hand to local businesses that are essential to our communities after this year’s extreme weather,” she says.
Gift recipients are free to use the influx of money – $10,000 each – for any overwintering needs they may have, and hopefully just in time for the colder weather. With a diverse list of winners including more than expected bars and restaurants, it means funds are applied to some unique needs. Four Austin businesses explained their plans to Yelp:
- Donn Depot, a reclaimed West Fifth Street bar and music venue, was already feeling the pressure of pandemic closures before the February storm hit. He spreads the $10,000 he receives from Yelp over several upgrades, says bar manager Michelle Beebe, including electrical, heating, plumbing and even some cosmetic tweaks. “This incredibly generous donation will help us meet the daily (and ongoing) needs of an 1800s train depot.”
- Even when there was no power, Legs on Chicon had to stay tuned to customer needs. “I couldn’t let people’s pets go without food,” says owner Keith Zeiler, “so I did everything in my power to make sure they were all fed while we We were without electricity for seven days.” The pet supply store keeps its wintering list tight, with an eye on new generators to keep operations running smoothly and raw meat staying cold.
- The cute bar revival cafe operates the funds for extreme weather conditions throughout the year, keeping guests comfortable with outdoor heaters in the winter and fans in the summer. Owner Gabriela Bucio thanks her staff for their hard work in “unprecedented circumstances” and reaffirms her commitment to hiring locals, “especially in East Austin, which is an underserved and predominantly Latin community.”
- mint fair, a sparse but chic hairdressing collective that blends seamlessly into retro industrial Hyde Park, puts its winnings into this defining front facade. The living room replaces its gigantic windows, keeping things sleek but a little better insulated. Melissa Beckham Gass thanks for the boost: “The Austin community cares for its local businesses and we are happily celebrating our 22nd anniversary because of them.”
Alongside these four local heroes, Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse, Crema Bakery & Cafe, Foxhole Culinary Tavern, Kismet Cafe and Taste of Ethiopia are all making their own changes with $10,000 Yelp grants.
Comfort Cafe, the only recipient in San Antonio, is seeing an unusual role reversal as it is at the receiving end of support funds. All proceeds from Women-Owned Breakfast support SerenityStar, a nonprofit that fights addiction with a spiritual and family focus.
To learn more about these 10 companies and how they weathered the storm, visit blog.yelp.com.