Alvin & Friends - New Rochelle, NY
Alvin & Friends had developed a steady following since opening in 2010. But growth opportunities were limited because the small, Southern-Caribbean restaurant shared space with a catering company.
The restaurant was self-sustaining from the beginning, and the owners knew they could boost business if they opened for lunch. Unfortunately, the catering company occupied the space during the day.
In 2012, a former restaurant located directly behind the location that Alvin & Friends leased in downtown New Rochelle went on the market. Alvin Clayton mentioned to his banker at JP Morgan Chase that he wanted to buy the building to expand the business he owns with his wife, Gwen Clayton, and two other married couples, Asuncion and Emmanuel Hostin, and Theresa and Thomas Leghorn.
"My banker told me there was a loan program available for small businesses that had been operating for at least two years. We had done well despite opening in a bad economy, and were apparently a good fit," Alvin Clayton said.
Empire State CDC: The 504 Company and Chase Bank partnered to provide Alvin & Friends a $1.2 million loan to buy the building, pay for furniture and equipment, and fund renovations.
Jay Glicksman, a vice president at JP Morgan Chase, said the property was perfect for expansion because it was in close proximity to the existing restaurant, and had better visibility from the road. "Through the SBA 504 loan program, Chase was able to provide them with the appropriate financing, which allowed them to purchase the property and customize the space to meet the exact needs of the restaurant," Glicksman said.
The 504 Company saw opportunities for Alvin & Friends to expand and add jobs.
"We approved and submitted the loan to SBA based on the success of the business, and the excellent opportunity for business growth offered by the purchase of the new location," said Tamara Underwood, vice president at NYBDC.
Alvin & Friends' new location opened in May 2013. Space more than doubled, to 1,500 square feet from 700 square feet. Staff also doubled, to 20 from 10.
"People love our location and the design of the restaurant. We've been able to grow our clientele even more," said Alvin Clayton, a former professional model and self-taught artist. His sought-after paintings are displayed on the walls at Alvin & Friends and are included in the collections of actors Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro and Halle Berry.
Clayton's fond memories of growing up in his grandmother's kitchen on the island of Trinidad, where he learned to cook at age eight, molded his vision for Alvin & Friends. "I view the restaurant as an extension of my home," he says.
That welcoming attitude and attention to detail has earned high praise for the fine-dining restaurant. The New York Times and Zagat recently published exemplary reviews for Alvin & Friends, and in February it was listed as one of the 10 most talked about restaurants in the Lower Hudson Valley. That buzz probably would not have circulated, had Alvin & Friends remained in its previous spot.
"The backing that NYBDC and Chase gave us was validating. Loans like that lend credence to the viability of your business," Clayton said. "There is a huge failure rate in restaurants. We're trying to show that if you do things the correct way in this business, you have a chance at being successful."