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Miami Natural Food Store Buzzing With Business at New Location

Miami Natural Food Store Buzzing With Business at New Location

Small business owner Robert Penna opened his Miami, Fla., health food store “Beehive Natural Foods” and operated in the 1000-square-foot rented space for 33 years.   But last summer, he and half-dozen small business owners in the same strip-mall received unexpected news from the landlord.  The building was sold and everyone had to move out within the next six months.

“Needless to say, I became very anxious about where I was going to go,” said Penna recalling the announcement that left him and the other business owners shocked. 

Penna had no choice.  This wasn’t something he had ever considered and he had no idea where to move his business.  But one thing he did know was that he was going to need a loan to make the move.  With advice from his mortgage broker, Penna began researching SBA loan program options.  He began the approval process with SunTrust Bank and shortly afterwards found a retail space for sale just a couple miles further down the road.

“I always rented but I found a larger space and the sales price made better business sense to purchase commercial real estate than renting. 

Penna was soon the new owner of a nearby retail space thanks to an SBA 504 loan arranged through SunTrust Bank and GulfCoast Business Finance, an SBA-designated Certified Development Company responsible for processing loans to eligible small businesses.

“Getting the 504 loan was really easy and the process was great.  The terms, the interest rate, and the limited amount of money I had to put down to get the size loan I needed were fantastic.”

“Robert could’ve financed his business with either an SBA 7A or 504 loan,” said SunTrust Bank Vice President, SBA Business Development Officer, Jeni Chokron.  “It was important for him to have a fixed loan rate given the changing price of store’s inventory.  Using the SBA 504 loan was the best fit for Robert and that’s what we try to do with all SBA loan clients.” 

Penna’s loan was structured like many SBA 504 loans used to purchase real estate.  SunTrust Bank covered the first 50 percent of the loan amount.  The U.S. Small Business Administration and Gulfcoast Business Inc., serving as the CDC, covered 40 percent of the loan and the remaining 10 percent was invested by Penna.

“The SBA 504 loan was really an ideal way for Robert to purchase his new store,” said GulfCoast Business Vice President for Commercial Real Estate and SBA Lending Beth Herdegen.  “Under the program, Robert invested a minimal amount which helped him save money for the operating capital he was going to need at the new location.  The loan also reduced the risk to SunTrust Bank to only 50 percent of the total loan to value.  Lastly, not only were his closing costs and fees financed into the project, but the interest rate on the loan was fixed for 20 years.”

Beehive Natural Foods has been operating at its new location for more than three months now.  The retail space has almost tripled.  Penna can offer more natural food and vitamin choices as well as provide more space for a juice bar operation he leases to another small business owner. 

“I was worried about losing my customers but business has returned to normal and I’m expecting to see an increase given the new location with better access and visibility from the street,” said Penna. 

The 60-year old business man doesn’t see himself slowing down. He largely runs the store himself with two other employees.   In fact, he says his small business enthusiasm is like a movie scene with Al Pacino in his film “Scent of a Woman.”

“Started?  Oh, I’m just getting started!” Penna said in a performance-worthy Pacino impersonation.

The trained nutritionist who also raised a family of 10 children while building Beehive Natural Foods says small business ownership isn’t easy but if you want to be successful, you have to want it.

“You need a lot of passion to run your own business.  When I started this business 33 years ago, there were a lot more health food stores.  Many went out of business as larger, the natural and organic chain-grocery stores opened.  But I like what I do and I offer nutritional advice and customer service to my clients that remained loyal and moved with the store,” said Penna.  

“SunTrust Bank is very happy we could help a small business like Beehive Natural Foods.  Robert’s business was one of 20 Miami small businesses that were provided more than $20 million in capital last year,” said Chokron.