The Hidden Cafe
Tim and Mike Fuller are committed – really committed – to hummus.
“I come home every day and smell like garlic and chick peas. It’s in my skin, my hair and my clothes. But, I don’t mind. It smells like success to me,” said Tim Fuller, co-owner with his brother Mike of The Hidden Cafe in Delmar, NY.
The Hidden Cafe (named for its location in the corner of a shopping plaza) has been a successful restaurant in the Albany bedroom community of Delmar for about five years. Mike worked the front end of the restaurant and knew that the owner was looking to move on. He talked to his brother, Tim, who had some experience managing businesses and decided that this was the business they had dreamed of owning together.
There were just two problems: neither of them knew how to make the Mediterranean dishes – including the famous hummus -- that the restaurant was known for and, of course, getting the financing. Both hurdles needed to be overcome before the brothers could take over The Hidden Cafe.
The cooking classes came first with the current owner (who was also the head chef) giving the brothers a crash course, and then NYBDC took over.
“We had a friend at a local bank and went to him to talk about a loan to buy the business. He told us that his bank doesn’t do loans for restaurants so he referred us to NYBDC. When we first met Tim Larson, he immediately put us at ease. He guided us through the process step-by-step to get us to the day when our loan closed,” said Tim Fuller.
In many -- if not most -- cases, NYBDC would partner with a bank on a small business loan, but the bank that the Fullers went to initially has a policy of not doing loans with restaurants so NYBDC pursued the loan independently. Larson, NYBDC’s loan officer, began meeting with the Fullers, getting to know the restaurant and their business plan.
“Of course, this was a riskier type loan because of the industry and the fact they didn’t have a really long track record of running restaurants, but the business was already successful and they were very organized. Once we got some financial information from the previous owner, we were on our way,” said Larson. “The brothers put everything they had into this business – both financially and emotionally. Their hearts are in it so we knew we could make it work.”
“Tim (Larson) kept after it. He must have made dozens of calls on our behalf to the former owner to get the information they needed to close the deal. He and everybody at NYBDC have been great to us,” said Tim Fuller. “Even today, Tim will come in and meet with us over lunch to check in and see how we’re doing. We think he likes our food more than meeting with us, but that’s ok.”
Larson isn’t the only big fan of The Hidden Cafe at NYBDC. President and CEO Pat MacKrell counts the restaurant among his favorites in the Capital Region and makes frequent visits there.
Three years after taking over and closing the loan, The Hidden Cafe is doing better than ever and the Fuller brothers are up to their necks in hummus. “We still love it. We’re glad that so many people come here for meals and want to leave with gallons of our hummus. It keeps them coming back.”
The garlicky smell may be tough to wash out, but the smell of success is even more overpowering.