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Women-Owned Business Series: Erin from Grindhaus

We have the pleasure of spotlighting one of Red Hook staples – and one of our favorite restaurants – Grindhaus! With quite the tumultuous ride (you’ll read all about it below!!), Grindhaus serves a delicious menu in a charming and welcoming atmosphere – right in the heart of Red Hook!  Read about their journey below!

Tell us about your business & why you started it

Grindhaus. My little restaurant that could, but shouldn’t have! I secured a space on April fool’s Day in 2008 in the heart of Red Hook on Van Brunt St. With my own savings supplemented by funds from my parent’s reverse mortgage on the little humble house I grew up in out on Eastern Lawnguyland. By the end of the year after multiple difficulties with the dept of Buildings, I finally began the renovations with the first year devoted to structural fortification alone. Thankfully, I won landlord lotto as he saw the value in the work I was doing, as in physically doing with a solo licensed contractor from the neighborhood. Momentum was gained, momentum was lost. 2010-2012 were VERY Difficult. Since I dont have business partners or investors, the financial burden was hard to shoulder as I was working on the space in my spare time while trying to earn a living and keeping current with experience by managing other restaurants and bars. FINALLY I had a target date to open- December 2012 however. . . . October 29th, Superstorm Sandy washed that opening away. I was crushed. I was running on monetary fumes and at the end of my rope but somehow, was able to pull off opening- exactly a year later! I had many ups and downs with chefs and their egos stemming from a 2 star review in The NY Times. Despite the accolade I was MISERABLE and had been taken for about 20k by one chef in particular. I slogged through 6 years with 2016-2018 being the best years when I took a chance on a young chef Kevin Speltz. By the end of 2019 and a sudden departure of the chef at the time leaving me high and dry during holiday season I decided I had enough. I had a handshake deal for someone to take over the space as the lease is probably the best in NYC and prematurely celebrated by taking a trip to N. Italy where my friends are. Well, the country went into lockdown upon arrival so I scurried up to Luzern Switzerland where I spent the first half of the pandemic.I returned to Italy for the second half and finally returned to my shell of a dormant restaurant in early 2021. I had the same feeling as when I opened the door post-Sandy. I sense of overwhelming shock. Restaurants are living and breathing spaces; neglect with give them atrophy and bedsores, like humans, not to mention a posse of possum living above the bathroom! I had to decide what I was going to do. SO many restaurant spaces were available post Covid so I would NEVER get a fair price. I still had excellent credit and never closed my business account so I figured, “what the hell, lemme give it one more go” and applied for a low interest EIDL loan which I received. With that, I gave Grindhaus a full renovation, a refreshed all weather backyard perfect for big parties and events but the BEST part is having my favorite chef, my Brother From Another Mother, Kevin Speltz back cooking even better than ever! I refer to this as v3.0. Supposed to be a charm, eh? Come by and see how charming we are! I promise you will have an unforgettable night out. And how do I know that? Because I am hands on and on premise every single night. I have fallen back in love with Grindhaus and you will too, I promise.

As a business owner, community is everything. In what ways do you serve your community, and how has your community served you?

We try to participate with donations as much as we can. Since we are a one person kitchen, the IS a limit to what we are able to do but we do our best! (PS – Grindhaus fed 125 people at the Red Hook Farm for Red Hook Initiative!)

What advice would you give to young women who want to start a small business?

Tenacity. Gotta have it. You might hit rock bottom but if you don’t have a Plan B, Plan A IS your Plan B.

What women inspire you and why?

My Mom is my greatest inspiration. She migrated here in the late 80’s, worked 3 jobs to put my Patti Wagstaff, an aerobatic pilot. She’s one of a few females in a predominantly man’s game. I feel the same in the restaurant world. I am not part of the “boys club”. We dont get invited despite the fact I can probably out fart joke them.

What do you think are the most significant challenges for women business owners or women in leadership positions?

Penetrating the boy buckle.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about Grindhaus & take a peek at their outstanding and innovative menu. Open 5-10 Mondays, Thursdays & Fridays AND 12- 10 Saturday & Sunday – it’s a must-visit if you’re ever in Red Hook!

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