Can crowdfunding save The Swinery again?

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Drawings by kids, from planes to pigs, cover the wall by the front door at The Swinery.

Kim Leveille says drawings don’t come down until they fall down. Some are by kids who’ve become adults in her 13+ years at The Swinery: “I’ve seen entire families grow up.”

The Swinery’s a family thing for her too – she owns it with her husband Danny Rogers; her father-in-law comes in and helps out on weekends. The little shop at 3207 California SW is wall-to-wall memories, hopes, dreams.

“I’m just not ready to let it go.”

But she might have to if a new round of crowdfunding doesn’t help.

They tried it in the heart of the pandemic and West Seattle Bridge closure, an agonizing time for so many local small independent businesses. In that 2021 crowdfunding, Kim says, fans raised $17,000 in two days. But they’ve had equipment breakdowns and thefts since then, and are looking for help again to catch up. They started a new crowdfunding campaign a month ago but, Kim says, “It didn’t work.” So they’re trying again – this time, more directly declaring they’re in danger of having to close.

“We may not make it until spring,” Kim said in her email to us, which we decided to follow up on by visiting the shop. In addition to cooler/freezer repairs, they have a simple need: More staff, beyond their longtime part-time helper and a “very part-time dishwasher.” “It’s a Catch-22 – we need enough money to hire a fulltime person so the grill can do more volume.”

Right now, it’s Danny on the grill, which is an ever-increasingly important part of The Swinery’s business. Kim has worked there since just months after its original ownership opened the shop to much fanfare in 2009; she and Danny bought it in 2018. The shop was founded as “more of a butcher shop with a few things on the side.” But then one of those “things” drew extra acclaim: “Once we got ‘Best Burger in Seattle’ …” demand soared. The shop also was featured on the Food Network and the Travel Network. “Now the grill is much more important.” Tons of takeout/delivery orders, since The Swinery’s only seating is a small courtyard by the grill.

Along with all that grilling, their other offerings are labor-intensive too – “since we do everything in-house.” The meat case is full of sausages, chops, smoked meats, and more.

Popular items include ribs and beef bacon. For Thanksgiving, they smoke turkeys; for Christmas, ribeye roasts. No nitrites. No allergens. “I just want everyone to be able to eat,” says Kim.

She’s hopeful this time they’ll get the boost they need to stay in business and up the output so revenue isn’t an issue again. What if somebody would rather buy a few pounds of sausage, for example, than just give money? “Anything would help,” Kim says. That includes more patronage.

26 Replies to "Can crowdfunding save The Swinery again?"

  • Midi January 22, 2023 (10:54 pm)

    I love the Swinery! I don’t get to make it there very often, but would dearly miss them if they closed. Donating now, and will stop by for a bite this week

  • Kmm January 23, 2023 (7:41 am)

    No! Save the swinery! I’d hate to see you go. Donating now. Heading in for some meats! 

  • Swinery fan January 23, 2023 (7:57 am)

    The best burgers in West Seattle. I will patronize the Swinery.

  • Big Tiny Tony January 23, 2023 (8:45 am)

    I always assumed this was just a butcher. Didn’t realize they served cooked food as well. I’ll go check it out after work…

  • Pants January 23, 2023 (9:45 am)

    Im curious what types of meat and cuts do they sale? Is it more than pork? I dont eat pork, but I love chicken and beef. 

  • rb January 23, 2023 (10:32 am)

    i did not know they did more than pork. Maybe educating the community could be a good starting point. I am now craving this burger.  

    • WS Res January 25, 2023 (8:36 am)

      Is it just me, or does their web page not say anything about their butchery part of the business?

  • Mark47n January 23, 2023 (12:44 pm)

    An interesting trend, supporting a business by donation. How many times does this have to happen? Is this perpetual? A means to cover overhead? When do you, as a business owner, decide that your business isn’t sustainable? Over the course of my life I’ve watched many businesses that I loved close up shop and never once ask patrons for donations to keep the doors open. This new model, that I’ve seen applied a few times locally, is odd. A business needs to be able to support itself, if not earn enough in profit to pay for unforeseen costs, such as damaged equipment. What really should happen is the owner should apply for revolving credit, get investors, or something…alas that may not work out because this business isn’t sustainable,  whatever the reason. Having been to the Swinery I can say that it’s expensive. I think that raising the price of the product is the most reasonable course of action but seeing that it’s already top-shelf pork I don’t know that this would help and would likely hurt. This feels a bit like trying to fill a bucket when there are holes drilled in the bottom.

    • JF January 23, 2023 (3:28 pm)

      I agree. I’ve been to the Swinery. The burgers are great. However, their space is not. Burgers aren’t great to go and are much better eaten on site, however, they don’t have a good place to eat-in, especially in the winter. For-profit businesses shouldn’t be asking for donations to keep the doors open. 

    • johnny January 23, 2023 (4:08 pm)

      I share these sentiments.  Has the business done a good honest self assessment and analysis to try to better understand their financial difficulties?  Maybe it’s not a successful or profitable business model.  Why look to donations to stay afloat?   Then shouldn’t any failing business look to so the same thing?  I don’t think this makes sense – especially doing it twice.  

    • L January 23, 2023 (9:52 pm)

      I do know they were offered free consultation to evaluate their business model the first time they did a go fund me and they turned it down. Obviously choosing to just continue making the same mistakes with donations. Doesn’t seem to be working. 

  • Carrie January 23, 2023 (12:47 pm)

    (Before seeing this article) I was craving a good burger and I tried to stop by today but they are closed on Monday.  I will try later this week. I’d hate to see this establishment disappear.  

  • Drew January 23, 2023 (1:09 pm)

    I got a ham there once, and it was delicious. But if the business is more than just pork, perhaps a name change is in order?  Sounds as though the business has changed over time. 

  • LoveMeAGreasyBurger January 23, 2023 (1:19 pm)

    I would love to see them just become the kitchen for The Good Society….Swinery needs drinks and Good Society could use better food…win win!

    • justme January 23, 2023 (1:50 pm)

      Excellent thought and I totally agree!

    • Chrissy D January 23, 2023 (10:25 pm)

       I like the idea of joining forces with Good Society, a business needs to figure this out in their own, not ask for even more $$ from their customers.

    • Kmm January 24, 2023 (11:34 pm)

      Yes!

  • AK January 23, 2023 (1:45 pm)

    Definitely going to have to stop in for a burger very soon. I’d really hate to see this place go – the food truly is stellar!

  • low bridge January 23, 2023 (2:35 pm)

    Not to sound callous, and I feel like a jerk even writing this — but have they considered a small business loan or grant process rather than trying to crowdfund by threatening to close? 

  • G January 23, 2023 (5:32 pm)

    A bit of a catch-22 they have here. They need $ to hire staff but every time I try to go there for lunch it’s a minimum 45 minute wait so I end of going somewhere else. 

  • B January 23, 2023 (6:23 pm)

    Another round asking for donations…the swinery is great, but shouldn’t their insurance cover issues like the break-ins? I’d probably be more apt to help if this were set up as an ask for micro-loans  or if they asked for a handful of investors. If they can’t figure out how to make it work, maybe they need to consider a change to their business model? 

  • Steve January 23, 2023 (7:19 pm)

    I bought some sausage from the Co-op and let them slide to the back of my fridge.  By the time I wanted them they’d spoiled.  I felt so guilty (not for cost but for waste). I went to the Swinery and confessed my sin of not honoring the pig (I was a pig farmer’s grandson). “I’m sure the pig forgives you. Take these in its honor. ” Kim told me. 

  • Kathleen Mullaney January 23, 2023 (11:28 pm)

    Is there a new link to the fundraising page? I’m in! This is an awesome local and family owned business.

    • WSB January 23, 2023 (11:34 pm)

      It’s in the story. Linked on the words “send money” toward the end.

  • Kmm January 24, 2023 (11:38 pm)

    Swinery, get a consultant and come up with new ideas to re vamp and Improve on some offerings.  We have some, if you want some neighbor ideas plus there are some here , I hope you are reading the comments 

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