Massachusetts restaurant Ritcey East, run by a transgender man, has been saved from closure by community support.
Max Ritcey opened Ritcey East in Watertown, near Boston, six years ago. The restaurant, specializing in comfort food, struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many other small businesses did. But Ritcey kept all his employees on full-time and took out loans, including one for $150,000, to stay in business, MassLive reports. “These expenses eventually caught up with him three years later,” the site notes.
The restaurant’s business, especially its late-night business, has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, Ritcey said. “People’s idea of dining has changed,” he told MassLive. “Now people have gotten more comfortable at their houses than I think going out.”
With the restaurant in danger of closing, he started a GoFundMe campaign this year to help pay down his debt. He set the goal at $30,000, but the campaign has raised about $43,000. He’s gratified by the level of support.
“As a trans person, I spent so long hating myself and, like, it’s just crazy to think that so many people like me after I spent so long not liking myself,” he said. “That really feels good for me.”
His transition, which happened two years ago, was accepted easily by his customers, and he received much “positive feedback,” he added.
Now he intends to increase his outreach to the local LGBTQ+ community, particularly families with children. “Very rarely is there a place that you can bring your child,” he said. “We have so many people who come in with, like, nonbinary teens, and … it’s just so affirming to see that and people to have, like, a really safe space.”
Part of the outreach process will be about “being authentically [himself],” which “allows others to feel the same,” he noted.