Planning and patience — a recipe for success

Chef James Fallon ran the successful Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant in Warsaw, VA, when he began thinking of moving to a larger market. With advice from the University of Mary Washington SBDC, James found a recipe for success in Fredericksburg.

“James wanted to carry his food and wine points of view to more people,” SBDC Executive Director Brian Baker says. “He had built a strong brand with the Warsaw restaurant, but like other graduates from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he hungered for growth opportunities. He was determined to move to Fredericksburg, where the market was significantly larger.”

The SBDC helped James develop a business plan, identify a location, negotiate a lease, and identify sources of working capital. “With reserves from Northern Neck Gourmet Restaurant and a Virginia Small Business Financing Authority microloan, he started the Cork & Table restaurant,” Brian says. “The Warsaw brand gave James market familiarity and loyalty,” he adds, “which helped nurture Cork & Table’s early brand.”

One of the biggest challenges for James was learning the tastes of his new community.

“Not only was it challenging to find the right individuals to assist with building the restaurant, but once it opened it took another three months to solidify the concept and menu,” he says. “It took the entire first year to understand the downtown market.”

“The UMW SBDC and Brian Baker played key roles in defining the process of developing the business, both financially and logistically,” James says. “Most importantly, Brian helped me negotiate the terms of the lease. The process required a focus on long-term goals instead of dwelling on the short-term struggles,” James states. “Brian was available for routine guidance meetings, site visits, market strategy sessions, and telephone calls on the fly.”

Patience, planning, and hard work paid off. Cork & Table is successful and already expanding. “As Cork & Table concludes its third year, it has enjoyed fantastic growth, doubling our sales over year one,” James says. “We have eliminated almost all of our debt and are at the point of needing a new location to accommodate the volume of sales and to bring new food concepts to the market.” UMW SBDC is on the job assisting with the process.

Cork