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S'MAC Turns to Kickstarter to Bring Mac N' Cheese to Murray Hill

By Mary Johnson | May 9, 2012 8:59am

MURRAY HILL — Beloved East Village mac 'n’ cheese destination S’MAC is preparing to open its third location on East 33rd Street in Murray Hill and has turned to Kickstarter to help foot the $100,000 bill.

Construction is already under way for the cheesy eatery’s new spot on East 33rd Street between Third and Lexington. S’MAC’s co-owner, founder and namesake Sarita Ekya — S’MAC stands for Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese — said she hopes to open in June or July.

But Ekya, 37, said she and her husband are short on funds, to the tune of about $100,000. To make sure their contractor is paid, the husband-and-wife team has turned to Kickstarter, the online fundraising site, to collect donations.

Less than a week into the campaign, they’ve raised about $740.

“It just seems like a nice way to reach out to our following and fans and hopefully potential customers in the Murray Hill neighborhood,” Ekya said.

Ekya and her husband opened the first S’MAC on East 12th Street near First Avenue in 2006. Building on the success of that first site, the couple opened a S’MAC offshoot at a food kiosk in First Park, located at the corner of First Avenue and First Street, last year.

The couple, who live on the Lower East Side, has remained relatively quiet about the potential Murray Hill opening, which will give them three times the space of their first location. But Ekya said the destination is perfect for their next move.  

“It just seems like a really good up-and-coming food place for us to be,” Ekya explained.

And fans of the original, which offers a dozen versions of mac n’ cheese made with everything from buffalo chicken to shitake mushrooms, can expect more of the same at the new spot, she added.

“We’re sticking to our core,” Ekya said, “but we feel that this is a good place for us to work on our beverages and our desserts — the things that complement our mac n’ cheese.”

Ekya said the response to the move and to the Kickstarter campaign has been overwhelmingly positive in the days since she posted about it on S’MAC’s Facebook page. And the love is growing as fans spread the word online.

“I can't say enough about this place, and now they are opening up on 33rd and Lexington!” one person wrote on Facebook.

"If you haven't had gluten-free mac and cheese at S'MAC, you are missing out. Help open a new location in New York City!" another fan wrote.

The Kickstarter campaign allows the owners to engage with those patrons, and also offer perks for those who pitch in to help a mac n’ cheese joint in need, Ekya said.

For an online pledge of $25, donors will be rewarded with dinner for two at S’MAC.

A donation of $125 gets contributors 10 free meals at the new S’MAC location. A $500 pledge comes with 10 free meals plus the recipe for a favorite S’MAC dish.

And for the highest of rollers, those who donate $5,000 or more, Ekya has promised to serve as private chef for the generous donor and 10 of his or her friends.

Ekya admitted that the $100,000 sum is ambitious, and she will have to raise the entire amount in order to receive any of the donations submitted via Kickstarter. But Ekya said she has faith in the project.

And, she said, a failed campaign will not mean the end of a Murray Hill S’MAC.

“We’re going all or nothing,” Ekya said. “We’re going to open in Murray Hill no matter what.”