‘Just doing what we can’: Top Dog fundraiser surpasses $10,000 goal

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Within a week of its start, a GoFundMe campaign for staple Berkeley restaurant Top Dog has reached its goal of $10,000 to support the struggling business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having served the Berkeley community for about 54 years, Top Dog has already closed two of its three locations as a result of the restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Campus alumnus Jim Telford started a GoFundMe to increase awareness of the restaurant’s struggle.

As of press time, the campaign has raised a total of $10,175 with more than 160 donors.

“I just knew that individuals scattered throughout the country would want to do whatever they could as far as giving a donation,” Telford said. “It’s so hard for small businesses near campus who normally rely on students and faculty to keep them in business.”

According to Top Dog owners Richard and Renie Riemann, part of the reason for Top Dog’s current financial difficulties is their refusal to accept government loans because of their political beliefs.

Richard and Renie Riemann added that they feel strongly about having little government interference with their business. According to Renie Riemann, they felt it would be “hypocritical” to accept financial assistance from the United States government.

“My husband and I believe in small government and taking care of ourselves,” Renie Riemann said. “When you have a particular political philosophy, you don’t turn your back on what you believe in.”

Renie Riemann noted that there was an increase in mail and pickup orders after SFGate featured their business and after the GoFundMe fundraiser began. According to Renie Riemann, however, the initial surge of support has already begun to dwindle.

She added that their steadfastness in staying true to their values has garnered attention from their customers and helped attract donors.

“You have to admire the courage of their conviction — they believe in something and then they firmly act in a manner in which they believe — that’s rare these days,” said campus alumnus Ken Montgomery, who donated $1,000 to the fundraiser. “That is why instead of just buying dogs, I wanted to applaud them for sticking to their conviction.”

The increase in orders has also given Top Dog owners the opportunity to bring back some of their employees that have gone home after closing two locations, according to Renie Riemann.

Many Berkeley residents, alumni and students hope that Top Dog stays in business as it is considered a Berkeley staple, according to campus alumnus Jesus Sanchez.

“As Cal alumni, we all just can’t envision or imagine Berkeley without Top Dog — I can’t even comprehend it,” Telford said. “We are just doing what we can to help them survive this.”

Contact Gigi Nibbelink at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @giginibbelink.