Sportlanes, Ten Pin Café, Wild Magnolia, and Shindig Uptown Bistro and Catering
A Martinsville businessman for 25 years, Will Pearson started with Sportlanes, a bowling alley with the Ten Pin Café attached. Later he acquired the Wild Magnolia restaurant and, even later, Shindig Uptown Bistro and Catering. But in mid-March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Martinsville, and it had a devastating impact on Will’s businesses. Sportlanes and Ten Pin Café closed, and Wild Magnolia and Shindig were limited to curbside pickup, carryout, and delivery.
“We heard rumors about grants coming out when everything shut down. A city councilman advised me to talk to Michael Scales at the Longwood SBDC, so I did. He met me in his office that morning, we talked about the different loans available, and he advised me on how to apply.” Will considers it his lucky day.
Michael explained how the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) worked; Will applied and received a $10,000 advance for each of his businesses. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was next on the list. Will recalls, “Michael gave me a great piece of advice. Since the PPP was going to be handled by banks, he advised me to call all my banking contacts to see which one would put me at the top of their list. I did that, and ended up working with one that was really helpful.”
The SBDC’s guidance allowed Will to sidestep problems other small business owners encountered with PPP loan applications. “I ended up receiving $26,000 each for Shindig and Sportlanes, and $44,000 for Wild Magnolia,” he relates. “It allowed me to bring back my bowling alley employees. That was huge.”
Will firmly believes that the SBDC was the secret to his loan success story. “Michael was a super star,” he says. “During the first few weeks, he checked in with me daily. In small-town Virginia, it’s amazing to have the resources the SBDC has to offer.” In addition to loan advice, Michael talked about surviving the current business environment and how to learn from it. With schools closed, Will enlisted his two teenagers and put together an in-house delivery team. “They rotate deliveries every day,” Will reports. “We’ve all learned a lot from this — in many ways it’s brought our family closer.”
Will also believes in building community. “We do ‘Thankful Tuesdays,’ a discount for all front-line workers, and we encourage the community to buy meals for hospital workers or the fire department,” he adds. “It’s been a big success.” Will also does a local TV show, Eat Good with Will, where he offers cooking tips.
“I can’t tell you where I’d be right now, if it wasn’t for the Longwood SBDC and Michael,” Will concludes. “I can’t thank them enough.”