PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Following a devastating fire, customers and neighbors of a favorite Vanderbilt Avenue restaurant are making sure the eatery is well-stocked once again.
The cafe, Stocked, was badly damaged after a July 5 basement fire ruined storage, beams and windows, and smoke covered its walls with soot, said Lesley Covitz Fulton, who opened the spot with her husband, Matt Fulton, three years ago.
Upstairs neighbors of the restaurant at 635 Vanderbilt Ave. called 911 as soon as they saw smoke, Covitz Fulton said. But the damage was already done.
“The fire was so hot … it burst all the water pipes,” she said. “It was really bad.”
But even as the pair — both chefs and residents of Prospect Heights who live two blocks from the eatery — cleaned up broken glass and got a handle on the situation that day, friends of the restaurant were already organizing to help them with the recovery.
When Josh Hoffman, a neighbor and longtime friend of the Fultons, heard what happened, he came right over to help, he said. And as he stood on the avenue outside the ruined shop, he said concerned passersby repeatedly asked how to lend a hand.
“In the first hour or two as we were standing there, the number of people just walking up and down the street saying ‘Oh my gosh, this is awful.’ ‘We love Stocked. What can we do?’ ... so many people,” he said.
In response to the outpouring of support, Hoffman set up an online fundraising page for Stocked within hours of the fire. In less than three weeks, donors have given more than $11,000 to the couple, “a huge help for Lesley and Matt to cross the gap where insurance has yet to kick in,” Hoffman said.
“It’s so encouraging, especially seeing the number of donors and how many of the donations have been $5, $10, $25 or $30,” he said. “So many have included little notes about how much of a role Stocked plays in their day-to-day."
The Fultons said they're grateful for the support, which included at least two impromptu fundraisers in the neighborhood, as well, first at R&D Foods, a Vanderbilt Avenue restaurant located across from Stocked, and another from a lemonade stand run by local kids.
“Everybody’s offered to come in and help and clean,” said Covitz Fulton, adding that she and her husband — parents to a 5-year-old and a newborn — have done the clean-up work themselves to save money in case insurance reimbursements don’t come through.
“My husband has his crew in there and they’ve removed most of the smoke damage off all the walls and they are ready to prime and repaint. If we could be open in two weeks, he would be open,” she said.
There’s still a lot to be done inside the eatery, including an inspection to make sure the place is structurally sound because the fire damage extended to beams in the basement, but Covitz Fulton said they hope to be cooking again as soon as possible.
“We’re going to do egg sandwiches and coffee as soon as we can,” she said.
To find out more about the online fundraising campaign for stocked, visit the restaurant's GoFundMe page.