In September, my wife, Michele, and I were dining at Paris in Pembine, a wonderful restaurant here in our community. On our way out of the restaurant, Michele noticed the “FOR SALE” sign outside the restaurant. Thoughts of an exciting adventure, no more corporate world, and our empty nest returned us to the restaurant the next day for a tour.
We started writing a business plan, but we had never managed a restaurant nor owned a business. I found a business plan template online and carried it as far as I could. Then, we sought help from SCORE. We connected with two kind and knowledgeable SCORE volunteer counselors who liked the foundation of the business plan. They recommended that we seek funding help from the SBA. We were also invited by them to attend the next monthly meeting of SCORE mentors because the guest speaker happened to be from the Tavern League. Right after that meeting, we were introduced to Chuck Brys from the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay. We told Chuck where we were having trouble, and he provided answers to some of our questions and connected us to many helpful resources. Chuck was a huge asset for helping us finish our business plan. Chuck met with us four times (including one time on a Saturday), and we exchanged many phone calls and e-mails.
We tied up all the loose ends on our business plan by January. We entered into an agreement with the sellers, with a letter of intent to purchase, and set the initial closing date in early April. Five revised letters of intent later, with our notices in at our current employers, we took over operation of the business via lease in late May with a final closing date set for the end of July. After we turned the keys and opened the tills on the Tuesday before the Memorial Day weekend, we had instant success. Most of the wonderful staff, including our fabulous chef, stayed on board with us. Our customers were and are phenomenal! As of September, one year after our initial tour, we have done quite a bit of replacing of coolers, cabinets, television sets, bar supplies, and kitchen supplies—all while staying in the black. We have met hundreds of nice people from all over the world (no exaggeration), and we served over 2,500 people in August. To top it off, our staff thinks we broke a sales record for the Friday of the Labor Day weekend!
Michele and I kid around once in a while about the reality of those bar and restaurant rescue television shows. We changed a lot – the menu, the prices, the vendors, the billing, and the atmosphere (Packers sports bar with a cozy French dining room)! Customers are returning with friends and family, and we are working on relationships with other local businesses, schools, churches, and clubs.
[Editor’s Note:] “We’ll always have “Paris in Pembine!” [We couldn’t resist!]
For more information on program and services available from the Small Business Development Center at UW-Green Bay visit www.uwgb.edu/sbdc.