Restaurateur Constantine Stavropoulos would be a good candidate to be the poster boy of SBA. Before starting Tryst in Adams Morgan in 1998, he did his homework at the small business development center at SBA’s old headquarters on Vermont Avenue. There he picked out materials on entrepreneurship, financing and how to write a business plan. Using a 7(a) loan he opened a coffeehouse/bar/lounge/restaurant. The business was so successfully, he launched The Diner (24/7 diner/bar) in Adams Morgan in 2001, Open City in 2005, Tryst at The Phillips in the spring of 2012 and The Coupe in the fall. For his latest venture, he made sure that his SBA loans included the air rights to the ground floor space in the building that houses his restaurant. The Coupe in Columbia Heights is open 'round the clock, every day.
“I am the No. 1 fan of the SBA 504 loan, which provides financing for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate," he said. “I didn’t have to tie my personal assets to this loan.” In addition, he got a 7(a) loan for additional inventory and equipment.
“People love great food and adore coffee," he explained. "My goal is to be the best coffeehouse. Starbucks may have introduced people to the terms espressos and cappuccinos but we show them what they should really taste like."
"I would like to educate people about coffee and encourage others to open their own coffeehouses. The market for people who appreciated good coffee was small 15 years ago. As more people become coffee connoisseurs, the better the local coffee gets,” he said. The coffee, often made by award-winning baristas, is served with signature animal crackers.
Each of his restaurants has a unique name corresponding to the location. "The Coupe is a fun coffeehouse, bar and restaurant," he said. “It’s a play on words. For example, a chicken coop is something that holds everyone together. Coupe is also the name of the flat champagne glass and a French dessert plate. The Coupe is that third place where people can come relax and enjoy the place. You can use it as your own space to meet others or be by yourself. When we opened Tryst, people poured in. The Internet changed everyone’s working patterns and stretched the day to 24/7.”
What’s next for him? He employs more than 400 workers at his restaurants but is always looking for good workers. Because he can’t find the skilled labor he needs for his restaurants, he’s thinking of creating a training school to teach workers how to be line cooks and servers.
The Coupe’s Executive Chef Rob Theriot and restaurant owner Constantine Stavropoulos at the Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C., restaurant.