Category: Restaurant & Retail

Local Eats

Foodies in Fluvanna feast on local foods

Increased sales by 40%

Amy Myer wanted to open her own local food store and restaurant in Fluvanna County, but she knew she needed help figuring out the details. She connected with the Central Virginia SBDC and Diane Arnold, an experienced SBDC Business Counselor, who helped Amy with market research, resource connections, and acted as someone to bounce ideas off of. “She was awesome,” Amy says. “She knows her stuff, and she wants to see her people succeed.”

Diane helped Amy make her dream a reality. She reviewed the lease, visited the prospective site, and helped Amy write her business plan. “There were so many little things I wouldn’t have known,” Amy enthuses. “She knew all the ins and outs.”

Local Eats, which carries locally-sourced foods from Fluvanna and across the region, has definitely become a success. Amy has developed quite a following among the foodies in Fluvanna, particularly in Lake Monticello, the major subdivision nearby. She now has two part-time employees, and has even expanded to delivery service. 

Even after the intensive support in the start-up phase, Diane continued to add value for Amy. “She has all the connections,” Amy says. “Anytime she comes across opportunities or gets her hands-on information that can be helpful, she always reaches out to me.” That included scheduling Amy for a meeting with a retail specialist from the Virginia SBDC State Office and connecting her with the SBDC Quad County Pitch Competition. 

Amy continues to refine her vision of expanding, and when the time comes, she plans to call on the wise advice of Diane and the resources of the SBDC.


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Your Dinner

Success to-go with the SBDC

Invested $45,000 in equipment, created 3 jobs and retained 2 jobs

When Diane Roll hit the streets with one of the first food trucks in the Rockingham/Augusta county region in 2011, her first stop was the Shenandoah Valley SBDC. “Just because you’re a good cook doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good business person,” Diane says. “The SBDC helped me find a bank that would give me the small business loan I needed when I first got started.”

Diane’s original plan included “grab-and-go” dinners prepared in advance and sold at nearby factories for $6. The idea never took off. “But during that time, I built relationships with companies that would pick up the tab for us to come in and cook,” Diane relates. “That led us into catering.” Another opportunity came when the town of Dayton approached Diane about opening a restaurant. “I was lucky enough to open Dayton Tavern, a full-service restaurant,” she adds. “We had a higher-end clientele there — not to mention the best steaks in 100 miles!”

Diane’s restaurant and catering business continued to expand and prosper, until, as she puts it, “2020 happened.” “COVID temporarily closed the restaurant,” she explains. “We had zero catering and $250,000 in canceled events.” Undeterred by this downtime, Diane began to think about her original idea of “grab-and-go” dinners. She started selling freshly prepared family meals through the Dayton Tavern, a business venture that quickly became popular. “I don’t care how much money you have, everybody likes meatloaf,” she says.

With the “grab-and-go” dinner concept (renamed Your Dinner) now off the back burner, Diane went back to the SBDC for advice. Advisor Don Crawford met with Diane to discuss management, operations, financing, and marketing. The SBDC team also arranged for Diane and her staff to meet with the SBDC’s Retail & Restaurant Advisor Marc Willson.

“We already had a rental space for our catering business,” Diane says. “I decided to rent the whole building for the Your Dinner business. Since we didn’t need all of it, I contacted several other small business owners I knew about sharing the space.” Diane invested her own money to purchase display cases and appliances and to hire three employees to launch Your Dinner. The commitment also allowed two other small businesses to re-locate there and expand. “We now have gourmet popcorn from PrePOPsterous and produce from Radella’s in the North River Marketplace.”

Your Dinner offers everything from fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches to pre-made dinners to take home and heat up. “When you take our food home, put it on your own plate, and heat it in your own microwave, it feels like you made it. There’s a good feeling to it.”

Diane believes in down-home hospitality. It works for her, and she’s happy to pass it on. She is also appreciative of the help she’s received from the SBDC. 

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Deep Run Roadhouse

Roads to growth

Deep Run Roadhouse supports 17 jobs, has 7-figure sales, and developed a growth plan that involves opening a third restaurant.

Well-known chef, Paul Hubbard, cooked at upscale Richmond restaurants like Chez Max, Franco’s, and Sensi’s, but found his niche in humble barbecue. “I did finedining for a while, and I got tired of cooking for one percent of the population,” Paul explains. “What I truly love about barbecue is that the same attention to detail and the same high quality ingredients are there, but the appreciation comes from a much wider audience.”

Paul previously co-founded Alamo Barbecue with business partner Christopher Davis. In 2013, he sold his half to Christopher in order to launch Deep Run Roadhouse. Since then Deep Run Roadhouse’s mouth-watering offerings of Tex Mex, southern comfort food, and barbecue have proven successful in the Richmond market. In 2016, he opened a second Deep Run Roadhouse near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

Paul had no intention of stopping at two restaurants. But he wanted help as he weighed options for further growth. He contacted Professor Louis Martinette at the University of Mary Washington, who leads a program that allows MBA students to work on real-life projects. Louis, in turn, asked Brian Baker, the SBDC Executive Director, to join Paul’s project. According to Brian, “Deep Run Roadhouse had cash flow and potentially favorable financing, but Paul wanted to assess the current market positions and the current service channels to determine the best market opportunities for growth.”

The MBA students were divided into five teams, and their assignment was to present the pros and cons of the growth option assigned to their team. The five options included (1) staying in Richmond and buying the restaurants’ real estate, (2) expanding the Deep Run Roadhouse into new territories, (3) licensing or franchising the Roadhouse concept, (4) catering with food trucks, and (5) establishing a barbecue “academy” to teach other restauranteurs. Ultimately, Paul chose (1) and (2) — opening another Roadhouse, this time in Hampton Roads, and buying the real estate. “This is an ongoing engagement to help Deep Run Roadhouse move to the next level,” Brian explains.

According to Paul, the process was incredibly eye opening, as the teams worked with him through such issues as a competitive growth analysis and the development of detailed mission and vision statements. “There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you take the next steps,” says Paul. “When you own any business, you are looking for ways of creating responsible growth. This process put so many things into context for me.”

If there is one thing Paul loves more than cooking barbecue, it’s seeing something come together. As he plans for 2020, it is clear that everything is progressing well for this young chef. Paul explains, “To open up a restaurant and be successful, you have to love what you do. And I truly do.”

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Paladin Bar & Grill

No bull about it: Paladin Bar & Grill bucks into town

Paladin Bar & Grill created 40 new jobs, landed $550,000 in capitol infusion, and went from $0 to $600,000 in revenue in one year.

It definitely wasn’t their first rodeo, but Craig Spaulding and William Waybourn, owners of Paladin Bar & Grill in Stephens City, decided to embrace the wild west spirit all the same.

A massive 1,100-pound bull named Paladin dominates the front entrance to Paladin Bar & Grill. The statue, created by Bettye Hamblen Turner, is constructed from stainless and carbon steel and recycled motorcycle and car parts. “Paladin was created on the LBJ Ranch in Texas and is one of five Longhorn sculptures. This one was the fifth in the series and the only one on public viewing, as the other four are in private collections,” William explains. The eatery’s namesake has been bullish about pulling in curious patrons and photo-op hungry passersby since opening its doors in March of 2018.

Craig and William are no strangers to entrepreneurship. They own Long View Gallery in D.C., the largest private gallery in the capital city, as well as Screen Archives, a massive online film-and-music distributor. When it came to the always-fickle restaurant scene, Craig and William were glad to have the assistance of the Lord Fairfax SBDC and seasoned analyst, Christine Kriz.

“Early on Christine gave us a demographic overlay of the area that was instrumental in our decision to sign the lease. She also provided us with resources of various governmental entities and private businesses to help us get oriented and in business,” William says. “We never would have opened this location had it not been for the SBDC and Christine Kriz. Her assistance and data were invaluable in making a determination to open Paladin Bar & Grill in Stephens City,” William adds.

For Craig and William, the restaurant incorporates pieces from all their ventures. “We try to make all of our companies partner with each other,” William says, “hence the artwork and restored movie posters you see everywhere around Paladin.”

Despite its neighborhood setting, the investment is paying off with continued steady business and growth. “We just recently started paying our servers above minimum wage — that’s unheard of in the restaurant industry,” says William. “Most servers barely survive on tips, so we made the decision to increase their hourly pay in anticipation that customers would agree that better service deserves a higher tip,” he adds.

While Paladin, the bold chrome bull, continues to be the talk of the town, William and Craig are looking to the future, once again with the assistance and resources of the SBDC. “We are currently working with the Lord Fairfax SBDC and Christine on another location in northern Frederick County,” says William.  

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Tazewell Co. Mercantile

The ties that bond: Tazewell Co. Mercantile brings the community together

Bond and Reece Strong won a $10,000 VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Grant which allowed them to open Tazewell Co. Mercantile, generate sales, and create a new jobs-all within a few months.

Bond Strong has been dreaming about Tazewell Co. Mercantile at some level all her life. A Tazewell County native, she graduated from Western Carolina University before returning home to open the locally sourced food-and-gift mart in fall 2018. Bond explains, “My mom proposed the idea of an antique store in January, and I began thinking about how I could incorporate my passion for local food and the local economy into that. The store grew pretty organically from there.”

The part-gift shop, part-local market opened in October. Since then, the store has gathered handmade gifts, local food items, and the community itself – all into one warm, bustling epicenter that hosts crafting workshops and other eclectic events almost weekly.

Bond credits the Southwest Virginia Community College SBDC and advisor Margie Douglass for walking every step beside her, which she admits was daunting at first. “As a history major, then a nanny, then a substitute teacher, then a stay-at-home mom, I had no business experience, and I did not know how to turn my idea into a reality. I had no clue what a business plan was, what steps I needed to take, or who to speak with,” Bond admits. “Margie helped me lay out a plan and organize my thoughts and ideas into something coherent and manageable. Going through the business plan development process helped me better understand how a business is run and how feasible my plan was,” Bond continues.

Margie and the SBDC also assisted Bond in competing for and ultimately winning a $10,000 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Seed Capital Matching grant which, along with an additional investment by Bond and husband Reece, was critical in bringing Tazewell Co. Mercantile to life.

For Bond and Reece, community is the center of everything they do, and it is what sets the store apart. “Our commitment to locally sourced products and to our suppliers defines us. By making those two things priorities, we are putting our community first and, by extension, our customers,” Bond says. “In fact,” she adds, “one of the most unique challenges our business faces, because it is locally sourced, is that physically getting all the products to the store takes a significant amount of coordinating. I am so proud of how hard working, honest, and committed all of my suppliers are. It’s an honor to work with them,” says Bond.

“The SBDC is one of, if not the, greatest asset in our county,” says Bond. “Not only did I receive practical help, I felt like Margie was my own personal cheerleader, and it truly helped me on the days I was feeling down about the process of starting a business.”

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Big Daddy’s To Go

The go-to place for food

In the past two years, Big Daddy’s has added a second location and reports an increase in sales of approximately 60%.

Big Daddy's To Go

Big Daddy’s To Go is the place to get a take-out meal in Meadowview. Owner Dwayne Duffield worked hard to make it that way. “A restaurant does keep you hopping,” Dwayne says. “The first year I worked seven days a week, but for me it’s not work. I enjoy what I do!”

Big Daddy’s is a take-out and catering restaurant where Dwayne serves old-fashioned meals in a box five days a week. Daily specials, listed on a chalkboard, feature downhome cooking. “This week it’s BBQ chicken leg (2) with cole slaw, green beans and a roll — $8. Everything in a box comes with dessert,” Dwayne says. “I do a lot of old-fashioned pies.” Dwayne’s interest in cooking came from his grandmother. “She cooked for farm hands,” he says. “That’s how I started learning.”

From Mountain City, Tennessee, Dwayne moved to Meadowview in Washington County, where his plan for a restaurant began to take shape. He had been preparing his wife’s lunch every day. When her co-workers started making requests for his lunches, Dwayne saw a need he wanted to fill. “This is not a high-end community,” he says. “I wanted people here to be able to afford to eat. With my meals in a box, a family of four can afford to eat and still have a little money in their pockets.”

Dwayne hopes his home-cooked meals promote family togetherness. “Big Daddy’s takes away the work. When people go home, they can sit down together at the table and put away those hand-held devices,” he explains. “My goal is to bring good food to our small community.”

In January 2017, Dwayne visited the Virginia Highlands SBDC for help starting his business. Virginia Highlands Director Cindy Fields assisted with setting up an LLC for Dwayne and registering his business with the Department of Taxation. The SBDC also counseled Dwayne on local certifications and how to be in compliance with local health department and government regulation.

Once the business opened in 2017, the SBDC showed Dwayne ways to increase business through visibility and government contracting opportunities. The SBDC assisted Dwayne with certification as a Small Woman and Minority Owned (SWaM) business and with establishing his business as a Virginia Certified Vendor through the eVA Procurement system. A year later, Dwayne tapped into the tourism business on the Virginia Creeper Trail and opened a second location in Alvarado. Future plans include a larger location. “I’ve had folks ask if I could open a place where they could come in and sit down to eat,” Dwayne says.

Diversification and hard work paid off for Dwayne. “From the time I started two years ago, I’ve grown a great deal,” he says. “If I had to give it a number, I’d say 60 percent.” Dwayne believes that good food makes for a good community. “When I see someone sitting on the curb I know can’t afford to pay, I’ll take them a meal,” he says. “Nobody around here should go hungry.”

“The SBDC helped set up my business,” Dwayne concludes. “They got me pointed in the right direction.”  

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Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds

Buggy Top builds on customer service

The Bapperts acquired a $910,000 loan, generated sales of $1.55 million, and created 2 jobs while retaining 10.

When David and Danielle Bappert purchased Buggy Top Utility Barns and Sheds, they wanted to create a top-notch business while making customer service a priority. “I’d worked for Buggy Top for 18 years, so I knew the company,” David says. “But there were a lot of things I didn’t know about being a business owner.” They visited the Longwood University SBDC to learn how to do it.

“At the SBDC we met Brandon Hennessey,” David explains. “He helped us figure out if Buggy Top was a good business to purchase.” Danielle adds, “Brandon really helped guide us through our business plan. He did all the projections for us and showed us what our monthly budget would be.” With a business plan in hand, David and Danielle applied for funding. “We got a business loan from BB&T,” David explains. “And we bought our Cumberland business in April 2018.”

David and Danielle took a startup class at the SBDC. “We learned the basics of what was needed for a business,” David relates. “We learned about money flow. We learned that just being busy isn’t always a good thing; you have to make money, too.” David and Danielle found the SBDC’s analytics on competition and marketing especially valuable. “We’re different from our competition because we’re not a ‘cookie-cutter’ business,” David says. “We build more customized buildings and sheds.”

David and Danielle have gained valuable business insights from the SBDC. “I bounce everything off Brandon,” Danielle says. “He knows what works and what doesn’t. He helped us with our business cards. We even sent him a message with a preview of our website to get his advice.” All of that advice — as David and Danielle were pleased to learn — was free. “I was actually amazed that I didn’t get charged for all those services,” she says. “I don’t think we’d have gotten very far without the SBDC!”

David and Danielle are looking forward to growing their business with continued help from the SBDC.

“One of the things in our three-year-growth plan is to increase stock during the slower months,” Danielle notes. “We plan to do that in January and February.” And they now offer delivery to build customer satisfaction. “I’m the delivery man,” David says. “It’s nice to have that final touch and set up a building the way your customer wants it,” he says.

As David and Danielle see it, being a top-notch business means staying on top of the game in customer satisfaction. “Small businesses are the foundation of our economy,” David concludes. “You might have big ideas, but you have to start small and grow. The SBDC can help you do that.”

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Bikenetic Bike Shop

Pedaling to Success

Jan opened Bikenetic Bike Shop in Falls Church, VA in November, 2011, just in time for the Christmas season. Jan is working full-time in the shop, and in 2012 he hired three more people to help him run his expanding business

Jan Feuchtner first contacted the South Fairfax SBDC because, as a minority partner in a bike shop, he wanted to buy out the majority partner and take the shop in a different direction – a direction Jan knew was much better, more sustainable, profitable, and enjoyable.  Jan came to the SBDC with a business plan and the business’s current financials.  He needed advice regarding the buy out.

He met with several counselors, including an attorney, a CPA, and a business counselor.  They advised him against buying out his partner due to the indebtedness of that business and instead to open his own shop, starting with a clean slate.  The SBDC’s attorney counselor helped Jan create a strong financial plan, ultimately helping him decide not to take out a $50,000 loan and instead to rely on existing relationships with his vendors to provide his new business with interest free, individual lines of credit.

Jan opened Bikenetic Bike Shop in Falls Church, VA in November, 2011, just in time for the Christmas season.  His shop has grown beyond business plan expectations ever since.  Jan is working full-time in the shop, and in 2012 he hired three more people to help him run his expanding business.

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Sinplicity Catering

Sinfully Successful

Generating annual revenue in excess of $2 million, Sinplicity Catering now has a fleet of trucks delivering their gourmet products around the beltway and beyond.

Sinplicity Catering had its fortuitous beginnings in early 2001, when executive chef and co-owner Leland Atkinson became a regular client of the South Fairfax SBDC. Leland has had the good fortune to work with some of the best chefs in the industry at Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels, the White House, and Mark Miller’s Red Sage. Leland wrote the Julia Child-Award Winning ¡Cocina! A Hands-on Guide to the Techniques of the Southwestern Kitchen. Additionally, he has created recipes and food stylings, and conducted research for numerous other cookbooks, including On Cooking by Labensky/Hause and Mark Miller’s Red Sage.

Leland came to the SBDC seeking technical assistance for turning his wholesale gourmet ice cream business into a brick-and-mortar retail shop. With the assistance of business partner Alex Schriefer (formerly the South Fairfax SBDC Director), Sinplicity Café opened in Crystal City, Virginia. The name Sinplicity was intended to represent their “self-indulgence without apology” approach to cooking (and handcrafted ice creams in particular).  “If heaven had a café, it would be just like this.”

As the business grew, the model changed to meet customer demand, which was for gourmet catered meals. Sinplicity Café relocated to Falls Church, Virginia, and became Sinplicity Catering. Leland and Alex had remained long-term clients of the South Fairfax SBDC, and now they sought assistance on all aspects of business – financial planning, partnership agreements, marketing and growth initiatives.

Fast forward to 2013:  Sinplicity Catering is one of the best corporate caterers in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC market. Generating annual revenue in excess of $2 million, Sinplicity Catering now has a fleet of trucks delivering their gourmet products around the beltway and beyond.

After nearly a decade, Leland has again approached the SBDC with the vision of opening another brick-and-mortar store – built on a commissary model where product will be provided by Sinplicity Catering and assembly will take place at the store. These gourmet sandwiches – known as Sinwiches – will be served for breakfast and lunch in the high-traffic area of the Wilson Boulevard corridor. For the past year, SBDC staff has counseled Leland on creating a concept, conducting market research, and  working with 21 business experts (and hungry customers) to help refine the menu.

Today, Sinplicity Catering is primed for growth and continued success with the future launch of Sinwich; and the SBDC looks forward to continued interaction with Leland (and a few free samples of his delicious gourmet creations).

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Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ

BBQ Succes

Shawn employs 15 part-time staff between the kitchen and the restaurant.

Shawn Moss opened his restaurant and catering business, Shawn’s Smokehouse BBQ and Catering, LLC, in March, 2013.  He has many years’ experience in the food business working with his mother who has been running her own catering service for 37 years in Woodbridge, VA.

The 84-seat restaurant is located just outside downtown Culpeper.  Shawn presently has customers from as far away as Fredericksburg and Stafford, and his biggest problem right now is providing enough parking!

When Shawn first came to Lord Fairfax-Culpeper SBDC, he needed help in reducing his costs and growing his market.  His labor costs were very high, since he was paying his staff higher than a minimum wage.  It was suggested that Shawn consider changing the restaurant to a self-order, counter-pickup system, similar to 5 Guys or Panera Bread.  Shawn has followed this advice and greatly reduced expenses.

Shawn also added take-out, and he now estimates that the carryout business is about 40 to 50 % of his total sales.  He offers online ordering and is also thinking about offering home delivery.

The catering side of the business has also been growing — enough that he had to buy an additional food truck.  He is catering for large venues, such as fairs and horse shows.    He estimates that he served 2000 people at one event last year, and he will again be catering this event in 2014.

He employs 15 part-time staff between the kitchen and the restaurant.

To cap his successful year Shawn Smokehouse BBQ and Catering, LLC, was named the Culpeper Small Business of 2013 at the Culpeper Chamber Annual Dinner in November 2013.

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