By Haley Frederick
Black Forge Coffee House has three days left to raise $2,200 in a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a second location in McKees Rocks. The Allentown coffee shop and music venue needs $30,000 and because Kickstarter offers an all-or-nothing funding formula, without the remaining $2,600, the rest of the money will be returned.
The project deadline is 11:00 pm on Saturday, July 15.
Black Forge owners Ashley Corts and Nick Miller say that the second location would solve some problems that have arisen at their current place in Allentown. While music was always a part of the vision for the black-metal-themed Black Forge, they never anticipated how big it would become.
“When we first opened in 2015, we were under the impression like, ‘Oh, we’re a coffee shop and we’ll do some shows here and there,’” Corts says. “That became 20 times a month that we have shows now.”
This presented a problem for the tenant living in the apartment above Black Forge, who eventually moved out because of the noise. Now a new tenant has moved in, and together with their landlord, Black Forge is trying to make it work by moving the bigger, louder shows to a new location. Some “more chill” shows will remain in Allentown.
Corts says live shows bring in 50 percent of Black Forge’s revenue, so they knew they had to figure something out to keep the shop—and the music—alive. They started scoping out possible neighborhoods in December.
“We looked all over the city to find what neighborhood is missing something that we can offer, and what neighborhood entity can we work with that really wants to support our ideas and we can work with them to better the neighborhood,” Corts says.
Corts and Miller believe they’ve found that neighborhood in McKees Rocks. They’re arranging to take up shop at an old bank building that was operating as a food bank for the past few years.
“Everyone there is really awesome and really positive and progressive in what they want to do for that neighborhood,” Corts says. “They’ve been supporting us through this whole kickstarter situation as well and dealing with out lenders.”
Corts says they originally intended to handle all of the costs through loans, but their lenders aren’t able to provide them as much as they need because of Black Forge’s short lifespan. Typically, three years of tax information is required, and Black Forge can’t afford to wait it out through the winter to reach that milemarker. So, they turned to Kickstarter because of it’s far-reaching platform. They’ve seen a lot of support from locals, and especially from the Pittsburgh art scene. But through Kickstarter, they’ve also seen a few donations coming in from the West Coast and Europe, too.
“It’s been really inspiring and amazing,” Corts says. “We were of course really nervous at first like ‘I don’t know if we can raise this much money, I don’t know how people are gonna take it.’’ But the reaction has been a lot more positive than negative, she says.
This new location isn’t only a bigger and better music venue for Black Forge. Miller and Corts want to use the opportunity to realize a lot of their original vision for their business.
“Now that we’re growing and the shop is doing well here, we want to start being more in control of our product so that we can really become the company that we want to, and like roasting our own coffee, and hosting bigger shows, and making our own food, and baking baked goods and all this stuff so that we can have a Black Forge brand scone or whatever,” Corts says.