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Struggling S'MAC Asks Customers to Buy Mac 'n' Cheese Gift Cards

By Serena Solomon | November 13, 2012 7:11pm

EAST VILLAGE — To get cash flowing again after losing business during Hurricane Sandy, the popular S’MAC eatery is asking customers to pre-buy their mac 'n' cheese.

Like many businesses south of 34th Street, S'MAC lost tens of thousands of dollars in sales and ruined supplies when downtown Manhattan was struck by a hurricane-induced blackout.

Now, S’MAC's owner is hoping customers will pitch in and buy gift cards, to give the restaurant the short-term cash it needs to survive.

"It is a win-win for people who are looking to help out, and you are getting 100 percent value for what you are purchasing," said Sarita Ekya, the 37-year-old owner and creator of S’MAC, who runs the business with her husband Caesar.

The gift card initiative asks customers to predict how much money they will spend at S'MAC over the next year and then to buy a gift card for that amount. The money goes to S'MAC instantly, and customers can use the cards throughout the year.

S'MAC is selling the gift cards at its East Village and Murray Hill locations or on the website.

Within an hour of posting the idea on the business's Facebook page Tuesday, S'MAC had already sold three $100 gift cards as well as a few $20 ones, according Ekya.

Ekya estimated her Sandy-related losses at about $90,000.

S'MAC, which first opened in 2006, has three locations — East 12th Street, East 33rd Street and a small kiosk on First Avenue and 1st Street — that were not damaged in the storm but were all forced to close. The East Village and Murray Hill locations were shut for eight days and the kiosk for 11 days.

"From the outside people see the destruction as far as damage, but when it comes to small business, it's paying the bills," Ekya said.

S'MAC also decided to pay workers for the time the restaurants were closed during the hurricane.

"We wanted to do what we could," Ekya said.

However, now the bills have started arriving and rent on the shops is overdue by more than 10 days, she said. 

As Ekya and her husband continue to negotiate with their insurance company and speak with landlords about possible rent abatements, she is hoping the gift card idea will help cover any shortfalls.

"We are very lucky to have such a high volume of business," she said, "but eight days hurts."