Spicing Up Main Street with a Taste of the Mediterranean in Newark, DE
If you frequented Caffe Gelato in Newark, DE, it would be difficult to tell the owner was a hometown boy and a member of Generation X. But Ryan German, a lifelong resident and graduate of the local university, returned from his European travels to open a restaurant that would bring Mediterranean foods back home.
Caffe Gelato is open every day serving lunch, dinner and the Caffe’s specialty, homemade Italian ice cream known as gelato. Ryan fell in love with this concoction during a trip abroad and knew its introduction on Main Street would differentiate his restaurant from all others.
“The only way for a small business to compete is to do something no big business does,” says Ryan.
Ryan always had the makings of a small business owner. After his freshman year in college, he ran a successful student painters franchise. During summers, he and his brother worked a roadside fruit stand. He saved his money and studied business administration. About the time of his junior year, he decided his next business venture would be to make authentic gelato and sell it downtown.
At 22, Ryan set out to open a lunch-only restaurant and gelato parlor. Even though Ryan had some capital behind him, he did not have any credit so he went in search of a business loan, but eight banks rejected his plans for opening a local cafe. “They say all restaurant business is risky; but I think all business is risky,” says Ryan.
In late 1999, Ryan contacted SCORE, where he was assigned to SCORE Counselor Earl Norman, who was intrigued and excited about Ryan’s idea. Through Earl’s help, Ryan fine-tuned his business plan and secured a location. Earl arranged for him to meet his contacts at two local banks, and each made Ryan an offer.
“(SCORE Counselor) Earl Norman is smart, has a professional background, and was very good with me. He helped expand my business plan with financial documents, such as a projected opening balance sheet, cash flow and income statements, and a sensitivity analysis.”
With his parents as co-signers, Ryan settled on a small business loan in February 2000. Next, he and his family renovated an older building and opened the doors of his restaurant that April. A few months later, he went back to SCORE for help with the artwork for his company logo. SCORE Counselor Beatrice Benson connected him to an artist with whom he is now working.
When asked why he chose this path, Ryan says being a small business owner is the only job he was going to do. Eventually he wants to be a large business owner. But the most difficult part of the job now is managing employees who are his age. His greatest joy is talking to happy customers and seeing everything come together. “It’s like completing a large puzzle. There’s a sense of accomplishment,” says Ryan.
“Ryan is one of the bright lights that make SCORE worthwhile,” says Earl. “He’s going to be a real success, but my one concern for a young man was, ‘Where’s time for a social life?’”
Located just three blocks from Ryan’s alma mater, the University of Delaware, Caffe Gelato is not a student hang-out, but targeted to working professionals. Like any good restaurant owner, Ryan says his goal is “to get customers in the door—make sure they are happy, and paying. Then, get them out and back again.”
Originally published at http://www.score.org/success_caffe_gelato.html, article now at http://www.score.org/success-stories/caffe-gelato
Reprinted by permission