This spring a kitchen fire destroyed Fish in the Hood, a popular and venerable restaurant on the Petworth / Park View border. Now, owner Bill White has started a Go Fund Me page to help the restaurant get back on its feet. The Go Fund Me site has raised over $3,000 of its $10,000 goal.
“I’ve been really surprised by the support from the community,” says White, who has owned the restaurant since 1997. “It really feels good to realize that you’re not alone."
Fish in the Hood has for decades been the Petworth area’s go-to for delicious seafood, offering grilled and fried fish as well as southern favorites like candied yams and green beans. In 2012 Bill changed the last word of the name from "Hood" to "Neighborhood," sparking a conversation about the neighborhood's evolution.
But on April 14, a deep fryer caught fire inside the restaurant.
“We saw flames coming out of the back of the deep fryer like a blow torch,” Bill describes. “Just that split second, it went up in flames."
Bill and the staff evacuated -- thankfully nobody was seriously injured -- but the restaurant was left in shambles. Over the last seven months, Bill has watched his savings dwindle as he attempts to keep paying his staff while waiting for insurance to cover repairs. He says the long process is winding to a close -- he hopes to reopen in two months time -- but unfortunately the restaurant’s insurance will only cover part of the repair costs.
“I didn’t realize [re-opening] would take so long,” Bill said. “Right now, I’m on vapors."
Enter the Go Fund Me page, which was initially set up by Bill’s daughter two months ago but really kicked into gear after members of the community started spreading word over social media. The page gathered approximately $2,900 in donations over the last week.
Sarah Sorscher, a Park View resident who recently circulated the Go Fund Me page over the Petworth listserv, says she is anxious for the restaurant to re-open. She says Fish in the Hood is “an easy meal for a busy family.” It's been the go to spot for her, her husband, and their three kids since they moved to the area in 2011.
“Now we don’t have anywhere to go when we want a meal on the weekdays and we don’t want to cook,” she said. "We order pizza, but that's not very healthy.”
Sorscher says she’s eager to see Bill back behind the fryer, chatting with customers and creating space for people from all walks of life to sit back, relax, and enjoy delicious seafood.
On his part, Bill was surprised at the outpouring of support he has received. He says he initially set up the Go Fund Me page with a “What have I got to lose?” attitude, but has since been shocked to see donations coming in from all over the world.
“I’m kind of surprised that so many people knew who we were,” he said.
Bill says he’ll come back even stronger, with new, better quality deep fryers, and a stronger focus on community. He says the experience of watching neighbors rally around him has inspired him to himself be a better neighbor.
“I’m gonna step up and do more to give back to the community,” he says.
You can donate at their Go Fund Me page.