Editor’s note: The Coast River Business Journal is following Donna and Tracy Black as they create their business, Life In The Slow Lane. They are receiving counseling from Clatsop Economic Development Resources and the Small Business Development Center at Clatsop Community College. This story is compiled from counseling sessions and other interviews.
ASTORIA — Plans for the new building on Marine Drive made it to the Historical Landmarks Commission in time for November consideration, easing the stress a bit for entrepreneurs Donna and Tracy Black.
They didn’t expect their proposed building to be reviewed before December. The earlier review takes some of the strain off their tight construction time line.
They hope to have their restaurant at 1619 Marine Drive up and running in May, so the sooner they can get their plans approved and start building, the better. Tracy’s optimistic.
“Once they approve it, and I know they will, that’s how positive I am,” he said, “then in December it goes to the city design review committee.”
They learned in October that they’ll have to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp because their second-floor restaurant will require a few steps from its main entrance off Duane Street. It will add to the costs.
The stress of the project led to a small meltdown in October.
It’s not uncommon, said Dick Powell, their counselor at the Small Business Development Center.
The Blacks had just left City Hall with list of things that have to be done to the build site, to the building plans, and Tracy saw costs going up.
“I was just like, ‘I can’t do this. Let’s just pay off everybody that we’ve dealt with and just forget it,’” he said. “It wasn’t any one person, it was the process.”
Donna added, “It was the unknown.”
The Blacks sold real estate holdings and even held a garage sale to finance Life In The Slow Lane. Nonetheless, they realize they’ll need financing at some point.
They have an unsecured commercial line of credit through Wauna Federal Credit Union. They became members after moving to the area in 2013.
They can plan for construction, equipment and other costs, but they don’t know exactly what they’ll need for supplies once they open or whether they’ll need to make payment on delivery. They also need a backup for unexpected costs as construction progresses. That’s where the line of credit comes in.
Dawn Miller, commercial loan processor at Wauna, said because the Blacks already have a relationship with the credit union it’s easier to get the ball rolling.
“All we have to do is update their financials, if necessary, and look at what they want to do and make sure it’s feasible,” she said.
Discussing the credit union’s lending strategies, Warrenton Wauna branch manager Marc Silva said even if it’s not feasible to make the loan at that time, Wauna can make suggestions for members to get where they want to go.
Work continues to find just the right suppliers of meat and other key ingredients. The Blacks will tour facilities in Portland in the coming weeks and are discussing arrangements with Sysco.
Sysco has hired a chef to develop specialty foods at no extra cost, however Powell cautioned that the company probably wouldn’t develop a product just for the Blacks. Anything developed would likely be offered to all its customers.
Their plan emphasizes unique signature flavors.
Both remain enthusiastic about the business. They have enrolled in Powell’s Small Business Management Class at Clatsop Community College.
They continue to work on their business plan and adapt accordingly. For example, the city rejected their plan for a walk-up window, and they learned that their blade signs can’t overhang the sidewalks.
After the meltdown in October, Donna ran the numbers and realized the situation wasn’t as dire as they thought.
“It was better after we wrote down what our expenses are,” she said.
Powell said: “You’re going to have your ups and downs; that’s natural. Just pick up the phone and call me.”
The Blacks’ building proposal goes before the Historical Landmarks Commission on Nov. 18.