Hundreds of people including Autism Speaks President Liz Feld and many other Autism Speaks' staff and supporters celebrated the grand opening Tuesday of Joe’s Crab Shack in Harlem, the first restaurant of the nationwide family seafood chain to open in New York City.
The grand opening followed the presentation Monday night of a donation check for $1,044,000 to Autism Speaks from Joe’s Crab Shack at a VIP cocktail party and silent auction held at the new Harlem restaurant. The $1,044,000 was raised during a fundraising campaign at 135 Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants nationwide during Autism Awareness month in April. At the Harlem restaurant, Joe’s Crab Shack launched a similar 30-day fundraising campaign Tuesday in which customers who donate one, five or 10 dollars to Autism Speaks receive a coupon for a free piece of key lime pie, a Crab Nacho appetizer or a free Classic Steampot, respectively, that can be redeemed on their next visit to Joe’s Crab Shack. One hundred percent of the proceeds are being donated to Autism Speaks, with Joe’s Crab Shack covering the full cost of the free menu items.
Joe’s Crab Shack President Jim Mazany spoke to Autism Speaks Tuesday about the grand opening in Harlem and the restaurant chain’s longstanding partnership with Autism Speaks.
How did you enjoy the grand opening event this morning and how did you feel about Autism Speaks’ participation in it?
As far as the grand opening event this morning, it went really well. We were extremely pleased with the turnout and the way in which the community welcomed us with open arms and we’re really excited to be part of the Harlem community, and as far as Autism Speaks goes, what great partners and what a great partnership we formed together. The support we received both today and yesterday just blew us away, and we’re really excited to be in partnership with such a passionate organization.
And how did last night's event go?
Last night’s VIP Party went really well. It was an great opportunity for us to bring together community leadership, people from the mayor’s office, the Autism Speaks' team, and everyone that has supported us on the road toward building a Joe's Crab Shack in Harlem. We were excited and honored to present a check for $1,044,000 to Autism Speaks on behalf of all of the team members that worked so hard during our April fundraising campaign.
And then this morning we rallied the troops around another fundraiser that we’re going to do specifically in Harlem for Autism Speaks over the course of the next 30 days.
Why was it important for Joe’s Crab Shack to open a restaurant in Harlem?
We are excited to be in Harlem. We looked around and we felt that Harlem was the perfect opportunity for us to join the New York City community with our very first restaurant. Of our staff of over 240 team members, more than 200 are from Harlem itself. We are planning to continue to grow in New York City so over the years to come we plan to have more Joe’s in the boroughs of the city.
There was a lot of dancing and celebration at the grand opening today. What was that all about?.
Part of the Joe’s service model is when you come to a Joe’s Crab Shack our servers get up and celebrate different events. Dancing and celebration happens all the time at Joe’s. It’s just a high-energy, fun family seafood restaurant. It’s a unique experience that’s extremely craveable that you’ll absolutely remember and want to come back for again and again.
Why does Joe’s Crab Shack choose Autism Speaks as one of its main national charitable partners?
We’re a family restaurant. We support children’s charities and issues that affect children, whether it’s nourishment or situations like autism. Autism affects 1 in 88 children. Throughout Joe’s restaurants, many people are affected by autism and it’s given us the opportunity to give back to those families. I, myself, have personally been affected by autism as well. My youngest son Luke has autism. He is going to be 15 this August and he was diagnosed when he was 18 months old. For me personally, I have been an avid fundraiser and supporter for Autism Speaks and Joe’s partnership with Autism Speaks allows my personal and professional lives to come together to raise money for such an important cause. I believe in the purpose and mission of Autism Speaks and all the great work that Autism Speaks does – their research for a cure, their support for families and their advocacy work.
Do you think your personal experience and involvement are the main reason for Joe’s national partnership with Autism Speaks?
Not really. It came from our employees and our GMs (general managers) and our managers out in the field. They were doing local fundraisers at the restaurant level and supporting walks, and there was an opportunity to bring together not just one or two or a region of restaurants, but the whole organization together to support Autism Speaks. My efforts were really just to organize the fundraising in the April time frame, which turned this into a win-win situation for our guests, for Autism Speaks and obviously for the company itself.
Does your partnership with Autism Speaks also help Joe’s from a business perspective?
At Joe's, it is important that every restaurant is involved and gives back to their local community. When we look at the entire program that we ran in April it was beneficial for us from a sales growth point of view because our guests came back with their coupons and they felt good about redeeming them with us. We had a tremendous outpouring from our guests and team members supporting the cause and really getting behind it with us, and we wouldn’t have been able to raise over a million dollars without their support.